Beatles: Come Together Meaning
Song Released: 1969
Covered By: Taylor John Williams (2014)
Come Together Lyrics
anonymous Aug 23rd, 2008 8:50pm report
OK, the meaning of the lyrics are actually quite clear and relevant if you know some history about the Beatles and are somewhat familiar with the idioms and slang of the era:
"HERE COME OL' FLAT-TOP,
HE COME GROOVIN' UP SLOWLY.
HE GOT HAIR DOWN TO HIS KNEE,
GOT TO BE A JOKER HE JUST DO WHAT HE PLEASE."
This verse references Ringo. "Flat-Top" makes reference to Ringo's bluesy musical roots and the disparaging stereotype that was often applied to those that played that style of music.
"Groovin' up slowly" refers to the fact that Ringo was the last to join the final and 'official' line-up of the band, yet his drumming ability was very limited and borderline acceptable at the beginning, especially compared to the abilities of the rest of the band. As he honed his skill, he slowly became better and better at holding down the beat of the music, or 'groove' as it was also loosely referred to. As the group continued to record and release music, his talent slowly came up to the standards of the other three.
"He got hair down to his knee" simply refers to the fact that Ringo had a longer, shaggy hairstyle when he joined the band, while the other three had the short, close-cropped style favored by the 'mods' of the day.
"Got to be a joker he just do what he please" is obvious: Ringo was the funny one, the 'cut-up' of the group and he often said and did bizzarre and unexpected things in formal situations the group found themselves in during the early years. His enthusiastic, upbeat attitude was a major influence of the early writings of John and Paul.
"HE WEAR NO SHOE-SHINE,
HE GOT TOE-JAM FOOTBALL.
HE GOT MONKEY-FINGER,
HE SHOOT COCA-COLA.
HE SAY I KNOW YOU, YOU KNOW ME.
ONE THING I CAN TELL YOU IS YOU GOT TO BE FREE.
The subject of this verse is George. "He wear no shoe-shine" is a reference to going to bare-foot, a quite-common state of dress that George adopted once he became so enamored of the Indian Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Bare feet and simple robes were the accepted dress of the followers of the Yogi, and George's influence quickly spread to the other three Beatles.
Toe-Jam football is just a reference to bare-foot 'soccer' style football playing, the common social outdoor activity practiced by many while worshipping at the yogi's temple.
"Monkey-Finger" refers to George's manual dexterity and amazing abilty to master many, many different styles of stringed intruments, notably the 'sitar', an almost unknown instrument at the time that he was introduced to and quickly learned how to play while worshipping at the yogi's temple.
"He shoot coca-cola" is obvious: 'coca-cola' is street-slang for cocaine, a drug that George, as well as the others, would often 'shoot up' directly into thier veins.
"I know you, you know me...we got to be free" is simply the basic premise of the entire teachings of the Yogi, that George was so whole-heartadly promoting to his fellow bandmates.
"COME TOGETHER RIGHT NOW...OVER ME" refers to the message the Yogi deleivered to the band asa group that would supposedly heal the growing rift and dissention between the four members of the band and unite them as a single cohesive unit once again.
"HE BAD (NOT 'BAG') PRODUCTION,
HE GOT WALRUS GUM-BOOT.
HE GOT ONO SIDEBOARD,
HE ONE SPINAL CRACKER,
HE GOT FEET DOWN BELOW HIS KNEE,
HOLD YOU IN HIS ARMCHAIR YOU CAN FEEL HIS DISEASE.
No questions about this one, it's about John all the way:
"Bad production" refers to John's increasing level of drug use and the negative effect it had on his abilty to effectivly create acceptable music with the rest of the band, and to function with the rest of the band.
John was the 'Walrus' referred to in the 'I am the Walrus; lyrics', clearly this refers to him.(notwithstanding the later lyric 'the walrus was Paul' from "Glass onion")
A 'sideboard' is the term used when attorneys would be called away from a trial during court for private discussion. "Ono sideboard" makes refernce to the growing distraction that the rest of the band felt Yoko Ono was having on John.
John's increasing uncooperative attitude towards the professional and musical direction the rest of the band wanted to follow manifested itself in John constantly griping and complaining to the others, or in slang terms "breaking thier backs", a term referenced with 'spinal cracker'.
