“She Loves You:” a closer look

Above: the young McCartney, pale and drawn, haunted by his recent encounter, and the ensuing recording.  Is the awkward pose a kind of code?  And why are the other Beatles obviously distancing themselves from McCartney?  Are they worried about possible sniper fire? 

Below: the young woman in question.


Your ex-girlfriend has a message for you.  The message is, “She loves you.”

And you know that can’t be bad.

Can’t it?

Let us consider.

It is 1963.  You are, presumably, a teenage boy, although the song does not specify age or sex.  The point is, you have an ex-girlfriend and she says she loves you. 

The question becomes: Who is your ex-girlfriend?

Your ex-girlfriend is, apparently, a person of considerable power and influence.  How do we know this?  We know this because Paul McCartney is her messenger boy. 

McCartney, one of the most celebrated young men in the United Kingdom at this point, has recently been in contact with your ex-girlfriend and she has impressed upon him the overwhelming, urgent nature of her message, which is that she loves you.  Not only is McCartney impressed, but he is sufficiently terrified of the repercussions of his failure to deliver this message that he has enlisted the aid of his band The Beatles, overwhelmingly the most popular and influential musical act in the UK, to assist him with this message delivery.  McCartney, you see, apparently does not know you personally, nor does he know where to find you.  All he knows is that your ex-girlfriend has a message for you and it is his urgent need to deliver this message.

And so McCartney has used every ounce of his compositional talent to craft a bombastic, hysterical football-chant of a song, immediate in its impact and devastating in its catchiness, and has enlisted The Beatles to play it, and on top of that has enlisted the aid of Parlophone records to distribute the recording to every record store in the nation, and Swan records in the United States (and, when their distribution capabilities prove inadequate, Capitol).  Every radio station in the English-speaking world will be pressed into service to play it, and The Beatles will even sing a version in German on the off-chance that the message might reach you in Deutschland as well.  On top of that, The Beatles, leaving no stone unturned, will eventually visit every civilized nation in the world (and Indonesia), playing this song in concerts before millions of listeners, and will continue to do so for three years, in a marathon attempt to deliver this message to you.

That’s some ex-girlfriend.

Who is she?  How did she come to wield such power and influence?  Why didn’t McCartney simply say to her “I’m sorry luv, I’m a rather busy pop star and this, frankly, seems to be a private matter?”  What methods did she use to impress upon him the overwhelming importance of her love, so that he would spend the next three years of his life delivering the message, through recordings and live performance, to every possible recipient in the hope of reaching you?  Your ex-girlfriend, it seems, has an iron grip on the attention of Mr. McCartney.

I think we have to allow the possibility that your ex-girlfriend is unstable and possibly dangerous.

What suggests this?  Let’s examine the primary evidence, the message itself.

“You think you’ve lost your love, well I saw her yesterday, it’s you she’s thinking of, and she told me what to say.”

Seems simple enough.  Let’s move on.

“She says you hurt her so, she almost lost her mind.”

Okay, let’s stop right there.

Your ex-girlfriend has instructed Mr. McCartney to write in his message to you that she has “almost lost her mind.”  What kind of declaration of love is that?  “Please come back to me, I’M NOT CRAZY.”  This passage speaks volumes.

Now let’s go back to that first line.  “You think you’ve lost your love.”  Why were you trying to lose your love?  What makes you think you’ve succeeded in losing your love?  How intense were your efforts, and how diligent has she been in following you?  And consider the subtext of McCartney’s desperation: “You think you’ve lost your love, well I saw her yesterday.”  What he’s telling you is “You think you’ve lost your love, well, she she was able to get to me, Paul McCartney, the biggest celebrity in the UK, a man of considerable power and influence.  What chance do you think you stand of avoiding her?  Give it up, for the love of God, talk to her, PLEASE, TALK TO HER.” 

