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"EVERYBODY'S GOT SOMETHING TO HIDE EXCEPT ME AND MY MONKEY"
(John Lennon – Paul McCartney)
When the biggest rock 'n' roll band in the world decides to get "heavy," the world pays attention. Even many decades later, tracks like "Revolution," "Come Together," "Back In The U.S.S.R.," "Helter Skelter" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" get extensive regular airplay on classic rock stations the world over. These songs, among others, have all the elements to satisfy even the most die-hard "metal" fans who are used to a regular diet of AC/DC and Guns N' Roses.
Why is it, then, that other Beatles songs that seemingly have all the same elements get overlooked? Case in point being “Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey.” It has loud, rocking and distorted guitar work, a driving tempo, John Lennon's energetic lead vocal bellowing, and the gimmick of a highly distinctive song title, the longest of the entire Beatles catalog. What is it about this song that a “head-banger” wouldn't love? The answer, I present, is nothing. Contained well within a three minute package is everything any staunch rocker could want. But for some reason, the masses aren't aware that this song exists. It is time that justice prevails, brothers and sisters!
John and Yoko at their first Art Exhibit "You Are Here," July 1st, 1968.
In 1980, Lennon described the song as "just a, sort of, nice line that I made into a song. It was about me and Yoko. Everybody seemed to be paranoid except for us two, who were in the glow of love. Everything is clear and open when you're in love. Everybody was, sort of, tense around us. You know, 'What is SHE doing here at the session? Why is she with him?' All that sort of madness is going on around us because we just happened to want to be together all the time."
Although it's known that most of the songs contained on the “White Album” were composed during The Beatles' stay in India in the spring of 1968, this song appears to be an exception. Since John explains the song as being written about everyone's reaction to his new love relationship with Yoko, it's known that there artistic and intimate relationship didn't take root until he returned from India in April of that year. George Harrison has stated that elements of the lyrics can easily be attributed to the Maharishi, saying that "Come on is such a joy" was one of his favorite sayings as was the song's title itself, "apart from that bit about the monkey.” However, it appears that these phrases were remembered later and adapted to his new circumstances with Yoko. Therefore, the song is estimated to have been written sometime in the month of May, the lyrics and basic structure of the song evident when John recorded the song's demo on May 28th, 1968.
While both John and Paul show Lennon as its sole composer, Paul adds his input into some of the song's lyrics. In his book “Many Years From Now,” Paul writes: “He was getting into harder drugs than we'd been into and so his songs were taking on more references to heroin. Until that point we had made rather mild, rather oblique references to pot or LSD. Now John started to be talking about fixes and monkeys and it was a harder terminology which the rest of us weren't into. We were disappointed that he was getting into heroin because we didn't really see how we could help him. We just hoped it wouldn't go too far. In actual fact, he did end up clean but this was the period when he was on it. It was a tough period for John, but often that adversity and that craziness can lead to good art, as I think it did in this case.”
While a good portion of the lyrics to “Everybody's Got Something To Hide” comes across as psychedelic gobledygook, such as “your inside is out, and your outside is in,” but phrases like “the deeper you go, the higher you fly” have easily been thought to be references to heroin use (although they had not admitted to shooting heroin as this lyric may imply, ingesting the drug only orally). As for the term “monkey,” as we see above, John and Paul's explanations contradict each other. Paul insists it was a definite reference to drugs, “monkey on your back” being a 40's and 50's jazz-musician phrase depicting Heroin addiction. John infers it as meaning Yoko, only her and himself not having any hang-ups unlike everyone else around them, including the press and what they were reporting about them at the time. It is convincing either way and may very well have been intended as a double-entendre.
Sexual references have also been suggested, the word “come” in the phrase “come on, it's such a joy” being suspect by many. John's deviant repetition of the phrase “take it, take it, take it” at the conclusion of the demo recording of the song suggests this may be the case, as well as his admission that he “was very sexually oriented” during the beginning of his intimate relationship with Yoko at that time.
As mentioned above, John introduced the song to the rest of The Beatles on May 28th, 1968, while recording demos of newly written songs at George's "Kinfauns" home in Esher, Surrey. Onto George's Ampez 4-track machine was recorded at least two acoustic guitars (possibly John and George), double-tracked vocals from John, maracas and bongos by perhaps Paul and Ringo respectively.
The general tempo and all around 'vibe' were already present, as were the complete lyrics, although the vocal style lends itself more to Bob Dylan than to the high intensity vocalizations of the finished product. Some arrangement issues needed to be worked out yet, such as the introduction and the details of the guitar parts, but the somewhat ad lib nature of the song was already in place. As Bruce Spizer states in his book “The Beatles On Apple Records,” “One can sense that the group was looking forward to recording this one.”
