A lighthearted song written by George Harrison, ‘Savoy Truffle’ was inspired by his friend Eric Clapton’s gluttonous love of chocolate.
‘Savoy Truffle’ on the White Album was written for Eric. He’s got this real sweet tooth and he’d just had his mouth worked on. His dentist said he was through with candy. So as a tribute I wrote, ‘You’ll have to have them all pulled out after the Savoy Truffle’. The truffle was some kind of sweet, just like all the rest – cream tangerine, ginger sling – just candy, to tease Eric.
In his autobiography I Me Mine, Harrison explained that the song was inspired by a box of Mackintosh’s Good News chocolates. Many of the lines came directly from the varieties of chocolate in the boxes, although Cherry Cream and Coconut Fudge were Harrison’s own inventions.
With its reference to ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’, ‘Savoy Truffle’ was one of two White Album songs to refer to different Beatles tracks – the other being ‘Glass Onion’. Further inspiration came from Apple’s press officer Derek Taylor, who suggested to Harrison the name of a 1968 film, You Are What You Eat.
‘Savoy Truffle’ is a funny one written whist hanging out with Eric Clapton in the ’60s. At that time he had a lot of cavities in his teeth and needed dental work. He always had a toothache but he ate a lot of chocolates – he couldn’t resist them, and once he saw a box he had to eat them all. He was over at my house, and I had a box of Good News chocolates on the table and wrote the song from the names inside the lid. I got stuck with the two bridges for a while and Derek Taylor wrote some of the words in the middle – ‘You know that what you eat you are’.
I Me Mine, 1980
In the studio
The Beatles – minus John Lennon, who didn’t play on the song – began recording ‘Savoy Truffle’ on 3 October 1968. In London’s Trident Studios they recorded the basic track of lead guitar, bass and drums in one take, although it is likely a number of rehearsals had previously been recorded and wiped.
Two days later, also in Trident, George Harrison taped his lead vocals, and on 11 October the saxophone overdub was recorded at Abbey Road. This was arranged and scored by George Martin’s assistant Chris Thomas. “I must say that I found it a real chore”, he told Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn.
The session men were playing really well – there’s nothing like a good brass section letting rip – and it sounded fantastic. But having got this really nice sound George turned to Ken Scott and said, ‘Right, I want to distort it.’ So I had to plug-up two high-gain amplifiers which overloaded and deliberately introduced a lot of distortion, completely tearing the sound to pieces and making it dirty.
The musicians came up to the control room to listen to a playback and George said to them, ‘Before you listen I’ve got to apologise for what I’ve done to your beautiful sound. Please forgive me – but it’s the way I want it!’ I don’t think they particularly enjoyed hearing their magnificent sound screwed up quite so much but they realised that this was what George wanted, and that it was their job to provide it.
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn
‘Savoy Truffle’ was completed at Abbey Road on 14 October 1968. A second electric guitar, organ and tambourine were added. Ringo Starr wasn’t present, however – he flew to Sardinia early that morning for a two-week holiday with his family.
The horns from Savoy Truffle are used in the love version of Drive My Car/The Word/What You’re Doing
Thank you for this. “Savoy Truffle” is probably the jazziest song the Beatles recorded and I’ve always attributed the stellar horn part to George Martin. The song is one of my favorites; I’m a keyboardist who knows every note.
“Mea culpa,” Chris Thomas! “Mea maxima culpa!” The fluidity, the fit, and the musicianship of that horn part is a hallmark in the annals of music on its own. It may have been a chore, but it is an artistic triumph.