And “I saw her yesterday.”  Apparently she can get to him any time she wants.  Note how in every performance of this song, and McCartney must’ve racked up thousands by now, he still sings “Well I saw her yesterday.”  She is, for years, in near constant contact with one of the most heavily guarded personalities of his time.  This ex-girlfriend, obviously, has her ways of getting to people, and does not give up easily.

(“Yesterday.”  There’s that word, a word that would haunt McCartney for the rest of his life.  He saw your ex-girlfriend yesterday; is it only coincidence that yesterday is the same day that so shattered him, that saw him reduced to “not half the man [he] used to be?”  There’s “a shadow hanging over me” — a troubling image we will examine the implications of later.)

“But now she says she knows your not the hurting kind.”  This line could be read a number of ways.  Either your ex-girlfriend is confident in her abilities to overpower you physically (Why not?  She’s got Paul McCartney wrapped around her little finger) or else she’s whistling in the dark.  You have disappeared, fled this dangerous, unstable young woman, in fear for your life, and in her desperation she has crafted a fiction about the nature of your personality.  “Come back, I know you didn’t mean to hurt me, I understand completely and I love you, and I won’t let Paul McCartney out of my clutches until you respond in kind, in order to prove my point.”  What could this possibly be except the actions of a crazy person?

(In German!  They recorded a version in German!  Why?  Has your ex-girlfriend expressed a concern that you perhaps have amnesia, and are living in Germany?  Does she think, perhaps, that some German-speaking friends or relatives might relay the message to you?  What evidence does she have of this?  Does she think that, in your desperate avoidance, you have fled the country, changed your name and taken up speaking a foreign language?  What the hell did this young woman do to you?)

“Although it’s up to you, I think it’s only fair.”  Yes, that’s right, it’s totally up to you.  Please don’t let me, Paul McCartney, biggest pop star in the UK, influence your decision in any way, it’s absolutely your decision to make.  HOWEVER: “Pride can hurt you too.”  Ah, there’s the rub.  It’s utterly your decision to make, but YOU WILL FEEL THE PAIN OF THAT DECISION.” 

“Apologize to her.”  Oh, now wait, what the hell?  I thought the message is that she loves you, now she’s demanding an apology?  Not herself, of course, no, that’s not her style.  No, it’s McCartney, McCartney is pleading with you, please, for the love of God, apologize to her, or you will find yourself in a world of pain.  This is no tender declaration of love, this is a plain-spoken threat.

“And with a love like that, you know you should be glad.”  Yes, you should be.  But McCartney, at this point, is fooling no one.  Look at the way certain phrases are repeated, chantlike, over and over — “She loves you, yeah yeah yeah,” “and you know that can’t be bad,”  “and you know you should be glad.”  This is what Shakespeare referred to as “protesting too much.”

An image forms in my mind.  The Beatles return from a world tour, exhausted and terrified from their international mission of message delivery.  A pale, drawn, shaken McCartney returns home to London, thinking he’s fulfilled his duty, but is greeted at his door by your ex-girlfriend.

The rain pours down, wetting the young composer’s hair as he stands, crestfallen at the sight of the trembling, enraged young woman.  “Did you deliver the message?”  She asks.  “What was the reply?”

McCartney has no answer.  Distractedly, he fumbles with a cigarette.  He can’t get a match to strike, not in this sodden English weather.  “I didn’t hear back,” he stammers, “I did my best.  Please, you have to understand –“

“You didn’t even locate the recipient, did you?” she cuts him off.  McCartney goes pale.  The cigarette, soaked and lifeless, trembles in his lips.  He knows that he will have to go back to the other Beatles and insist that they tour the world once again, enduring constant threat to their lives, in the service of this young woman.  It’s going to be another long year.

(Did McCartney, perhaps, actually die in 1966, as was widely rumored?  Was it at the hands of your ex-girlfriend?)

More important, perhaps: who are you?  What did you do to this young woman, who must be a middle-aged woman by now, if she’s still alive?  Are you still alive, or did you pay for your relationship with this young woman with your life?  When will it be safe for you to come out of hiding?  Are you waiting for another message from McCartney, a song whose chorus goes “It’s all right, she’s dead, you’re in the clear?”  What will it take to heal this wound?  Can your ex-girlfriend ever be satisfied?

