Monkberry Moon Delight

Ram album artwork - Paul and Linda McCartneyWritten by: Paul and Linda McCartney
Recorded: October 1970 - April 1971
Producer: Paul and Linda McCartney

Released: 21 May 1971 (UK), 17 May 1971 (US)

Paul McCartney: vocals, piano, bass guitar
Linda McCartney: backing vocals
David Spinozza/Hugh McCracken: guitar
Denny Seiwell: drums

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Inspired by his children's use of wordplay, Monkberry Moon Delight featured lyrics chosen more for their phonetic sound than their meaning.

The title was derived from an alternative word for milk that the McCartney children used. Further inspiration came from the 1959 Leiber and Stoller song Love Potion No. 9.

When my kids were young they used to call milk 'monk' for whatever reason that kids do - I think it's magical the way that kids can develop better names for things than the real ones. In fact, as a joke, Linda and I still occasionally refer to an object by that child-language name. So, monk was always milk, and monkberry moon delight was a fantasy drink, rather like Love Potion No. 9, hence the line in the song, 'sipping monkberry moon delight'. It was a fantasy milk shake.
Paul McCartney

Love Potion No. 9 featured a similarly surreal tale as McCartney's later song, in which a man looking for love speaks to a gypsy who sells him the titular potion. It causes him to fall in love with all he sees, including a policeman on the street.

Monkberry Moon Delight takes the surrealism a step further, defying interpretation and logic to present an Edward Lear-esque stroll through the lighter recesses of McCartney's imagination. As with The Beatles' Glass Onion, it was almost a direct challenge for those fans who looked avidly for hidden meanings in his songs to spend hours poring over his wild free-association in search of autobiographical clues.

Well I know my banana is older than the rest
And my hair is a tangled Beretta
But I leave my pyjamas to Billy Budapest
And I don't get the gist of your letter

While the music is a light canter, McCartney's vocals were strident and strained, recalling his classic rock 'n' roll performances in such songs as Long Tall Sally and Oh! Darling. Linda McCartney provided the perfect counterpoint with her backing vocals, delivered without affectation.

Monkberry Moon Delight was one of two Ram songs included in Blackbird Singing, McCartney's 2001 collection of lyrics and poetry. It featured in the section headed The Business. The other Ram song in the book was Heart Of The Country.

Monkberry Moon Delight I liked, so much so that it's in my poetry book.
Paul McCartney
Mojo magazine, July 2001

McCartney's gruff delivery clearly found favour with Screamin' Jay Hawkins, who recorded Monkberry Moon Delight for his 1979 album Screamin' The Blues. McCartney used Hawkins' version in his pre-concert tape before his 1993 concerts.

26 responses on “Monkberry Moon Delight

  1. mike

    This Monkberry Moon Delight is clearly a song meant to please his kids. I remember Billy Budapest as a kids pajama design. There are kids references in every line, even the ones about the mice. It’s a wonderful play with words which builds on the fact that he had a great family life.

  2. Michael Walsh

    I bought RAM when it was released; and I was in my late teens.
    Now, I’m in my late 50’s, and a couple of weeks ago I started playing RAM again, on CD in my car. It’s still great fun to be tapping along to this music as I drive around. I feel like a teenager again!!

    1. Janice J.

      My feelings exactly, M. Walsh. I have had the songs singing in my head for a few days now. I first bought it on an LP when it came out, then a tape, replacing that with a DVD. Now I have it downloaded to my personal device and it still sounds great. Maybe not artistically mature or perfected, but I LOVE IT!!

  3. Jeff

    I live in north central MD where there is a town of Monkton. Walking through the wine section of a local store, a bottle caught my eye. I snickered then started laughing. No one had any idea what I was on about. I had spotted a selection of local wines, “Monkton Moon Delight.”
    Had to buy a bottle. Not bad either.

  4. Poudou91

    Thousand thanks for this article.

