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

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"Rocky Raccoon"

Once characterized by McCartney as "a Mack Sennett movie set to music," the Beatles' "talking-blues" pastiche came together in a sing-along setting in Rishikesh. "I was sitting on the roof in India with a guitar," he relayed in 1968. "John and I were sitting 'round playing guitar, and we were with Donovan. And we were just sitting around enjoying ourselves, and I started playing the chords of 'Rocky Raccoon,' you know, just messing around. ... It was 'Rocky Sassoon,' and we just started making up the words. They came very quickly. And eventually I changed it from Sassoon to Raccoon, because it sounded more like a cowboy." It's been theorized that the love-triangle plot line of this "little one-act play" was inspired at least in part by Robert W. Service's 1907 poem "The Shooting of Dan McGrew," which includes a gunfight, a man named Dan, and a woman of questionable identity "that's known as Lou."

The Esher demo lacks the rambling spoken introduction, which seemed to vary with each performance to match McCartney's mood (earlier studio takes have Rocky hailing from "a little town in Minnesota"), and also the verses detailing the drunken doctor – which potentially stemmed from a real incident in December 1965 when a tipsy off-duty physician performed an emergency stitch job on McCartney's lip following a moped wipeout. Anticipating the honky-tonk tack piano that would be added latter, Harrison echoes each line of the verse with country-ish guitar flourishes that were sadly edited out of the final recording. Without any percussive elements beyond tambourines to signal the rhythm changeups, the early version of "Rocky Raccoon" can border on the monotonous at times, but the rockabilly fake-out on the ending definitely warrants special attention.

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