Let’s face it, in the end there is only one possibility: your ex-girlfriend is a supernatural being of terrible power.  Your ex-girlfriend may be, in fact, not your ex-girlfriend at all.  The song does not, after all, identify her as an ex-girlfriend, merely that she is female, that you “hurt her so,” and that she loves you.  She could be your daughter, your sister or even your mother.  You may not even be aware of her existence, but she loves you and her love is powerful, constant and unstoppable.  She could, in fact, be a ghost and, like Sadako in Hideo Nakata’s Ringu films, she will never rest until her message has been disseminated to every living person on the planet.  Which begs the question: what did you do to her?  You “hurt her so.”  As per Sadako, did you push her down a well because of her awesome powers of destruction? 

Whoever she is and whatever her powers, her mark on McCartney was permanent and irreversible.  In three short years, she turned him and the other Beatles from cheeky, entertaining moptops to sallow bickering, paranoid drug addicts.  What else explains the Beatles’ withdrawl from public life, their investigations into psychedelia and escape into hallucinations, John Lennon’s relationship with the Sadako-like Yoko Ono, George Harrison’s obsession with spiritual life?

What will free the world from the curse of her “love?”

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12 Responses to ““She Loves You:” a closer look”
  1. yetra says:

    I so totally just swooned. For real. That was simply lovely.

  2. mcbrennan says:

    I think it’s even more complicated than that. From what I understand, “she” later set her sights on John Lennon, who–in what was doubtless a noble effort to free McCartney from her influence–seduced and spurned this succubus. But alas, Lennon’s efforts were more rhetorical and less homicidal:

    Well you know that I’m a wicked guy
    And I was born with a jealous mind
    And I can’t spend my whole life
    Trying just to make you toe the line
    You better run for your life if you can, little girl
    Hide your head in the sand, little girl
    Catch you with another man, that’s the end!
    Let this be a sermon–I mean everything I’ve said
    Baby, I’m determined–And I’d rather see you dead!

    Alas, this bluster only made her wreak an unholy revenge. She introduced Lennon to a one Miss Yoko Ono. Efforts by fellow Beatle George Harrison to intervene with a “spirtutal cleanser” (a blue liquid in spray bottle form sold by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi for $377,000 a bottle) proved futile. Longtime Lennon friend Harry Nilsson tried to speak out against her, but she destroyed his angelic vocal cords in retribution. Ultimately a destitute Nilsson was forced to seek work writing Tin Pan Alley tunes for Robert Altman’s glacially-paced, desultory spinach-propaganda polemic Popeye. But I digress.

    McCartney, I think, fell under her spell when she mistook her presence for that of the Virgin Mary. Indeed, “She Loves You” was in fact a heartfelt plea to Jesus Christ himself. That’s not “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” McCartney and his lads are singing, it’s “Yahweh! Yahweh! Yahweh!” Only their enthusiasm and their Liverpudlian dialect makes it seem otherwise. In Paul’s vision, Mary was trying to express her regret over Christ’s suffering, crucifixion and ascention into heaven. It’s her love “He”–and by extention mankind– thinks he’s lost. But her love endured, and McCartney knew he had to spread the word. The German recording was a desperate cry in the dark, since Christ’s last known public sighting was at a bratwurst stand at Oktoberfest in 1963.

    Later McCartney found himself in times of trouble, became convinced he’d been deceived and tried to escape her influence, praying to the real mother Mary who advised him in simple words of wisdom to drop the whole thing (in so many words). Feeling trapped, McCartney knew his only hope of escaping the unholy influence was to adopt the tools of the angels– via some kind of feathered appendages. But like Icarus, McCartney flew too close to the metaphoric sun (with “Let ‘Em In” and “With A Little Luck”) and came crashing to earth, landing in the lap of a sequined Michael Jackson. Since then, his woes have been legion. Resigned to her eternal grasp, separated forever from spiritual redemption, McCartney has only his memories to keep him company as he waits for the tender release of death. Meanwhile, she hunts again, adding to her awful toll. Some say she is known to men as Courtney Love. No one alive can confirm this.

