The Beatles Song Some Heard as a Dig Aimed at Frank Sinatra
After The Beatles broke up, the questions didn’t stop coming. People were still listening to the Fab Four’s records throughout the 1970s and wanted to know everything — the meaning behind songs, who wrote and played what, and any other details a Beatle might divulge. (That hasn’t really changed.)
Maybe the most popular topic was whether John Lennon or Paul McCartney wrote the main part of a Lennon-McCartney classic. Once an interviewer got that answer, they usually shifted to the inspiration for the song and how it got made (who played what, etc).
Fortunately for Beatles fans who enjoy in-depth looks at the music, John and Paul usually obliged. However, the meaning behind a few songs has remained obscure over the years. “And Your Bird Can Sing” (Revolver) is one of them.
Though some heard John’s lyrics as a jab at the Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger’s “bird” being Marianne Faithfull), others took the track as a dig at none other than Frank Sinatra.
A 1966 profile of Sinatra reportedly irked John in the ‘Revolver’ era
When asked about “And Your Bird Can Sing,” John made it clear he didn’t think highly of the song. He described it as either a “throwaway” or “another horror” in the decade after the breakup. And he didn’t take the conversation on the song beyond that.
Paul, who attributed the song mostly to John (minus the middle part), also didn’t have much of anything to say about the lyrics. So that led journalists to do some digging, and one came up with the theory that John was taking shots at Sinatra.
According to the theory, John had read Gay Talese’s famous 1966 Esquire profile, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold.” In the article, Sinatra is depicted as a man who has it all (“You’ve got everything you want,” John sings). And the Chairman of the Board also refers to his sex organ as a “bird” on multiple occasions.
Those clues, combined with a promo for a Sinatra special that derided “the music of mopheaded young men,” suggested John wanted to put the American singer in his place. However, the theory falls apart for several reasons.
John would have happily claimed credit for taking cracks at Frank
While there are some interesting details — including the shift to “and you bird can swing” in the final verse — the Sinatra theory doesn’t generally work. The lyrics seem to refer someone who doesn’t understand him (possibly, a rich socialite or similar figure).
More importantly, it’s almost unthinkable that John wouldn’t take the opportunity to take shots at Sinatra later if that were his original intention. He rarely pulled his punches when asked about other artists (including Paul, George Harrison, and Ringo).
Besides, when John wrote a takedown (or diss) track, he made sure the punches landed. Just ask his old pal and songwriting partner Paul, who was on the receiving end of the brutal “How Do You Sleep?”
When John came for someone, he wanted them to notice. That’s probably why, instead of writing a song about the Rolling Stones, he just said a bunch of nasty things about them in an interview. So you can probably scratch the Faithfull theory, too.