John Lennon had no problem picking apart songs from his Beatles days or his solo career. Indeed, he could be quite harsh about it when he got in the mood. Take John’s assessment of tracks such as “Good Morning, Good Morning” (Sgt. Pepper) or “Dig a Pony” (Let It Be).
Whether he referred to them as “throwaways,” “rubbish,” or “pieces of garbage,” fans got the picture when reading through John’s interviews. In some cases, John would apply his withering critiques to whole sections of an album (as he did the medley on Abbey Road).
But John might have come the closest to contempt for one of of his songs when speaking about the track that closed out Rubber Soul. When you listen to the opening line — “Well, I’d rather see you dead, little girl” — you see why John might regret this one.
In fact, he referred to it as “his least favorite Beatles song” in a 1970s interview. And the more you look at “Run for Your Life,” the more you understand why he disliked it.
John took an Elvis line and went even darker on ‘Run for Your Life.’
On the great Elvis Presley track, “Baby, Let’s Play House,” the King offers up the same line Lennon uses to start “Run for Your Life.” (He says he’d “rather see you dead, little girl, than be with another man.”) John took that and ran to an even darker place for his Rubber Soul closer.
Before he’s done, John warns his lady, “you better hide your head in the sand” and says she should “run for your life.” We may be a few years from “I Want to Hold Your Hand” at this point, but things definitely took a sharp turn by this late 1965 recording.
John wasn’t finished with those lines. “I was born with a jealous mind,” he sings. “And I can’t spend my whole life trying just to make you toe the line.” Just a bit later, he reiterates the threat from the opening line. “Baby, I’m determined, and I’d rather see you dead.”
Given the changes in his life (by then, he’d married Yoko Ono), you can see why Lennon wouldn’t want anything to do with this song by the time the ’70s rolled around.
Paul McCartney described it as ‘a bit of a macho song.’
When looking back at his Beatles days, Paul McCartney wasn’t anywhere near as harsh as John could be. In Many Years From Now, Paul spoke of some key differences between him and John by ’65.
“He was married; whereas none of my songs would have ‘catch you with another man,'” Paul explained. “It was never a concern of mine, at all, because I had a girlfriend and I would go with other girls.” But he summed up John’s work on this track succinctly: “A bit of a macho song,” Paul said.
When recording Sgt. Pepper’s two years later, John would return to the subject of being “cruel” to his woman on “Getting Better.” And he later acknowledged his problems with jealousy and possessiveness (not to mention violence) as a younger man.
Obviously, Rubber Soul came and went without a great deal of focus on that track, which has a cool early rock ‘n’ roll feel. But John wanted to distance himself from it as early as 1968. “‘Run for Your Life’ I always hated, you know,” he told Rolling Stone.