    I was 16 years when I heard this song for the first time. Now I am 56 (and I am still a Beatles fan;… since 1970).
    I am French. My english level is medium, every time I listen a Beatles song I try to understand the lyrics.
    But this song was very very hard to me :(. … until today !
    Your explanations are clear and, I could say that it’s obvious for me now (in the nonsense for non-children)

    Thanks again.
    Your site is more than good

  5. Ann O.

    Thank you for this article! I am fourteen years old and a hardcore Beatlemaniac. Having memorized most of the Beatles’ songs, I recently branched out into their solo work, Paul’s in particular. Listening to Ram for the first time was semi-shocking and very exhilarating, and I was left deeply in love with this song, but also quite confused. This clears the whole thing up, so thank you again!

  6. Harry

    I always said if I had 1question to ask Sir Paul, it would be what were you thinking. Question is answered. Now I can ask another question. Thanks.

  7. Mikey

    Music is a drug for me, I use it to help me cope with life, Monkberry Moon Delight has never failed to pick me up, in fact it may be the song I want played when I die.
    Thanks Paul & Linda!

  8. Mick Forcell

    This was the literal a 2X4 plank of wood across the forehead for me. At that time (i dont know I was like 14-15) it wasnt as easy as to Google it and find 40 million fans so you listen and re-listen just to get ONE word. It was a miracle i got CANTATA (I thought it was ZAPATA) later reading the lyrics I realized . “It is POETRY” may be nonsensical as a whole but every stanza makes sense . Keeping the meter while the subject is totally free flowing and the stanza is so TIGHT its an exercise in PURE poetic genius. That a melody was aded and that the singing reflected the gritness of the poem , goes beyond genious . Imagine Edgar Allan Poe putting a melody to “The Raven” singing it with throat wrenching delivery and recording it. In this comparison , Here, Paul BLOWS away Poe as far as poetry goes. “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,” ….. Yeah okay can you be any more formulaic Mr. Poe.? Now Paul :
    “When a rattle of rats had awoken
    The sinews, the nerves and the veins.
    My piano was boldly outspoken
    In attempts to repeat this refrain.
    THAT is one intense and complicated rhyme.
    So THAT is why there will never be any talent like McCartney’s ’cause there was not any talent ever of this caliber BEFORE McCartney

    1. Water Falls

      I’m glad you love the song, as do I. However, if you listen carefully, this song is not happy-go-lucky. It is quite the opposite. It is a rollicking ride, wonderfully sorrowful, cautionary tale told while crying in your beer, about enormous, massive fame, bitter break ups, getting left behind, pelted by the press, and fans alike with tomatoes (like vaudeville days when the audience didn’t like you) McCartney sings about “leave my pajamas” (I kinda think PaulJohnmas,(dramas) Billy Budapest, my mind hears Bully, BooThePest!, when the music press and fans raked him over the coals for “quitting the Beatles, breaking up the band (the lawsuit)
      The genius of McCartney was to camouflage the bitter hurt and pain with a rollicking jolly tune and make the sad times feel fun filled and happy with this masterfully funny and delightful song. I can’t express how much I love this song and the pure genius of McCartney who can turn hurt and pain on it’s head and give us all a good time and a good laugh while doing it.

      1. Nuttin doin

        Omg thank you.. I got all the lyrics and their (somewhat) hidden or fanciful meanings but the TOMATO part was driving me nuts. The vaudeville/throwing tomatoes reference I believe nails it. Good job man!

  9. Paul izzo

    Paul always gets a raw deal. When Lennon wrote nonsense lyrics to I Am The Walrus he was hailed as a genius. Paul pens this and the critics slam him. Who cares I like it. A lot.

  10. Lee

    I don’t know if this subject is still active, but I’d like to weigh in: It is fine to ask the artist to clarify the meaning of song lyrics, but there is a danger of getting too caught up in the analysis. It limits the experience. Although I appreciate knowing the genesis of words like “monkberry” (very cool), I prefer to savor the song for the feeling and impression that it gives to me, personally. It is like a painting. Everyone should enjoy it in his/her own way, allowing the experience to be everything it can be, while each is different and perfectly valid.

  11. Eddie B

    It sounds more like an exotic brand of marijuana and some of the lyrics do too: ‘Of two youngsters concealed in a barrel, smoking monkberry moon delight and toward the end of the song ‘Try some of this, honey, What is it? Monkberry moon delight, but a lot of the Beatles songs had double meanings which is why you could read things in that weren’t there, hence the ‘Paul is dead!’ urban legend!

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