The Beatles told vivid stories in their songs; some were so detailed that it was hard to believe they were fictionalized. However, a few of the stories they told in their songs were based on real newspaper articles. They didn’t tell the whole story, but The Beatles would use the articles as a base and fill in the gaps along the way.
Here are 3 Beatles songs that are based on actual newspaper articles
‘Mean Mr. Mustard’
“Mean Mr. Mustard” is a track from Abbey Road that John Lennon wrote during The Beatles’ trip to India. Lennon said the track was inspired by a newspaper article about a man who stored his money anywhere to prevent others from forcing him to spend it. It’s not a song that Lennon liked; he called it a “piece of garbage” in a 1980 interview with David Sheff.
Many listeners believed the song references drugs, but Lennon clarified that the lyrics referred to places where the man would hide his money.
“I’d read somewhere in the newspaper about this mean guy who hid five-pound notes, not up his nose but somewhere else,” Lennon explained. “No, it had nothing to do with cocaine.”
‘She’s Leaving Home’
“She’s Leaving Home” appeared on 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The song is based on a Daily Mail article about a girl named Melanie Coe who ran away from home. Her parents believed she was kidnapped and called the paper to get the word out. McCartney read the article and wrote a song with this story in mind.
Years later, Coe told The Guardian that she was surprised at how McCartney accurately portrayed the emotions she felt when she decided to run away.
“I can’t listen to the song. It’s just too sad for me,” Coe shared. “My parents died a long time ago, and we were never resolved. That line, ‘She’s leaving home after living alone for so many years,’ is so weird to me because that’s why I left. I was so alone. How did Paul know that those were the feelings that drove me toward one-night stands with rock stars? I don’t think he can have possibly realized that he’d met me when I was 13 on Ready Steady Go!, but when he saw the picture, something just clicked.”
‘A Day in the Life’
Another Beatles song from Sgt. Pepper’s, “A Day in the Life” is based on two articles that comprise the three verses. The first two verses are based on an article about the death of Guinness heir Tara Browne. Browne, a close friend of Lennon and McCartney’s, died in a car crash on Dec. 18, 1966. While Lennon confirmed this to be the basis for the song, McCartney imagined the first two verses to be about something else.
“The verse about the politician blowing his mind out in a car we wrote together,” McCartney said in Barry Miles’ Many Years From Now. “It has been attributed to Tara Browne, the Guinness heir, which I don’t believe is the case, certainly as we were writing it, I was not attributing it to Tara in my head. In John’s head, it might have been. In my head, I was imagining a politician bombed out on drugs who’d stopped at some traffic lights and didn’t notice that the lights had changed.”
The final verse was based on an article in the Daily Mail’s Far and Near column. The article was about the holes in the roads in London, and Lennon referenced the holes in the “Albert Hall” verse.
“There was still one word missing in that verse when we came to record,” Lennon said in Anthology. “I knew the line had to go, ‘Now they know how many holes it takes to… something, the Albert Hall.’ It was a nonsense verse really, but for some reason, I couldn’t think of the verb.”