Lewis Carroll and…Paul McCartney?

John Lennon is widely regarded as the Beatle most influenced by the writing of Lewis Carroll, and for good reason. John admittedly based at least two songs directly upon the imagery of Through the Looking Glass and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (“Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and “I Am the Walrus”). Lennon’s style of wordplay is reminiscent of Carroll’s and the link between the two is not in question. It is interesting to note, then that there are songs written by Paul McCartney which may have their own link to Carroll.

Those familiar with Carroll might recognize a similar use of the word “better” in two McCartney songs in particular. Both “Getting Better” and “Hey Jude” contain a repetition of the word “better” which mirrors the use of the word by the White Queen in Through The Looking Glass.

`But if you hadn’t done them,’ the Queen said, `that would have been better still; better, and better, and better!’ Her voice went higher with each `better’, till it got quite to a squeak at last.

`Oh, much better!’ cried the Queen, her voice rising into a squeak as she went on. `Much be-etter! Be-etter! Be-e-e-etter! Be-e-ehh!’ The last word ended in a long bleat, so like a sheep that Alice quite started.

In the second example the Queen chants “better” until a long bleat at which point she transforms into a sheep. In a similar manner, in “Hey Jude” the Beatles repeat the word “better” rising in pitch with each word until the song transforms into the familiar outro chorus.

It may be a stretch to assume that these two songs were influenced by Carroll in any way. Many people of varying degrees of craziness have applied a stronger microscope and have attributed various meanings to the Beatles and their lyrics. John Lennon recognized this and penned the song “Glass Onion” to both lament the fact that his lyrics were being overanalyzed by fans and to deliberately confuse them.

I told you about the walrus and me-man
You know that we’re as close as can be-man.
Well here’s another clue for you all,
The walrus was Paul.

Having said that, it is curious however that this connection has not been considered to any degree given the amount of analysis that has been performed on every Beatles song lyric. The images of John as the highly literate wordsmith and Paul as the tender ballad-writer have managed to stand the test of time, after all. But it would be interesting indeed if two of the most clever homages to Lewis Carroll that the Beatles ever included in their music belonged not to John Lennon but to Paul McCartney.

At the very least it gives me an excuse to play “Getting Better”.

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5 Responses to Lewis Carroll and…Paul McCartney?

  1. Drae says:

    Ah – the curse of beauty. Pretty Paul couldn’t be a book worm because good looking people don’t need to be smart, right?

    A very interesting theory, Gripweed. I like it.

    • Gripweed says:

      Why thanks! I may do a future thread on “The Misconceptions About McCartney.”

      Name some of the hardest rocking Beatles songs:

      “Helter Skelter”
      “Back In The USSR”
      “I’m Down”
      “I Saw Her Standing There”
      “Birthday”

      All McCartney.

      Two of the best guitar solos in Beatles songs were McCartney:

      “Taxman”
      “Good Morning, Good Morning”

      He did have a tendency to drift towards Music Hall, but Ray Davies made a living off of that. And I’ll be damned if I hear a bad word said about Ray Davies!

  2. Drae says:

    You forgot McCartney was the lead singer on their most rockin’ cover, “Long Tall Sally.”

    Rockin’ it in one take.

    • Lou says:

      And Lucille. And Clarabella. And Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey Hey.

      I defy anyone not to get chills hearing Paul scream: “Hey Hey Hey Hey.”

  3. Pingback: Beatles Song of the Week | Of Buckley and Beatles

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