This proved to be the case. Out of the 30 songs that appeared on the released “White Album,” “Everybody's Got Something To Hide” was the fifth song to be started. They began working on the song on June 26th, 1968, in EMI Studio Two at approximately 7 pm. Mark Lewisohn, in his book “The Beatles Recording Sessions,” explains their new approach to recording that was now being instituted since they had time on their hands, this being to “rehearse and rehearse and rehearse, with everything recorded, but then – in most instances – instead of spooling back to record proper over the rehearsals, treat the rehearsals themselves as the recordings, all takes numbered. Then, in the familiar fashion, go back to the best basic version and start the process of overdubbing.”
On this day, The Beatles worked hard committing to tape the rhythm track of the song, which at this stage was documented as “Untitled.” By 3:30 am the next morning, they apparently thought they had nailed it but weren't sure which “take” would be used. Therefore, the recording sheet contained the words “Various takes; best to be decided.” The next day, however, they either didn't feel like pouring through the whole tape to see which one was best or they just decided they could do better. In any event, the entire tape was wiped clean. No evidence of what they recorded on June 26th exists today, so we don't know who played what instrument or in what form the song appeared during its evolution.
The following day, June 27th, 1968, they re-entered EMI Studio Two at the documented time of 5 pm to continue work on the song. Engineer Geoff Emerick recalls this days' events as a “very long, wearying session.” In his book “Here, There And Everywhere,” he elaborates: “The group began work on yet another harsh, aggressive Lennon song...Once again, The Beatles were playing incredibly loud down in the studio, but this time Lennon and Harrison had their volume turned up so high that Paul actually gave up competing with them. Rather than play bass on the backing track, he stood next to Ringo, ringing a huge fireman's bell, egging his drummer on. There was no microphone on him, because the thing was so loud that it bled on all the mics anyway. Physically, it was very difficult to pull off – Paul had to take a break after each take because his shoulders were aching so much.”
Emerick doesn't pull any punches about his feelings about the song, but admits some admirable qualities. “As much as I disliked the song, I had to admit that it was the first time in any of the 'White Album' sessions that there was any energy in their playing. George Harrison's lead work was crisp and efficient, much more aggressive than his usual style.”
Six 'takes' of the rhythm track were recorded on this day, these consisting of John and George on electric guitar, Ringo on drums and Paul on the above mentioned fireman's bell but sometimes exchanging this element with a percussive instrument called a chocalho. Take six was deemed best and, with the four-track tape full, a reduction mix needed to be made. However, an edit needed to be performed to get the rhythm track to the complete state they desired, piecing in a section of one of the verses (possibly from another take) onto the end of the song to work as a faded out conclusion. This facilitated two reduction mixes to be made and edited together, the result being called "take eight." This reduction mix was created while the tape machine was running at 43 cycles per second instead of the usual 50, which meant it sped the song up considerably when played back. This shortened the song from 3:07 to 2:29 and gave the impression of a tighter instrumental performance. Onto this new mix Paul overdubbed a percussive instrument called a chocalho, this ending the session at about 3:45 the following morning.
As a sidenote, Geoff Emerick explained interesting developments that occurred after the session was complete: “Needless to say, by the time the track was completed, I had a splitting headache. That evening, Paul had walked into the control room on his way in and unceremoniously plunked a bottle of Johnnie Walker down on the table, saying, 'This is for you, boys.'...(Engineer Richard Lush and I) restrained ourselves until after everyone had gone home, at which point we drained the entire bottle...Giggling like the drunken fools we were, we got every last cup and saucer out of the canteen and took them into Studio Two, whereupon we smashed them up against the wall. Of course, we then had to hide the evidence. But it was worth it. The next morning the canteen staff came in and wanted to know where all the cups and saucers had gone. Fighting our hangovers and trying to appear as angelic as humanly possible, we pleaded innocence.”
The Beatles entered EMI Studio Two on July 1st, 1968 at 5 pm with the intention of finishing the song, which finally was documented as being called “Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey.” Onto 'take 8' Paul performed two bass guitar overdubs. “The bass part Paul overdubbed on was good,” related Geoff Emerick. “Clearly he was still determined to do his best, no matter what was going on between him and John.” This then filled the four-track tape once again, facilitating a need for two more reduction mixes to be made and edited together to open up more tracks, the end result being called "take 10." John then put in his first lead vocal performance, thus ending the session for the night at around 3 am the following morning, the band thinking the song was now complete.
