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The Beatles song Paul McCartney said saw John Lennon "singing it like Bob"

The Beatles are frequently referred to as one of the most influential and original groups of the 20th century. I mean, it’s fair enough, isn’t it? Together, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr defined the parameters of British pop music, laying the path along which countless artists have made their way. Still, it’s important to remember that even the Fab Four took inspiration from somewhere. This track, featured on their 1965 album Help!, is the perfect example of that notion.

‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’, one of the strongest moments on Help!, marked a shift in John Lennon’s songwriting, one that saw him move towards a more introspective subject matter. As part of the Anthology, Lennon opened up about the track, explaining how Bob Dylan greatly influenced the tone of this particular experiment in songwriting: “It’s one of those that you sort of sing a bit sadly to yourself,” he began. “I started thinking about my own emotions. I don’t know when exactly it started, like ‘I’m A Loser’ or ‘Hide Your Love Away,’ or those kind of things.”

Although diaristic songwriting is the bread and butter of today’s artists, it wasn’t always that way. The 1960s was a period in which the function of pop music was still being established. The idea that a composer could use the rubble of their life to build the house of their art still smacked of innovation, and Bob Dylan reminded the world that musicians should feel free to meditate on their songs rather than churning them out.

Of course, Lennon was quick to pick up on all this. When discussing ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away,’ he said: “Instead of projecting myself into a situation, I would just try to express what I felt about myself which I had done in me [lyric] books. I think it was Dylan helped me realise that I had a sort of professional songwriter’s attitude to writing Pop songs, but to express myself I would write ‘Spaniard In The Works’ or ‘In His Own Write’, the personal stories which were expressive of my personal emotions. I’d have a separate ‘songwriting’ John Lennon, who wrote songs for the sort of meat market, and I didn’t consider them, the lyrics or anything, to have any depth at all. Then I started being me about the songs… not writing them objectively, but subjectively.”

Paul McCartney also noticed the influence of Dylan’s songwriting. When reflecting on the formation of the track, the bassist commented: “That was John doing a Dylan… heavily influenced by Bob,” he said. “If you listen, he’s singing it like Bob.” He’s right: Lennon’s voice carries the same nasal quality that characterises many of Bob Dylan’s most iconic albums. Lennon himself made no attempt to deny the extent of Dylan’s influence, stating: “That’s me in my Dylan period again,” he recalls in All We Are Saying. I am like a chameleon… influenced by whatever is going on. If Elvis can do it, I can do it. If the Everly Brothers can do it, me and Paul can. Same with Dylan.”

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