Yet More Beatles, ‘I Feel Fine’ and Words of Wisdom from Caitlin Moran

This blog has been a bit Beatles-heavy of late as after watching Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back mini-series on Disney+, I went on to watch some of the many other documentaries made about them, and kind of fell in love with them all over again. I admit to having been a bit too young for ‘Beatlemania’, but of course I knew of them, and in the early ’70s their films were often shown on telly during the school holidays. When the Red and Blue compilation albums were released in 1973, I somehow acquired them and loved pouring over the lyrics on the inner sleeves – what a songwriting journey between Love Me Do and The Long and Winding Road. (When I say I somehow acquired them, that’s because albums like this were really expensive in relation to what we received as pocket money back then, so I can only imagine there must have been a build up of birthday and Christmas money in my piggy bank.)

How great they were able to recreate the original picture all those years later. The EMI building now long since gone.

I mention the above because I am going to write one more Beatles-themed post before giving them (and you) a bit of a break. I have been making excuses of late as to why my blogging output has been falling short of normal – all valid excuses – but how to kick start things again once you’ve lost momentum? I decided to revert to one of the ideas I had when I first set up this place, simply pick a song at random, then challenge myself to write about it. When I opened the music app on this device the other night and pressed play, the song that burst forth was this one – I Feel Fine, a non-album single by the Beatles from 1964 (Paul goes over his ankle at 0:09 in this clip!).

I Feel Fine by the Beatles:


Most of us will already be really familiar with this simple but effective love song, but what made it a bit different, and a bit experimental, was that it starts with a single feedback note. It was apparently produced by accident when Paul plucked the A string on his bass, and John’s guitar, which was leaning against Paul’s bass amp, picked up feedback. The band loved that ‘Nnnnnnwahhhhh’ sound and asked George Martin if it could be edited onto the front of the record. It could, and the rest as they say, is history.

In the promotional clip for the song, made for a Top of the Pops round-up of the year’s biggest hits, the band are shown interacting with various items of gym equipment. George sang into a punch-ball whilst Ringo pedalled on an exercise bike. I recently shared a trailer for their film A Hard Day’s Night and although filmed just a year and a half later, the clip for I Feel Fine shows a band that is starting to morph into something else – the hair is longer, the clothes more casual and the attitude a bit more irreverent. Interestingly the Beatles only appeared on the live TOTP show once, which is really unusual for a British band from the ’60s, but then they were rarely available, and could it be that they got so big, so fast, that such a weekly chart show was a bit beneath them? Not sure, but few of the really big stars of music ever appeared, which led to the show becoming a bit MTV-ish for a time, especially in its final years.

But the main reason I was happy to have a song by the Beatles pop up as a random pick, was because I have been wanting to share an extract for some time from one of my favourite books, by one of my favourite authors. I don’t have many books by my bedside with little sticky tabs inserted to remind me of important passages, but two of them are by Caitlin Moran, whose writing I love. In her novel How To Be Famous, an entire chapter is dedicated to a letter, written by the main character to her friend John, who has suddenly become a big star in the world of music. The chapter/letter is too long to share in full, but here are what I think are the best bits, that sum up what she is trying to tell her friend:

There is one terrible weakness you can have if you amusedly and self-deprecatingly describe yourself as an artist, and become famous. One let-down if you become loved by millions, and your work is meaningful work. And that is if some of the millions who know, and love you, are teenage girls (…) the love of teenage girls is not merely substandard, or worthless – it is an active mortification to an artist. Oh you take those girls’ money and become elevated on their devotion, and enjoy them putting you at Number One – but you do not respect those girls.

Things that boys love are cooler than things girls love. That is a simple fact. Boys love clever things, cleverly. Girls love foolish things, foolishly. How awful it would be to love things like teenage girls do. How awful it would be to be the wrong kind of fan – a girl. A dumb, hysterical, screaming girl.

But bands need to be screamed at. In their hearts they know that. They know there is a power they will never attain until they have stood in the white-noise of a theatre of devotion and seen the girls down the front collapse in ecstatic tears. And this is true even when it’s the biggest scream in the world, even when the mythology is that the screaming was what killed your band.

The Beatles at Shea Stadium

Why did girls love the Beatles so much? Because the Beatles loved girls. They were saturated in girl culture – they loved black American girl groups; they had dandy outfits and uncomfortable pointy shoes, like girls. They went out of their way to write about girls in their songs – ‘She Loves You’ is the Beatles siding with a girl in love… acting as her sexy envoys. They grew their hair long, like girls: an act of alliance in a time when femininity was implicitly inferior.

How can you be as extraordinary as the Beatles? How can you change so much, in such a short space of time, with seemingly nothing – no capital, no contacts no education – on your side? By tapping into the cultural capital of humanity: girls. To be on the side of girls. To look girls in the eye, and declare yourself on our team. To copy girls, to acknowledge girls, to learn from girls.

The great pity of my lifetime is that still no one notices this is what happens. Girls are invisible. The power source goes unacknowledged. But not to other girls. I see you girls. I see you in history. And all anyone has to do – to have our impossible energy and love, given willingly, forever – is to say, ‘I see you too.’

Well said Caitlin.

