"I know what it's like to be dead.
I know what it is to be sad."
And she's making me feel like I've never been born.
"Who put all those things in your head?
Things that make me feel that I'm mad?
And you're making me feel like I've never been born."
She said "You don't understand what I said"
I said "No, no, no, you're wrong.
When I was a boy
Everything was right." (2x)
"Even though you know what you know
I know that I'm ready to leave
'Cause you're making me feel like I've never been born."
[Repeat 3rd verse]
She said she said
"I know what it's like to be dead. (2x)
I know what it is to be sad. (2x)
I know what it's like to be dead.
I know what it's like..."
I don't actually consider She Said She Said a psychedelic song so much as experimental rock n roll. At the time, however, all avant-garde pop music was considered psychedelic. Once the psychedelic movement got started, there was "art rock" (meant to be beautiful, like the Beach Boys' God Only Knows and the Beatles' Eleanor Rigby) and there was avant-garde experimentation, such as developed by the Mothers of Invention and the Velvet Underground. Though an exception to the rule is the Zombies, who were doing "progressive rock" in She's Not There and Tell Her No before psychedelia existed, progressive rock came into its own beginning in 1968, when some popular music left behind the traditional song form to be freed into looser jazz structures, like the Zombies' Time of the Season, or Shanghai Noodle Factory by Traffic.
The lyrics record a conversation between the singer and a woman, with echoes of "I said I said" and "She said she said", and the conversation is so frenetic, particularly in the chorus, that it seems like dialogue. Popular music is being introduced to a form here that Joni Mitchell would develop some years later, as in her The Last Time I Saw Richard.
The subject matter of the conversation seems related to Tomorrow Never Knows, as if this was something remembered of an exchange with a woman during an LSD trip, another angle on lack of ego. It doesn't seem to have been a pleasant memory; the singer seems to want to cling to childlike world, utter id, while the woman calls him to consider himself before existence. The singer seems to only want to get away from her. The song is one of the earliest reports of a "bad trip".
It has been reported in the Beatles Bible and other sources that Paul McCartney did not participate in the writing or performance of She Said She Said. Indeed, George Harrison is said to have added the two lines of the chorus (When I was a boy / Everything was right) which opens up the lyric by offering an explanation why the woman in the song is wrong. (It's been suggested this is a Lennon / Harrison song.) Rather than take the nihilistic turn of egolessness suggested in Tomorrow Never Knows, the Beatles would tend in future songs, such as Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane, to locate the source of egolessness in memories of childhood rather than outside the living body. (Harrison, ironically, would be the Beatle to explore egolessness as in the totality of all that is, in the Buddhist Within You and Without You and Inner Light.)
There is no instrumental break, though a loud guitar introduces the song and follows closely and echoes the unmelodic lyric, as if a recitative. The drum tumbles along the lines with gusto, so that a rush is felt as well as the electric buzz from the guitar. Though the verses seem to drone in a psychedelic fashion, the chorus is choppy rock and roll. The song fades on repeats as the drums double up the beat.
Alan W. Pollack (Notes On) observed of She Said She Said: "Leaving modality aside, the harmony of this song is also distinguished by its frugality. There are only four different chords used throughout, one of which doesn't even make an appearance until the climax of the bridge (on the word 'boy')...Our great illustration of the principle of keeping some musical parameters steady when maxing out on others is two-fold: rather than "fight" the changing meter (at risk of obscuring it), both the harmonic rhythm and the drumming are slavishly at the meter's service. The chords change on every measure boundary, and the drumming (and the bass as well) forgo fancy syncopation for strictly even eighth-note marking of the beat...The sudden release of all syncopation is a final, rhythmic coup de grace, coming as it does at the end of two full minutes during which we're constantly bombarded by either syncopation, or a fickle meter. The tempo remains the same, but those evenly-pounded-out eighth notes in the fade out give me a strong feeling of acceleration; as though driving into a free skid on ice."
It has been reported that She Said She Said was the final track recorded during the Revolver sessions, and was hastily added when the album lineup was found to be a song short. It took nine hours to rehearse and record the entire song, complete with overdubs. If this was the case, the hastily conceived Lennon song proved a beautiful balance with Tomorrow Never Knows, concluding the A side of the vinyl album Revolver, as Tomorrow Never Knows finished the B side. These two songs were the only Lennon contributions to the American version of Revolver, and they both contemplated the same subject matter--an LSD enhanced selflessness.