TM: ‘Rocky Raccoon’.
PM: I was sitting on the roof in India with a guitar. John and I were sitting around playing guitar, and we were with Donovan. And we were just sitting around enjoying ourselves, and I started playing the chords of Rocky Raccoon, you know, just messing around. And, oh, originally it was Rocky Sassoon, and we just started making up the words, you know, the three of us, and started just to write them down. They came very quickly. And eventually I changed it from Sassoon to Raccoon, because it sounded more like a cowboy. So there it is.
These kind of things, you can’t really talk about how they come ’cause they just come into your head, you know. They really do. And it’s like John writing his books. There’s no… I don’t know how he does it, and he doesn’t know how he does it, but he just writes. It’s like any writer, you know. I think people who actually do create and write. You tend to think, ‘Oh, how did he do that?’ but it actually does flow. Just flows from into their head, into their hand, and they write it down, you know.
And that’s what happened with this. I don’t know anything about the Appalachian mountains or cowboys and indians or anything. But I just made it up, you know. And the doctor came in stinking of gin and proceeded to lie on the table. So, there you are.
TM: I suppose the idea to do the thing with some sort of a American/Western accent also happened this way, did it?
PM: Oh that. Yeah, that was just a joke, you know, as most of it is.
TM: Also, another one of yours called ‘I Will’. We’ve covered the areas where the songs just seem to come to you, and just happen this way, and you get ideas. Obviously this particular track happened the same way. The twangy guitar is used again on this one. Erm, there’s a slight influence…
PM: We’ve always been a rock ‘n’ roll group, I suppose, you know. It’s just that we’re not just completely rock & roll. That’s what I was trying to say before about Ob-La-Di, USSR, they’re all different kinds of things. We’re not just completely one kind of group. ’cause, like, when we played in Hamburg, we didn’t just do rock all evening ’cause we had to have these sort of fat old businessmen coming in and saying… or thin old businessmen, as well, were coming in and saying ‘Play a mambo. Can you do a rhumba?’ And we couldn’t just keep saying no, you know, so we had to get into mambos and rhumbas a bit.
So this kind of thing is like a pretty sort of smootchy ballad, I Will. But we have to do that kind of stuff, you know, so we always played alot of kind of things. I don’t know if it’s getting off the subject, but that’s why there’s great variety in this LP – ’cause in everything we do, you know, we just haven’t got one bag, The Beatles, you know. And ’cause on one hand you’ll get something like I Will and then you’ll get ‘Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?’, you know. Just completely different things, completely different feelings, and… But it’s me singing both of them. It’s the same fella. Uhh, and I’ve wrote both of them, you know.
So you can’t explain it. I don’t know why I do Why Don’t We Do It In The Road shouting it like that, and then do this sort of smootchy laughing American Girl From Ipanema.
TM: ‘Birthday’. This next track is back in the old rock ‘n’ roll style, which I guess we’ve already really covered, but once again this is a very loud type, if you like discotheque type.
PM: There’s a story about that, Tony. What happened was The Girl Can’t Help It was on television. That’s an old rock film with Little Richard and Fats Domino and Eddie Cochran and a few others. Gene Vincent. And we wanted to see it, so we started recording at five o’clock. And we said, ‘We’ll do something, just do a backing track. We’ll make up a backing track.’
So we kept it very simple, 12 bar blues kind of thing. And we stuck in a few bits here and there in it, with no idea what the song was or what was gonna go on top of it. We just said, ‘OK, 12 bars in A, and we’ll change to D, and I’m gonna do a few beats in C.’ And we really just did it like that. Random thing. We didn’t have time for anything else, and so we just recorded this backing.
And we came back here to my house and watched The Girl Can’t Help It. Then we went back to the studio again and made up some words to go with it all. So this song was just made up in an evening. Um, you know. We hadn’t ever thought of it before then. And it’s one of my favourites because of that. I think it works, you know, ’cause it’s just, it’s a good one to dance to. Like the big long drum break, just ’cause, instead of, well, normally we might have four bars of drums, but with this we just keep it going, you know. We all like to hear drums plodding on.
TM: ‘Mother Nature’s Son’ is another track in which you use acoustic guitar. And there’s probably more acoustic guitar used in this set of tracks than you’ve ever used before.
PM: Yes. Well, it’s the same thing again. We wrote them with guitars. And, on a lot of his, John picks the guitar because he learned off Donovan when we were in India. Donovan showed him how to fingerpick. So he sort of stuck it in everything then.
And while he was learning fingerpicking, I was sort of playing acoustic as well, you know. That’s it – that’s why they’ve crept in like this. We decided not to try and cover them up like we might do normally, and just use acoustic guitar instead of, say, a piano or electric guitar or anything. So, the only thing about this one, however, it says ‘Born a poor young country boy’ and I was born in Woolton hospital actually – so it’s a dirty lie.
TM: ‘Helter Skelter’.
PM: Um, that came about just ’cause I’d read a review of a record which said, ‘And this group really got us wild, there’s echo on everything, they’re screaming their heads off.’ And I just remember thinking, ‘Oh, it’d be great to do one. Pity they’ve done it. Must be great – really screaming record.’ And then I heard their record and it was quite straight, and it was very sort of sophisticated. It wasn’t rough and screaming and tape echo at all. So I thought, ‘Oh well, we’ll do one like that, then.’ And I had this song called Helter Skelter which is just a ridiculous song. So we did it like that, ’cause I like noise.
TM: ‘Honey Pie’.
PM: My dad’s always played fruity old songs like that, you know. And I liked ’em. I like the melody of old songs, and the lyrics actually as well. There’s some old lyrics, like, you know, the woman singing about the man, and she’s saying something about ‘I wanna have his initial on my monogram.’
You know what I mean? There’s good lyrics and just good thoughts that you don’t sort of hear so much these days, you know. And so, I would quite like to have been a 1920s writer, ’cause I like that thing, you know. Up in top hat and tails and sort of coming-on to ’em. So this kind of number, I like that thing. So this is just me doing it, pretending I’m living in 1925.
TM: The final track I suppose is a wrap-up to the LP, and to the show tonight. And I would imagine that alot of people are probably going to record this track.
PM: Yes. It’s very much that kind of track, you know. John wrote it, mainly. It’s his tune, which is surprising for John, ’cause he doesn’t normally write this kind of tune. It’s a very sweet tune, and Ringo sings it great, I think. The arrangement was done by George Martin, ’cause he’s very good at that kind of arrangement, you know – very sort of lush, sweet arrangement. And that’s all I can say about it. It’s very sweet. And in fact, it’s ‘Good Night’.
Also on this day...
- 2009: BBC screens Paul McCartney’s Children in Need appearance
- 2009: Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney to reunite? Y Not!
- 1966: Brian Epstein holds a party for The Four Tops in London
- 1964: John Lennon films a sequence for Not Only… But Also
- 1963: Live: ABC Cinema, Manchester
- 1962: Live: Floral Hall, Southport
- 1960: Live: Kaiserkeller, Hamburg
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.