“You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” is a song by English rock band the Beatles. It was written and sung by John Lennon (credited to Lennon–McCartney) and released on the album Help! in August 1965.
Lennon said of the song, “That’s me in my Dylan period again. I am like a chameleon, influenced by whatever is going on. If Elvis can do it, I can do it. If the Everly Brothers can do it, me and Paul can. Same with Dylan.” The song is an early example of John self-reflecting in his writing, which had begun with songs such as “I’m a Loser” in the summer of 1964. Lennon wrote the song at home during what he called his “Dylan period,” wanting another song for the film Help!. The song “is just basically John doing Dylan,” Paul McCartney confirmed. The song is similar to a folkish strophic form and uses a Dylanesque acoustic guitar figure in compound time, chiefly acoustic accompaniment, no backing voices and light percussion from brushed snare, tambourine and maraca. A flute, however, replaces the harmonica that Dylan typically used.
The song lyrics are ambiguous. They may tell of an unrequited love and hidden feelings. John could also have been referring to the fact that as a Beatle he was expected to keep the fact he was married a secret. He could also have been writing about his inability to express his true ‘loving’ self in public and his feelings of isolation and paranoia related to fame. Some, such as singer Tom Robinson, have suggested that it was written for their manager Brian Epstein, who had to hide his homosexuality from the public. Lennon himself however never discussed the inspiration for the lyrics. When the song was first written, Lennon used “two-foot tall” to rhyme with the “wall” in the first verse, but mistakenly said “two-foot small” when he sang the line to McCartney, and decided to keep it this way. Pete Shotton, Lennon’s former bandmate from The Quarrymen, was present when the song was being composed, and he suggested adding “Hey” to the start of the line in refrain.
The basic rhythm track was recorded first, followed by George Harrison’s guitar and some extra percussion. John Scott recorded a tenor flute in the spaces in Lennon’s vocal track and an additional alto flute part, an octave higher than the first, on the last available track of the four-track machine.
In the film Help!, at the opening of the song, the head of the cult, Clang (Leo McKern), appears from underneath a manhole cover in the middle of Ailsa Avenue, London, where parts of the film were shot. He stays there for the whole song, which the Beatles play in Lennon’s quarters of the Beatles’ shared flat. The flute part of the song is performed by George’s in-house gardener (who also trims his grass carpet with chattery teeth). They are watched by Ahme (Eleanor Bron), and at the end of the song, Harrison passes out after Ahme produces a giant needle for Starr, who is wearing the ring the cult is seeking.
In a montage the first two takes (both broken down) are followed by a completed alternative version (Take 5), included on Anthology 2. Lennon counts off the song then stops to readjust his guitar pickup (“I’m just going to raise this so that it’s nearer to the bass strings than the top string”). This is followed by the sound of a glass shattering on the floor, prompting John to teasingly sing: “Paul’s broken a glass, broken a glass. Paul’s broken a glass. A glass, a glass he’s broke today”. (In the background, Ringo plays the snare drum with wire brush drumsticks, keeping time with John’s cadence). John also addresses Paul as “Macca,” a nickname in England for someone who is of Irish descent or has “Mc” in their last name. “Oh, you ready, Macca?”
John Lennon – double-tracked vocal, 12-string acoustic guitar
Paul McCartney – bass
George Harrison – classical acoustic guitar
Ringo Starr – brushed snare drum, tambourine, maracas
John Scott – tenor and alto flutes