March 8: eight women sung by the Beatles

March 8: eight women sung by the Beatles


Music and words by Lennon-McCartney

Eleanor Rigby is the emblem of loneliness, an elderly person who no longer has ties of kinship or friendship, who lives in the sacristy of the church where she collects rice after weddings, something that she, in her life, has never had. And where she will one day die forgotten by all; she will be buried there together with her name: “together” is the key word, forever. Soon no one will remember her anymore.

Today that emblem of solitude has several statues, including one in Liverpool, near the Cavern: it is the sculpture of an old lady sitting – alone – on a bench, with her head bowed and staring at her shopping bag. Well, that woman, symbol of solitude, does not find a moment of peace because she is besieged by fans at every hour of the day and she is never alone. And that old lady who dies in the song, today she is practically immortal. A poem with a touch of surrealism in the famous line “wear her face which she keeps in a jug behind the door”: it is the expression of circumstance that she wears from time to time depending on the occasion.


Music and words by Lennon-McCartney

One day in 1967 Lennon's eyes fell on a drawing made by his son Julian. The typical drawing of a five year old child where there is a human silhouette, a cloudy sky and a series of stars arranged in a circle around another larger star. Things? It's “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, so it says in one corner of the paper. The result is a controversial, lysergic and timeless masterpiece about a girl with kaleidoscopic eyes, mandarin trees and jam skies.

In reality Lucy O'Donnell is a classmate of Julian who, unfortunately, will die in 2009 from an autoimmune disease at just 46 years old; shortly before her Julian had written a song for her intended to raise funds for this type of disease. Julian's original drawing was snapped up at auction by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, while in 2014, fifty light years from Earth, a star in the constellation of Centaurus was discovered which, having crystallized, formed the largest diamond in the world. universe: her name is Lucy.


Music and words by Lennon-McCartney

The Rita of the song is a traffic policeman in a skirt in charge of parking meters in Portland Place in London, described as “lovable” even when she writes out fines. In reality she doesn't seem to be that attractive, since she is compared to an old soldier with the cap, the uniform and that shoulder bag; however, she too has suitors, if only for the charm of her uniform. And so, this boy who got a fine falls in love with her and swears that one day he will take her home for tea and, rest assured, sooner or later he will do it with her.

Curiosity: Rita is called that only because her name in English rhymes with “meter” – the parking meter – and Paul loves this type of assonance. Yet, in the interminable Beatles mythology, one day a certain Meta Davis will emerge, a retired traffic policeman, who swears that he fined Paul McCartney 10 shillings for a parking ban one day many years ago. Was she the Rita of the song? She's sure of it. She will be.


Music and words by Lennon-McCartney

Melanie Cole, daughter of a business manager and a hairdresser from Stamford Hill, is one of the many young girls who, in the era of the first youth protests, did not get along very well with their parents. Between bickering, arguments and punishments, one day she decides to run away from home with her boyfriend. The story appears in the newspapers and from there one of the many masterpieces of “Sgt.Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” is born, narrated “cinematographically” by Paul with John in the guise of desperate parents engaged in a sort of “Greek choir”.

In reality the story ends in a banal way, with her parents finding her in a hotel and bringing her home, while the poignant “She's Leaving Home” winds its way through used car dealers and possible drug dealers. Melanie will discover that she is in the song only after a few months, while Paul will simply not be able to remember that, four years earlier, as a judge in an imitation competition in an episode of the talent show of the TV program “Ready Steady Go!”, he had awarded her the prize .


Music and words by Lennon-McCartney

We are in India, February 1968, the Beatles are in Rishikesh to follow Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's courses on Transcendental Meditation together with other friends, illustrious and otherwise. The daily lessons are long and even a little boring, and the calm that reigns in the place is occasionally interrupted by long walks on the banks of the Ganges or by strumming the guitar in the sun, just to see if something new will come out of it. Good.

