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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"The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill"

Midway through the Beatles' stay in India, they were joined by a young Yankee named Richard Cooke III. The crew-cut sporting former college athlete was there to visit his mother Nancy, a longtime follower of the Maharishi who had alienated the other devotees by finagling a private bungalow next to the master. (Fellow TM student Mia Farrow described her as "a self-important middle-aged American woman" in her memoir, though she remained friendly with George Harrison for the remainder of his life.) Richard ran afoul of Lennon when he and his mother decided to hop some elephants one day and go tiger hunting. According to Nancy's reminiscence in her book, Beyond Gurus, they had been assured that killing these creatures was a "traditional act," but to Lennon the whole expedition smacked of hypocrisy. "There was a guy who took a short break to go away and shoot a few poor tigers and then came back to commune with God," he described in 1980.

Richard got his prize, shooting a feline not between the eyes but "right through the ear." He was disturbed by the bloodshed, and his pride quickly turned to guilt as he returned to the camp. To assuage fears of karmic reprisal, he paid a visit to the Maharishi, who happened to be in the midst of an audience with Lennon and Harrison. "Rik told him that he felt bad about it and said that he didn't think he'd ever kill an animal again," Nancy told author Steve Turner in his book, A Hard Day's Write. "Maharishi said, 'You had the desire, Rik and now you no longer have the desire?' Then John asked, 'Don't you call that slightly life destructive?' I said, 'Well John, it was either the tiger or us. The tiger was jumping right where we were.'"

The incident would be recounted almost in its entirety in a new Lennon composition, barring a few comic book tweaks to the name. "There used to be a character called Jungle Jim and I combined him with Buffalo Bill," he later explained to journalist David Sheff. "It's a sort of teenage social-comment song. It's a bit of a joke." Musically, the structure follows a blueprint similar to "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" – meandering verses leading into triple drum hits that usher in a rapid chorus, which in this case bears a passing resemblance to the big-band standard "Stay as Sweet as You Are." Designed as a campfire sing-along, the Esher demo is even more loose and wild than the released version, with the band impersonating various animals on the second verse. Lennon double-tracks his acoustic guitar and vocals, and takes the part of "Mummy" that Yoko handles on record, while unidentified members keep time with bongos and handclaps. As the outro unravels, Lennon cheerily wonders, "What did you kill, Bill? What did Bungalow Bill kill?" ad nauseam.

In reality, "Bungalow Bill" never killed again. Richard Cooke III went on to work for decades as a photographer for National Geographic.

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