Today in 1968, The Beatles began recording a new John Lennon song that would find its way onto the album now commonly referred to as “The White Album”. But tensions were flaring among the fab four, to the point that for the recording of “Dear Prudence”, they were the fab three.
For the month of August, we’ve been picking out songs from the archives of music history to reexamine and appreciate once again. While we’ve already covered one Beatles song this week, there’s nothing wrong with another extra dose. So far this week, we’ve looked at “I Am the Walrus”, and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s cover of the Jimi Hendrix song, “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”.
“Dear Prudence” was recorded in Trident Studios in London, where the Beatles used eight-track recording equipment to build the song. But before we get too far into the song itself, let’s first get some context.
The White Album
Originally titled simply, “The Beatles”, but commonly referred to as “The White Album”, was the Beatles’ ninth studio album. It was released as a double album, with styles ranging from blues, rock, and pop, to ska and nursery rhyme-inspired tunes.
During the recording sessions, creative differences began to cause arguments between the Beatles. Additionally, the presence of Yoko Ono during recording caused even more tension. As a result of these problems, Ringo Starr took a brief leave of absence. During this time, the remaining three Beatles began recording “Dear Prudence”.
While no singles were released for “The White Album”, it reached No. 1 in both the UK and in the U.S., and has been viewed by some critics as one of the greatest albums of all time.
Although “Dear Prudence” is credited to both John Lennon and Paul McCartney, it was mainly written by Lennon. The inspiration behind the song came from the Beatles time in India with Mia and Prudence Farrow under the guidance of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. George Harrison and John Lennon were reportedly Prudence Farrow’s meditation buddies, and tried to help her when her practice became obsessive.
“She’d been locked in for three weeks and wouldn’t come out, trying to reach God quicker than anybody else. All the people around her were worried about the girl because she was going insane. So we sang to her” – Lennon.
The lyrics to “Dear Prudence” reflect this, with optimistic, encouraging lines written by a friend, for a friend. “The wind is low, the birds will sing / That you are part of everything”. The music benefits greatly from Harrison’s “Indian”-style guitar parts, as well as the standard Beatles harmonies, doubled-up vocals, and various guitar parts.
As far as the recording sessions went, without Ringo there to keep the Beatles’ beat, Paul McCartney filled in, contributing the drum track for the song. And surprisingly, he did an amazing job, even including a drum solo toward the end of the song. Whether he did it to make the song better, or just to prove to Ringo that he could, though, we’ll never know.
While “Dear Prudence” may have been created during a time of strife within the Beatles’ group dynamics, it’s just another example of how they were all able to respect the craft of songwriting enough to continuously produce songs that stand the test of time. And although “Dear Prudence” isn’t necessarily my favorite Beatles song, I can’t deny the skill and heart behind it. But I think my favorite fun fact about this song is that Paul McCartney decided to show up Ringo on the drums for his ten-bar solo.
That about wraps up our discussion for today. I hope you enjoyed listening to “Dear Prudence”. We’ll be back again tomorrow to look at another song from the archives of music history.