The Beatles Lyrics Bob Dylan Didn’t Understand

The Beatles changed everything about pop music when Beatlemania took over the world. Paul McCartney and John Lennon writing face-to-face and bouncing lyrics and melodies off each other produced dozens of catchy, hummable songs. The words carrying those vocal melodies weren’t too hard to decipher, but one set of Beatles lyrics confused Bob Dylan. He admitted as much the first time he met the band.

Bob Dylan was confused by The Beatles’ lyrics for ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’
The story of the first meeting between the Fab Four and Bob Dylan is basically ingrained knowledge for classic rock fans.

Yet the troubadour thought his hosts were more experienced smokers. Dylan didn’t quite understand The Beatles’ lyrics to “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” He thought they frequently got high (per 150 Glimpses of The Beatles).

When Dylan declined an offer of pills and suggested smoking pot instead, Brian Epstein confessed to him that The Beatles had never been high on the drug before.

“But what about your song? The one about getting high?” the singer replied. “Which song? John asked him. “You know – ‘I get high! I get high!’” Dylan said.

John pointed out the correct words to “I Want to Hold Your Hand” — “I can’t hide / I can’t hide.”

Most Beatles’ lyrics were fairly easy to decipher, but Dylan’s confusion is understandable. Lennon and McCartney sort of slurred their words, and with Starr hitting his snare drum on each syllable while playing his ride cymbal, it’s more challenging to discern the lyrics. So “I can’t hide” became “I get high” to Dylan’s ears.

If the words confused fans, it didn’t really matter. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was one of the Beatles’ most successful No. 1 hits, spending seven weeks on top of the Billboard charts.

Dylan thought The Beatles routinely got high because he didn’t understand the lyrics for “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” The singer turned them on to pot, and then everything changed.

The Beatles’ sound went in a new direction after they got high with Dylan

Getting high was a game-changer for The Beatles and their fans. They recorded 1965’s Rubber Soul in between concert dates. The album showed The Beatles changing their sound toward the more experimental approach they took later in the decade.

It’s not a stretch to say that landmark albums such as Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band wouldn’t have pushed the boundaries without The Beatles getting high with Dylan.

The Fab Four started pushing the boundaries even before Rubber Soul. The soundtrack to Help! saw The Beatles experiment with their sound on songs like “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” and “Ticket to Ride.” It’s probably not a coincidence that Help! included a thinly-veiled drug reference — “I get high when I see you go by / My oh my” — on “It’s Only Love” and a thick slice of Dylanesque folk-rock on “I’ve Just Seen a Face.”

Some Beatles lyrics made no sense when they dove deeper into drug culture late in the 1960s. The words for “I Want to Hold Your Hand” were straightforward, but Dylan didn’t understand what Lennon and McCartney were saying. He thought the Fab Four routinely smoked pot based on the misheard lyrics. The singer got The Beatles high for the first time, and everything changed because of it.

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