Martha My Dear

The Beatles (White Album) artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 4, 5 October 1968
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Barry Sheffield

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

Paul McCartney: vocals, piano, bass, lead guitar, drums, handclaps
Bernard Miller, Dennis McConnell, Lou Sofier, Les Maddox: violins
Leo Birnbaum, Henry Myerscough: violas
Reginald Kilbey, Frederick Alexander: cellos
Leon Calvert, Stanley Reynolds, Ronnie Hughes: trumpets
Leon Calvert: flugelhorn
Tony Tunstall: French horn
Ted Barker: trombone
Alf Reece: tuba

Available on:
The Beatles (White Album)

Recorded without any other Beatles, the jaunty Martha My Dear was written by Paul McCartney as a piano exercise, and was released on the White Album.

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When I taught myself piano I liked to see how far I could go, and this started life almost as a piece you'd learn as a piano lesson. It's quite hard for me to play, it's a two-handed thing, like a little set piece. In fact I remember one or two people being surprised that I'd played it because it's slightly above my level or competence really, but I wrote it as that, something a bit more complex for me to play. Then while I was blocking out words - you just mouth out sounds and some things come - I found the words 'Martha my dear'.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

McCartney had bought an Old English sheepdog puppy in 1965, soon after buying his house in Cavendish Avenue, London. He named the dog Martha, and she was his first pet.

She was a dear pet of mine. I remember John being amazed to see me being so loving to an animal. He said, 'I've never seen you like that before.' I've since thought, you know, he wouldn't have. It's only when you're cuddling around with a dog that you're in that mode, and she was a very cuddly dog.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

Many listeners have interpreted the song as a message of love to Jane Asher, who McCartney intended to marry in 1968. However, in 1997 he revealed that it was his dog that had been the inspiration behind Martha My Dear.

It's a communication of some sort of affection but in a slightly abstract way - 'You silly girl, look what you've done,' all that sort of stuff. These songs grow. Whereas it would appear to anybody else to be a song to a girl called Martha, it's actually a dog, and our relationship was platonic, believe me.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

In the studio

Martha My Dear was recorded over two days at Trident Studios in Soho, London, which had eight-track facilities.

McCartney began the song on 4 October 1968. He recorded vocals, piano and drums first, and between 6pm and 9pm 14 session musicians added brass and string parts. George Martin had written the score to a demo previously taped by McCartney.

From midnight to 4.30am McCartney re-recorded his lead vocals, adding handclaps at the same time.

The next day he completed the song with the addition of bass and lead guitar parts.

29 responses on “Martha My Dear

  1. Nicole

    My first significant pet was an Old English Sheepdog named Shasta. I was too young to remember her joining our family and about 10 when she left. I still think about her. She was a great dog.

    Now I have a Lhasa Apso named Juneau. Sometimes she reminds me of a tiny Shasta. One day I may write a song about her.

  2. Paul

    Some sources will say that the other three Beatles participated in this session. John on bass, Paul on Piano and vocals, George on lead guitar, and Ringo on drums.

    1. Khan

      The bass is very Paul-esque on this. Very clean, precise, and accurate compared to John’s rather “dirty” bass playing.
      Ringo on drums is a possibility, but the drums also sound a bit like Paul’s other drumming work.

      1. ??

        I don’t agree all four beatles were very skilled at any insturment if you don’t belive me listen to any of there songs and you will see the result of all of them sounding good together , this was until yoko ono broke them up.

  3. SgtPepper1909

    Perhaps the reason this song is so endearing is that on the drugged ‘White Album” you get a blend of Paul-esque wit (“Spend my days in conversation”) and his love writing. Consider it; you get it right in between “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” and “I’m So Tired”.

  4. revloveR

    Hello hello! I have a beloved aunt named Martha who lives in Ireland, and when I was a child I would spend a week at her house every Summer. My first extended exposure to the Beatles was in her kitchen; when we’d prepare dinner she always had music on -either the “blue and red” albums or the ‘Yellow Submarine’ soundtrack- and those songs became permanently imprinted on my brain (to this day I think of that kitchen when I hear some of the songs.) Martha would always point out how well constructed the music was, and how full of surprises the songs were, even 25 years after their release (this was in the late 1980’s.) Years later when I heard this song on ‘The Beatles’ I smiled and thought of my fab aunt. Thanks Auntie Martha for opening my ears!

    By the way Joe, you neglected to include this song in your main article on ‘The Beatles’, where you list songs recorded by McCartney without the other three. Because George and John always struck me as more the “loner” types, it’s strange to think that Paul, with his bubbly demeanor, was the one who most frequently excluded the others from recording sessions. One wonders if he did this purposely, or if his fastidiousness scared them off.

    And also Joe, congratulations on your terrific site. I love its scope, and how logically the different pages/sections link to each other (unlike many Beatles sites.) I also appreciate the comments of your readers; it’s great to hear from some people who are just discovering the joy of the Beatles through the remasters, and from others who were around during the original releases, and who can attest to the excitement they caused. Long live the Beatles and long live this site! Keep up the fab work.

    1. Joe Post author

      Hi. Thanks for the kind words on the site. I’m glad you like it! If your aunt Martha is online please let her know about it too – I hope fans old and young find something of interest here.

      I’ve added Martha My Dear to the list of songs McCartney worked on without the other Beatles. Thanks for the suggestion. As for why he didn’t involve the others more, I suspect it might have been his enthusiasm for recording leading him to just get on with it. He lived very close to Abbey Road in the 1960s too – it might have been the case that he got on with recording while the others weren’t around.

  5. Marc Vercruysse

    There is photographic evidence (Linda McCartney, Sixties. Portrait of an era, p. 150) that George Harrison was present and playing in the studio (with his Gibson Les Paul) while Paul is recording ‘Martha my dear’. Also visible are the six brass players. This picture doesn’t prove that George really played on that song, but in any case it’s possible. (NB: in the book the song is wrongly called ‘Honey Pie’, on which saxes and clarinets were used.)

  6. Maddy

    If I ever get another dog in the future, I am definetely naming her Martha! I actually had a close friend with a dog who had puppies, and each one was named after a Beatles song: Jude, Prudence, Eleanor, and Maxwell… maybe my future dog Martha will have puppies named after the Fab Four, too!

  7. ibefreeman

    My favorite part of the song, oddly enough, is what I believe is a Trombone right after “hold you hand out you silly girl, see what you’ve done.. The blending of Paul’s voice “passing through” the instrumentation is the bomb. For an instant, they become one.

  8. themessinger

    The session you’re referring to looks to be in September… while this was recorded in October of 1968.
    Your source even describes the photo as being of the “Honey Pie” session….

  9. Silly Girl

    This is the song I automatically think of when I think piano song. I mean, it makes sense because it was written for piano, but it doesn’t make sense because the piano’s only the intro on the record.
    My favourite line, very quotable: “Silly girl” 🙂

  10. OldFartBassPlayer Walt

    if you listen how the guitar fits in, gently adding color to
    the piano rhythm, it sounds more like a George-thing.
    Paul’s playing seemed flashier, more in-your-face, while
    Georgie is a chameleon, fitting into whatever setting he’s
    thrown into.

  11. 2much4mymirror

    Brilliant song. Such a sprightly effervescent melody, and full of a kind of wit that seems a throwback to Noel Coward or Vaudeville (“When you find yourself in the thick of it/help yourself to a bit of what is all around you/silly girl!”). I seem to remember reading that at least some of the intricate piano parts were taken from a classical piece. Can anyone shed light on that?

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