Honey Pie

The Beatles (White Album) artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 1, 2, 4 October 1968
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Barry Sheffield

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

Paul McCartney: vocals, piano
John Lennon: lead guitar, rhythm guitar
George Harrison: bass
Ringo Starr: drums
Dennis Walton, Ronald Chamberlain, Jim Chester, Rex Morris, Harry Klein: saxophones
Raymond Newman, David Smith: clarinets

Available on:
The Beatles (White Album)
Anthology 3

Sharing little more than a title with Wild Honey Pie, this authentic-sounding pastiche of the British music hall style was written by Paul McCartney for the White Album.

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Both John and I had a great love for music hall, what the Americans call vaudeville... I very much liked that old crooner style, the strange fruity voice that they used, so Honey Pie was me writing one of them to an imaginary woman, across the ocean, on the silver screen, who was called Honey Pie. It's another of my fantasy songs.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

The group recorded a demo of Honey Pie at George Harrison's Esher home just before sessions began for the White Album. Released in 1996 on Anthology 3, this early version has slightly different lyrics, and lacks the introduction of the later recording.

In the studio

The Beatles began recording Honey Pie on 1 October 1968, at Trident Studios in London's Wardour Street.

Just one take was recorded on the first day, although it is likely that a number of rehearsal attempts had previously been recorded and wiped. McCartney played piano, Harrison was on a six-string Fender bass, Lennon played an electric guitar, and Starr was on drums.

The next day McCartney taped his lead vocals, and a lead guitar part was added. According to George Harrison, John Lennon played the guitar solo:

John played a brilliant solo on Honey Pie - sounded like Django Reinhardt or something. It was one of them where you just close your eyes and happen to hit all the right notes... sounded like a little jazz solo.
George Harrison, 1987

George Martin's woodwind arrangement - prepared from a rough mix made at the end of the first Trident session - was recorded on 4 October. Written in the 1920s jazz style, it featured five saxophones and two clarinets.

At the end of the 4 October session McCartney added a brief vocal overdub: the line "Now she's hit the big time". It was fed through an audio compressor to reduce the treble and bass. The sound of an old phonograph record was also superimposed to give added period authenticity.

We put a sound on my voice to make it sound like a scratchy old record. So it's not a parody, it's a nod to the vaudeville tradition that I was raised on.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

18 responses on “Honey Pie

  1. brian

    Alot of people pan this song saying it’s another one of Paul’s wimpy ones but I’ve always liked it! If it were released in the 1920’s people of that time would have been grooving right along.

  2. Dave Miller

    Since Paul played piano, and John played lead guitar, George played bass – and what a gorgeous line! Another masterpiece by all five Beatles.

    1. robert

      Hi Joe, an ukulele I can imagine and almost hear in this song. Notice Paul’ extreme high voice at 1:50 but I can’t recover a guitarsolo in it (white album) do you?

  3. Garret

    I think any hatred toward this song as one of Paul’s silly songs is misdirected. Individually, yes, it is “fruity”, but taken in the overall context of the White Album it adds to the diverse musical landscape that the Beatles created that sets them apart from all other groups. It’s quite enjoyable.

    1. Pablo Castro

      More than that, it´s nothing simple to write a tune in another style that is , at the same time, credible and original, not a pastiche or an tongue-in-cheek imitation. That´s why music never should be analysed only by the “quality of the lyrics” , even because its lyrics are great, in that style. The apropriate introduction is splendid, resuming the theme of the song, just like Tin Pan Alley´s tradition. Whoever writes songs understands how difficult it is to write this kind of “silly love song”.

  4. James

    This song is genius! Paul has amanaged to encapsulate all of the beauty and fun of the 20s vaudeville american music into 1 song out of nowhere in an album totally unrelated to this feel of this song. This song is a gem, its a 1 off and is a real joy to listen to and deserves far more respect.

  5. Holsety

    I just wanted to share that there’s a photo in Linda’s book about her photography of the Beatles recording “Honey Pie”; Paul is singing and playing piano, George is on electric guitar, and the session musicians are in the back. No John or Ringo in the picture. Just wondering if maybe George did the rhythm guitar or if there was an overdub later?

  6. Graham Paterson

    Just to add. Paul McCartney had a great fondness for music hall. His Dad was in a band and this obviously is a reflection of this. Just as “When I’m Sixty Four” was on “Sgt Pepper” and “You Gave Me The Answer” on the Wings album “Venus and Mars”. “Honey Pie”, just adds another twist to the great variety of song styles you get on the”White Album”.There is a brilliant tongue and cheek element to a number of the songs on this double album. Ringo’s “Don’t Pass Me By”, John’s “Glass Onion”, George’s “Savoy Truffle”, Paul’s “Oblidi Oblida”. This aspect to The Beatles compositions was evident right from the beginning to the very end i.e. “Her Majesty” off “Abbey Road”.

  7. rollingpeople

    The mono version is by far superior, with few more notes in the solo that really makes it even more vaudeville. I agree the rhythm guitar sound like John’s Casino, however I was never sure who played the solo. The woodwind arrangement is excellent, really elevates the song to another level.

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