Back in the days before their was an Ultimate Guitar Tabs Archive, budding musicians would purchase songbooks that contained guitar chords, lyrics and musical notation. The Official Publisher of Beatles songbooks in the United States was Charles Hansen. These books weren't exactly note for note or word for word perfect, but that might not have been the publisher's fault. How many different versions of the lyrics of "Strawberry Fields Forever" have you seen?
Most of the Hansen songbooks were compilations of songs from various Beatles albums and even solo projects. One oddity was the frequent appearance of the Little Richard song "Good Golly Miss Molly" in these songbooks. Although the Beatles were big fans of Little Richard, I know of no documented case of the Beatles recording or even performing that song. Although it is likely that the Beatles would have performed it at some point during the early days, it has never appeared on a bootleg, or a published set list, or even during the "Get Back" sessions when they played, hummed, or whistled just about every old rock and roll song in history. But that didn't stop it from appearing in several Hansen Beatles songbooks including "The New Beatles Top 40 Pop Song Book."
The most peculiar item in the Charles Hansen collection was a document called "The Beatles Illustrated Thesaurus in Dictionary Form" that appeared in several different songbooks.
The interesting thing about this curious document was that it was first released in 1969, right around the release of Abbey Road. In other words, this document coincided with the initial emergence of rumors surrounding the death of Paul McCartney. This is not to imply that the Beatles were sitting around planning clues for inclusion in songbooks. But it is interesting to see how the author of this document interpreted some themes in Beatle songs that we now regard as clues.
Although it often reads like a 4th grade English project, the Thesaurus appeared in several Hanson songbooks over the next few years. In addition to the "Top 40" book pictured above, the Thesaurus can be found in "The Golden Era of The Beatles 1963-1972"
and "20 All-Time Hit Paraders."
This "Dictionary Form" document is only eight pages long, so the author had to be discriminating about what to include. Most letters only contain a handful of entries, for example, there are only three items beginning with the letter "T" (Ticket to ride, Topping the bill, and Turtle Turks). So, it is baffling that there would be an entry under the letter "S" for the phrase "Someone with a name." The third synonym for this entry can raise an eyebrow when one remembers this came out around the same time as the Paul is Dead rumor.
The word "Love" is interestingly set apart from others, followed by "Lucy" which parenthetically defines terms like "Rocking Horse People" (going nowhere people) and "Marshmallow Pies" (devil cake).
Another curious entry is for "Monsters." This entry contains a rather esoteric allusion to the "manicheistic struggle." Obviously the 1969 publication date caused "Yellow Submarine" to be in the author's consciousness, but it was quite a leap to tie "fighting sea monsters" in with Manichaeism.
The first entry under the letter "W" confidently answers the question "Who was the walrus?"
The entry for Mr. Kite is interesting.
Flying Officer Kite was a character in "It’s That Man Again" the show featuring Tommy Handley, who was on the cover of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."
The heroic Flying Officer Kite was known for his magnificent mustache.
Although it was too new to include in the Thesaurus itself, the Beatles latest album, Abbey Road was included as an addendum to the document after the letter "Y" (There were no items under the letter "Z").
The author took some liberties in the interpretation of lines in the song "Come Together." You can click on the picture for a larger version, but I caution you, you will never hear the line "He got early warning" the same way again.
This strange document does give some insight into how people were guessing to try to figure out the meanings of Beatles songs. From this point on, all of their music underwent scrutiny unlike any popular music in history.
More information on Beatles songbooks can be found at rarebeatles.com.
I should also share these two screen captures from Nothing Is Real today.