She's A Woman - Reviews

Reviewed by Ian MacDonald, in Revolution in the Head:

Written by McCartney (some say-on the spot in the studio) [1], SHE'S A WOMAN is a wire-taut 24-bar blues in A with two brief four-bar excursions to C sharp minor. The most extreme sound The Beatles had manufactured to date, it's propelled entirely by the rolling legato rhythm of the bass (recorded so high for 1964 that the engineers nervously duck it in the mix each time it leaves the home triad). The structural centrepiece of the track - without it, the other elements in this stark arrangement would make no sense - it's the first of McCartney's high profile bass-lines. From now on, he'd be striving to get his instrument 'up' in volume, tone, and octave.

Starting, jokingly, on the on-beat, a harshly overdriven and tightly gated rhythm guitar shifts to the offbeat as the song gets under way, chopping out a reggae accent of surprising violence [2]. With the snare-drum's normal timekeeping role usurped by the rise and fall of the bass, Starr's kit is squashed almost inaudibly into the left channel, offering no bass-drum and breaking out only to double his chugging chocalho with blows to the bell of his ride cymbal. Echoing WHAT YOU'RE DOING, the piano arrives as texture from nowhere, landing in the right channel of the second chorus without prior notice. McCartney's voice, too, is at the edge, squeezed to the upper limit of his chest register and threatening to crack at any moment. In short, everything here is pushed out of its normal place. (Even the guitar solo sets itself in arch quotation marks.)

In all respects an experimental recording, SHE'S A WOMAN is driven by its author's cannabis-cultivated curiosity to pursue every 'what if?' he could think of. At the same time, the overriding priority was to rock hard - a token of a group which, until 1966, continued to think of themselves as 'just a little R&B band'. (The song's powerful swinging beat drew the hard-won approval of America's session men, the Sir Douglas Quintet's 1965 single 'She's About A Mover' being an explicit homage.) Knowingly functional in keeping with the genre, the lyric is notabIe for the phrase 'turns me on', inserted on Lennon's insistence as a clue to the group's conversion to marijuana - and to give Bob Dylan a real drug reference to spot [3].

This song contains what is generally considered the worst rhyme in the Beatles' lyrical catalog: "My love don't give me presents / I know that she's no peasant."


  1. Before the radio version recorded on 17th November 1964 for Top Gear (see Live At The BBC), Lennon told Brian Matthew that, on the morning of the Abbey Road session, they had 'about one verse and we had to finish it off rather quickly'. Presumably this means he helped McCartney with the lyric.
  2. Lennon played this and boolegged out-takes show him muffing the changes. Take 7 develops into an extended jam in which he thrashes his Rickenbacker almost at random.
  3. Fascinated by The Beatles' unorthodox chords and harmonies, Bob Dylan, when first hearing I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND, decided they must have been chemically assisted, mishearing the line 'I can't hide' as 'I get high'.

Posted: 2 jan 2010

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