Only a Northern Song – Knight of Pentacles
Yellow Submarine, 1969
This George composition is one of the strangest, ugliest, and most hilarious songs the Beatles ever made. It was originally intended to be George’s contribution to Sgt. Pepper, but wasn’t included because producer George Martin didn’t feel it was a good fit. Nearly two years after it was recorded, the song found its home when the band were looking for leftovers from their psychedelic period to add to their zany animated movie, Yellow Submarine.
Harrison had created an absurd meta-song, meaning the subject of the song was the song itself. The instrumentation is disorienting and off-putting, and its melody is meandering, off-key, and unsatisfying. Hilariously, that’s the entire point. It’s no wonder George would soon become such close friends with the Monty Python troupe.
Northern Songs was the name of the Beatles’ music publishing company. And while John and Paul received favorable royalties from their compositions, George was getting paid a pittance for his songs. Moreover, George was becoming increasingly frustrated with being allowed just one or two songs per album. He was getting tired of his second-rate status in the band.
The song’s lyrics could be seen as the grievances of a disgruntled employee, which is how George was starting to feel. He doesn’t care about its quality because it’s “Only a Northern Song”, which he is not going to be fairly compensated for anyway. Although George came to be known as the spiritual Beatle, he was also quite cynical and money-conscious. His songs “Taxman”, “Piggies”, and “I Me Mine” all reveal this other side of his personality.
The tarot’s Knight of Pentacles is a suitable fit for “Only a Northern Song”. This card generally represents hard work and duty, both in the positive and negative sense. We might see it symbolizing a difficult task we’ve taken on, and the effort required to get the job done. It may also reveal when we feel forced to do work that we do not have our hearts in. In these cases, toil and drudgery are the result. We become disengaged from our work and do the bare minimum to get by.
When this card appears in your readings, consider the difficult tasks you’re taking on or have been avoiding. What are you doing that feels too much like hard work? How can you lighten the load a bit? How can you find a little more inspiration toward the task at hand? A little inspiration may make the hard work feel a whole lot easier.
In the case of “Only a Northern Song”, George was inspired to compose a strange and puzzling song about a strange and puzzling song.
“If you’re listening to this song
You may think the chords are going wrong
But they’re not
He just wrote it like that”
This is song #27 of the Beatles Song Tarot Project. Click here to learn more about this magical, mystical trip through the Beatles catalogue.