The Feelies / The Beatles: “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey”
The Feelies (1980)
The Beatles (1968)
I guess this is a partial John Lennon week on Reselect, by something like coincidence. I decided on this pair of songs for Cover Friday this morning, and then realized that it’s the second John Lennon song in a row. But that’s fine . . . John certainly deserves any number of songs to be featured here. And “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey,” from 1968’s The Beatles (The White Album), aside from having a somewhat unmanageable title, is among my favorite Beatles songs, perversely enough. I say “perversely” because generally when you think of great Beatles songs, you think of well-crafted, coherent songs with great melodies. And in a way, “EGStHEfMaMM” (to use an equally unmanageable acronym) doesn’t really have any of those qualities. It’s just pure pent-up energy being released in one wail (not “whale”) of a song.
I’m not entirely sure what inspired John to create this bizarre masterpiece, but it’s one of his most searing rockers with the Beatles, regardless of whether it really means anything. The cockeyed rhythms seem at odds with each other as it initially kicks in, but it gradually coalesces into something that feels right, just in time for the most cohesive part of the song, the bridge/chorus beginning with “Take it eaaaasy….” It’s a song that churns unlike any other Beatles song except for “Helter Skelter,” and seems to be laying the sonic groundwork for Lennon’s first solo (but written for the Beatles) track, “Cold Turkey.” What it means isn’t entirely clear, although there are theories that Lennon’s “monkey” was either Yoko Ono or a drug habit — or maybe even a combination of the two. Personally, I wouldn’t like to think of myself as the monkey if I were Yoko, but you can’t take artistic inspiration too literally…
The Feelies clearly were into the aforementioned cockeyed rhythms of “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey” when they decided to cover it on their 1980 debut album, Crazy Rhythms. They reduced the song to a basic tribal rhythm that fit their overall rhythmic sound (featuring drummer Anton Fier, later founder of the Golden Palominos) perfectly. That album, often listed as one of the greatest albums of the ’80s (critically, not commercially), was in turn a major influence on the jangle-pop scene of Mitch Easter and early R.E.M., so even if you haven’t heard of the Feelies (their follow-up album, The Good Earth, is also fantastic), you may very well have felt their influence indirectly. And even if their version doesn’t match the greatness of the original, it helped bring the Beatles into a whole new music scene that was in many ways still trying to escape rock’s past.