Mean Mr Mustard

Abbey Road album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 24, 25, 29 July 1969
Producer: George Martin
Engineers: Geoff Emerick, Phil McDonald

Released: 26 September 1969 (UK), 1 October 1969 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, guitar, maracas
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, fuzz bass, piano
George Harrison: lead guitar
Ringo Starr: drums, tambourine

Available on:
Abbey Road
Anthology 3

Recorded as one with Sun King, Mean Mr Mustard was composed in India by John Lennon in spring 1968. It was considered for inclusion on the White Album, but wasn’t recorded in the studio until the Abbey Road sessions the following year.

Abbey Road - The Beatles

The song originated from a newspaper story about a miserly man who was said to have hidden his money in his rectum.

That’s me, writing a piece of garbage. I’d read somewhere in the newspaper about this mean guy who hid five-pound notes, not up his nose but somewhere else. No, it had nothing to do with cocaine.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Another interpretation was later offered by Tony Bramwell, an associate of the group.

There was an old ‘bag lady’ who used to hang around the Knightsbridge end of Hyde Park, London, close to the army barracks. She had all her possessions in plastic bags and slept in the park. I’m sure that she had something to do with the song.

The group originally recorded a demo of Mean Mr Mustard at Kinfauns, George Harrison’s bungalow in Esher, Surrey. This version, from May 1968, was eventually released on Anthology 3.

Mean Mr Mustard was originally considered for inclusion on the White Album, although it wasn’t recorded in the studio until 1969.

In Mean Mr Mustard I said ‘his sister Pam’ – originally it was ‘his sister Shirley’ in the lyric. I changed it to Pam to make it sound like it had something to do with it [Polythene Pam]. They are only finished bits of crap that I wrote in India.
John Lennon
Anthology

During the development of Abbey Road’s long medley, Her Majesty was originally included between Mean Mr Mustard and Polythene Pam, before Paul McCartney decided that the sequence didn’t work.

However, when Her Majesty appeared at the end of the album it was anticipated by the final crashing chord of Mean Mr Mustard, left in from an early mix.

In the studio

Mean Mr Mustard was recorded as one with Sun King. The Beatles began recording the songs back-to-back on 24 July, taping 35 takes of the rhythm track. They then added a series of overdubs on 25 and 29 July.

7 Responses to “Mean Mr Mustard”

  1. joe

    There is a play called The Beatles Slept Here and there are these characters named Minx Jinx and Finx and they are a part of Mr. Mustard’s gang. Does anyone know where the names Jinx, Minx and Finx come from in relation to the Beatles?

    Reply
  2. WestIndian

    I think this song may be one of the Beatles’ best. I’ve always been touched by the evidence that, although the Beatles were breaking up slowly but surely, they were still so tight with each others’ creations. Listen to Paul’s backup vocals on this tune… just incredible. Incredible.

    Reply
  3. Gustavo

    Lewishon said there were piano, but Everett said it was John who played it.

    One more time, “…Pam” and “Bathroom” were recorded as one, and Lewishon said electric and acosutic pianos as well as assorted percussion were overdub, but didn´t mention who played what.

    Reply
  4. GeorgeTSimpson

    I read it is Lennon on piano. Are there really two guitars, I always thought there would be just one

    Reply
  5. brian

    I dig the abrupt meter changes. Lennon could do things like that. Probably without even realizing that it was as special as it was. Tunes like this one, across the universe for instance. Oh and of course Good morning good morning.

    Reply
  6. stuartgardner

    I’ve always been nutty about this one; Mustard’s a riot and irresistible. In The Beatles: The Biography, Bob Spitz reports some rot to the effect that Lennon had said he was planning on saying “…rattle your fucking jewelry” while delivering his now famous (clean) quip at the royal command performance, and that poor Epstein was sweating bullets fearing he’d actually do it, but obviously it was never remotely conceivable. Something of the myth finds its way into Mustard, however, who’s taken out to look at the queen and always shouts out something obscene.

    Reply

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