"Feet down below his knee" also makes refernce to his stubborn, uncompromising desire to do things his way only with little or no regard for the rest of the band's wishes. To give in was to be seen as being on 'your knees', but John had 'feet below his knees', so there was no way he was going to kneel(stand on his knees) and be subserviant when he could 'stand on his feet' and be the decison-maker.
"Hold you in his armchair (possibly..."arms, yeah...) you can feel his disease" refers to the fact that John's tough exterior persona barely fooled anyone, as his self-loathing and self-doubt, fueled and magnified by increasingly excessive drug use began to consume him. To be close to , or to 'hold him in your arm...' was to know the real John, where one could 'feel his disease'.
"HE ROLLER COASTER,
HE GOT EARLY WARNING.
HE GOT MUDDY WATER,
HE ONE MOJO FILTER.
HE SAY ONE AND ONE AND ONE IS THREE
GOT TO BE GOOD LOOKING 'CAUSE HE'S SO HARD TO SEE"
Well, last of the four is Paul, and this is clearly all about Paul.
'Roller coaster' refers to Paul's aggravating habit to the rest of the band by constantly changing his stated desire to either break up and move on to a solo career or to remain as a band and contue on as the 'Beatles'.
'Early warning' makes reference to the fact that they all made it clear to Paul long before that his selfish, superior attitide was going to create a rift between them and in fact it finally did.
'Muddy water' describes the bad feelings and growing poor relationship between Paul and the rest of the band due to his constant lying and manipulation of them, and particularly about his attempts to convince the others to let his father-in-law manage the band as opposed to the choice the others made.
'Mojo filter' refers to Paul's habit of 'spin doctoring' information to the others and manipulating thier perceptions so as to ultimately get his way.
'One and one and one is three' refers to Paul's attempts to try and convince the others that if he did indeed leave the band and start a solo career, they remaining three could carry on and continue to be 'the Beatles' without him, contray to everyone else's opinion.
'Got to be good looking...': a straightforward reference to the fact that he was typically considered the 'cute, good looking one' of the group.
'...so hard to see' desribes the increasing time away from the rest of the band that Paul was spending on persoanl projects, to the detriment of any possible group projects.
So, there you have it!
I have studied this song at great lengths and I think that many theories listed here (concerning the song being about band members) are correct but the confusion lies in trying to apportion one verse to one band member.
I believe we need to view the song as a need by John to settle differences and reunite the band. He (at the time) was seen to be causing difficulties within the band by involving Yoko and his growing benevolent behavior. With Paul expressing his intent to leave and friction growing towards John by both the other band members and the press/public, this was John's attempt to clear the air and lay the cards on the table.
Each verse contains John's view of ALL band members and follows a pattern, the exception being Ringo who seems to be the target of that old joke, "The drummer never has anything interesting to say!" The first line being about John's first meeting with the member. The second line concerning a memorable theme of the band member. The third line is about John's feelings towards the other members at the height hostilities. The forth line portrays the current thoughts John has about the other members. And the last line of every verse is either criticism defense or criticism of John by the band.
The first line of every verse is about Paul, the first to join John's band. ("The Quarrymen" at the time)
1 - Here come old flattop he come grooving up slowly
2 - He wear no shoeshine he got toe-jam football
3 - He bad (not bag) production he got walrus gumboot
4 - He roller-coaster he got early warning
1 - Paul met John at a gig and was trying to act cool and older than his age and impress with his guitar playing skills (He was only 15 at the time)
2 - In reference to the shoeless Abbey Rd. picture.
3 - Paul would stop recording (production) to argue and fight with John and was unhappy with the his behavior whilst recording "I Am The Walrus"
4 - "Roller-coaster" referring to Paul's moods (up and down) and his "warning" about leaving the band.
The second line of every verse is about George. The second to join after being introduced to John by Paul.
1 - He got joo-joo eyeball he one holy roller
2 - He got monkey finger he shoot coca-cola
3 - He got ono sideboard he one spinal cracker
4 - He got muddy water he one mojo filter
1 - "Joo-joo eyeball" is in relation to George idolizing John before he was excepted into the band and attending every performance and "eyeballing" John at every gig. The "holy roller" refers to George's amazing grasp of both American blues/gospel and rock and roll bass lines at only 14!
2 - This line refers to George's drug use.
