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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Dear Prudence

Prudence Farrow, Ringo and Maureen Starkey
Like The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill, the song Dear Prudence was written by John Lennon about an incident that occurred during the group's stay in Rishikesh, India.  Prudence Farrow, the younger sister of actress Mia, had spent days locked away in her bungalow meditating until John and George had persuaded her to come out.  Also at this time, John was learning the finger-picking guitar technique of Donovan Leitch from the singer-songwriter himself and his friend Gypsy Dave.  These elements combined to help Lennon write one of the most beautiful compositions of his career, either as a member of the Beatles or as a solo artist.

Sadly, Ringo did not play on the track, as it was recorded during the two week period when he quit the Beatles in the midst of the sessions for the "White Album."  John, Paul and George had already completed McCartney's song Back in the USSR in the drummer's absence and, on August 28th, 1968, the trio reported to Trident Studios to take advantage of its eight-track capabilities and begin work on Lennon's composition.

This thirteen hour session resulted in only one take but, as Mark Lewisohn points out in his book The Beatles: Recording Sessions, this is deceptive, as it must have taken numerous attempts to arrive at this one take.  John perfected his finger-picking guitar line, George provided a lead guitar part and Paul played the drums.  John and George overdubbed at least one more layer of guitars onto the one take.

The work continued at Trident on the 29th with John singing and double-tracking his lead vocal and Paul adding his bass line.  The backing vocals featured the unusual line-up of John, Paul, George, their assistant Mal Evans, Paul's cousin John and Apple artist Jackie Lomax.  Handclaps and a tambourine completed the day's work.  Paul provided two more overdubs on the 30th - a piano part and, reportedly, a flugelhorn, which I am still unable to pick out in the final mix.

Starting with John's gorgeous opening guitar picking, each component of this recording drives the song forward as it is brought in, helping it to build in intensity until it reaches its peak then quickly reverts back to the opening guitar phrase as it fades away.  Paul's drumming is an essential part of this, especially in the climactic fourth verse where he demonstrates a touch of the great feel that Ringo was always justifiably famous for.

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