“Rocky Raccoon” is a song from The Beatles’ “White Album”. Originally, Paul McCartney named the song “Rocky Sassoon” but changed it to make the character sound more like a cowboy. In fact, the track has all the attributes necessary to make it an “Old West” type song. Indeed, George Martin played the piano in a honky-tonk-like manner too. Furthermore, this song is the last time we would hear John Lennon play the harmonica.
Recorded: 15th August, 1968
Track Duration: 3:33
Record Label: Apple
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Ken Scott
Paul McCartney: lead vocals, also the acoustic guitar
John Lennon: backing vocals, harmonium, six-string bass, harmonica (indeed this is the last time we would hear Lennon play the harmonica)
George Harrison: backing vocals
Ringo Starr: drums
George Martin: honky-tonk piano
Paul McCartney began writing “Rocky Raccoon” while he was studying Transcendental Meditation in India with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The song is basically McCartney’s attempt at writing a country ballad. He does his with good effect albeit in a humorous manner.
The song describes a love triangle where Rocky’s girlfriend, Lil Magill, leaves him for someone by the name of Dan. Obviously, Rocky seeks revenge. A gun battle pursues but Dan shoots first. Rocky falls back into his room finding a copy of Gideon’s Bible and he sees this as a sign of God on his deathbed.
“Rocky Raccoon is quirky, very me. I like talking blues so I started off like that, then I did my tongue-in-cheek parody of a western and threw in some amusing lines. I just tried to keep it amusing, really; it’s me writing a play, a little one-act play giving them most of the dialogue. Rocky Raccoon is the main character, then there’s the girl whose real name was Magill, who called herself Lil, but she was known as Nancy.”
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
When asked about the writer, John Lennon once said Paul McCartney did, “Couldn’t you guess? Would I go to all that trouble about Gideon’s Bible and all that stuff?”
The Beatles started recording “Rocky Raccoon” on the 15th August, 1968, in Studio Two at the EMI Studios in London during the 7.00pm-3.00am session. There were nine takes that day with take nine becoming the master take for overdubbing purposes.
John Lennon overdubbed his harmonica piece, this being the last time he would do so on a Beatles’ song. They added further overdubs such as the backing vocals and George Martin’s honky-tonk piano solo.
The version which is on the “Anthology 3” album from 1996 is take eight from this day. However, the lyrics are different from the final version. This is because the lyrics evolved throughout the recording session. Despite this, we get a rather witty attempt at a Wild West song worthy enough to be on the self-title album, aka The White Album.