John Lennon was a prickly and bolshie character who had an unpredictable streak. His mood was as changeable as the wind, just like his opinions on The Beatles, where Lennon was undoubtedly his harshest critic.
Nobody has been as cruel and barbarous towards the work of The Fab Four as Lennon. He was a perfectionist who always strove to magnificence, and even when he reached that destination, more often than not, the result still wasn’t adequate enough for Lennon.
His reasoning for disliking his own material barely altered with each rant, with his lyricism a common source of regret for Lennon. During the early days of The Beatles, this is where he believed his musicianship fell short. After being brainwashed by the otherworldly mite of Bob Dylan, Lennon began to adapt his songwriting to magnificent results.
There were numerous occasions when Lennon reflected at his work post-Beatles, and the lyrics often sent a shudder down his spine. Here, we reflect upon each song and dig into Lennon’s reasons for turning his back upon these classic Beatles numbers.
Lyrics by The Beatles that John Lennon hated
‘It’s Only Love’
Released in 1965, Help! cemented The Beatles as a powerhouse pop act, yet the record would later become something Lennon would grow to fall out of love with despite housing some of the group’s most beloved songs.
There were some facets of the album he couldn’t look past, like ‘It’s Only Love’. “That’s the one song I really hate of mine. Terrible lyric,” he said in 1972.
Later, Lennon confirmed that hatred, telling Sheff in 1980: “‘It’s Only Love’ is mine. I always thought it was a lousy song. The lyrics are abysmal. I always hated that song.”
Another track from Help! sees Lennon point the gun at quite possibly the band’s most famous song of all time. While ‘Yesterday’ is an undoubted classic, Lennon took umbrage with the song’s lack of lyrical density.
He told David Sheff in 1980: “The lyrics don’t resolve into any sense, they’re good lines. They certainly work, you know what I mean? They’re good— but if you read the whole song, it doesn’t say anything; you don’t know what happened. She left and he wishes it were yesterday, that much you get, but it doesn’t really resolve. So, mine didn’t used to either. I have had so much accolade for ‘Yesterday.’ That’s Paul’s song, and Paul’s baby.”
Brutally adding: “Well done. Beautiful— and I never wished I’d written it.”
“That’s Paul writing a pop song,” recalled Lennon in 1980 in a scathing back-handed dig at his former writing partner.
Lennon continued: “He makes ’em up like a novelist. You hear lots of McCartney-influenced songs on the radio now. These stories about boring people doing boring things– being postmen and secretaries and writing home. I’m not interested in writing third-party songs. I like to write about me, ‘cuz I know me.”
‘Mean Mr Mustard’
Lennon was never a fan of ‘Mean Mr Mustard’, he explained: “In ‘Mean Mr Mustard’ I said ‘his sister Pam’ – originally it was ‘his sister Shirley’ in the lyric. I changed it to Pam to make it sound like it had something to do with it [‘Polythene Pam’]. They are only finished bits of crap that I wrote in India.”
He then told David Sheff in 1980 it was a “piece of garbage. I’d read somewhere in the newspaper about this mean guy who hid five-pound notes, not up his nose but somewhere else”.
Another track from Abbey Road that Lennon had no time for is ‘Sun King’, a song that he unsurprisingly described as “a piece of garbage I had around” during that infamous 1980 interview.
“When we came to sing it, to make them different we started joking, saying ‘cuando para mucho’. We just made it up,” Lennon remarked earlier about the playful lyrics. “Paul knew a few Spanish words from school, so we just strung any Spanish words that sounded vaguely like something. And of course we got ‘chicka ferdi’ – that’s a Liverpool expression; it doesn’t mean anything, just like ‘ha ha ha’. One we missed: we could have had ‘para noia’, but we forgot all about it. We used to call ourselves Los Para Noias.”
‘Dig A Pony’
‘Dig A Pony’ was Lennon’s attempt at a simplistic love song for Yoko Ono, and he communicated his undying devotion to her in a characteristically mystifying manner. These were just the words that came to his inexplicable mind during the microscopic pocket of time in which he penned it. People have spent infinitely more time scrutinising the lyrics than Lennon spent writing them or, in truth, even thinking about the song.
“I was just having fun with words,” he said in an interview in 1972. “It was literally a nonsense song. You just take words and you stick them together, and you see if they have any meaning. Some of them do and some of them don’t.” Lennon’s evaluation of the track didn’t soften as the years progressed; in fact, his indifference heightened, and in 1980, Lennon referred to ‘Dig A Pony’ as “another piece of garbage”.