When was it recorded? Nov. 11, 1965
When was it first released, and on which album? Dec. 3, 1965 on “Rubber Soul”
Who wrote it? Lennon (with noteworthy contribution from McCartney)
Have I heard this song before? Yes
What my research dug up:
Lyrically, “Girl” is an exploration of the ideal woman who is, quoth the Beatles Bible, “presented [as] a femme fatale figure, ‘the kind of girl you want so much it makes you sorry’, whom the song’s protagonist finds himself helplessly drawn towards.”
Penned by John, the song also subtly shows his views on Christianity. Check out that final verse — “Was she told when she was young that pain / would lead to pleasure? / Did she understand it when they said / that a man must break his back to earn / his day of leisure?”
“I was just talking about Christianity in that – a thing like you have to be tortured to attain heaven. I’m only saying that I was talking about ‘pain will lead to pleasure’ in ‘Girl’ and that was sort of the Catholic Christian concept – be tortured and then it’ll be all right, which seems to be a bit true but not in their concept of it. But I didn’t believe in that, that you have to be tortured to attain anything, it just so happens that you were.” — John Lennon (Rolling Stone, 1970)
Richie Unterberger’s review of “Girl” notes, “In both tempo and melody, the composition… betrayed the Beatles’ oft-overlooked debt to Greek music in their ballads (see also ‘And I Love Her’ [which I blogged about on Day 10] and ‘Michelle’). The guitar work on ‘Girl,’ however, was more likely to generate specific comparisons to Greek music than ‘And I Love Her’ and ‘Michelle’ were, or indeed than any other Beatles song was — the instrumental reprise of the bridge near the end, indeed, is very much like a Greek dance.” It’s not surprising to learn, then, that Paul wrote the ending part of “Girl” while vacationing in Greece in Sept. 1963.
Musically, Alan Pollack is more interested in the changing key of “Girl,” alternating between relative minor and Major (another trick heard in “And I Love Her”). According to Pollack, “There’s a restless emotional shifting of mood and perspective as we move from one section to the next as the song unfolds; this is reinforced on the purely musically plane by the extent to which the key and melodic style changes every time to match.”
“Girl” was the last song recorded for “Rubber Soul.” And what interesting occurrences were there during the recording. The rhythm track was recorded in just two takes, which I find impressive (overdubs were added later). Vocally, according to the Beatles Bible, “The sharp intake of breath during the chorus was either an approximation of lascivious heavy breathing, or a none-too-subtle reference to marijuana smoking.” Paul’s explanation for this was that John “wanted to hear the breathing, wanted it to be very intimate,” which doesn’t really answer my questions, but OK. Then, of course, there’s that backing vocal.
“It was always amusing to see if we could get a naughty word on the record: ‘fish and finger pie’, ‘prick teaser’, ‘tit tit tit tit’. The Beach Boys had a song out where they’d done ‘la la la la’ and we loved the innocence of that and wanted to copy it, but not use the same phrase. So we were looking around for another phrase, so it was ‘dit dit dit dit’, which we decided to change in our waggishness to ‘tit tit tit tit’, which is virtually indistinguishable from ‘dit dit dit dit’ …George Martin might say, ‘Was that “dit dit” or “tit tit” you were singing?’ ‘Oh, “dit dit”, George, but it does sound a bit like that, doesn’t it?’ Then we’d get in the car and break down laughing.” — Paul McCartney (Barry Miles, Many Years From Now)
I like this one a lot (shocking, I know). On paper there are a lot of almost disparate elements (the Greek “zorba” guitars, the “tits,” the Biblical references), parts musically and lyrically that shouldn’t work together. But everything comes together fastastically. The Beatles make crafting a song seem so easy!