Released: 8 May 1970 (UK), 18 May 1970 (US)
John Lennon’s only significant new contribution to the Let It Be album (his Across The Universe had been recorded nearly a year previously), Dig A Pony was the first song to be recorded during the Apple Studios sessions in late January 1969.
The version which appeared on Let It Be, however, was from the group’s famous rooftop performance on 30 January.
Dig A Pony contained mostly nonsense lyrics, which Lennon dismissed in 1980 as “another piece of garbage”. However, some tantalising references can be found, including to The Beatles’ one-time name Johnny and the Moondogs (“I pick a moondog”) and Mick Jagger (I roll a stoney/Well you can imitate everyone you know”).
However, like so many of Lennon’s songs of the period, the dominant influence is Yoko Ono. Dig A Pony was originally titled All I Want Is You, words which appear in the chorus and which constitute the song’s only direct, meaningful sentiment.
I was just having fun with words. It was literally a nonsense song. You just take words and you stick them together, and you see if they have any meaning. Some of them do and some of them don’t.
In the studio
The Beatles first performed Dig A Pony at Twickenham Film Studios in January 1969, during a series of rehearsals which were filmed for the Let It Be movie.
By the time sessions started at the group’s own studio at Apple later in the month, they were familiar with the song and enjoyed playing it. They recorded it a number of times on 22 January, one of which was later released on Anthology 3.
The Beatles returned to the song two days later, recording a number of attempts – one of which was later chosen for the unreleased Get Back album.
A session on 28 January kicked off with another attempt at Dig A Pony. The Beatles recorded the song a number of times, as well as discussing how best to perform it.
The Let It Be album and film contained a version of the song recorded during the group’s rooftop performance at Apple on 30 January. The recording began with a false start; in the film Ringo Starr can be seen putting his cigarette down and crying out ‘Hold it!’
On the rooftop a production runner on the film, Kevin Harrington, knelt and held a clipboard in front of Lennon with the lyrics on it. The performance ended with Lennon saying “Thank you brothers. Hands getting too cold to play the chords”.
The 22 January version on Anthology 3 preserves the “All I want is…” opening and closing lines. These lines were a part of Dig A Pony throughout the various recording sessions. On 23 March, however, Phil Spector edited them out while mixing the song for Let It Be.