    Heather Mills’ leg was eaten by a stray badger. It’s rarely discussed.

    • Todd says:

      Not to throw gasoline upon this particularly dangerous fire, but McCartney’s real-life mother’s name was Mary. She died in 1969. Or did she?

  3. popebuck1 says:

    For that matter, if she’s THAT damn powerful, why hasn’t she damn well gone out and found “you” herself by now? You’d think she’d give up on exhausted, soul-dead Paul after 40 years or so of failure… for Pete’s sake, give it up, lady! The poor man has clearly tried his best!

  4. greyaenigma says:

    Well, well, well…

    See, people have been saying that copying music is bad. They’re wrong — it’s the only thing keeping humanity alive at this point.

  5. mr_noy says:

    This woman is an international criminal of some repute. Indeed, she has become a legend in the intelligence community. To this day she eludes capture and has never been positively identified.

    When McCartney’s original message failed to provide her with the desired response she turned to John Lennon to compose a postscript, “She Still Loves You and Wants to Know Why You Haven’t Replied.”

    When Lennon refused, she retaliated by leaking damaging information about his political activities to her sources within the FBI and the CIA. This prompted them to open an investigation on Lennon and to threaten him with deportation.

    Her plans were further thwarted when intimidation tactics failed to persuade Lennon. Fearing he knew too much, she had him assasinated by Mark David Chapman, who she personally programmed to kill using top-secret KGB brainwashing techniques.

    She would later repeat this pattern when she sent Michael Abram to kill George Harrison. Although Harrison survived the attack, cancer would ultimately cut short her efforts to have him deliver the message “Who the Hell Do You Think You Are? Don’t You Know She Made You And She Can Just As Easily Break You? She Claims One Phone Call Is All It Would Take.”

    Intelligence reports claim that she has spent the last few years in seclusion consoling herself with soap operas and boxes of chocolates and that “she has really let herself go.”

    There is still no word on whether Ringo Starr has been approached to write “You Really Need to Call Her She’s Starting to Cut Herself Again.”

  6. tenebrae says:

    The horror…the horror

  7. urbaniak says:

    PAUL: Interesting exegesis.
    GEORGE: What about Jesus?
    JOHN: We’re more interesting than Jesus now.
    PAUL: Exe-gesis.
    RINGO: You’re an ex-Jesus?
    JOHN: He’s come off his cross.
    RINGO: It’s about time. Make us a cup of tea, Paul.
    PAUL: I’m talking about this Alcott fellow.
    GEORGE: Who?
    PAUL: The blogger.
    JOHN: I beg your pardon?! Who’s a bugger?
    PAUL: Blogger!
    JOHN: He said it again!
    RINGO: Never mind the tea. Get back on the cross, Paul.
    PAUL: Don’t you know what a blogger is?
    JOHN: I died in 1980, I don’t even know who Bruce Willis is.
    PAUL: Then how do you know his name? Eh?!
    JOHN: I was speaking rhetorically.
    RINGO (sings): Rhetorically…under the sea…
    JOHN: Oh give it a rest.
    RINGO: Sorry, luv. I’m still among the quick.
    JOHN: Your last album suggests otherwise.
    GEORGE: Boys, boys.
    PAUL: Most unBeatlelike.
    JOHN: You’re the one saying “bugger” every five seconds!
    JOHN: He said it again!!! You heard him, didn’t you?!
    RINGO: Me? I haven’t listened to him since “Ram.”
    PAUL: Snip, snip, snip. Like a pair of scissors.
    GEORGE: Gentlemen, we’re the Beatles! What happened to happy-go-lucky?
    JOHN: It happy-go-left.
    (Long pause)
    RINGO: We’re waiting.
    PAUL: …that this Todd Acott has an interesting take on “She Loves You.”
    JOHN: This Todd What-cott?
    PAUL: Alcott. Like Louisa May.
    RINGO: Like her? I love her. Especially her early songs.
    JOHN: Louisa May? Didn’t I shag her on the Reeperbahn?
    GEORGE: More like in the Kaiserkeller.
    PAUL: That’s a bit bawdy for you, George.
    GEORGE: Ironically, the afterlife has put me in touch with my less spiritual side.
    JOHN: How do you find the afterlife?
    GEORGE: Turn left at Greenland.
    PAUL: So no one has any thoughts about Todd Alcott’s post?
    JOHN: His what?
    PAUL: Oh, of course. Internet term.
    JOHN: Internment? I’m for it. Starting with you.
    PAUL: Internet!
    JOHN (mock German): Schprickenshtet!
    RINGO: Zauberflote!
    GEORGE: Row-yer-boat!
    JOHN: Mersey-beat!
    PAUL: Beatle feet!
    RINGO: Time is fleeting!
    GEORGE: Season’s Greetings!

