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Four Fab Stories Behind The Beatles’ Songs

Hear these hits at Sarasota Orchestra’s first Pops concert in 2022.

Presented by Sarasota Orchestra By Sara Stovall December 21, 2021

Sarasota Orchestra showcases REVOLUTION: The Music of The Beatles, a symphonic tribute to the band that transformed popular music forever, on January 21 and 22, 2022. Complete with a rock band onstage, the concert covers the span of The Beatles’ rocking discography, from their 1963 “Twist and Shout” to the final jam sessions of Abbey Road and Let It Be

Learn the story behind four Beatles favorites:

“Things We Said Today” (from A Hard Day’s Night, released 1964)
The Beatles’ first album of all original songs, A Hard Day’s Night fully showcased the brilliance of Lennon/McCartney songcraft. Seven of the songs were produced as the soundtrack for the film of the same name, which dramatized (to hilarious effect) the band members’ pell-mell lifestyle as Beatlemania crested across the world. The album’s wistful ballad “Things We Said Today” came from a much different place. After filming wrapped, Paul McCartney hired a yacht christened Happy Days and took Ringo Starr on a Caribbean cruise, along with their respective partners, the actress Jane Asher and hairdresser Maureen Cox (who would marry Starr the following year). Sailing the waters around the Virgin Islands, McCartney picked out “Things We Said Today” on an acoustic guitar. It sweetly laments the toll a rise to fame can take on a relationship while offering assurances of how good memories of times together can keep the flame alive.

“I Am the Walrus” (from Magical Mystery Tour, released 1967)
Raise your hand if you’ve ever wondered what “I am the walrus” means. John Lennon told Beatles biographer Hunter Davies that he had been toying with three separate song ideas for Magical Mystery Tour: one inspired by the sound of distant police sirens; another a folk tune about enjoying a sunny day in the garden; the third, a nonsense song that involved using breakfast cereal for a chair. “I don’t know how it will all end up. Perhaps they’ll turn out to be different parts of the same song,” Lennon said.

That’s precisely how it turned out. At this point in Beatles history, fans had taken to dissecting songs, hunting for hidden meanings in their more far-out lyrics. Lennon even received a letter from a grammar school student telling him that English teachers were assigning his songs for analysis. He took his chance to have a heap of fun with that. In “I Am the Walrus,” the opening bars, with their message of human oneness, contain the song’s only line to be taken seriously. 

“Eleanor Rigby” (from Revolver, released 1966)
The instrumentation for “Eleanor Rigby” marked a huge departure from the Beatles’ pop and rock sensibilities, with not even a guitar in the mix. Producer George Martin scored the double string quartet arrangement that provides the sonic backdrop to Eleanor Rigby’s poignant scenes of yearning and loneliness. McCartney originally named the fictional church cleaner Miss Daisy Hawkins, which failed to flow off the tongue as the song took shape. McCartney, Lennon, and other collaborators all give varying accounts of how they arrived at the name for their anti-heroine. However, they never mentioned a grave marker in Woolton, Liverpool, that’s etched with the name Eleanor Rigby. It rests in the cemetery of St. Peter’s Parish Church, where John and Paul first met in 1957.

“Hey Jude” (single, released 1968)
Unlike Eleanor Rigby, the single “Hey Jude” was inspired by and dedicated to a real person. McCartney was close with Lennon’s young son, Julian, and this tune sparked from McCartney’s desire to offer the boy some consolation during the “sad song” of his parents’ divorce. The Beatles defied the music industry’s conventional wisdom that a hit single had to clock in under four minutes, and they set a record for themselves at the time with a track seven minutes and 11 seconds long. Before the year was out, it had sold six million copies and has since certified 4x Multi-Platinum with the Recording Industry Association of America. Three weeks after its release, “Hey Jude” made it onto the Billboard Hot 100 and clinched the number-one spot for nine weeks, remaining on the chart for 19 weeks total, making it the Beatles’ most successful chart-topper of them all.

Sarasota Orchestra presents REVOLUTION: The Music of The Beatles January 21-22 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. To buy tickets:

Hungry for more Beatles song trivia? Find the full stories behind these songs and more in A Hard Day’s Write by Steve Turner (Little, Brown and Company, 1994).

All photos under license from The Beatles Book Photo Library.