She Said She Said - Lennon/McCartney

Reviewed by Ian MacDonald, in Revolution in the Head:

The antithesis of McCartney's impeccable neatness, Lennon's anguished SHE SAID SHE SAID is a song of tormented self-doubt struggling in lopsided web of harmony and metre. Resembling the jangling mid-tempo style of The Byrds, it draws its inspiration from the day in August 1965 when Lennon took LSD with Roger McGuinn and David Crosby in Los Angeles. He had just watched and been severely bored by Jane Fonda's new film Cat Ballou when her actor brother Peter turned up and insisted on telling him about a hospital operation during which he'd had a near-death experience. Already annoyed by Fonda's sister, Lennon was exasperated by his disturbing claim that he knew what it was like to be dead and, fearing a bad trip, had him thrown out. The unease of the encounter stayed with him and seems to have blended with his experience of 'ego-death' during early 1966 to become the lyric of SHE SAID SHE SAID, yet another of his creative admissions of spiritual disorientation.

The last track recorded for Revolver, SHE SAID SHE SAID strings an endlessly uncoiling B flat Mixolydian melody around a standard three-chord progression from which it struggles to break free, managing to escape only twice, and very briefly, to the 3/4 childhood haven of F ('When I was a boy'). Rhythmically one of the most irregular things Lennon ever wrote, it required the lion's share of its nine-hour session to rehearse, and the result justifies every minute. As a performafice, SHE SAID SHE SAID is the outstanding track on Revolver, emotionally tense and as moving in its unhappy way as ELEANOR RIGBY. Whenever the feeling is real, Starr rises to the occasion, and here he holds the track together with drumming technically finer than that of his other tour-de-force RAIN.

With help from Harrison on vocal harmonies and lead guitar, Lennon (as with GIRL on Rubber Soul) pulls off a last-minute coup with this track, going some way towards evening up the score in his ongoing competition with McCartney (who, oddly, contributes only bass guitar here). In truth, however, Revolver - regarded by many as The Beatles' finest album - has far more of McCartney's fingerprints on it than Lennon's. While the group's former leader mused in his psychedelic daydream, his versatile partner was taking over - and, luckily for the group, doing so as he approached the summit of his creativity.

"She Said She Said", John's handwriting. From "The Beatles" by Hunter Davies.

Posted: 27 feb 2008