Friday, December 28, 2007

Uke Track Discovered on Honey Pie

Musicians "discover" ukulele track on Honey Pie. Did we know it was there before? Did George play it? In any event, from now on, no respectable re-creation of the White Album will be be complete without it. (Or will it?)

UPDATE: Aha! Controversy! Read Arch's extensive notes in the comments, below.


Arch said...

I don't believe this is correct.

Beatles scholars, freaks and fanatics have dissected every note, every track, every chord and beat of their recorded canon and there is no mention of a ukulele on this track, anywhere.

Read Alan W. Pollack's excruciatingly detailed analysis of this song here:

"Banjo-like rhythm guitar..."

There's something that sounds like a ukulele in the right channel but it's actually an electric guitar, played by John Lennon. There is some discussion as to who played the short, jazzy guitar solo; Lewisohn stating that it was overdubbed by McCartney on October 2, 1968, while George Harrison had this to say in 1987:

"John played a brilliant solo on 'Honey Pie' --sounded like Django Reinhardt or something. It was one of them where you just close your eyes and happen to hit all the right notes... sounded like a little jazz solo."

Of course, at the time of this quote, Harrison was somewhat antagonistic about McCartney and his domineering manner in the studio, particularly toward the end of the Beatles' career, Lennon was dead and George may have just said this to get back (ahem) at Paulie who was heading for his "Hard Day's Knighthood" ten years later.

George himself plays bass on "Honey Pie", as he does on a few other recordings, most notably "She Said, She Said" and "Hey Jude". On "Honey Pie" and "Hey Jude", he plays a Fender Bass VI - sort of like a long-scale Stratocaster, tuned down one octave.

There's a staccato piano part in the left channel that also sounds a little like a uke (if you squint really hard) but, given all available and authorised research, there is no ukulele on this track, although there probably should have been.

There it is; the Beatles strived to avoid predictability and maybe, just maybe, having a ukulele on this song would have been exactly what listeners might have expected. John using his Epiphone Casino as a surrogate ukulele (or banjo) is more in keeping with their method of working.

By the time "Honey Pie" was recorded, all of the Fabs were quite taken with one Tiny Tim and that may be one reason why, if they and George Martin had thought of it at all, decided against using a ukulele in the arrangement and instrumentation.

If anyone can produce evidence of the existence of a uke on any of the tracks recorded at London's Trident Studios on October 1, 2 and 4, 1968, it'll be a revelation that will set millions of trivia-hungry Beatle People slobbering and foaming at the mouth, me included.

Gary said...

Thanks, Arch. This is really interesting!

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