Recorded as one with Sun King, Mean Mr Mustard was composed in India by John Lennon in spring 1968.
Mean Mr Mustard was considered for inclusion on the White Album. A demo version was recorded in May 1968 at George Harrison’s home, Kinfauns, and was released on Anthology 3 and some formats of the 50th anniversary reissue of the White Album.
In Mean Mr Mustard I said ‘his sister Pam’ – originally it was ‘his sister Shirley’ in the lyric. I changed it to Pam to make it sound like it had something to do with it [Polythene Pam]. They are only finished bits of crap that I wrote in India.
Mean Mr Mustard was based on a miserly man, John Alexander Mustard, about whom Lennon read in the Daily Mirror on 7 June 1967. Mustard, a 65-year-old Scotsman, had been taken to a divorce court by his wife due to his meanness.
That’s me, writing a piece of garbage. I’d read somewhere in the newspaper about this mean guy who hid five-pound notes, not up his nose but somewhere else. No, it had nothing to do with cocaine.
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
Another interpretation of Mean Mr Mustard was later offered by Tony Bramwell, an associate of the group.
There was an old ‘bag lady’ who used to hang around the Knightsbridge end of Hyde Park, London, close to the army barracks. She had all her possessions in plastic bags and slept in the park. I’m sure that she had something to do with the song.
During the development of Abbey Road’s long medley, Her Majesty was originally included between Mean Mr Mustard and Polythene Pam, before Paul McCartney decided that the sequence didn’t work.
However, when Her Majesty appeared at the end of the album it was anticipated by the final crashing chord of Mean Mr Mustard, left in from an early mix.
In the studio
Mean Mr Mustard was recorded as one with Sun King. The Beatles began recording the songs back-to-back on 24 July.
They taped 35 takes of the basic track, although take seven was a version of Ain’t She Sweet later released on Anthology 3. Take 20 of Sun King/Mean Mr Mustard, meanwhile, can be heard on some formats of the 50th anniversary reissue of Abbey Road.
Paul McCartney’s bass guitar was recorded on track one of the eight-track tape, with a distortion pedal used during Mean Mr Mustard; Ringo Starr’s drums were on track two; Lennon’s guitar was on three; Harrison’s guitar was on four; and Lennon’s guide vocal was on six. The final take, 35, was considered the best.