The wonderful Caitlin Moran

Until next time…

I Feel Fine Lyrics
(Song by John Lennon/Paul McCartney)

Baby’s good to me, you know
She’s happy as can be, you know
She said so
I’m in love with her and I feel fine

Baby says she’s mine, you know
She tells me all the time, you know
She said so
I’m in love with her and I feel fine

I’m so glad that she’s my little girl
She’s so glad, she’s telling all the world

That her baby buys her things, you know
He buys her diamond rings, you know
She said so
She’s in love with me and I feel fine, mmm

Baby says she’s mine, you know
She tells me all the time, you know
She said so
I’m in love with her and I feel fine

I’m so glad that she’s my little girl
She’s so glad, she’s telling all the world

That her baby buys her things, you know
He buys her diamond rings, you know
She said so
She’s in love with me and I feel fine
She’s in love with me and I feel fine, mmm, mmm

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

13 thoughts on “Yet More Beatles, ‘I Feel Fine’ and Words of Wisdom from Caitlin Moran”

    1. I’m afraid I can’t take credit for it, I picked it up when reading up about the song. Think it can be attributed to Paul – a good onomatopoeic word.

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  1. Yes, “Nnnnnwahhhhh” – it should be in the dictionary!
    Lovely post Alyson and a perfect selection from Caitlin’s book (which will have to go onto my ‘must read’ list), I had never thought it through like that but it really makes sense. The Beatles had something kind and warm going on too, they were neither too wild, nor too uptight, nor too dull, nor too arrogant (whereas I can think of other bands at the time to whom I could apply those descriptions). Yes, they seemed to fully appreciate and certainly ‘see’ their young female audience.
    I also like what I’ve read of Caitlin’s articles over the years but I wonder if you remember as I do when she first started out as a very young and enthusiastic reporter on the TV music programme Naked City? They used to have some good bands on there too.

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    1. It is good isn’t it.

      I think you would like Caitlin’s books – I have loads of sticky tabs inserted so that I can re-read some of the really thoughtful passages whenever I want to. She is also really funny so a win-win when you buy one of her books. If you haven’t already read it I would recommend you start with How To Be A Woman – it makes so much sense.

      As for the Naked City, I have vague memories but heck, she must have been so young back then so wasn’t on my radar yet. Around that time there was also The Word on C4 which we always watched on a Friday night. C4 seems to be under threat at the moment so loads of people coming out in support – So many ground breaking programmes would never have been made without it.

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    2. Re your comments about the Beatles – I like your description of them. They did come across as warm and they did ‘see’ their audience and wrote their songs for them. By doing that they became the biggest band in the world and could go on to make Sgt. Pepper etc. Sad that a large following of teenage girl fans makes a band lose all credibility nowadays – as Caitlin says, they are a power source and what band, when they are starting out, wouldn’t want to be in front of that kind of ‘theatre of devotion’. Take That had that in spades but seem to have managed to keep going as a Man Band, and now a Middle-Aged Man Band! Two of the Beatles are still going as octogenarians.

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    1. They’re all a bit cheeky in this one but hadn’t spotted Ringo’s wink. Perfect timing.

      I’m having a bit of a mental block about Naked City although I’m sure I watched it on occasion. Yes, with Johnny Vaughan.

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  2. Lovely post, and please, don’t ever feel you need to apologise for any topic in your blog – you mightn’t hear us screaming with adulation (but we are, quietly, in our own ways). I’ve read a few of Caitlin Moran’s books, I’m very much in the category of ‘came for the humour, got so much more’. Will certainly be looking out for this one.

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    1. Gosh, thanks Graeme for the affirmation (although I will still give the Beatles a bit of a pass for a time – this blog has been Beatles-heavy of late!).

      As for Caitlin Moran novels, I wasn’t sure that they’d be appreciated as much by the males of the species, but why not. I thought this one was particularly insightful and of course really funny too. Hope you enjoy it too.

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  3. When I was about five and my sister three, we were each given a scrapbook for Christmas with a picture of the Beatles on the front. Paul was my favourite, and my sister liked George best! But our parents had no interest in pop music, so we didn’t actually hear any of their music until we discovered Top of the Pops in 1969. It was at the time when Get Back was number 1 for several weeks, and the Beatles were shown performing the song on the rooftop of Apple Studios. I was shocked by how much they had changed from the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young men who had appeared on our scrapbooks – but as Paul said in the documentary Eight Days a Week (which I saw recently), they couldn’t stay as lovable moptops forever. Once I’d got over the shock of their altered appearance, I became a fan, and I remember borrowing the Red and Blue albums from a friend soon after they were released in 1973 – like you, I wouldn’t have been able to buy them without saving up my pocket money for many weeks!

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    1. Hi Lizza – Because we are the same age, we have very similar musical memories. I was in a little dance group when I was aged four or five, and we did a dance routine to a Beatles song dressed as beetles (all black satin) holding red wooden guitars our dads had made for us with pictures of the Beatles attached. No photos sadly in those less pictorially chronicled times. I don’t know how much they were into pop music, but my parents did always watch TOTP, so as soon as my bedtime shifted to 8 pm I watched it too and I became a real fan of the chart music of the day. The Red and Blue albums were a great way to rediscover their back catalogue from a slightly more mature perspective and yes, although the mop-top era was short-lived, they soon evolved into something else and the songs from that later era are timeless and of such quality. I too have watched a fair few docs about them recently so I keep returning to them here – has been really enjoyable but maybe enough now.

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