Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Beatles White Album Songs, Part 4


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Wild Honey Pie

Song No 5, Disc 1

A 52 second song written and performed by Paul McCartney, this was not going to be included on the White Album but was retained because George’s then wife, Pattie Boyd, like it so much.

Hear it at:

According to Paul:

We were in an experimental mode, and so I said, 'Can I just make something up?' I started off with the guitar and did a multitracking experiment in the control room or maybe in the little room next door. It was very home-made; it wasn't a big production at all. I just made up this short piece and I multitracked a harmony to that, and a harmony to that, and a harmony to that, and built it up sculpturally with a lot of vibrato on the [guitar] strings, really pulling the strings madly. Hence, 'Wild Honey Pie', which was a reference to the other song I had written called ‘Honey Pie’.”

Charles Manson felt this song was one of the ones in which the Beatles were talking to him. According to the book Helter Skelter, the lines, "Honey pie sail across the Atlantic" meant that The Beatles wanted to meet him. Also from the song, Manson believed that Paul McCartney was saying he wanted Manson to put out a record. 

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The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill

Song No 6, Disc 1

A fascinating story behind this one.

Hear the song at:

Lyrics:

"The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill"

Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?

He went out tiger hunting with his elephant and gun
In case of accidents he always took his mom
He's the all American bullet-headed Saxon mother's son
All the children sing

Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?

Deep in the jungle where the mighty tiger lies
Bill and his elephants were taken by surprise
So Captain Marvel zapped him right between the eyes, zap!
All the children sing

Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?

The children asked him if to kill was not a sin
"Not when he looked so fierce", his mummy butted in
If looks could kill it would have been us instead of him
All the children sing

Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?

Oh ho!

Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?

Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?

Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?

[Eh up!]

As previously noted, most of the White Album songs either originated from, or were written during, the Beatles’ stay with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at his ashram in India. Also staying at the ashram at the time was American socialite, fashion expert and author of spiritual and inspirational books, Nancy Cook de Herrera, who acted as the liaison between the Beatles and the yogi. Nancy’s son, Richard Cook 111, known as Rik, a clean cut college boy, visited his mother at the ashram but wasn’t popular with John Lennon. Rik and his mother went on a tiger shoot astride elephants, which he and his mother later said was represented to them by the Indian guide as being a traditional act. Rik and his mother also later said that their elephant was attacked by a tiger and that Rik quickly felled the tiger .

There are different versions of the events:

“That was written about a guy in Maharishi's meditation camp who took a short break to go shoot a few poor tigers, and then came back to commune with God. There used to be a character called Jungle Jim and I combined him with Buffalo Bill. It's a sort of teenage social-comment song and a bit of a joke. Yoko's on that one, I believe, singing along.” 
- John Lennon

“Then a self-important, middle-aged American woman arrived, moving a mountain of luggage into the brand-new private bungalow next to Maharishi's along with her son, a bland young man named Bill. People fled this newcomer, and no one was sorry when she left the ashram after a short time to go tiger hunting, unaware that their presence had inspired a new Beatles song - Bungalow Bill.” 
- Mia Farrow

“Rik told me that he felt bad about it and said that he didn't think he'd ever kill an animal again. Maharishi said, 'You had the desire Rik and now you don't have the desire?' Then John asked, 'Don't you call that slightly life destructive?' I said, 'Well John, it was either the tiger or us. The tiger was right where we were'. That came up in the lyric as 'If looks could kill it would have been us instead of him'.” 
- Nancy Cooke

Another version has Rik shooting the tiger from a concealed platform in a tree.  
What is not in dispute is that Rik was initially proud of his kill and posed for photographs with the dead tiger, alone and with his mother:



Rik's reaction to the slaying was, however, mixed and he has not hunted since, having instead become a National geographic photographer. Nancy claims that all present recognised the necessity of Rik's action, but that Lennon's reaction was scornful and sarcastic, asking Rik: "But wouldn't you call that slightly life-destructive?" The song was written by Lennon as mocking what he saw as Rik's bravado and unenlightened attitude.

Hear Rik Cooke’s version here:

Btw:

Listen for the appearance by Yoko Ono on the line "Not when he looked so fierce". It was the first - and only - time a female lead vocal appeared on a Beatles recording, and reflected Ono's increasing studio presence at the time (as well as her shaky grasp of melody).

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While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Song 8, Disc 1

Hear it at:

Lyrics:

"While My Guitar Gently Weeps"

I look at you all see the love there that's sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping
Still my guitar gently weeps

I don't know why nobody told you
How to unfold your love
I don't know how someone controlled you
They bought and sold you

I look at the world and I notice it's turning
While my guitar gently weeps
With every mistake we must surely be learning
Still my guitar gently weeps

Well...

I don't know how you were diverted
You were perverted too
I don't know how you were inverted
No one alerted you

I look at you all see the love there that's sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
Look at you all
Still my guitar gently weeps

Oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh, oh

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, oh, ooh

At the time as the Beatles were immersing in eastern transcendental meditation, George was also reading the I Ching, a classic Chinese text for guidance that dates back to almost 5 centuries before Christ. According to George, the I Ching "seemed to me to be based on the Eastern concept that everything is relative to everything else... opposed to the Western view that things are merely coincidental."

“I wrote "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" at my mother's house in Warrington. I was thinking about the Chinese I Ching, the Book of Changes... The Eastern concept is that whatever happens is all meant to be, and that there's no such thing as coincience — every little item that's going down has a purpose. 
"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was a simple study based on that theory. I decided to write a song based on the first thing I saw upon opening any book — as it would be relative to that moment, at that time. I picked up a book at random, opened it, saw 'gently weeps', then laid the book down again and started the song."

Some early lines and verses did not make the final cut:

Unused verse:

I look at the trouble and see that it's raging,
While my guitar gently weeps.
As I'm sitting here, doing nothing but ageing,
Still, my guitar gently weeps.

Unused lines:

The problems you sow, are the troubles you're reaping,                        
Still, my guitar gently weeps.

Unused verse:          

I look from the wings at the play you are staging,  
While my guitar gently weeps.
As I'm sitting here, doing nothing but ageing,
Still, my guitar gently weeps.

It wasn’t just the lyrics that were causing George problems. He wanted a guitar accompaniment and solo that sounded like a guitar weeping, but without using a mechanical distortion such as a foot pedal.

He tried playing it backwards but that didn’t work. Eventually he persuaded reluctant friend Eric Clapton to play. According to Clapton "Nobody ever plays on the Beatles' records". Nonetheless he did. To make the sound more “Beatley” the solo was run through a wavering oscillator.

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