The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill

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"The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill"
Song by the Beatles from the album The Beatles
Released 22 November 1968
Recorded 8 October 1968,
EMI Studios, London
Genre Folk rock
Length 3:18
Label Apple Records
Writer Lennon–McCartney
Producer George Martin
The Beatles track listing

"The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" is a song credited to Lennon–McCartney, but written by John Lennon, and released by The Beatles on their 1968 album The Beatles (also referred to as The White Album).

Composition[edit]

This song mocks the actions of a young American named Richard A. Cooke III, known as Rik, who was visiting his mother, Nancy Cooke de Herrera, at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh at the same time that The Beatles were staying with the Maharishi. According to his mother, both she and her son maintained friendly relations with all of The Beatles except for Lennon, who by Cooke de Herrera's account was "a genius" but distant and contemptuous of the wealthy American Cooke de Herrera and her clean-cut, college-attending son. According to Nancy's life account, Beyond Gurus, the genesis of the song occurred when she, Rik, and several others, including guides, set out upon elephants to hunt for a tiger (allegedly presented by their Indian guide as a traditional act). The pack of elephants was attacked by a tiger, which was shot by Rik. Rik was initially proud of his quick reaction and posed for a photograph with his prize. However, Rik's reaction to the slaying was mixed, as he has not hunted since. Nancy claims that all present recognised the necessity of Rik's action, but that John Lennon's reaction was scornful and sarcastic, asking Rik: "But wouldn't you call that slightly life-destructive?" The song was written by Lennon as mocking what he saw as Rik's bravado and unenlightened attitude.[1]

Lennon later told his version of the story in a Playboy interview, stating that: "‘Bungalow Bill’ was written about a guy in Maharishi's meditation camp who took a short break to go shoot a few poor tigers, and then came back to commune with God. There used to be a character called Jungle Jim, and I combined him with Buffalo Bill. It's sort of a teenage social-comment song and a bit of a joke."[2] Mia Farrow, who was also at the ashram during the period, supports Lennon's story in her autobiography; she writes, "Then a self-important, middle-aged American woman arrived, moving a mountain of luggage into the brand-new private bungalow next to Maharishi's along with her son, a bland young man named Bill. People fled this newcomer, and no one was sorry when she left the ashram after a short time to go tiger hunting, unaware that their presence had inspired a new Beatles' song – 'Bungalow Bill.'"[3]

Musical structure[edit]

The song opens with a flamenco guitar solo (taken from a seldom-heard Mellotron bank of Spanish guitar runs).[4] The solo involves all seven notes of the Phrygian mode, including a Spanish-sounding flat2, a natural seventh from the harmonic minor scale and a blues-sounding flat5.[5] On some CD reissues, this solo closes the previous track, "Wild Honey Pie". The opening guitar solo is followed by the chorus in the key of C major, shifting between V (G on "Bungalow") and iv (Fm on "what did you").[6] What follows is a relative minor bridge starting with Am (on "He went out") then shifting to ♭VI (F on "elephant") and ♭VII (G on "gun"). Lennon then uses a V (E on "all-American") ♭VII (G on "bullet-headed") i (Am on "Saxon-mother's") and ♭vi (Fm on "son") to get back to the C major key.[7] It is sung by all four Beatles, Ringo's then-wife Maureen, and Yoko Ono (providing the only female lead vocal on a Beatles' recording, for a single line). The Mellotron reappears again using the mandolin setting and the trombone setting – the outro which is played by producer Chris Thomas. John Lennon, who wrote the song, is the primary lead singer. Like the majority of songs written by either Lennon or Paul McCartney it is credited to Lennon–McCartney.

Recording[edit]

The song was recorded by the Beatles at Abbey Road on 8 October 1968 and was completed including all overdubs in this one session. They also started and completed the Lennon-composed "I'm So Tired" during the same recording session.

This marks the only occasion in a Beatles song that a woman sings lead vocal, when Yoko Ono sings "Not when he looks so fierce".[8]

Personnel[edit]

Personnel per Ian MacDonald[9]

Cover versions[edit]

When Mojo released The White Album Recovered in 2008, part of a continuing series of CDs of Beatles albums covered track-by-track by modern artists, the track was covered by Dawn Kinnard and Ron Sexsmith.[10]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Cabrera 2009.
  2. ^ Sheff 2000, p. 199.
  3. ^ Farrow 1997, p. 139.
  4. ^ Streetly Electronics, http://www.mikedickson.org.uk/tron/spanishguitar.html
  5. ^ Dominic Pedler. The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. Music Sales Limited. Omnibus Press. NY. 2003. p 281
  6. ^ Dominic Pedler. The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. Music Sales Limited. Omnibus Press. NY. 2003. p 194
  7. ^ Dominic Pedler. The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. Music Sales Limited. Omnibus Press. NY. 2003. p 194
  8. ^ Lewisohn, Mark (2000). The Complete Beatles Chronicle. London: Hamlyn. ISBN 978-0-600-60033-6. p 284
  9. ^ MacDonald 2005, pp. 324–325.
  10. ^ http://www.mojocovercds.com/cd/305

References[edit]

  • Cabrera, Enrique (2009). "Only Some Northern Songs in The Beatles". Retrieved 10 November 2009. 
  • de Herrera, Nancy Cooke (1992). Beyond Gurus: A Woman of Many Worlds. Blue Dolphin Publishing. 
  • Farrow, Mia (1997). What Falls Away. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-47187-4. 
  • MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (Second Revised Edition ed.). London: Pimlico (Rand). ISBN 1-84413-828-3. 
  • Sheff, David (2000). All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-25464-4. 

External links[edit]