As is true of many of McCartney's songs, the melody and first line of the song came to him as he was playing around on his piano. The name that came to him, though, was not Eleanor Rigby but Miss Daisy Hawkins. In 1966, McCartney recalled how he got the idea for his song:
“ I was sitting at the piano when I thought of it. The first few bars just came to me, and I got this name in my head... 'Daisy Hawkins picks up the rice in the church'. I don't know why. I couldn't think of much more so I put it away for a day. Then the name Father McCartney came to me, and all the lonely people. But I thought that people would think it was supposed to be about my Dad sitting knitting his socks. Dad's a happy lad. So I went through the telephone book and I got the name McKenzie.
McCartney originally imagined Daisy as a pre-pubescent girl, but anyone who cleaned up in churches would probably be older. If she were older, she might have missed not only the wedding she cleans up after but also her own.
He recalled in 1984, "I just liked the name. I was looking for a name that sounded natural. Eleanor Rigby sounded natural."
The Beatles finished off the song in the music room of John Lennon's home at Kenwood. John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and their friend Pete Shotton all listened to McCartney play his song through and contributed ideas. Someone suggested introducing a romance into the story, but this was rejected because it made the story too complicated. Starr contributed the line "writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear " and suggested making "Father McCartney" darn his socks, which McCartney liked, and Harrison came up with the line "Ah, look at all the lonely people". Shotton then suggested that McCartney change the name of the priest, in case listeners mistook the fictional character in the song for McCartney's own father.
The song is often described as a lament for lonely people It is also referencing the Second World War, and many women were lonely after the war.
McCartney couldn't decide how to end the song, and Shotton finally suggested that the two lonely people come together too late as Father McKenzie conducts Eleanor Rigby's funeral. At the time, Lennon rejected the idea out of hand, but McCartney said nothing and used the idea to finish off the song, later acknowledging Shotton's help.
: this is all based on the documents listed below:
^ "Revolver: Eleanor Rigby". The Beatles Interview Database. Retrieved on 2007-03-09.
^ "BEATLES' TRIBUTE TO 'FATHER MCKENZIE'". Northwich Guardian (2000-06-98). Retrieved on 2007-01-15.
^ "Item 934 - Beatles: Father McKenzie Catalog 292 (Dec 2004)". rrauction.com. Retrieved on 2007-01-17.
^ Goodman, Joan (December 1984). "Playboy Interview with Paul McCartney". Playboy (Playboy Press).
Sorry if you get offended... | Reviewer: A high school student | 1/6/09
Don't get me wrong, this is a wonderful song. The Beatles have inspired so many people, including other bands. However, when I analyzed this song myself, I came up with a whole other meaning for it that was much darker than what I have seen when I researched it. Please note that I think this song takes place in a less understanding society, like in the 19th century.
The line "picks up the rice in the church where her wedding has been" meant to me that she was either poor, or she had some sort of mental disorder (obsessive compulsive?). I thought the latter after the next line backed it up, "lives in a dream".
I didn't think up myself that a "jar by the door" would mean a facade or a mask, and I thank pretentious for that. Great thinking! That, along with the lonely feeling also led me to believe that she was somewhat mentally challenged.
When Father McKenzie was introduced, I got the idea that he was also suffering from a mental disorder, led on by the line "darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there/ what does he care?". I made the assumption that he is a free spirit, and no matter his disability (whatever it is) he disregards everyone else and he, too, "lives in a dream", possibly symbolizing all mentally challenged persons.
By "the lonely people", I only thought that supported my theory that the two characters were suffering from mental disorders. Also, I suggested that the speaker of the story is a child, judging from the questioning perspective of the lines "where do they all come from?" and "where do they all belong", and the supremacy that normal people might have felt in the 19th century, and might hint towards the immorality of the white supremacy theories.
It was only at the line "Wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave" that I came up with the possible theme of the song. Father McKenzie, if he and Eleanor ARE mentally challenged, would symbolize that mentally challenged people live in a mutual, unconsciously-occurring relationship, and no matter the people around them, they are on their own, and like McKenzie, "no one comes near". This closed relationship, which nobody but the mentally challenged people share, is shown through Eleanor's burial by McKenzie, "along with her name" symbolizing that nobody else cared but McKenzie, who represents the mentally challenged population, the only people who care about another mentally challenged person.
I deeply apologize if I have offended somebody, and I thank whoever accepts my interpretation. This is one of the first songs I've ever analyzed, so if it isnt much trouble, could somebody give me some feedback on my first interpretation?
This Song Rocks | Reviewer: n/a
I think that this song shows how lonely Eleanor Rigby was because, nobody liked her and therefore she was always lonely and she tried to get friends but when she went to church God refused to give her friends. So she ended up right in the church to commit sucide. That's why the song says died in the church.
