The “selfish” song Paul McCartney wrote about his love life

With the release of their sixth album, Rubber Soul, The Beatles began to establish themselves as more than just mop-topped heartthrobs capable of writing pop hits. This album demonstrated a newfound maturity, experimenting with innovative recording techniques, non-Western influences, and more refined lyrical content.

During the Rubber Soul recording sessions, The Beatles laid down several tracks that never made the final cut; instead, they were released as singles, such as the double A-side, ‘We Can Work it Out’/ ‘Day Tripper’. Like Rubber Soul, the single was a great success, signalling that The Beatles were capable of retaining their popularity as they developed their sound. The single topped the charts in several countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States.

‘We Can Work It Out’, which features contrasting fast/slow rhythms, was inspired by Paul McCartney’s romance with actor and model Jane Asher, whom he started dating in 1963, remaining with her for five years. Yet, when he wrote the song, he was facing relationship troubles, channelling these anxieties into the lyrics.

McCartney explained in The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present, “It was 1965. Things were not going so smoothly between Jane Asher and me. Everyone has mild arguments where you think, ‘God, I wish they could understand where I’m coming from’ or ‘I wish they could get it.’ They obviously don’t; they think I’m some kind of idiot or tyrant or something.”

He added: “It was just normal boyfriend-girlfriend stuff where she’d want it one way, I’d want it another way, and I would try to persuade her, or she would try to persuade me. Most of the time, we got on really well, but there would be odd moments where one or other of us would get hurt.”

McCartney labelled the song’s sentiment as selfish. He explained: “Time has told me that millions of people go through these little squabbles all the time and will recognise just how common this is, but this particular song was not like that; it was, ‘Try to see it my way.’” Throughout the song, McCartney sings blunt words such as “do I have to keep on talking till I can’t go on?” and “life is very short, and there’s no time/ For fussing and fighting, my friend.”

“I started writing the song to try to figure my way out of feeling bad after an argument,” McCartney explained. “It was really fresh in my mind. You can’t write this kind of song two weeks later. You have to do it immediately. Writing a song is a good way to get your thoughts out and to allow yourself to say things that you might not say to the other person”.

Clearly, writing the song helped McCartney process his feelings, and the pair remained together for a few more years until their engagement was called off in 1968, with Asher partly citing the musician’s drug use as a contributing factor.

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