Music

11 Lies the Beatles Told Us About Love

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Few words come up more often in The Beatles discography than “love.” It was kind of their thing. In the early days, they sang about it with youthful puppy-dog naiveté (“Love Me Do,” “P.S. I Love You”), but over time, as they got older and the times a-changed, they wrote about this most complex of human emotions with greater nuance and insight. Along the way, they penned some of the most poignant lines in rock history, but they also fed us a ton of BS. Even if they were more idealists than they were pathological liars, the fact remains that they gave the world a host of unrealistic expectations about love, setting us all up for disappointment. What follows are the Fab Four’s 11 most egregious fibs.

“All you need is love.”

The title, chorus, and mission statement of one of The Beatles’ most iconic songs is also far and away the biggest love lie they ever told. It’s untrue in both a literal survival sense — food, shelter, and clothing also come in handy — and an emotional one, as simply loving someone, and perhaps even being loved back, doesn’t guarantee happiness. Check out Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” or even Don Henley and Patty Smyth’s schlocky “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough” for more accurate counter perspectives.

“I don’t care too much for money / Money can’t buy me love.”

This may have been true for The Beatles, who had the lassies fainting back in their Cavern Club days when they still lived at home with their parents, but plenty of actors, politicians, Wall Streeters, and fat cats of various types have cash to thank for their trophy wives and husbands. And even if “Money Can’t Buy You Love,” it’ll get you nice clothes, a decent haircut, and a gym membership. Maybe some dental work, too. With enough dough, even the most socially awkward, morally reprehensible, physically repulsive specimen on the fact of the earth can become dateable. There’s something crassly comforting about that.

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“Hey you’ve got to hide your love away.”

In fairness, John sings this titular line with incredulousness, as it’s something people tell him he’s got to do, and he’s not so sure they’re right. Still, it’s become something of a mantra for folks who bottle up their feelings and respond to heartbreak by shutting themselves off, and that only makes things worse. If you’re not careful, you’ll wind up an Eleanor Rigby.

“Say the word and you’ll be free.”

If only it were so easy. “The Word” comes from Rubber Soul, which the Beatles recorded in 1965, just as the meaning of “love” was beginning to change. The Flower Power era was right around the corner, and amorousness suddenly took on cosmic implications. It was all just an excuse to eat mushrooms and have sex outdoors, and while you can totally see where the hippies were coming from, it doesn’t absolve them of telling lies dirtier than their feet.

“With our love, we could save the world, if they only knew.”

How could they know? Listening to “Within You Without You,” the interminably long and droning sitar jam that opens side two of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, no one had the foggiest what George Harrison was on about. But they knew this line was pure idealistic bunk. As far as saving individuals is concerned, love works OK. Mankind, on the other hand, is destined to nuke and/or poison itself into extinction. You can’t love away climate change.

“Love is all and love is everyone / It is knowing, it is knowing.”

So heavy is “Tomorrow Never Knows” with sonic innovations — Mellotron loops, backwards guitars, faux seagull sounds that may have been Paul laughing — that the lyrics are something of an afterthought. And that’s OK, given that John’s metaphysical ruminations on love and life are very much of their time. The idea that “love is knowing,” some supernatural force that courses through the universe, sounds nice and all, but it’s pure dippy utopianism — a description of the world Lennon thought he wanted, not that he actually lived in. Love is not “everyone” — some people are straight-up haters — and for most people, it’s not about “knowing” some great truth. It’s about finding someone you like hanging out with and smooching on, a concept that’s actually pretty simple.

“She says she loves you, and you know that can’t be bad / Yes, she loves you, and you know you should be glad, ooooooh.”

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Nine times out of 10, someone loving you is cause for celebration. The exceptions can really mess with your life, though, and even in “She Loves You,” there’s reason to believe the narrator ought not necessarily be glad. He’s really busted up some girl’s heart — so bad that she nearly lost her mind — and now she’s back for more punishment. Only she doesn’t have the guts to tell him, so she goes through his friend. This one’s got disaster written all over it.

“Life is very short, and there’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend.”

Ask any couple that’s been together for more than a few years – there’s plenty of time for fussing and fighting. In fact, married folks will rearrange their schedules to allow for more bickering. Contrary to what “We Can Work It Out” says, you actually need some disagreement in order to work it out.

“From this moment on I know exactly where my life will go / Seems that all I really was doing was waiting for love.”

One of two “new” Beatles tracks included on Anthology 2, “Real Love” hinges on the idea that true love sets you on a path toward contentment and inner-peace. The core of the song is a demo John Lennon recorded in 1979 and 1980, some five years after he ended his “long weekend.” That was the 18 months he spent in Los Angeles with May Pang, the woman his estranged wife — and oh yeah, his apparent soul mate — Yoko Ono suggested he start sleeping with. Whether Lennon’s reunion with Ono brought him the spiritual calm he’d always sought —friend Lenny Kaye says Lennon referred to the lost weekend as “the happiest I’ve ever been” — one thing is for sure: This was a guy who, like the rest of us, never knew exactly where his life was going to go, even when he was in love.

“Oh! Darling, please believe me / I’ll never let you down / Oh, believe me darling / Believe me when I tell you / I’ll never do you no harm.”

Popular interpretations have Paul as the “good guy” of the Beatles, but even if he were the most virtuous lover on the face of the earth, he ought not have made a promise like he does in “Oh! Darling.” Lovers let each other down and do each other harm all the time. Being in love means saying you’re sorry — over and over again for the duration of the relationship.

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

It’s a warm and fuzzy sentiment, and it’s also some seriously fuzzy math. “The End” marks the conclusion of the Beatles canon, as it’s the last proper song on Abbey Road, and the idea, as Paul McCartney explained in a terrific “Chris Farley Show” skit on SNL, is that “the more you give, the more you get.” Tell that to the pimply kid sitting behind the prom queen in pre-calculus, the divorcee who keeps meeting losers at the local bar, and well, just about everyone else in the world not named Paul McCartney. Love is an even worse investment than a new car. You pour a lot into it, and there’s a good chance you wind up losing your shirt. No, really — when exes pack up and leave, they sometimes steal your favorite T-shirt. You’ve gotta hide your laundry away.