This turned out not to be the case, however. On July 23rd, 1968, they re-entered EMI Studio Two at around 7 pm for yet more work on the song. John decided to replace his lead vocals with another go, this time nailing it to his satisfaction. Interestingly, when he figured the song would be faded out, he began what Mark Lewisohn describes as “frantic, jocular screaming.” Engineer Richard Lush explained, “As usual, John was wanting his voice to sound different. He would say, 'I want to sound like somebody from the moon' or anything different. 'Make it different!' And at that time there wasn't the range of instant effects available today.”
A decision was made as to how the vocals were going to be “different,” but it would take another set of edited reduction mixes to free up yet more tracks. This brought the finished song as to this point to “take 12,” onto which John double-tracked his lead vocals and then, with Paul, overdubbed multiple backing vocals at the end of the song, thus layering assorted screams of “come on” on top of each other, as well as handclaps and Paul's periodic background hollers. This, then, completed the song, five mono mixes being made at the end of the session, although none of them were ever used. After some mono mixes of John's song “Good Night” was done, they finally called it a night at 2:30 am the next morning.
Both the stereo and mono mixes of the song that were released on the finished album were made on October 12th, 1968 in the control room of EMI Studio Two by the engineering team of George Martin, Ken Scott and John Smith. Only one attempt at each mix was needed to get them ready for release, although in both cases, it is thought that the song was sped up yet a little more to reduce its length a few seconds more (to 2:24). The only notable difference between the stereo and mono mixes is the “come on” screaming at the end which varies somewhat.
Song Structure and Style
The overall structure of the song is quite usual for Lennon / McCartney compositions, namely 'verse/ refrain/ verse/ refrain/ verse/ refrain' (or ababab) with an introduction and conclusion to round things out. But, as we've come to expect, there are some interesting developments that come up along the way.
Getting your grounding in the introduction may be a little difficult for the listener, as it was for me for many years, because of Lennon's three guitar chops per measure and deceivingly placed snare beats from Ringo. So, where exactly is the downbeat of the song? It's simpler than you think. The first bass drum beat of the song is the actual downbeat, which reveals that John's guitar chops are syncopated instead of on the quarter-note beats. This all sets in motion this tricky little four measure intro with John and Ringo being the only instrumentalists heard, apart from audible handclaps overdubbed by either John, Paul, or both.
We then enter into the first verse which is six measures long and played by all four members of the band. The verse makes a jarring appearance with John's high pitched “come on, come on” vocal, Paul's piercing fireman's bell and booming bass guitar, George's rhythmic lead guitar lines and Ringo's straightforward 4/4 drum beat. John's syncopated guitar work is still in full view throughout but now as a backdrop to the other elements that take center stage.
Next comes the first refrain which is ten measures long. These refrains can all be described as having two sections, the first six measures being in straight 4/4 time, and the final four measures which alternate twice between 3/4 and then 4/4 time. The first section consists of John's “take it easy” vocals followed by the song's title (actually adding one word, making it “except for me and my monkey”) while both John and George play eighth-note power chord chops. Paul sticks to single-note bass playing along with the guitars as well as keeps up his effective bell ringing, while Ringo steps up his drum beat by accenting the snare on every quarter note.
The second section, which comes in precisely on the word “monkey,” introduces a break in the energetic tension of the song thus far. George plays two inventive guitar riffs which stand out beautifully, both of which fill up both of the 3/4 time measures (seven and nine) while John's rhythm guitar, Paul's bass, and Ringo's bass drum and open hi-hat crashes accent a perfect triplet pattern for these same measures. Measures eight and ten (which are both in 4/4 time) consist of four strategic snare drum beats from Ringo. The only other element this time around is a blood-curdling scream from Paul which takes us directly into the next verse.
The second verse is different from the first verse in a few ways, the most noteworthy being the addition of four measures at the beginning, this verse now totaling ten. These measures are added in order to include additional lyrics, this time being “the deeper you go, the higher you fly,” and of course, the opposite of that sentiment is apparently true as well. Instrumental differences include Paul's replacing the bell with the chocalho and Ringo adding an additional snare drum beat in each of these first four measures. After this, the remaining measures are similar to what are heard in the previous verse. However, differences are heard in the interesting variations to George's lead guitar lines as well as the slight change in lyrics, from “come on is take it easy” to “come on is make it easy.” Not to be forgotten is the quick “whoo” from Paul at the tail end of the final measure.
Then appears another refrain which is quite similar to the first with a few minor exceptions. The chocalho continues to be heard as in the second verse instead of the bell from the first refrain. A faint voice is heard in the second measure saying “yeah, yeah, yeah” (a “She Loves You” reference?) and a “Woah!” from Paul appears at the beginning of the fourth measure. Lennon then sings “monkey, yeah” in the seventh measure while Paul retorts with a falsetto “woooo” at the end of the eighth measure. And there is no blood-curdling scream at the end this time around.
