Devil in Her Heart – The Devil
With the Beatles, 1963
Before managing the Beatles, Brian Epstein owned the biggest music store in Liverpool. NEMS – short for North End Music Stores – was where the four Beatles did their record shopping before they got famous. Brian took pride in having the greatest selection of records imaginable, making the effort to stock even the least-known songs by the most obscure artists. NEMS’ customers enjoyed the opportunity to hear records before buying them inside the store’s listening booths.
Always on the hunt for new sounds to add to their repertoire, the Beatles continued using these listening booths even after Brian had become their manager. As George Harrison said later, the band would stop there on the way to gigs to “search the racks like ferrets to see what new ones were there”. That’s how they discovered “Devil in His Heart”, the only single (along with its flipside “Bad Boy”) ever recorded by Detroit girl group The Donays. The Fab Four changed the song to “Devil in Her Heart” and recorded it for their second album, With the Beatles. The track is remarkably similar to “Chains” off their previous album, Please Please Me. They’re both covers of obscure songs originally by girl groups, sung by George, about the diabolical affect that obsessive love has on the psyche.
The lyrics to “Devil in Her Heart” represent an argument that the singer is having with friends trying to give him good advice. They’re warning him that the object of his affection is going to “tear his heart apart” while he refuses to listen. The lines of the verses alternate between their warnings, sung in harmony by John and Paul, and his responses of denial, sung by George alone. During the bridge sections he makes it clear that he’s too infatuated to possibly believe she would ever hurt him.
Is he right or is he in denial? From our perspective we can’t be sure of her intentions, but we can infer that his friends wouldn’t be warning him without good reason. The Devil is card number 15 in the tarot’s major arcana and signifies dark forces such as obsession, manipulation, and deception. When we’re victim of these forces it becomes nearly impossible to think clearly. We’re in the dark and can’t see the truth. When we draw this card in our readings, we’re encouraged to open our eyes to a situation where we might have fallen under the Devil’s spell. Are we manipulating others or being manipulated; deceiving others or being deceived? Have we become too obsessed to think clearly? This card may awaken our intuition so we can wake up to reality and get free of the unhealthy situation.
It’s plausible the argument that the singer is having is with himself, as if he has a proverbial angel on one shoulder and devil on the other. As the song progresses, notice that he interjects with more and more denials. His angel, acting as his intuition, is trying to warn him that she’s no good for him. But the devil on the other shoulder is twisting his thoughts, convincing him that the girl with the devil in her heart is actually an “angel sent to me”.
“She’s got the devil in her heart
But her eyes they tantalize
She’s gonna tear your heart apart
Oh, her lips they really thrill me.”
This is song #96 of the Beatles Song Tarot Project. Click here to learn more about this magical, mystical trip through the Beatles catalogue.