Don’t Bother Me – 5 of Cups
With the Beatles, 1963
“Don’t Bother Me” is the first song composed by George Harrison and appears on the Fab Four’s second album With the Beatles. Before then, whenever he took lead vocal duties, he sang either cover versions or Lennon/McCartney originals that they had given to him. His bandmates had obviously set a very high bar and George wanted to try composing some of his own material. He decided to give it a shot while the band was on tour, and he was stuck in his hotel room feeling sick.
George’s first song set the tone for what would become his often-pessimistic and cynical writing style. His songs would always provide an interesting change of pace compared to the Lennon/McCartney numbers that understandably got most of the attention. For years afterwards George said he felt this first songwriting effort was particularly weak, which may help to explain why “Don’t Bother Me” was his last contribution to a Beatles record until Help! two years (and three albums) later. Although it may not be a masterpiece, the song is stronger than George was willing to admit. It features a unique guitar tone from John, an intriguing Latin-flavored rhythm from Ringo, and a solid solo from George.
“Don’t Bother Me” is about the struggles of dealing with depression after a breakup, which makes the 5 of Cups a good fit for this song. The suit of Cups corresponds to emotional issues, and the number 5 symbolically represents loss. It’s no surprise, then, that the 5 of Cups is one of the gloomiest looking cards in the tarot deck. Many versions of it show a figure cloaked in black with their back turned. The black cloak symbolizes their being shrouded in dark feelings. Their back is turned because they’re isolating, like the singer of this song. If we could call out to this figure, perhaps to offer them some help, a response we might expect to hear is, “don’t bother me”.
The cloaked figure stares at three spilled cups on the ground. These spilled cups symbolize what has been lost. His fixation on the loss becomes a feedback loop of negative emotions. The more he focuses on what’s been lost, the worse he feels, making him want what’s been lost to return even more, and so on. The singer of “Don’t Bother Me” has been obsessing over the breakup, lost in self-pity. But he’s putting all his hope into her return. Notice during the bridge sections George sings the song’s highest notes as he exclaims, “I know she’ll always be the only girl for me.” The worse he feels the more he believes it to be true. But this belief keeps him stuck, unable to move on, and unwilling to engage with those who might help him feel better.
Remember a time you felt deeply disappointed over a breakup or other loss. Did you isolate? Did you stay home alone and not return texts and calls? While the 5 of Cups shows three cups spilled over, it also shows two other cups that remain upright. These cups are behind the cloaked figure, out of their view. These cups symbolize that not all is lost. To see them we must be ready and willing to end our fixation on the spilled cups of regret. When we do, we may find the resources available for us to heal come from those looking not to bother us, but to comfort us.
“But ’til she’s here, please don’t come near, just stay away
I’ll let you know when she’s come home until that day
Don’t come around, leave me alone
Don’t bother me”
This is song #94 of the Beatles Song Tarot Project. Click here to learn more about this magical, mystical trip through the Beatles catalogue.