3 - "Ono" obviously refers to Yoko. George was known to sideline (sideboard) Yoko during Paul's outbursts to John about her involvement with the band and John is calling him spineless for doing so (Spinal cracker).
4 - This line is about George switching off and distancing himself from the troubles within the band, filtering the bad "mojo" but acting despondent feeling the blues (Muddy Waters reference)
The third line of every verse is about Ringo. The last member to join the band after replacing Pete Best.
1 - He got hair down to his knee
2 - He say "I know you, you know me"
3 - He got feet down below his knee
4 - He say "one and one and one is three"
1 - Ringo had long hair at a time when the others had gone for the famous bowl cut and when sitting at the drums, his hair would hang down to (well, not quite) his knees.
2- This line is in reference to the hard time he had after joining the band. Pete Best had a huge following that protested Ringo replacing him. As it was, Ringo had played at many gigs with the Beatles when Best was unable or unwilling to play!
3 - This is a joke about not being able to see Ringo below the waist when sitting behind the drum kit.
4 - This line is about both a reference to rhythm and Ringo's feelings that he was left out and isolated from the other three members decisions regarding the band.
The forth line of every verse is related to John himself, containing both criticisms of him by the others and a rebuttal.
1 - Got to be a joker he just do what he please
2 - One thing I can tell you is you got to be free
3 - Hold you in his armchair you can feel his disease
4 - Got to be good-looking 'cause he's so hard to see
1,2 & 4 - These lines are criticisms of John made by the other band members. They relate to his difficult behavior, dragging the others down and general hostility towards him.
2 - This line is both very interesting and crucial to the interpretation of the whole song! It is the only line in which "I" is used. This is John speaking directly to the band (and us, the listener). It is a rebuttal and an excuse for his behavior. It is his only explanation to the feelings the others have towards him. He is feeling stifled by the band and is possibly ready to leave.
The chorus -
Come together, right now. Over me.
It seems clear at first, "come together, right now". It demands an end the the current hostility, immediately. We know John was commissioned to write a song for Timothy Leary and his campaign but John got no further than the title when Leary was arrested and I believe that the words "come together" stuck a resonance with John at that time. The last part, "Over me" offers two outcomes to the bands current situation. The first having holding the meaning "get over me", put the past behind and we can continue happily together. The second meaning can be interpreted as "I'm over", announcing John's intent to leave the band and go his own way.
Thankyou for reading and I hope my views on this song and the man who wrote it may ring true to you.
anonymous Dec 17th, 2005 12:52am report
This is just me... but listening to the lyrics, I wonder if John is not describing the Beatles in the song... 4 verses, 4 beatles... The 3rd verse (walrus gumboot) describes John (ono sideboards, walrus gumboot, feel his disease), the first vers (here come ol flattop) describes George (joo-joo eyeball, holy roller, He got hair down to his knee
Got to be a joker he just do what he please), the 4th verse perhaps about Ringo (early warning, one and one and one is three could deal with drums and rythm, and Got to bee good looking cause he's so hard to see is because Ringo was always behind the drumset.), and the 2nd verse about Paul (monkey finger, like a bass player,) But I don't know. I'm just playin around.
anonymous Jun 29th, 6:27pm report
Here's what I have trouble with. I agree that the lyrics describe each one of the band members (though my interpretations vary a little bit), but if the verse 3 is about John, why would he insult himself? Why would he say "he bad production"? That doesn't sound very complimentary. Or "he got Ono sideboard"? I'm pretty sure he didn't see Yoko as that big a distraction. And why would he refer to himself as a "spinal cracker". Did he see himself as a hardass? I dunno it just doesn't make sense.
anonymous Feb 25th, 2015 2:50am report
What a load of old bollocks! You guys read too much into things... chill out and sing the song! :)
anonymous Feb 20th, 2015 2:29pm report
I think this interpretation is totally wrong and clueless you better do more research buddy.
anonymous Aug 3rd, 2014 8:13pm report
There is not one credible interpretation here.
donna.angotti.1 Jul 4th, 2014 7:42am report
The song is about John. No other Beatle is referenced. John was very clear in interviews that he always wrote about himself. All versus are about John himself. This is the only Beatles song that John performed after the breakup. He did that because the song is just about him. He would not have performed a song about the other Beatles, let alone one calling them to come together, after the breakup.
