We’re dipping into the Far Out vaults to look back at one of The Beatles songs which could quite possibly be the bridge between the Fab Four being seen as another pop group and asserting themselves as not only figureheads of music but role models to the wider world.
It was a bridge the band were happy to cross, bringing along a brand new message as they came. It was a John Lennon song that would change The Beatles forever.
John Lennon’s contributions to songwriting can never really be underestimated. He and Paul McCartney’s partnership is bafflingly fruitful. From a very young age, the duo could sit down and crash out a pop record that could, and most often did, hit the top of the charts. But while pop stardom is all well and good, soon enough they wanted more.
When The Beatles met a singer by the name of Bob Dylan in 1964, their worlds were changed, almost overnight. While many will point towards Dylan’s apparent dosing of the Fab Four with marijuana, introducing the group to the drug and getting the band stoned for the first time. We’d say it was his unique songwriting style that appealed most to the band.
McCartney and Lennon were transfixed by his ability to make songs that not only gathered attention from the public but also bore the soul of its author. It was an alluring proposition and one which Lennon began to employ throughout the songs on 1965’s Rubber Soul album. The record was imbued with the life and times of those who wrote it and it marked a massive change for the group.
From pop stars to icons, Lennon and McCartney decided to use their new position as the mouthpiece of a generation to spread a brand new message, the song the pair used to share their new theories was ‘The Word’.
The song marked the bridge between songs like ‘She Loves You’ and ‘All You Need is Love’ and saw the Fab Four write about love as a concept for the very first time. As Lennon says in The Beatles’ Anthology about the track, “It sort of dawned on me that love was the answer, when I was younger, on the Rubber Soul album. My first expression of it was a song called ‘The Word’.
“The word is ‘love’, in the good and the bad books that I have read, whatever, wherever, the word is ‘love’. It seems like the underlying theme to the universe.” It was clear that the influence The Beatles held had finally landed on the band members’ shoulders.
It’s fair to say that while they were opening their own minds to their newfound roles, they did have some help in the matter too. The introduction of marijuana into the band’s career is well-documented and Lennon confirmed the drug’s influence on the track, “‘The Word’ was written together, but it’s mainly mine. You read the words, it’s all about – gettin’ smart. It’s the marijuana period. It’s love, it’s the love-and-peace thing. The word is ‘love’, right?”
It’s something McCartney confirmed in Many Years From Now: “We smoked a bit of pot, then we wrote out a multicoloured lyric sheet, the first time we’d ever done that. We normally didn’t smoke when we were working. It got in the way of songwriting because it would just cloud your mind up – ‘Oh, shit, what are we doing?’ It’s better to be straight. But we did this multicoloured thing.” The lyric sheet was eventually given to John Cage as a birthday present from Yoko Ono but the message remains with us all to this day.
The Beatles’ catalogue can be split into two factions. One saw the band’s rise, their meteoric rise, to the top of the pop charts and notoriety around the world that had never truly been seen before. The other saw the group mature into mercurial musicians and outspoken role models for a new generation. ‘The Word’ acts as the bridge between these two moments and changed The Beatles forever.