Follow by Email

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dig a Pony

An assistant kneels before John with the lyrics to Dig a Pony
When the Beatles reported to Twickenham Film Studios on January 2nd, 1969 to begin rehearsals for the Get Back project, Dig a Pony was one of the first songs that they worked on.  On the one hand, it was pretty much standard procedure for the group to concentrate on a Lennon composition at the outset of sessions for a new album.  On the other hand, this was surprising given that Lennon brought very little new material to this entire endeavor.

Once the sessions moved to Savile Row on January 22nd, the song was well-rehearsed as you can hear on Anthology 3.  By this time George's guitar solo is prearranged, something that had also been standard procedure from early on in the group's recording career.  Either John flubs some lyrics near the end or he had not quite finished writing the final verse yet, but otherwise the arrangement is set.

Much the same can be said for the runthrough on the 24th, which Glyn Johns used for his Get Back albums.  The erstwhile producer tacked on Lennon's "We'll do Dig a Pony straight into I've Got a Fever" remark from the 22nd onto the beginning of this track.  And John fumbles the lyrics at the same point as he did on the 22nd.  It should also be noted that the "All I want is..." phrase at the top and bottom of the song is in place on both of these versions.

The ultimate performance of the song was, of course, from the famous rooftop concert on January 30th.  The boys only did the number once in the middle of their set, but they were clearly warmed up and fully enjoying the moment by the time they attacked it.  John made sure that an assistant held the lyrics up for him to see as he played and sang what is easily the best version of the song.  Phil Spector wisely chose it for the Let It Be album.  He lopped off the "All I want is..." bits, but he did keep in the false start and a little of the chatter at the end.

When the Let It Be...Naked album was assembled in 2003, the rooftop performance was once again chosen.  The ambient chatter before and after is gone and, strangely, Spector's omission of the "All I want is..." phrases is used.

I have to admit that this has always been one of my least favorite Beatles tracks.  Though I can now appreciate that the arrangement is quite tight, it always struck me as being rather sloppy.  And the wordplay feels lacking somehow when compared to other Lennon compositions such as I Am the Walrus, Glass Onion or even Cry Baby Cry.  Had the group not been committed to doing a live album with no overdubs, it would have been interesting to hear how this song might have been more fully developed in the studio.

No comments:

Post a Comment