OK, I tried to hold out as long as I could, but it was unavoidable that a Beatles song would creep into The Great Songs. They are, after all, the band that changed everything. At least I didn’t pick something you’ve heard a million times before.
For some reason, “She Said She Said” isn’t one of those often-played Beatles numbers. This 1966 song was the last tune to be recorded for “Revolver” (in nine hours, no less) and it is brimming over the top with psychedelic lyrics, cascading vocal lines, a meter-changing drum part, and bright and shiny guitars, all on top of a sturdy structure and The Beatles’ trademark melodic sense.
The kicker? Paul McCartney didn’t play a note on it. George Harrison said he helped John Lennon construct the song from two separate “bits,” and then he went ahead and played bass on it as well.
This is also one of Ringo Starr‘s finest hours, with his groovy beat sliding all over the place for most of the song, until it locks in tight for the weird, off-time, twice-through bridge. It still sounds like he’s making half of it up as he goes along, which is part of the song’s slippery charm.
I love the way the guitar part answers virtually every vocal line. There isn’t a moment in the song where something interesting isn’t happening. The vocal hook even provides the transition over the meter shift as John sings “When I was a boy…” Such a creative use of melody.
By the way, all this happens in just under 2 minutes and forty seconds. I love songs that reward multiple repeated listenings, and this is one of the best examples of that. Sometimes when people ask me to point out a perfect pop song, I point them here. No question.
The most memorable lyrics in “She Said She Said” famously come from Peter Fonda, who dropped acid with The Beatles and The Byrds at a house in Beverly Hills one night in August of ’65. When Fonda brought up his nearly fatal self-inflicted childhood gunshot accident, he said that “he knew what it was like to be dead.”
According to Fonda’s 1998 memoir, Lennon snapped at him because Fonda had brought everybody’s happy LSD vibe down. According to Fonda, he replied to Lennon, “You’re making me feel like I’ve never been born.”
Oh, where would music be without drugs?
The Great Songs series so far: