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Music

The Beatles song that predicted a future breakup

@TylerGolsen

When The Beatles wrote about love and relationships in their early years, very little of the material was autobiographical. One of the few songs that John Lennon claimed was directly inspired by his first wife Cynthia was ‘Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)’, which chronicles one of his affairs. Similarly, because he was usually surrounded by different women, McCartney didn’t consider many of his initial love songs about anyone in particular.

“My whole existence for so long centred around a bachelor life,” McCartney recalled to Hunter Davies in the 1968 book The Beatles. “I didn’t treat women as most people do. I’ve always had a lot around, even when I’ve had a steady girl. My life generally has always been very lax, and not normal.”

McCartney admitted that such a stance proved difficult when he was trying to be monogamous, specifically when he and his girlfriend Jane Asher were arguing about the status of their relationship. “I knew it was selfish. It caused a few rows. Jane left me once and went off to Bristol to act. I said OK then, leave, I’ll find someone else. It was shattering to be without her,” McCartney admitted to Davies.

Out of that hardship came ‘I’m Looking Through You’, the bitter break-up song that eventually landed on The Beatles’ 1965 album Rubber Soul. When McCartney wanted Asher to quit her profession of acting in order to devote herself more fully to their relationship, Asher refused, and the disagreement eventually led to the writing of ‘I’m Looking Through You’.

“As is one’s wont in relationships, you will from time to time argue or not see eye to eye on things, and a couple of the songs around this period were that kind of thing,” McCartney recalled in Barry Miles’ Many Years From Now. “This one I remember particularly as me being disillusioned over her commitment. She went down to the Bristol Old Vic quite a lot around this time. Suffice to say that this one was probably related to that romantic episode and I was seeing through her façade. And realising that it wasn’t quite all that it seemed.” 

“I would write it out in a song and then I’ve got rid of the emotion,” McCartney added. “I don’t hold grudges so that gets rid of that little bit of emotional baggage. I remember specifically this one being about that, getting rid of some emotional baggage. ‘I’m looking through you, and you’re not there!’”.

Despite the animosity within the song’s lyrics, McCartney and Asher would continue their relationship, even moving into McCartney’s St. John’s Wood flat in 1966. Asher accompanied McCartney on The Beatles’ 1968 retreat to India, and the two were even engaged for a few months. However, the relationship ended when Asher caught McCartney in bed with Francie Schwartz, an American screenwriter. Shortly after, Asher would marry illustrator and future Pink Floyd collaborator Gerald Scarfe while McCartney began dating, and eventually married, Linda Eastman.

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