Prudence Farrow, daughter of director John Farrow and actress Maureen O'Sullivan (the famous Jane from Tarzan), and above all sister of Mia, Hollywood star and wife of Frank Sinatra, takes it a little too seriously, remaining closed inside his room as a true meditation workaholic. Concerned about her, but also a little amused by her, Lennon invites her to come out of her shell with her song that will make her famous, “Dear Prudence”. “Don't worry,” she then reassures her friends, “she's only behaving like this because she's trying to reach God faster than the rest of us!”


Music and words by Lennon-McCartney

Julia Lennon is the mother that John loses twice, when as a child he is entrusted to his aunt Mimi and when she is hit by a car on a street in Liverpool, not far from where he lives. John will dedicate several songs to her, above all “Mother”, after the dissolution of the Beatles, and “Julia”, written in the tranquility of India while, with the other Beatles, he is searching for that unobtainable 'Peace of Mind', the peace inner. And in the song there is all the resignation and sweetness that you don't expect from a guy like Lennon.

But… “Julia: you are a daughter of the ocean”. In kanji, the language that uses the sinograms of Japanese writing, “daughter of the ocean” is the English translation of the name Yoko. How do you explain it? Who is Julia then? Simple: in India, despite Cynthia's presence, John's mind wanders elsewhere, to the girl he left in London, namely Yoko Ono. And without thinking twice she slips her name into the lyrics of the song dedicated to her mother.


Music and words by Lennon-McCartney

Pam is a beautiful girl, even if sometimes she looks like a man when she goes around dressed in cheap, plastic-coated stuff, those raincoats that are so useful in London, perhaps with the addition of wellies and kilts. But, as always when it comes to Lennon, things are not so simple, because Pam's origin can be found in three different female characters. The first is one of those girls who in Liverpool call “scrubbers”, that is, one with easy morals always wearing boots and a miniskirt, who probably remained in Lennon's memories.

The second is Pat Hodgetts, a girl who, due to an eating disorder, used to chew pieces of plastic, raw or even burnt and then cooled. And after all, it's a short step from Pat to Pam. The third character was named Stephanie, and John met her on a tour in 1963. During one of her dinner parties they ended up discussing some kinky sexual tastes, such as wearing polythene bags with no other undergarments. That same evening, John checked it out for himself in an attic bed.


Music and words by Lennon-McCartney

Paul is one of the many English youngsters fascinated by the French songs of Greco and Piaf, by Montmartre and the art of Paris. One evening, at an art student party in Liverpool, he had seen a boy with a goatee and a guitar singing sweet French songs and picking up non-stop. He decided to create a catchy melody by mumbling macaronic French, repeating an exotic name, “Michelle, oh Michelle …”.

In 1965, the “Rubber Soul” era, it was John who advised him to dust off the song again, perhaps with a complete lyric, also suggesting the triptych of the romantic refrain with “I love you – I want you – I need to make you see”. Paul then asks for help from the wife of a friend of his who taught French, but in the end he inserts a single sentence in the language of the Hexagon: “Michelle, but beautiful, they are words that go well together”: the girl must be won over with cuteness and fuss , and maybe a sprinkling of persuasive Frenchisms seasoned with a delicate guitar and a velvet bass.

(bonus tracks) MARTHA

Music and words by Lennon-McCartney

“Have no shame, my dear Martha, and look what you are up to! When you find yourself up to your neck in it, take what is good around you: and remember that you and I are made for each other.” Who is Paul addressing? Martha is an introverted, shy and closed-in girl who must continually be encouraged to go out into the world around her. Be careful, though…

…in reality Martha is her faithful white and furry bobtail, who is often entrusted to the care of her fans for her needs in Regent's Park. So? Let him explain it himself: “The funny thing is that at the time no one knew that Martha was initially not a person but a dog; but this dog, as the song progresses, becomes a girl with whom I get lost in conversations and to whom I give advice.” In short, Martha is a girl named after Paul's dog: there are those who give animals the names of people, but apparently also those who give people the names of animals.

Enzo Oliva is the author of “Girl – The female universe in the life and songs of the Beatles”, Tempesta Editore, which we reviewed here.