DO NOT LISTEN | Reviewer: Anonymous | 9/19/08
do not listen to this song. this song has bad luck. im not superstisious but i liesten to this song once and my aunty commited suiceced the second time my unclie died.... the 3rd time my mum got really sick
lonelyshooter | Reviewer: Anonymous | 8/25/08
The greatness of a song is that you can see any sense on it depending on your mind.
Pretentious.... If a person see obscenity in a nude sculpture is becouse the obscenity is in his mind.
It is pretentious believe that you have the only real meaning of the lyrics.... unless you be one of the composers
blackbird | Reviewer: cristina
eleanor worked at the church with the priest n the priest killed elenor .." look at all the lonley people"that he killed.."where do they all come from?"...and "Eleanor Rigby died IN THE CHURCH and was buried along with her name
Nobody came..she died in the church cus the priest killed her..lol..you guys all suck and yes the part about she puts on her face that she keeps in a jar. shes hiding her feelings so knw one can see how alone and shyte she is..so she puts on a fake smile..
Love it | Reviewer: Alias | 7/10/08
Hey, guys! What are you doing? It is great when people see in one phrase different meanings for themselves. Just enjoy the song, understand it as you want. Nobody has a right to say that other person is dense just because he/she doesn't think the way the 1st one does. P.S. Like this song very much. Well, it's The Beatles. =) (Forgive me for my English)
Random Goodness | Reviewer: Just a Fan | 6/22/08
"Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door" is my favorite line in this song. I take it to mean that when she leaves her house and sees people she puts on a face, like a mask, to conceal the loneliness or sadness we all feel, but if you like to think of it as make-up, so be it. This is still a wonderful, beautiful and deep song, though a bit sad. I truly hope that we are not all lonely, for then, why are we here?
I don't care | Reviewer: Marie | 6/21/08
I wonder what would happen if we just enjoyed the song instead of analyzing it to death. Perhaps we could all go on enjoying our lives and appreciate that regardless of whatever deep meaning anyone sees in it it is a good song. You can see whatever you like in it. (and by the way Pretentious when you analyze art it really reflects on yourself. In other words a piece of art is much like a mirror. Perhaps you yourself are pretentious.)
pretentious should wake up | Reviewer: Anonymous | 4/17/08
Pretentious: the song is extremely well-written and is deep and meaningful. insulting it won't make you any better of a song-writer, because we all know you're just plain jealous. and i doubt it means make-up. but are you too dense to see that?
u suck pretentious | Reviewer: Anonymous | 4/10/08
you just don't know what you're talking about pretentious. a face kept in a jar by the door does NOT necessarily mean makeup. actually i never would have thought that it did. it just means that Eleanor Rigby had to hide her true self from the rest of the world, and that she hid behind a mask (or face that she kept in a jar by the door.) i honestly hope you were just being stupid, because people should know that she's not hiding behind makeup. it really does all work out. think about it.
grant | Reviewer: w00t | 3/4/08
Most of your response is correct, but the Beatles didn't write every single song while stoned. For example, A Day In the Life was taken from a newspaper page and Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite was taken off of a real poster, at least reported by the Beatles.
n/a | Reviewer: grant | 2/27/08
As far as my unproffesional opinion goes, this song is a comment on society today. (well... not really today, but the concepts still apply) It is saying that people are too focused on themselves to notice whats happenening in their surroundings. (in this specific case, a woman dieing: eleanor rigby).
...arnold (pretentious guy) is an idiot. a face in a jar does not refer to make-up, or anything of the like. considering that Mr. McCartney was probably high when writing this song, I dont think that it has any meaning other than what any one person interprets it as. Although to Arnold it might appear to be make-up, that doesnt mean it is to everybody else. Therefore, "Arnold" is a complete idiot.
sad | Reviewer: J boy | 2/12/08
Pretentious, you are dumb.
just because "faces in a jar" is used does not mean it is make-up, though it very well may be. It may mean that when she leaves her home, she has a different face than that which she has when she is inside the door.
Until we know what was meant for sure, i would recommend not insulting your interpretation of the song. It just makes you sound like a moron, considering your interpretation may be wrong.
what doesn't make sense | Reviewer: Arcana | 1/27/08
So what exactly doesn't make sense? It's pretty clear cut. Eleanor Rigby was a lonely person who died alone and no one came to her funeral, but the priest who was also alone. It's a very sad song. It's beautiful. How is it pretentios crap? How is it judging anyone? It's talking about how many lonely people there are in the world. The world is full of Father Mckenzies and Eleanor Rigbys. If you don't get it perhaps you should look into buying yourself a soul you vapid twit.