"When I think of all the times I tried so hard to leave her / she will turn to me and start to cry / and she promises the earth to me and I believe her / after all this time I don't know why"
Girl is an odd little song. John claimed that it was a dream of a future relationship: the girl; she was a dream, but the words are all right. It wasn't just a song, and it was about that girl - that turned out to be Yoko, in the end - the one that a lot of us were looking for. He also said of the song, This was about a dream girl. When Paul and I wrote lyrics in the old days we used to laugh about it like the Tin Pan Alley people would.
But the lyrics of the song situate it firmly in the past ("Is there anybody going to listen to my story / All about the girl who came to stay? / She's the kind of girl you want so much / It makes you sorry; / Still, you don't regret a single day.") I have never been able to shake the feeling that the song, consciously or otherwise, is about Julia.
It also for me illuminates some of John's behavior during the Let It Be sessions. Let It Be, after all, was Paul's hardcore attempt to woo John back to the Beatles. When John wrote Don't Let Me Down (the unfinished sentence, "And if somebody loved me like she do me"), Paul wrote Oh! Darling, and specifically point out the pattern of the lyrics: "I'd never let you down". Oh! Darling is stunningly similar to similar to the behavior of the title character in girl. Paul begs John to believe him: "Oh! Darling, please believe me / I'll never do you no harm / Believe me when I tell you / I'll never do you no harm". He also admits nearly being brought to tears: "When you told me you didn't need me anymore / Well you know I nearly broke down and cried / When you told me you didn't need me anymore / Well you know I nearly broke down and died".
And John did want his relationship with Paul to continue. I have recently become convinced that Dig a Pony is about Paul: Yoko wasn't the one getting her way during the Let It Be sessions, and the fact that John later dismissed it as "garbage" also implies that it wasn't about her. "All I want it you / everything has got to be just like you want to do".
And yet, John's behavior during the Let It Be sessions hardly seemed that of a man who wanted to give Paul McCartney all he wanted. In fact, in crosshair< 's transcripts of the sessions, there's a moment when Paul seems to acknowledge that the song is about him, and John seems more cautious:
PAUL: [sincere] I love that one.
JOHN: [guarded] Thank you.
PAUL: [insistent] I really really do.
JOHN: Thank you. [quiet] I enjoy it too. Sometimes. [pause] So that’s done.
JOHN: Next, please.
It's the story of the girl. "After all this time I don't know why". I do think John believed Paul, when he heard Oh! Darling, when Paul told him how much he loved Dig a Pony, I think he did believe Paul. But here's the thing: by the time John became inseparable from Yoko, I think he had given up. The message he was getting from Paul was that Paul might love him, but not the way he loved Paul. Paul did not need him the way he needed Paul. The intensity of the relationship was most in John's head. So he had despaired - but not entirely, or he would have just left and wouldn't have brought Yoko into the studio, curious what kind of reaction he would get. What he got was a Paul who was suddenly needy, and desperate, and falling apart in music.
But for John, long before he fell in love with Paul McCartney, to believe was to be burned. His relationship with Paul was supposed to be different, but Paul decided to stay in the city while John fell into a depression in suburbs. Paul would ask a group of people for help with song lyrics rather than single John out as a reminder that their relationship was special. It was a little of little things like that that left John wondering if he had imagined their closeness.
Bringing Yoko into the studio was the plot of Paul's song Another Girl - but Paul was the girl being taught a lesson. John couldn't believe Paul. Paul's grandiose promises might be in John's head, just a meaningless lyric that he mistakenly thought had meant something. And even if it wasn't, even if Paul really was trying to communicate with him, then it was just too much. It was too much to believe. Or, rather, John did believe - and the very fact that he believed made him guarded and mistrustful.