Dear Prudence

The Beatles (White Album) artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 28-30 August 1968
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Barry Sheffield

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

John Lennon: vocals, backing vocals, guitar
Paul McCartney: backing vocals, bass, piano, drums, flugelhorn, tambourine, handclaps
George Harrison: backing vocals, lead guitar, handclaps
Mal Evans, Jackie Lomax, John McCartney: backing vocals, handclaps

Available on:
The Beatles (White Album)

Written by John Lennon in India, Dear Prudence was about Mia Farrow's younger sister, who refused to leave her chalet at the meditation retreat in Rishikesh, and had to be coaxed out by Lennon and George Harrison.

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Prudence Farrow had become infatuated with meditation, locking herself away from the rest of the group and falling into deep states against the advice of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Dear Prudence is me. Written in India. A song about Mia Farrow's sister, who seemed to go slightly barmy, meditating too long, and couldn't come out of the little hut that we were livin' in. They selected me and George to try and bring her out because she would trust us. If she'd been in the West, they would have put her away.

We got her out of the house. She'd been locked in for three weeks and wouldn't come out, trying to reach God quicker than anybody else. That was the competition in Maharishi's camp: who was going to get cosmic first. What I didn't know was I was already cosmic. [Laughs.]

John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Prudence later confirmed she was more fanatical in her pursuit of enlightenment than those around her.

Being on that course was more important to me than anything in the world. I was very focused on getting in as much meditation as possible, so that I could gain enough experience to teach it myself. I knew that i must have stuck out because I would always rush straight back to my room after lectures and meals so that I could meditate. John, George and Paul would all want to sit around jamming and having a good time and I'd be flying into my room. They were all serious about what they were doing but they just weren't as fanatical as me...

At the end of the course, just as they were leaving, George mentioned that they had written a song about me but I didn't hear it until it came out on the album. I was flattered. It was a beautiful thing to have done.

Prudence Farrow
A Hard Day's Write, Steve Turner

The song's distinctive fingerpicked guitar style was taught to Lennon by Donovan, another guest in Rishikesh. The style was used on a number of other songs on the White Album, including Julia and Happiness Is A Warm Gun.

In the studio

Like Back In The USSR, Dear Prudence was recorded without Ringo Starr, who had temporarily left the group.

The Beatles taped the song over three days in Trident Studios, an independent facility in London's Wardour Street. Unlike Abbey Road, Trident had eight-track facilities available, which The Beatles had previously used for the recording of Hey Jude.

Work on Dear Prudence began on 28 August 1968. Although the studio records note that The Beatles only recorded one take, the luxury of eight tracks meant they were able to piece together the song instrument by instrument, wiping previous attempts as they went along.

The basic track, recorded on this first day between 5pm and 7am, featured Lennon on fingerpicked guitar, Harrison on lead guitar and McCartney on drums.

The next day McCartney recorded a bass part, Lennon manually double-tracked his lead vocals, and backing vocals, handclaps and tambourine were performed by McCartney and Harrison. They were assisted with contributions from Mal Evans, recent Apple discovery Jackie Lomax, and McCartney's cousin John.

In the Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn notes that the end of the song originally featured applause from those who contributed backing vocals and handclaps, though it was left out of the final mix.

The recording of Dear Prudence was concluded on 30 August, with a piano track and a very brief flugelhorn section. Both of these were performed by Paul McCartney.

121 responses on “Dear Prudence

  1. castironshore

    What an amazing track this is. I love the circling guitar line from lennon working with georges drone guitar, add in the backing vocals, pauls amazing gulping bass line and the way the track resolves (genius) and i think it might be one of their best late period tracks.

    Paul’s drums are pretty decent too i think, his hi-hat work is a little stiff but his fills are as good as anything ringo would have done.

    1. Bill Hicklin

      That’s the thing- for all that Lewissohn wrote, working directly from EMI’s and Trident’s logs- we have to remember that ‘protocol’ got pretty shambolic during the WA sessions – I think that there must have been a non-logged session after Ringo’s ‘vacation’ where he overdubbed a drum track, at least for the final verse-chorus-outro. It ain’t Paul. Paul could manage a decent bang-bang-thump-bang, but he could never play like that.

      1. pulseteresa

        No, the entire track featured McCartney on drums. The members of some other bands considered Paul to be the best drummer in the Beatles. The drum fill at the climax of the song sounds nothing at all like Ringo’s drumming.

        The people who were actually there credit all of the drums to Paul.

          1. rhino

            It’s Ringo filling on the last verse. Those fills are signature Ringo. They’re too finesssed to be Paul, who always sounds caveman-ish on drums. Sorry, it’s true. As others have mentioned its entirely plausible, even probable that a quick session occurred and didn’t get logged. However, I think the drums previous to the last verse are a John-Paul two man effort, there are photos of them doing this with John on hi hat and Paul on bass and snare.

  2. Graham Paterson

    Beautiful song. Wonderful lyrics, singing and finger-picked guitar by John Lennon.Instantly loved this from the first time I heard it after getting my copy got my of The White Album for Christmas 1980. “The sun is up the sky is blue, it’s beautiful and so are you “. No wonder Prudence Farrow was flattered!!

  3. Will

    To anyone who still wants to know the answer to who drummed the outro, I have a link that without a doubt proves outro was a re-recorded piece. In the video you can hear the original drum beat Paul lays down for the outro which is simple and straight foward, as Paul’s drumming usually is. As a drummer myself I’m confident that a reinvigorated Ringo came back rested and recharged from vacation, excited from the great warm welcome home, had a few listens and laid down that outro with all of that new energy. Paul’s drumming couldn’t touch Ringo’s I’m sorry all you Paul fans. I’ve listened to his first solo album, Ram, and Band on the Run; he’s just not the great drummer Ringo is. Anyway sorry for my rambling here’s the link.

  4. YannBOYER

    Am I the only one who hear that loud percussion, like a block or something (not drums, nor hadclap or tambourine), coming in just after “Won’t you let me see you smile” at the end of the third verse?? It plays continously but always changing its rythm, until the the end of the last verse, only on the left channel. What is it? Who plays it? It is not listed.

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