  8. chevett says:

    Since no translation is ever an exact copy of the original (especially when it’s a song), I wonder what the German version actually says. I imagine it’s close, but perhaps there’s a subtle warning in it not found in the English version.

  9. Todd says:

    Perhaps a German-speaking reader could help us out on that.

    Sie Liebt Dich

    by N/A

    Sie liebt dich
    Sie liebt dich
    Sie liebt dich
    Du glaubst sie liebt nur mich?
    Gestern hab’ ich sie gesehen.
    Sie denkt ja nur an dich,
    Und du solltest zu ihr gehen.
    Oh, ja sie liebt dich.
    Schöner kann es gar nicht sein.
    Ja, sie liebt dich,
    Und da solltest du dich freu’n.
    Du hast ihr weh getan,
    Sie wusste nicht warum.
    Du warst nicht schuld daran,
    Und drehtest dich nicht um.
    Oh, ja sie liebt dich. . . .
    Sie liebt dich
    Sie liebt dich
    Denn mit dir allein kann sie nur glücklich sein.
    Du musst jetzt zu ihr gehen,
    Entschuldigst dich bei ihr.
    Ja, das wid sie verstehen,
    Und dann verzeiht sie dir.
    Sie liebt dich
    Sie liebt dich
    Denn mit dir allein kann sie nur glücklich sein.

    • Hmmmn. My German is next to non-existant, and no one else has spoken up.

      I wonder if one of them new-fangled online translators might help . . .

      “She loves you
      You loves you
      You loves you
      You believes it loves only me?
      Yesterday hab’ I it seen.
      It thinks only of you,
      And you should go to it.
      Oh, she loves you.
      More beautifully it cannot at all be.
      Yes, she loves you,
      And there you should you freu’n.
      You did its pain,
      She did not know why.
      You were not debt to it,
      And did not turn.
      Oh, she loves you. . . .
      She loves you
      You loves you
      With you alone can it be only lucky.
      You must go now to it,
      Excuse you with it
      Yes, wid it understand,
      And then it forgives you.
      She loves you
      You loves you
      With you alone can it be only lucky.”

      Seems to be more active, or maybe rather, less “off-hand,” in some ways than the English — “And you should go to it” rather than “And she told me what to say,” “More beautifully it cannot at all be” rather than “And you know that can’t be bad.” And the verse beginning, “You did its pain”? Yeah, Sadiko.

      Also, as re: the image of the Beatles on the picture sleeve above, not only are the other three trying to distance themselves from McCartney, but it appears that Ringo has been entirely replaced by an out-of-scale cardboard cutout (which George is having to hold up, trying, with little success, to look casual about it).

      • Todd says:

        The thing I like best about computer-generated translation programs is that it makes it sound like all non-English-speaking people are retarded. Honestly, my three-year-old daughter speaks more clearly than this.