George Harrison’s marriage to Pattie Boyd may have ended in a whirl of drama but damn if it didn’t fuel some of his best writing. The Beatles themselves ended in a whirl of drama, an ugly breakup only hinted at in the idyllic video by their conspicuous refusal to be filmed together. That drama in turn fueled Harrison, Lennon and McCartny to leap into their solo careers determined to prove themselves. (Ringo got busy filming cinematic classics like Caveman.) That just proves and underlines the way that harsh experiences tend to become the most intense inspiration. George Harrison knew, of course, that his four-way union with the other Beatles was on its dying legs, and that his relationship with his wife wasn’t going so well either. It’s the knowledge of impending change that imbues the most tender of love songs with its soulfulness.
Much as I hate to take Abbey Road songs out of context, I have to examine this one. I’ve always wondered about it, obviously. So many questions. Who is she and why did she come in through the bathroom window? Is Paul McCartney a police officer in this scenario? I want to hear more. One of the wonders of the medley half of Abbey Road is that there are so many fascinating fragments of ideas that I really want to hear more about. It’s like opening a notebook filled with some great writer’s ideas for stories that they never got around to writing. In the Beatles-inspired movie Across the Universe, there’s actually a character who does come crawling in through the bathroom window, with the explanation that her boyfriend was abusing her and she used the fire escape to make her escape and then later it turns out she’s a lesbian, which is pretty straightforward and makes a lot of narrative sense. But it’s also a little bit literal-minded, because New York City fire escapes are the most obvious explanation for why anyone would be coming in through a bathroom window. I like to imagine something a little bit more fun, like a thwarted museum heist. I’m imagining a Pink Panther-style caper, with Paul McCartney in the Inspector Clouseau role and Jane Birkin as a dancer/criminal mastermind.
I think this one is interesting because it marks one of the rare instances in which The Beatles turned to the blues for inspiration. They were rather unique, among a sea tide of blues based bands, for not being in the least bit a blues based band. The Beatles were unrepentant pop lovers, who leaned on the rockabilly of Elvis and on the far less cool basis of pre-rock popular music. They didn’t care very much about pretensions of authenticity and somewhat looked down on those of their rivals who had them. I’m sure that element of purity helped them maintain their undeniable toppermost position in the rock pecking order for as long as they were a unit.
The Beatles really are the gateway drug for children to become rock fans. If this isn’t the stepping stone between nursery rhymes and headbanging, whiskey-swilling, pill-popping, promiscuous depravity, I don’t know what is. I mean, look at me. I used to be an innocent child who loved wholesome things like Alice in Wonderland. Then I started listening to The Beatles. Now I take drugs two or three times a week, and engage in meaningless sexual encounters with men I’m not married to. For all intents and purposes, I’m a fallen woman, and it’s all thanks to these guys and their deceptively simple tunes about octopi. Thanks, Beatles! Without you, I’d be a goddamn normie. I, and millions like me.