The Beatles: Can’t Buy Me Love

The Beatles were at the peak of their fame when Paul McCartney wrote one of their best-known hits, Can't Buy Me Love, early in 1964. Cementing their position as the top British band of the era, the song was number one in the UK singles charts for three weeks in April.

The press had invented a new word, Beatlemania, which was used to describe the hordes of screaming, fainting fans who had followed them with obsessive fervour during their 1963 tour across Britain and Europe. McCartney and his band-mates - John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr - had the world at their feet.

Their 1963 album, With The Beatles, had become the first million-selling album in the UK. They would have been able to buy pretty much anything at the time, thanks to their success, so why was McCartney apparently lamenting the fact that money couldn't buy him love?

The Beatles

Song's hidden meaning?

Although Can't Buy Me Love was attributed to the regular song writing partnership of Lennon and McCartney, it was commonly acknowledged that McCartney had written it while in Paris. The Beatles were staying at the George V Hotel and had an upright piano taken to their suite of rooms, so they could continue to work while they were there.

McCartney was reportedly pressed into writing another song quickly to follow on from the success of I Want to Hold Your Hand, which was a number one hit in the United States. Can't Buy Me Love was an unusual song for the Fab Four, since it had a 12-bar blues structure - a style they seldom used.

There was much media speculation as to the "hidden meaning" of the song and whether it was a reflection of how McCartney felt personally. In 1963, he had met English actress Jane Asher and he later took up residence at her family's London home.

When pressed as to what he meant by the lyrics of Can't Buy Me Love, he told reporters, "You can put any interpretation you want on anything."

 

The lyrics

The opening line, "I'll buy you a diamond ring, my friend, if it makes you feel alright," suggested that there certainly wasn't a shortage of money.

However, these lyrics are followed by, "I don't care too much for money - money can't buy me love," and this suggests that although a person can have enough money to buy possessions, true love may still evade them. It appears to be a common lament that money can't buy happiness.

McCartney remained vague about the inspiration for the song. However, when the media suggested it referred to prostitution and actually "buying love", he took exception to this, angrily refuting it.

He was quoted as saying, “The idea behind it was that all these material possessions are all very well, but they won’t buy me what I really want.”

No one will ever know whether it was a reflection on his own private feelings at the time. He and Asher announced their engagement in 1967, but the relationship ended in 1968, allegedly because of McCartney's infidelity.

He had met his future wife, Linda Eastman, in early 1968, although there was no suggestion they entered into a relationship while he was still engaged to Asher. McCartney married Eastman in 1969 and they were together until her untimely death from cancer in 1998.

 

Career success

During their 10-year career from 1960 to 1970, the Beatles released a massive amount of records, including 23 studio albums, 53 compilation albums, 63 singles and five live albums.

Their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show during their tour of America in 1964 broke all TV viewing records and they went on to found their own record company, Apple Corp, in 1968.

Speaking of Can't Buy Me Love in later years, McCartney was said to have joked that maybe he should have called it Can Buy Me Love, as he reflected on the perks that fame and fortune had brought him. In 2018, he was ranked the richest person in the music industry in Britain, with an estimated net worth of £820 million.

Most people can only imagine living in a world where money is no object and you can buy pretty much anything you desire. For the majority of consumers, it's a case of making an informed choice about where you're going to spend your hard-earned cash.

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