Now we turn from the eternal to the quotidian; as the 60s comedown continues, the idea of doing small, ordinary songs – songs that hail not revolution but regular life – start to crop up. It’s only natural that this should happen, as a reaction to the Big Statements of the 60s, to want to scale down a little, to perhaps even admit that despite all the ideals heralded then, life continues on, doggedly, the joys few and far between. The grimness of the 70s is imminent.
McCartney wrote this song while he was still in The Beatles, one of many that he kept for himself (including “Maybe I’m Amazed”) – and now, a little less than a year after they broke up, Harrison’s had a number one and McCartney nearly gets one, with a song that is about, primarily, sadness. The narrator looks on with sympathy as she goes to work, drinking coffee to stay alive, her whole life centering around her man, who spends only the night with her; no reason is given, it’s just the way things are. She cries with loneliness; she wonders why she is alive. Despite his “dee do do do do dos” and the oddly Latin feel to the song (as if, somehow, “every day” was a bull she has to face in the ring), this is not a happy tune. It is the midway point between “Lady Madonna” and “Eleanor Rigby” with the added bonus of Linda, his wife, helping out with the song. How much she contributed I don’t know, but the realism of the song is utterly female – the wet towel, the raincoat, that extra cup of coffee, the existential despair. Still, the woman of the song lives to face yet another day, overcoming her sadness in one way or another, and it is this day-to-day life that McCartney wants to describe and honor.
That John Lennon mentioned it specifically in his song “How Do You Sleep?” shows how little Lennon really understood what McCartney was trying to do; the big-eyed visionary with slogans isn’t necessarily going to get a song about Everywoman’s heartaches and regular routines. Maybe Lennon wanted him to write something more political, more of a protest; but in just showing what a single woman’s life is like, giving her her due, McCartney is being far more subversive than Lennon, his empathy with her crying and angst somehow more touching than any slogans he could have come up with. McCartney is trying, in his own way, to raise consciousness; to show that there are those out there who may be superficially coping but are alone, going from habit to routine almost as a way of staving off misery itself. That she keeps going somehow is a victory, a victory many women who hear this song understand intimately.
Next up: yet another female take on regular life.