Published on 1968
Track 19 on “The Beatles – White Album“
JOHN 1980: “‘Yer Blues’ was written in India, too. Up there, trying to reach God and feeling suicidal.”
About “Yer Blues”
“Yer Blues” is a song featured on Beatles’ 1968 double album known as White Album. Although officially credited to Lennon-McCartney, it was solely written and composed by John Lennon during their stay in Rishikesh, India. This track serves as a satirical take on the blues genre, specifically parodying British interpretations of blues music.
In the song, Lennon reflects on his own struggles and emotional state during his time in India, aiming to create a blues composition despite his uncertainty in matching the authenticity of original blues artists. “Yer Blues” incorporates references to Bob Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man” and Robert Johnson’s “Hellhound on My Trail,” playfully incorporating elements of blues with tongue-in-cheek guitar solos and rock-inspired swing blues segments.
The song playfully acknowledges the surge of British blues in 1968 and the debate surrounding whether white musicians could authentically perform blues. Some interpret the lyrics, particularly the line “If I ain’t dead already, girl you know the reason why,” as a humorous commentary on the ambiguity of bluesy poetics.
Musically, the song is in E major but includes accidentals such as G♮, D♮, and B♭, which are typical in blues compositions. It employs a 6/8 time signature, though, as with many of Lennon’s compositions, the time signature and tempo undergo frequent alterations.
“Yer Blues” was recorded in a small annex of EMI Studio Two, lending a live and stripped-down quality to the track. This recording environment, reminiscent of the Beatles’ early performances, contributed to the raw, bluesy feel of the song.
In a live performance, Lennon presented an extended rendition of “Yer Blues” with a supergroup called “The Dirty Mac,” featuring Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and Mitch Mitchell. This performance marked a significant moment for Lennon, as it was his first live appearance since the Beatles’ last concert in 1966.
In retrospect, “Yer Blues” is celebrated for its successful blend of Lennon’s personal struggles and blues influences, showcasing Lennon’s ability to authentically engage with the genre. Jacob Stolworthy of The Independent ranks “Yer Blues” highly among the tracks on the White Album, highlighting its standing among the blues classics that inspired it.
Meaning of “Yer Blues”
“Yer Blues” by The Beatles, written by John Lennon, is a song that explores feelings of despair, isolation, and a yearning for connection. It was composed during the band’s stay in Rishikesh, India, where they were studying transcendental meditation. The song reflects Lennon’s struggles with his mental and emotional state during this period.
In “Yer Blues,” Lennon expresses a sense of hopelessness and contemplates mortality, suggesting a feeling of being on the edge. The lyrics, “If I ain’t dead already, girl you know the reason why,” convey a sentiment of deep melancholy and perhaps even a cry for help or understanding.
The song is a parody of the blues genre, specifically the British interpretations of American blues music. While Lennon admired original blues artists, he felt unsure about his ability to authentically reproduce their style. As a result, “Yer Blues” combines elements of blues with a touch of satire, incorporating tongue-in-cheek guitar solos and rock-inspired swing blues segments.
The track also playfully acknowledges the booming popularity of British blues in the late 1960s and the debate over whether white musicians could truly capture the essence of the genre.
Overall, “Yer Blues” is a complex piece that delves into the depths of Lennon’s emotional state at the time, using the blues as a medium to convey his inner turmoil and longing for connection. The song stands as a testament to Lennon’s ability to infuse personal struggles into his music while maintaining a satirical edge.
- John Lennon – vocals, electric guitar
- Paul McCartney – backing vocal, bass
- George Harrison – electric guitar
- Ringo Starr – drums