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Did The Beatles write the first LGBTQ+ anthem?

In terms of contributions to culture, you do not get more distinguished than The Beatles. The ‘Fab Four’ effectively brought music from the past into a much brighter future. Whether it be directly or indirectly, they’ve inspired almost every subsequent musician in one way or another, a testament to just how pioneering they were. 

In songwriting, the studio, and offstage, the band had a colossal impact on the development of modern culture, and today you still see their influence ubiquitous. They were cultural explorers, who tapped into regions not yet explored. If you were to wipe them from history, the world would look completely different, and duly, their impact remains as mind-blowing as it was 50 years ago. 

In many ways, The Beatles’ career is characterised by a series of firsts. They were the first band to truly take over America, the first to use feedback intentionally on a record, and they also scored the first number one that was over seven minutes long with ‘Hey Jude’. According to another historical rumour, the band were also the first band to write an LGBTQ+ anthem. 

The track in question is ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’, from 1965’s Help! In 2000’s Anthology, John Lennon gave his thoughts on the song: “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’ is my Dylan period. It’s one of those that you sing a bit sadly to yourself, ‘Here I stand, head in hand…’ I’d started thinking about my own emotions. I don’t know when exactly it started, like ‘I’m A Loser’ or ‘Hide Your Love Away’, those kinds of things.”

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Lennon continued: “Instead of projecting myself into a situation, I would try to express what I felt about myself, which I’d done in my books. I think it was Dylan who helped me realise that – not by any discussion or anything, but by hearing his work”.

However, the longstanding rumour claims that the song was written for The Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, who was openly homosexual during a time when it was still outlawed in the UK, and societal issues towards sexuality were still firmly stuck in the dark ages. Hardcore Beatles fans will know that Lennon and Epstein holidayed together in Barcelona, Spain in April 1963, and upon their return, rumours spread that the pair had shared a sexual experience.

The claim was always denied by the pair, although Beatles biographer, Hunter Davies claimed that Lennon once admitted that a sexual encounter had occurred between them, strictly off the record. Please excuse his language, but in his 2006 autobiography The Beatles, Football And Me, he claimed: “John wasn’t a homosexual but he was daft enough to try anything once”. On the other hand, there’s another claim that the song is actually about an affair with a woman that Lennon was having at the time, which seems more reasonable. In truth, it seems unlikely we will ever discover exactly what love Lennon was attempting to hide in plain sight.

Unfortunately, I’d wager that The Beatles didn’t write the first LGBTQ+ anthem, regardless of Davies’ claims. Or at least they didn’t do it on purpose.  

Listen to ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’ below.