Mean Mr Mustard

Abbey Road album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 24, 25, 29 July 1969
Producer: George Martin
Engineers: Geoff Emerick, Phil McDonald

Released: 26 September 1969 (UK), 1 October 1969 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, guitar, maracas
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, fuzz bass, piano
George Harrison: lead guitar
Ringo Starr: drums, tambourine

Available on:
Abbey Road
Anthology 3

Recorded as one with Sun King, Mean Mr Mustard was composed in India by John Lennon in spring 1968. It was considered for inclusion on the White Album, but wasn't recorded in the studio until the Abbey Road sessions the following year.

Abbey Road - The Beatles

The song originated from a newspaper story about a miserly man who was said to have hidden his money in his rectum.

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.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Another interpretation 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.

The group originally recorded a demo of Mean Mr Mustard at Kinfauns, George Harrison's bungalow in Esher, Surrey. This version, from May 1968, was eventually released on Anthology 3.

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.
John Lennon

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, taping 35 takes of the rhythm track. They then added a series of overdubs on 25 and 29 July.

12 responses on “Mean Mr Mustard

  1. joe

    There is a play called The Beatles Slept Here and there are these characters named Minx Jinx and Finx and they are a part of Mr. Mustard’s gang. Does anyone know where the names Jinx, Minx and Finx come from in relation to the Beatles?

  2. WestIndian

    I think this song may be one of the Beatles’ best. I’ve always been touched by the evidence that, although the Beatles were breaking up slowly but surely, they were still so tight with each others’ creations. Listen to Paul’s backup vocals on this tune… just incredible. Incredible.

    1. Carmello D'Lorenzo

      First time I have ever replied to a comment, so here, so here I go. Mean Mr. Mustard (written & recorded in India) was a “piece of garbage”; according to the songwriter himself. Any idiot would know this song was the precluder to Mc Cartney’s “Band on the run.” This is actually one long medley ending with the appropriately titled “The End” & Polythene Pam” who allegedly “Came in through the bathroom window & I think Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” would have worked well in this genius of lyrical & melodic masterpiece. This is a Da Vinci painting, a work of art. Though not as popular (it was a joke people) as Jesus, Lennon/McCartney are still the greatest songwriters to join forces. Just think what wonderful songs we were all robbed of when some mentally ill person decided to end John’s life. RIP Mr. Lennon we all love your contributions to make a better world to live in.

  3. Gustavo

    Lewishon said there were piano, but Everett said it was John who played it.

    One more time, “…Pam” and “Bathroom” were recorded as one, and Lewishon said electric and acosutic pianos as well as assorted percussion were overdub, but didn´t mention who played what.

  4. brian

    I dig the abrupt meter changes. Lennon could do things like that. Probably without even realizing that it was as special as it was. Tunes like this one, across the universe for instance. Oh and of course Good morning good morning.

  5. stuartgardner

    I’ve always been nutty about this one; Mustard’s a riot and irresistible. In The Beatles: The Biography, Bob Spitz reports some rot to the effect that Lennon had said he was planning on saying “…rattle your fucking jewelry” while delivering his now famous (clean) quip at the royal command performance, and that poor Epstein was sweating bullets fearing he’d actually do it, but obviously it was never remotely conceivable. Something of the myth finds its way into Mustard, however, who’s taken out to look at the queen and always shouts out something obscene.

  6. Daniel

    I’m really curious about Mr Mustard sleeping firstly in a park, and then in a hole in the road, although it sounds more like “sheeps” in a hole in the road. I find this quite strange…. Was Lennon messing with us? Or did he simply think so little of the song that he never bothered to go over the lyrics more intently?

  7. Holly

    John pisses me off. The only reason the song is piece of crap is because he said so, he said this because he totally hated his carrer with the Beatles and thereon. He hated fame but yet, he decided to go big with the Beatles. Every interview i have read with John after the band broke up, all he talked about was his hatred of touring and stardom. “God bless John Lennon for trying to make the world a better place,” if that’s what you really want to believe about John then knock yourself out. John had amazing music, i agree, but don’t go blessing him before you don’t even know what kind of person he was. Wikipedia is not a good source by the way, so don’t look there. John Lennon is one of my most beloved artist but one of my least favorite people. Besides, I don’t understand why but people are sometimes blinded by what society wants them to know. for example: Paul is dead, there was a third person shooter at the grassy knole, Bill Clinton was a cheater. We are all just paper people living in our paper towns.

  8. Len D.

    Holly, being a lifelong Beatles fan, I had the good fortune to visit Liverpool recently. Loved it. Spent time speaking with Liverpool locals and heard their opinions. And I have read many books written about the Beatles. I must say that after reading and researching, I have to agree with you that John was not really a nice person. I’m sure his childhood had a lot to do with that. He just seemd to be so mean at times, almost hateful. And yet, prior to reading so much about him as a man, he was always my favorite Beatle creatively. So talented, yet it seemed he became lazy after the Beatles broke up. I think he needed Paul there with him as an incentive to excel. They fed off each other. John was obsessed with success until he achieved it. Then it seems he resented it in some way, always trying to distance himself from the Beatles, as if it was something to be ashamed of. Even his comments about his songwriting as a Beatle seemed derogatory. I think had he lived, he would have gone on to embrace his past, and would have provided us with more outstanding material.
    He was brilliant, but not very nice.

  9. Kenny

    When you say John wasn’t always nice I can agree. My cousin ran into him at a party in L.A., and in passing on the stairway John exclaimed “I know who you are, your that punk from Detroit” and then proceeded to give him a swift kick. That was the late Johnny Angelos who had one of his songs covered by Joe Cocker as did John also. I still think Lennon is a genius and one of my favorite singer/songwriters.

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