Savoy Truffle

The Beatles (White Album) artworkWritten by: Harrison
Recorded: 3, 5, 11, 14 October 1968
Producer: George Martin
Engineers: Barry Sheffield, Ken Scott

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

George Harrison: vocals, lead guitar
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, bass guitar, tambourine, bongos
Ringo Starr: drums
Chris Thomas: organ, electric piano
Art Ellefson, Danny Moss, Derek Collins: tenor saxophones
Ronnie Ross, Harry Klein, Bernard George: baritone saxophones

Available on:
The Beatles (White Album)

A lighthearted song written by George Harrison, Savoy Truffle was inspired by his friend Eric Clapton's gluttonous love of chocolate.

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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.
George Harrison, 1977

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 contemporary 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'.
George Harrison
I Me Mine, 1980

Good News chocolates (Savoy Truffle)

In the studio

The group - 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, 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.

Brian Gibson, engineer
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

Savoy Truffle was completed at Abbey Road on 14 October. A second electric guitar, organ and tambourine were added. Ringo Starr wasn't present - he flew to Sardinia early that morning for a two-week holiday with his family.

55 responses on “Savoy Truffle

  1. Ron Drake

    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.

  2. Franky

    This song has always been my favorite of the “white album”, the heavy brass work and the biting fuzzy guitar solo still make me chill after so many years. The story of it is very funny. Thanx!

  3. bruce

    WHAT? Harrison told the engineer to distort the brass parts? Thats why it sounded so annoying to my right hear. I dont like much of harrisons work. But this song is quite good, despite the distorted brasses.
    It sounds a lot more like Lennon’s.

  4. Warren B.

    The sax lines have always sounded somewhat fuzzy to me, but I’d attributed it to microphone overload, or some sort of overload in the mix. When I first read that the parts were “distorted,” I was under the assumption that they were eventually returned to their normal sound, as the tracks have never sounded so “bad” that George would need to apologize for it. Am I crazy?

    1. brian

      There’s no doubt to my ears Paul’s vocal harmonies are evident throughout this song. Quite clearly you can hear him in the second half of the line, “Coconut fudge really blows down those blues”.

  5. Razor

    I love this website. I grew up in the 60’s and I don’t really know much about how these songs were put together. This is one fantastic tribute to the best band in history.

    1. GnikNus

      I’ve always wondered about this, I really don’t know if John avoided having involvement or George just didn’t need him on some of his tracks…who knows?

      1. Joseph Brush

        How many Harrison songs did John not appear on?
        Lennon couldn’t make the Here Comes The Sun session because of his car crash in Scotland.

    1. Joseph S.

      Totally spectacular!

      On the other hand, the MONO mix of this song is, to be generous, the worst thing ever. If you’ve heard it you know what I mean.

    2. philmat

      Absolutely. Brilliant bass line and sound. Probably the Rickenbacker, which he used extensively on the White Album because of the punchier sound than the Hofner.

  6. Robert

    John was not on I Me Mine either – not the studio version or the Let It Be movie version.

    There is a chain of thought that after awhile John “conveniently” managed to not be on most of George’s songs.

    I think for sure the relationship between Lennon and Harrison was strange.

    Even though at the time of the breakup they were aligned (i.e., the Imagine movie scenes where George is at John’s house) during Let It Be Lennon Harrison had a fight which allegedly came to blows.

    Also by the time of John’s death he and George were not on speaking terms – and not only because of John’s minimal mention in George’s book I, Me, Mine

    1. GniknuS

      I think they weren’t on speaking terms because of the distance between them. George has repeatedly said that John was the Beatle he was closest to, even up to his death. John was just an ego-maniac and expected George to dedicate his entire book and probably his very existence to him.

      1. Vonbontee

        The fact that John enlisted George to play on “How Do You Sleep?”, symbolically uniting the two of them in opposition against Paul, is maybe notable. But that was 1971, and John was always changing his opinions.

      2. Joseph Brush

        I think they were not on speaking terms because John did not appear on stage in New York during George’s 1974 concert tour. Shortly after that John delayed signing the dissolution papers concerning the Beatles which supposedly infuriated George.
        I don’t believe John wanted George to dedicate his entire life or book to himself.

        1. GniknuS

          I was semi-joking about that comment, but really if you think about it, who would George Harrison have been without John Lennon? Maybe he would have found another band, but he certainly would not have reached the heights he did with the Beatles.

  7. robert

    While the Beatles have referred to their own songs in other songs before (Glass Onion and I Am the Walrus mention other Beatle songs) what’s interesting about Savoy Truffle is that by mentioning Obla-di-obla-da, it refers to a song on the VERY SAME album as Savoy Truffle.

    Thus using a reference to a song that had not even been released until Savoy Truffle had been released.

    I know of no other like song. Go George!

    1. Joseph Brush

      Perhaps George got the idea for that from one of his old rock n’roll idols. Fats Domino cross-referenced Ain’t That A Shame during his song Walkin’ To New Orleans.

