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The Beatles Song That Friends Thought Was a Joke Because of How ‘Out of Left Field’ It Sounded

Throughout their time as a group, The Beatles received praise for the way they pushed musical boundaries with their songs and albums. This has earned them a permanent place in the musical canon. As they were releasing songs, though, it occasionally brought them ridicule. While listening to a new Beatles song, a friend responded with disbelief. He thought it sounded like a joke.

Paul McCartney said friends couldn’t believe the sound of one Beatles song
In 1965, The Beatles released Rubber Soul. The album marked a shift for the band into more introspective, mature songs. When the band played one of the album’s songs, “Michelle,” for a friend, though, he responded with confusion.

“We’d just put out ‘Michelle,’ and I remember one night at the Ad Lib club David Bailey hearing it and saying, ‘You’ve got to be joking — it is tongue in cheek, isn’t it?’” Paul McCartney said in The Beatles Anthology. “My reaction was: ‘Piss off! That’s a real tune,’ and was quite surprised that he’d think that.”

Over time, though, McCartney grew to understand Bailey’s reaction. The song was a departure from The Beatles’ earlier work and the music of the first half of the decade.

“Looking at the Sixties now, I can see why he did, because everything was very ‘Needles And Pins’, ‘Please Please Me’, and suddenly — ‘Michelle,’” McCartney said. “It came a bit out of left field, but those are often my favorites. I mean, one of Cliff Richard’s best ones was ‘Living Doll.’ When he came out with that it was quite a shock, with its acoustics; but it was a well-formed little song.”

John Lennon said he helped enhance the Beatles song

John Lennon believed that his contributions to “Michelle” helped make it a more interesting song. As with many of McCartney’s songs, Lennon said his additions were an improvement on his bandmate’s work.

“My contribution to Paul’s songs was always to add a little bluesy edge to them,” he said. “Otherwise ‘Michelle’ is a straight ballad. He provided a lightness, an optimism, while I would always go for the sadness, the discords, the bluesy notes. There was a period when I thought I didn’t write melodies; that Paul wrote those and I just wrote straight, shouting rock’n’roll. But of course, when I think of some of my own songs — ‘In My Life,’ or some of the early stuff, ‘This Boy’ — I was writing melody with the best of them.”

Paul McCartney spoke about the process of writing ‘Michelle’
Though McCartney thought “Michelle” pushed boundaries, he used a tried and true trick to write the song.

“I would never have played ‘Michelle’ on bass until I had to record the bass-line,” he told Music Radar. “Bass isn’t an instrument you sit around and sing to — I don’t, anyway. But ‘Michelle,’ I remember that line against the descending chords, that was like, oh, a great moment in my life. It’s quite a well-known trick to do that, I’m sure jazz players have done that against that descending thing.”

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