The individual phrases are as analyzed by many people before me, however they are about John's view of himself. Some of the lyrics have drug references and are tantamount to a confession of drug use, drug addiction being his disease. Others have simultaneous sexual innuendos or meanings.
This song is a classic example of a John song about John. The other example is Strawberry Fields Forever.
In this regard, John had a "messiah" complex and had a nickname Johnny Cat from the song "Three Cool Cats" performed (but not written)by the Beatles, which was shortened to JC. John Lennon, in his psychology and his art, merged his identity with that of Jesus Christ. Hence, we see his Jesus look with long hair and white suits as on the cover of Abbey Road and lyrics like "The way things are going, they're going to crucify me" in the Ballad of John and Yoko. In "Come Together", John assumes his "Messiah" persona, plays the role of Jesus, speaks as Jesus and tells the listener to come together over the Christ. As in Asinov's story "Monkey Fingers", John views himself as performing the function of the monkey's fingers for Jesus to relay Jesus's message. Thus, the song has numerous simultaneous meanings: biographical to himself including his drug use and relationship with Yoko, biographical to Jesus, spiritual and sexual (he likens divine love as analogous to romantic love). These are not alternate meanings, they are simultaneous meanings. The song operates on many levels and is a work of genius. "One and One and One is three" refers to the Holy Trinity: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In his art, John blurred art and reality, creating a play within a play within a play, constructing and deconstructing theatrical conventions and leaving it to the public to determine the distinction between art and reality and where to draw the line.
anonymous Mar 29th, 2014 3:01am report
None of this makes sense. Ringo had the shortest, neatest hair style from the beginning. How in the world does "flat-top" refer to blues music? Most blues musicians were black, and they sure couldn't manage a flat-top.
reid.copping Jun 16th, 2013 6:38am report
It's pretty obvious that this song is about a guy who is trying desperately to find the hidden meaning in the Beatles' lyrics.
Clearly, this man spends so much time engrossed in lyric sheets that "He got hair down to his knee," and "he just do what he please," indicating that he tosses aside the important things in life in order to devote his time to analysing the words in Beatles' songs.
This man doesn't keep his obsession to himself. No sir, he's looking for every opportunity to "Hold you in his armchair," in order to force you to listen to his ramblings. His obsession is so apparent that, as indicated in the song, when you're in his presence "you can feel his disease."
"He roller coaster" is a metaphor for the ups and downs that this man experiences. The up comes from the excitement the man feels when he thinks he's close to cracking the puzzle, but this is followed by a plunge down the other side when he realizes he's incorrect in his assumption, and in the end, "he got muddy water," because the meaning is unclear and hard to decipher.
Arguably the key to the song is in the phrase, "Come together, right now." This represents the impatience and exasperation of the lyric analyst and his desperation to make the components of the song "come together" in order to reveal the hidden meaning.
Moral of the story: It's a waste of time and energy to try and find "the truth" in a Beatles song. Interpret their songs however you want, but don't go thinking you'll ever know what they're really about - only the Beatles will ever possess that secret.
Andreisdaman Mar 28th, 2013 3:07am report
I think everyone here is on the right track with some exceptions. Ono Sideboard just basically means that Yoko is always at his side,and is his sidekick.
The very last line a is big dig at Paul. John is saying "got to be good-looking cause he's so hard to see". This means that Paul is a tough person to read and that you're never sure if Paul is doing things for the Group's benefit or his own. John is saying that if Paul wasn't good-looking you wouldn't be able to see him for what he really is, and that Paul is only noticed because he's handsome.
anonymous Nov 9th, 2012 11:17am report
Sorry, minute 1:02:00 of the video
anonymous Nov 9th, 2012 11:09am report
I only read the first part and already knew this was going to be full of bullshit. Ringo's ability was not limited, and certainly not "borderline acceptable". In fact Ringo Starr was already one of the most known drummers in liverpool at the time. The rest of the beatles themselves have said that they felt like playing with a star when ringo had just joined the band. (He was the drummer of the band "Rory Storm and the Hurricanes" which was very well known at the time and he was known to be an extraordinary drummer). IF you dont believe me maybe you'll believe the Beatles. this is the first episode of the series "the Beatles Anthology" the whole episode is very interesting but the part which is important for this is from the minute 53. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_wiKO2QaO8
dont talk down on music legends that deserve your respect.
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