‘Yes It Is’: The Beatles song that accidentally invented goth rock

At the start of the 1960s, the sounds of goth music were still a pipe dream. There had already been bands like The Doors and Black Sabbath that helped expose artists to the true darkness in their souls, but they were still rock acts before anything else. Their music was about the darkness of society at large, but goth music was about the black heart in everyone, and like all great musical genres, it tends to circle back to The Beatles.

Granted, it’s hard to consider a group as influential as the Fab Four to have a hand in making music made for outsiders. Although goth culture has been a much more powerful force these days, The Beatles were far from donning black makeup on their eyes when they were making tracks like ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’.

While 95% of their catalogue was about love, ‘Yes It Is’ is one of the most chilling songs that the group had ever made up to that point. Even though the band could get up to their usual hijinx during the filming of the movie Help!, this B-side is actually one of the first instances where something could be considered “goth”.

First, let’s define what it means to be goth in this context. Regardless of whether or not people are singing about the darkest topics imaginable, there’s always a fair bit of melancholy that runs through almost any songs that fall under that banner, and The Beatles already make the piece foreboding with George Harrison’s brilliant pedal steel guitar.

Although it’s set up to be the typical romantic ballad that you would have expected out of A Hard Day’s Nightthis is a work of heartbreak, as Lennon sings about not allowing his new lover to wear red because it reminds him too much of his old flame. There are a lot of avenues that a songwriter could take this, but given the nervy tone behind every chord, the fact that he doesn’t say where she went lets you fill in the blanks a little more.

For all we know, this girl could have left Lennon on his ass for being a bad boyfriend, but the way Lennon sings implies that she may have met her demise years before, and he’s still grieving. He tries to forget about her all he can, but the pride always gets the better of him whenever he even tries to think about making a move on someone else.

Although Lennon himself saw this as another version of the song, ‘This Boy’ was all about a guy falling in love with a girl who was taken by someone else. In this case, the girl is gone forever, and whether it’s in the arms of another or the other side of reality, Lennon is only left to wallow in his sorrow.

And let’s remember, this isn’t the first song written about a dead lover. The doo-wop classic ‘Last Kiss’ had been around for a while, but The Beatles were the first ones that seemed to play things completely straight, almost as if they were trying to evoke the sound of a dreary rainstorm as they played.

Despite goth eventually getting a lot heavier and relying on keyboards and dissonant guitar chords to get the job done, this could have been a groundbreaker if it had been released a few years later. Although this is nowhere near as artsy as a band like Bauhaus or even early Television, it’s definitely something that someone like Robert Smith could conceivably write.

Goth music doesn’t always have to rely on harsh noise to get its point across effectively. Sometimes, it just comes down to the amount of heartache you feel when you step behind the microphone, and for as much as The Beatles could have carried on making lighthearted pop music, they still had those negative feelings just like everyone else.

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