More on “You’ve got to Hide Your Love Away”

January 4, 2007

I’ve had more thoughts on “You’ve got to Hide your love away” since I posted a video of their performance in the movie HELP! a few days ago.

This is yet another one of Lennon’s famous songs about love. He wrote about love throughout his entire career. The song appears to me to be about Brian Epstein. John’s Dylan-esque folk song is really a song about gay acceptance. John yells “Hey!” like a command and in the same spirit he screamed “momma don’t go, daddy come home” and “help!” and “I’m a loser” and “God” with its long litany of things he doesn’t believe in. Whether this song is a yelling out of “don’t touch me faggot” from John to Brian knowing that Brian was attracted to him, or, more likely, John is preaching to society that this kind of intolerance is unacceptable, there is a passion and power in this song that I never realized was there. The music was always profound to me, the words were just, well, the words.

The chords of this song have always been haunting. After learning to play the banjo, I now understand why. There is an open G string on the banjo that usually plays with chords whether it fits or not. That is why bluegrass banjo music sounds the way it does. Lennon does the same thing here but he doesn’t use a banjo. Instead, he adds the G drone to every chord in the song until just before he yells “hey!” at the chorus. There is also a very rich guitar sound with John on his 12-string and George on his 6-string. Paul’s Hofner bass blends especially well here. Ringo is a rock and keeps an offbeat tamborine strike throughout.

The harmonic progression offers some clever twists in the realm of harmony. Flat-7 feature prominently here. IV likes to rock back in forth in, V likes to be dramatic and jump to IT before going to where it should have gone (I). The harmonic rhythm moves by dotted quarters, except just before the chorus where the V marches down to the I coinciding with and pumping the word “hey!”

There is one of the most heart-breaking 9-8 suspensions in music when John sings “hide your…” in the chorus.

The uptight woman and the weirdo coming up from the manhole cover are just silly nonsense having nothing to do with anything the song might be about. John seems to be truly in touch with the sensitive nature of this song and seems in many places, on the verge of tears. Richard Lester, whom I assume directed this, cut silly, cutesy cutaways to Paul and George each having expressions that bely the seriousness of the lyrics. The performance is a lipsyced, but the spirit of the song still comes through, mostly through Lennon’s wail, the dissonant clanging of the guitars, and Ringo’s ever-faithful tambourine.

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