Then comes verse three, which is also ten measures long and is virtually identical instrumentally to the second verse except for Paul putting down the chocalho and picking up the fireman's bell again. “Your inside is out and your outside is in” are now the words of wisdom from Lennon, the reverse of course also being the case. Paul interjects a couple shouts of “Ho!” in measures five and six respectively, as well as mumbles some faintly heard contributions in the measures that follow. John decides the listener should be encouraged to “make it easy” once again this time around.
The final refrain then appears, which is also quite similar to the second refrain right down to Paul surprisingly putting down the fireman's bell and once again picking up the chocalho (his shoulders were probably starting to give out). With John singing at the top of his range, we can begin to hear the strain in his vocal chords, not unlike his performance five years earlier in “Twist And Shout.” He does decide this time around that it's important to both “make it easy” and “take it easy,” while Paul follows each of these commands with “wooaahh”s of different lengths. The eighth and tenth measures feature a “Hey!” shout from John while the tenth measure features a high pitched wail from Paul along with the beginning of the “come on” overdubbed repetitions that repeat endlessly until the song fades away.
The conclusion comes next which fades out at what would be the 13th measure. The first measure begins with a thud from the guitars and bass while the drums and the reemerging fireman's bell keeps the beat going through the first three measures. The third measure, however, features Paul's bass with a simple but fluent riff to take us to the fourth through sixth measures, these comprising fast paced guitar chording and bass notes only (no percussion at all). Then we are treated to a reprise of the rhythm track similar to what was heard in the first verse, fireman's bell and all. All the while, remember, John and Paul and saying, shouting and screaming “come on” overdubbed over and over again to great effect.
As stated elsewhere in this review, all four Beatles are in top form on this highly underrated song. Lennon only pushes the limits of his vocal range when he feels a particular song merits it, and thus he does here, only resorting to falsetto on the words “to hide” whenever the song's title is sung. There was no need for George Martin to add any piano or hire any outside instrumentation, such as brass players, to make this song come alive. It's pure Beatles at their energetic finest!
On November 25th, 1968, the long awaited double-album entitled "The Beatles," affectionately known as the "White Album," was released in the U.S. "Everybody's Got Something To Hide" fit in perfectly on side three, which had a primary theme of high energy rockers. The album was first released on compact disc on August 24th, 1987, then as a 30th Anniversary limited edition release on November 23rd, 1998, and then as a re-mastered CD set on November 9th, 2009. The first mono vinyl version of the album didn't hit American shores until September 9th, 2014.
The first time the mono version of the song was released in the states, however, was on compact disc within the box set “The Beatles In Mono,” which was released on September 9th, 2009.
There were never any live performances of the song by The Beatles collectively or individually, this being one of many compositions the group never touched again after their initial recording. A shame, really!
John Lennon's "Plastic Ono Band" album
“I just believe in me / Yoko and me / and that's reality!” This sentiment as expressed in the lyrics of the song “God” from John's 1970 album “Plastic Ono Band” is typical of how the couple truly felt about themselves, especially early in their romantic relationship. In the song, John renounces belief in everything he once may have held near and dear to his heart, revealing that his love for Yoko was the only thing he felt was truly real. This 'you and me against the world' mentality permeates Lennon's solo career but was first expressed to the world within this “White Album” rocker. In his mind, the entire world had their own hang-ups to deal with, but only Yoko and himself were above the delusions, exposed naked for everyone to see. Metaphorically as well as literally, as it turned out!
“Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey”
Written by: John Lennon / Paul McCartney
- Song Written: May, 1968
- Song Recorded: June 27, July 1 and 23, 1968
- First US Release Date: November 25, 1968
- First US Album Release: Apple #SWBO-101 “The Beatles”
- US Single Release: n/a
- Highest Chart Position: n/a
- British Album Release: Apple #PCS 7067-7068 “The Beatles”
- Length: 2:25
- Key: E major
- Producer: George Martin
- Engineers: Geoff Emerick, Richard Lush, Ken Scott
Instrumentation (most likely):
- John Lennon - Lead and backing vocals, Rhythm Guitar (1965 Epiphone ES- 230TD Casino), handclaps
- Paul McCartney - Bass (1964 Rickenbacker 4001 S), fireman's bell, chocalho, backing vocals, handclaps
- George Harrison - Lead Guitar (1964 Gibson SG Standard)
- Ringo Starr - Drums (1964 Ludwig Super Classic Black Oyster Pearl)
Written and compiled by Dave Rybaczewski
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