“Sun King” is a Beatles’ song from their Abbey Road album. In fact, this song is on side two which is part of the long medley. However, the tune makes an appearance in their “Love” album as well. Indeed, “Gnik Nus” on that album features part of the “Sun King” track in a reversed a cappella. Also on the “Love” album we hear some of this song’s instrumental on the Octopus’s Garden mix.
Recorded: 24th, 25th and 29th of July, 1969
Studio: EMI Studios, London
Genre: Art pop, psychedelia
Track Duration: 2:26
Record Label: Apple Records
Producer: George Martin
Engineers: Geoff Emerick, Phil McDonald
John Lennon: lead, harmony and backing vocals, electric guitar, also the maracas
Paul McCartney: harmony and backing vocals, bass guitar, also the tape loops
George Harrison: harmony and backing vocals, also the electric guitar
Ringo Starr: drums, bongos, also the tambourine
George Martin: Lowrey organ
At the time of recording “Sun King”, The Beatles were finding it difficult, if not impossible, to stay together as a band. In effect, Abbey Road (1969) was the last album they would record together as a band. This is because they already done most of the material for the “Let It Be” album (1970). Be that as it may, the band was going out with a bang.
John Lennon wrote most of the track and he once said it came to him “in a dream”. However, it may well be that inspiration for the song title came from the nickname of King Louis XIV of France – The Sun King.
Fleetwood Mac Connection
The opening piece of this song is similar to Fleetwood Mac’s instrumental track, “albatross”. Indeed, the key and chords in the intro are almost identical. In a 1987 interview, George Harrison explains:
“At the time, “Albatross” (by Fleetwood Mac) was out, with all the reverb on guitar. So we said, ‘Let’s be Fleetwood Mac doing Albatross, just to get going.’ It never really sounded like Fleetwood Mac… but that was the point of origin.”
After roughly one minute of instrumentals, the song moves onto the lyrics which starts off with the original working title of the song, “Here comes the Sun King”. Possibly poking fun at George Harrison’s song with a similar title, John Lennon agreed to shorten it to prevent confusion.
Sun King Gibberish
After the instrumental intro, we get some memorable three-part harmonies which gives the impression of a meaningful song is coming our way. However, it soon descends into gibberish. This is because the last three lines are a mixture of Italian, Spanish and Portuguese words with no structure whatsoever. In fact, there is no need to try and translate because it’s almost impossible.
Quando para mucho mi amore de felice corazón
Mundo paparazzi mi amore chicka ferdy parasol
Cuesto obrigado tanta mucho que canite carousel
“When we came to sing it, to make them different we started joking, saying ‘cuando para mucho’. We just made it up. Paul knew a few Spanish words from school, so we just strung any Spanish words that sounded vaguely like something. And of course we got ‘chicka ferdi’ – that’s a Liverpool expression; it doesn’t mean anything, just like ‘ha ha ha’. One we missed: we could have had ‘para noia’, but we forgot all about it. We used to call ourselves Los Para Noias.”
The Beatles began recording Sun King on the 24th July, 1969, at the EMI Studios in London where they taped 35 takes. But, they recorded this song with “Mean Mr. Mustard” which followed Sun King on the Abbey Road album.
On the 25th July, overdubbing began with the help of George Martin playing the Lowrey organ. They added various instrumentals and vocals, of course. Finally, finishing touches to the song occurred on the 29th of July.
Many minor bands recorded cover versions of the song but so did Booker T. & the MGs. The Bee Gees also recorded their version when filming for the musical documentary “All This and World War II”.