The Beatles’ cry of freedom: ‘Money,’ 50 years later

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“The best things in life are free

But you can keep ’em for the birds and bees

Now give me money

That’s what I want”

                                                                     –The Beatles‘ cry of freedom 

You can almost see the words bursting into flames as they leave his mouth. The ground shakes; you are in a new world where honor, decency, fairness, kindness and love are replaced by sound and desire, and absolutely nothing else. Paul and George scream out a doubled ooooooooo so demonic it can make you flinch. Like John they are burning off their Beatle masks and raising the specter of a being so implacable it cannot be stopped and so consumed by urgency it can never be satisfied.

The song powers on, until, near the end, John shouts, off the beat, “I WANT TO BE FREE,” and you realize that the person speaking will never be free. It is a record that in the years since it was made has lost none of its ugliness and none of its beauty.

A few months after I paid to hear the Beatles’ “Money,” I had it myself, on the Beatles’ second Capitol album released in the U.S. I was working in Washington, living in a basement in Maryland with two roommates. They complained: Why was I playing “Money” over and over? What was so great about it?

I turned the sound up: What you hear is a metaphorical representation of modern society grinding the individual down to nothing. Do you hear that scream? That’s the gears of the machine, destroying the soul!

Know more about The Beatles via Beatles.