Sun King (song)

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"Sun King"
Song by the Beatles from the album Abbey Road
Released 26 September 1969
Recorded 24–25 July 1969,
EMI Studios, London
Genre Psychedelic rock, art rock
Length 2:26
Label Apple Records
Writer Lennon–McCartney
Producer George Martin
Abbey Road track listing

"Sun King" is a song written primarily by John Lennon, but credited to Lennon–McCartney and recorded by the Beatles for their 1969 album, Abbey Road. It is the second song of the B-side's climactic medley.

Composition[edit]

Like other tracks on the album (notably "Because") the song features lush multi-tracked vocal harmonies, provided by Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison. The working title was "Here Comes the Sun King",[1] but was shortened to "Sun King" to avoid confusion with Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun". The song slowly fades in from the harbour sounds at the end of "You Never Give Me Your Money". At the end of the song, the music stops abruptly and a drum fill by Ringo Starr leads into the next track, "Mean Mr. Mustard".

The faux mixing of Romance languages occurs in the last three lines of the song. In 1969, Lennon was interviewed about these lyrics and said, "We just started joking, you know, singing 'cuando para mucho.' So we just made up... Paul knew a few Spanish words from school, you know. So we just strung any Spanish words that sounded vaguely like something. And of course we got 'chicka ferdy' in. That's a Liverpool expression. Just like sort – it doesn't mean anything to me but (childish taunting) 'na-na, na-na-na!'"[2]

Another noted aspect of the song is its use of cross-channel phasing, or stereo panning and fading. The lead guitar line slowly moves from the right to left channel and then back. This occurs in the beginning of the song, and then again at the end. In an interview in 1987, Harrison said that the recording was inspired by Fleetwood Mac's "Albatross". "At the time, 'Albatross' (by Fleetwood Mac) was out, with all the reverb on guitar. So we said, 'Let's be Fleetwood Mac doing Albatross, just to get going.' It never really sounded like Fleetwood Mac... but that was the point of origin."[2]

Cover versions[edit]

Booker T. & the MGs covered the track on their 1970 album McLemore Avenue.

In 1976, The Bee Gees covered the song for the musical documentary All This and World War II.

When Mojo released Abbey Road Now! in 2009, part of a continuing series of CDs of Beatles albums covered track-by-track by modern artists, "Sun King" was covered by Gomez.[3]

Musical structure[edit]

The song is in the key of C and the chorus ("Here comes the Sun King") involves a I (C)- Imaj7 (Cmaj 7 chord)- v7 (Gm7 chord)- VI7 (A7 chord) progression against a C-B-B♭-A vocal harmony.[4] An interesting feature (according to Pedler) is the substitution of the Gm7 chord for the Cmaj7 dominant chord at the word "Sun". This represents an example of the jazz rule that allows a dominant (V) 7th chord (here Cmaj7) to be replaced by a minor chord a fifth above (here Gm7). The synchronous B♭ vocal harmonises with the ♭3 (B♭ note) of the Gm7 chord.[4] The verse beginning "Cuando para mucho" is initially sung to a ii (F#m7 chord), which moves to V-I (B6 to E6 chords) on "cora-zon", then alternates back to ii (F#m7) on "Mundo paparazzi" and "Cuesto obrigato" before again V-I (B6-E6) on "para-sol" and "carou-sel".[5]

The song is also notable for the vocally constructed ii-on-V 'slash' polychord (Dm7/G) arising in the "Ahh" transition to verse ("Here comes.." and I (C) chord) while the bass makes the standard V (G note)-I (C note) move.[6] The frequent use of added 6th chords in the song accentuate its dreamlike feel.[7] The song also has an example of major 9th harmony in the Cmaj9 chord on "Here comes the Sun King"; here, above the tonic C major triad, both B (7th) and D (9th) combine in the vocals "to form a suitably lush fanfare for the monarch himself."[8]

Gnik Nus[edit]

A portion of the vocals was included as a reversed a cappella in the track titled "Gnik Nus" for the 2006 album Love. An instrumental section of "Sun King" was also used at the end of the track "Octopus's Garden" on the compilation.

Personnel[edit]

The Beatles version
The Bee Gees version

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 182.
  2. ^ a b The Beatles Interview Database 2009.
  3. ^ http://www.mojocovercds.com/cd/297
  4. ^ a b Pedler, Dominic. The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. Music Sales Limited. Omnibus Press, New York, 2003, p.198.
  5. ^ Pedler, Dominic. The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. Music Sales Limited. Omnibus Press, New York, 2003, p.62.
  6. ^ Pedler, Dominic. The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. Music Sales Limited. Omnibus Press, New York, 2003, p.468.
  7. ^ Pedler, Dominic. The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. Music Sales Limited. Omnibus Press, New York, 2003, p.470.
  8. ^ Pedler, Dominic. The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. Music Sales Limited. Omnibus Press, New York, 2003, p.570.

References[edit]

External links[edit]