#177: Money (That’s What I Want)

“No, we need money first.”

This was John Lennon’s response when asked at the Beatles’ first American press conference if the group would sing for the fans and reporters populating the newly-christened John F. Kennedy International Airport on February 7, 1964. For the band’s cynical critics, it provided simultaneous ammunition and disarmament; an audacious yet charming change of pace from the safe, controlled pop star persona of the day. (Elvis may have been electric on stage, but he made for a pretty boring interviewee.) It’s debatable the extent to which John was joking, but the sentiment echoed the closing track of the band’s most recent release in the U.K., With the Beatles.

Much like the later “Dizzy Miss Lizzy,” “Money” was clearly an effort to duplicate the success of “Twist and Shout,” but it’s a strong performance in its own right. Its menacing piano introduction directly follows the lyrically brooding “Not a Second Time,” serving as a warning that the band’s once-happy-go-lucky sophomore album had taken a turn and was not going back. It’s also worth noting that, while “Twist and Shout” was a clear party track, “Money” is a far less appetizing message for the teenybopper set. Their beloved Beatles were not singing about holding hands or sending love from them to you; they were laying down the law: “Your loving gives me a thrill, but your loving don’t pay my bills.”

“I mean, maybe we could work something out though.” – Your sleazy landlord


The highlight here is definitely John’s ad-libs at the end of the song–that spirited “I wanna be free!” at 2:06 is pretty awesome. I don’t really have anything bad to say about “Money”; its only crime is not being as good as “Twist and Shout.”

#177: Money (That’s What I Want)