- Published in 1966
- Author: Lennon/McCartney
- Track 10 on “Revolver“
JOHN 1972: “Another of his I really liked.”
JOHN 1980: “Paul’s. One of my favorites of his. A nice piece of work.”
PAUL 1984: “I wrote that on a skiing holiday in Switzerland. In a hired chalet amongst the snow.”
PAUL circa-1994: “I suspect it was about another argument. I don’t have easy relationships with women, I never have. I talk too much truth.”
About “For No One”
“For No One” was written by Paul McCartney, and credited to Lennon–McCartney. McCartney’s most mature and poignant work upon release, the song blends baroque pop and chamber music. It’s about the end of a relationship. A French horn solo performed by Alan Civil, used as counterpoint in the final verse, distinguishes this track from others.
While on holiday with his then girlfriend Jane Asher, McCartney wrote “For No One” in the bathroom of a ski resort in the Swiss Alps. Lyrics conclude enigmatically with the phrase “A love that should have lasted years”. Working title of the song was “Why Did It Die?” Based on a descending scale progression, the refrain modulates to the supertonic minor.
During the period of May 9, 16, and 19, 1966, the song was recorded. As well as singing and playing clavichord, McCartney played piano and bass guitar while Ringo Starr played tambourines, maracas, and drums. Both John Lennon and George Harrison did not contribute to the recording.
The French horn solo was played by Alan Civil, a British horn player described by recording engineer Geoff Emerick as “the best horn player in London”. In the session, McCartney pushed Civil to play a note that was beyond the instrument’s usual range. According to Emerick, the result was “his greatest performance”. In his explanation, Civil explained that the song was “recorded in rather bad musical style, in the sense that it was neither B-flat nor B-major. This posed a certain difficulty in tuning my instrument.” Civil is one of the few session musicians to receive credit on a Beatles LP.
As Maureen Cleave noted in her contemporaneous review of Revolver, “For No One” is McCartney’s most moving contribution to the album. AllMusic’s Thomas Ward identifies “For No One” as “one of McCartney’s great ballads, full of idiosyncratic McCartney touches yet undeniably inspired.”. Ward praises McCartney’s vocal performance and its melody as “one of his most inspired.”. Similarly, Ward praises the bass line and French horn solo, concluding by describing it as “one of the most delicate and fine ballads in the Beatles canon.”
Meaning of “For No One”
The meaning of “For No One” revolves around the painful experience of a romantic relationship coming to an end. The lyrics vividly portray the dissolution of love, capturing the emotions and realizations that accompany such a situation. The song paints a poignant picture of a breakup, depicting the gradual fading of affection and the increasing emotional distance between the partners. Lines like “And in her eyes, you see nothing” and “Her love for him is gone” convey a sense of detachment and loss.
What sets “For No One” apart is its realistic portrayal of love and relationships. It acknowledges that love can fade, and that sometimes, people grow apart. This contrasts with more idealized or romanticized representations of love often found in popular music. The lyrics also delve into the practical aspects of a breakup, addressing the division of possessions and the necessity to move forward. Phrases like “A love that should have lasted years” and “And though she feels as if she’s in a play, she is anyway” underscore a sense of resignation and acceptance.
The song’s arrangement, notably the prominent French horn solo, adds a poignant and melancholic dimension to the lyrics, heightening the emotional impact. In sum, “For No One” is a poignant exploration of the conclusion of a romantic relationship. Its candid and heartfelt depiction of the complexities and challenges of love enriches The Beatles’ repertoire with a deep emotional resonance.
- Paul McCartney – vocals, bass, piano, clavichord
- Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine, maracas
- Alan Civil – French horn