The Beatles' Revelatory White Album Demos: A Complete Guide

We delve deep into the 1968 home recordings that planted the seeds for the band's classic self-titled double LP

Load Previous

"Mean Mr. Mustard"

Writing fictional "story songs" never came as naturally to Lennon as it did to McCartney – "He makes 'em up like a novelist," he once marveled – but "Mean Mr. Mustard" proves that he had great aptitude for such character studies. Of course, it always helped if the characters were the nefarious type. "I'd read somewhere in the paper about this mean guy who was hiding five-pound notes, not up his nose but somewhere else, and so I wrote about him," he explained in 1980. Lennon ultimately melded the song with "Polythene Pam" when it was released in its final state on Abbey Road in 1969. Few realized the pair of songs were demoed a full year earlier at Kinfauns until they were issued on the Anthology 3 double disc in 1996.

This early take of "Mean Mr. Mustard" features John by himself on double-tracked acoustic guitar and vocals. The lyrics are largely identical to the official version, save for the fact that his sister is not named "Pam" but "Shirley," reputedly a reference to accordionist Shirley Evans, who Lennon produced the previous year. It also features a brief bridge consisting of Lennon repeating the phrase "Mean Mr. Mustard, he's such a dirty, dirty," three times before devolving into mutterings of gobbledygook. This would evolve, somewhat inevitably, into "Mean Mr. Mustard, he's such a dirty bastard," when the song was dusted off for the Get Back sessions in January 1969, but the section was scrapped by the time it was included on Abbey Road’s Side Two medley later that year.

Back to Top