The Beatles and Gibberish

February 13th, 2014

The Beatles often played with language in their lyrics, and the result was a powerful effect still being discussed today.

The Beatles and Gibberish | One Hour Translation

It might seem silly in the modern era, but there was a time when the lyrics of popular songs – as well as the images used on album covers and such – were analysed carefully and obsessed over, as fans felt certain there were hidden depths to everything their idols did. No other group experienced this level of faithful scrutiny more than The Beatles.

Of course, that’s the power of language. There are always subtexts to the written word (much of which is a headache to anyone attempting to perform language translation on a Beatles song) and once you perceive one subtext it’s very easy to imagine others. The Beatles were actually one of the most linguistically adventurous pop groups of the modern age, leaving behind several songs that are worth celebrating for the way they acknowledge the power of language.

Cuando Para Mucho

In 1969 The Beatles gathered to record their final album (although not their last released album), the work that was eventually released as Abbey Road later that year. After several years of infighting and failed recording projects, this recording session was acknowledged as likely their last and everyone made an effort to pull together creatively to go out on a high note. On side two of the album there’s a spectacular medley of short songs and snippets, woven together via editing to form a suite. One of the short songs included in this suite was Sun King, a slow, dreamy song that ends with three remarkable lines of complete gibberish:

Cuando para mucho mi amore de felice corazon / Mundo paparazzi mi amore cicce verdi parasol / Cuesto abregado tanta mucho que cara te carousel

If you’re unfamiliar with Romance languages, you might be forgiven for assuming these lines are in Spanish or Italian. The joke is, they’re just nonsense words strung together from the rather pathetic vocabulary of foreign words the Beatles possessed. They sound good together, and that’s all that mattered. In fact, the phrase often transcribed as “cicce verdi” was actually a Scouse phrase John Lennon threw in: Chicka ferdy, used as a nonsense tease in Liverpool similar to “nah nah nah.”

Number Nine

A year earlier, The Beatles had given the world Revolution 9 on the self-titled album The Beatles (commonly called The White Album). This was an ambitious audio project, not quite a song, that mixed sound effects, snippets of conversation, and a steady narrator saying the words “number nine” over and over again.

What’s interesting about this ‛song’ is the fact that people have put quite a lot of energy into interpreting it. The power of language and translation lies in in the fact that we expect words to mean something, and even when they clearly don’t we will spend a lot of energy trying to make them do so. No other band played with this effect more than The Beatles – one reason they are still discussed today.

Image courtesy englishblog.com

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