Honey Pie

The Beatles (White Album) artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 1, 2, 4 October 1968
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Barry Sheffield

Released: 22 November 1968 (UK), 25 November 1968 (US)

Paul McCartney: vocals, piano
John Lennon: lead guitar, rhythm guitar
George Harrison: bass
Ringo Starr: drums
Dennis Walton, Ronald Chamberlain, Jim Chester, Rex Morris, Harry Klein: saxophones
Raymond Newman, David Smith: clarinets

Available on:
The Beatles (White Album)
Anthology 3

Sharing little more than a title with Wild Honey Pie, this authentic-sounding pastiche of the British music hall style was written by Paul McCartney for the White Album.

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Both John and I had a great love for music hall, what the Americans call vaudeville… I very much liked that old crooner style, the strange fruity voice that they used, so Honey Pie was me writing one of them to an imaginary woman, across the ocean, on the silver screen, who was called Honey Pie. It’s another of my fantasy songs.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

The group recorded a demo of Honey Pie at George Harrison’s Esher home just before sessions began for the White Album. Released in 1996 on Anthology 3, this early version has slightly different lyrics, and lacks the introduction of the later recording.

In the studio

The Beatles began recording Honey Pie on 1 October 1968, at Trident Studios in London’s Wardour Street.

Just one take was recorded on the first day, although it is likely that a number of rehearsal attempts had previously been recorded and wiped. McCartney played piano, Harrison was on a six-string Fender bass, Lennon played an electric guitar, and Starr was on drums.

The next day McCartney taped his lead vocals, and a lead guitar part was added. According to George Harrison, John Lennon played the guitar solo:

John played a brilliant solo on Honey Pie – sounded like Django Reinhardt or something. It was one of them where you just close your eyes and happen to hit all the right notes… sounded like a little jazz solo.
George Harrison, 1987

George Martin‘s woodwind arrangement – prepared from a rough mix made at the end of the first Trident session – was recorded on 4 October. Written in the 1920s jazz style, it featured five saxophones and two clarinets.

At the end of the 4 October session McCartney added a brief vocal overdub: the line “Now she’s hit the big time”. It was fed through an audio compressor to reduce the treble and bass. The sound of an old phonograph record was also superimposed to give added period authenticity.

We put a sound on my voice to make it sound like a scratchy old record. So it’s not a parody, it’s a nod to the vaudeville tradition that I was raised on.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

8 responses on “Honey Pie

  1. brian

    Alot of people pan this song saying it’s another one of Paul’s wimpy ones but I’ve always liked it! If it were released in the 1920′s people of that time would have been grooving right along.

  2. Dave Miller

    Since Paul played piano, and John played lead guitar, George played bass – and what a gorgeous line! Another masterpiece by all five Beatles.

    1. robert

      Hi Joe, an ukulele I can imagine and almost hear in this song. Notice Paul’ extreme high voice at 1:50 but I can’t recover a guitarsolo in it (white album) do you?

  3. Garret

    I think any hatred toward this song as one of Paul’s silly songs is misdirected. Individually, yes, it is “fruity”, but taken in the overall context of the White Album it adds to the diverse musical landscape that the Beatles created that sets them apart from all other groups. It’s quite enjoyable.

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