“The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill” is a Beatles’ song from their “White Album”, of course. Indeed, as the title suggests, there is a true story behind it all as we shall soon find out!
Recorded: 8th October, 1968
Studio: EMI Studios, London
Genre: Folk rock
Track Duration: 3:18
Record Label: Apple Records
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Ken Scott
John Lennon: lead vocal, acoustic guitar, organ, also the Mellotron
Paul McCartney: backing vocal, also the bass guitar
George Harrison: backing vocal, also the acoustic guitar
Ringo Starr: backing vocal, drums, also the tambourine
Chris Thomas: Mellotron
Yoko Ono**: lead vocal as well as the backing vocals
Maureen Starkey: backing vocal
** This was the first and only time a female has had a lead vocal in a Beatles’ song.
The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill
Written by John Lennon while in India, “The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill” is all about the actions of a young American, Richard A. Cooke III (aka Rik). At the time, Rik’s mother, Nancy Cooke de Herrera, and The Beatles were staying at the Ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh. The song came about while Rik was visiting his mother.
Rik, his mother, and some others “went out tiger hunting” with a pack of elephants. However, a tiger was about to attack the elephants when Rik shot and killed it. Being instantly proud of what he had just done, they took photographs of Rik and his kill.
However, soon after the kill, Rik began to feel remorse. In fact, he returned to the Ashram to seek spiritual enlightenment and he never hunted again after that incident.
“Rik told me that he felt bad about it and said that he didn’t think he’d ever kill an animal again. Maharishi said, ‘You had the desire Rik and now you don’t 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 right where we were’. That came up in the lyric as ‘If looks could kill it would have been us instead of him’.”
A Hard Day’s Write, Steve Turner
Once John Lennon discovered what happened, even though it may have been necessary at the time, he began to demean Rik’s actions. In reality, the song was Lennon’s way of mocking the whole issue.
“That was written about a guy in Maharishi’s meditation camp who took a short break to go shoot a few poor tigers, and then came back to commune with God. There used to be a character called Jungle Jim and I combined him with Buffalo Bill. It’s a sort of teenage social-comment song and a bit of a joke.”
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
On the 8th October, 1968, in Studio 2 at the world famous EMI Studios in London, The Beatles completed the song in the 4.00pm-8.00am recording session. All in all, there were three takes with the final one being the best. Overdubbing took place on the same day with the backing singers being anyone who was available in the building at the time!
Yoko Ono sang the following line like a child, “Not when he looked so fierce”. Never before had a female had a lead vocal in a Beatles’ song and it would never happen again. With the White Album nearing completion, there were further tweaks to the track, including a Spanish guitar introduction piece.