    2. Sam

      >While the Beatles have referred to their own songs in other songs before (Glass Onion and I Am the Walrus mention other Beatle songs) what’s interesting about Savoy Truffle is that by mentioning Obla-di-obla-da, it refers to a song on the VERY SAME album as Savoy Truffle.

      Maybe the first same-album-reference by *name* (unless you count the Sgt. Pepper reprise). One could argue it’s not the first same-album-reference. “I’m looking through you” references “Nowhere man” (‘I’m looking through you, and you’re nowhere’). Then there’s “Hold me tight”/”You’ve really got a hold on me” which play back-to-back on With The Beatles. In Revolver you’ve got the ‘float upstream’ on “I’m only sleeping” which pairs with the ‘relax and float downstream’ on “Tomorrow Never Knows” (the upstream-at-the-start/downstream-at-the-end thing suggests a kind of vortex motion which is very consistent with the ‘Revolver’ theme). Later on, there was the obvious Mean Mr. Mustard/Polythene Pam reference, but that might not count for obvious reasons.

  8. brian

    I’d always thought this song was a veiled reference to a bad drug trip with lines likes “when the pain cuts through you’re gonna know and how” and “the sweats’ is gonna fill your head”. But there’s no reason not to believe George’s story behind it. the line “but you’ll have to have them all pulled out” tells it all. Just a great sounding song with incredible bass, the dirty sax work, and a stinging guitar solo!

  9. BOYER

    I had always thought that George Harrison was the writer of the horns part (I guess the word “arranged” means that : writing the notes). George Martin might have done it too, but I would never have thought of Chris Thomas!
    This part is so great!

    1. julio

      Shouldn’t Paul be listed on backing vocals. I swear I hear him all over this weird but awesome track. It doesn’t really sound like any other beatle song. Ringo’s drum sound and the rest of the recording have kind of brady bunch late 60’s incidental party music grove to them. Cheezy but I love it!

  10. Saxmeister

    Anyone know what high-gain amps were actually used for this sound? I’ve been trying to recreate it and haven’t quite gotten the sound right. Transistor, modern tube, and software distortions just don’t cut it.

    1. Brian Summers

      To me a good reference is listening to Walter Horton’s Harp on “Mean Mistreater” as well as Johnny’s guitar/amp tone on “Leland Mississippi Blues” Johnny Winter’s 1st Columbia release – “Johnny Winter”. The Horns part sounds to me like POWER TUBE saturation; considering his comment “So I had to plug-up two high-gain amplifiers” Not sure if Master Volumes were used yet at the time…BUT, maybe it WAS pre-amp gain?? Over loading a vocal mic with a pre-amp gives the same effect to vocals. To get the power tubes to distort, you gotta crank the amp!

    2. Jim Sheridan

      I think they were the RS61 Line-level amps. They used EF37A valves in a triode-pentode-triode configuration and had a big old 72H inductor in the output section. Would love to clone a couple of them someday.

  11. HowlerMonkey

    Not sure about what was used for distortion but the soundboard itself was capable of some very nasty distortion as evidenced by John’s guitar work in Revolution.

    1. robert

      I always guessed that by the sound of the lead guitars they were plugged directly into the board and allowed to red line into distortion. they don’t sound mic’d at all. i’ve gotten the exact same tone by going straight into the sound mixing board.

  12. paulsbass

    Funny how James Bond seems to have been inspiring the boys at that time (You only live twice came out ’67), since this is one of two songs featuring the famous chromatic Bond line, here in the chorus. The other one is “Glass onion”.

  13. dillon

    I got taught jazz guitar at music school with the first sax player on this song’s SON true story, art ellefson’s son Lee I was flabbergasted when I found out his dad plaid on the white album, still am!

  14. T. M. Warped

    The listing shows three tenor saxes and three baritone saxes. Having scored this tune for my own band, I know that the lowest sax notes are below the range of the bari sax. Was the pitch altered by using tape speed? Or maybe one of the sax players was actually using a (somewhat rare) bass saxophone?

  15. ScouseMouse

    A friend recently pointed out similarities between this song and Chocolate Ice, a song written by Mike Leander in 1964. The song was released as a single by ’60’s Merseyside group The Long and The Short and made the top100 (I believe). The L & S featured in a film ‘Gonks go Beat’ with (among other artistes) Lulu, she also recorded the song which is in the film and also on her album Something to Shout About. Mike Leander worked with the Beatles on the Sgt Pepper album, whether he had any input regarding this song I couldn’t say.

  16. tonyconley

    Is it hard to imagine that the lines, “You all know what you eat you are, but what is sweet now, turns so sour. We all know Ob-La-Di-Bla-Da, but can you show me where you are,” may well be referring to the missing from the track Lennon, and his heroin issues? Just a possibility amongst all the confection. I’ve never heard a word about this, just a curiosity.

  17. William Shears

    “Clapton’s love of sweets” inspiration is just George being coy. Clapton’s love of heroin (and the cravings for sweets heroin addiction creates) is the REAL story behind this song.

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