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The Beatles Songs: Cry Baby Cry

The history of this classic Beatles song

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The Beatles Songs: Cry Baby Cry

The original US sheet music for "Cry Baby Cry"

rarebeatles.com

Cry Baby Cry

Written by: John Lennon (100%)
(credited as Lennon-McCartney)

Recorded: July 15-16 and 18, 1968 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England)
Mixed: October 15, 1968
Length: 3:10
Takes: 13

Musicians:

John Lennon: lead vocals (double-tracked), acoustic rhythm guitar (1963 Gibson "Super Jumbo" J-200), piano (1905 Steinway Vertegrand "Mrs. Mills")
Paul McCartney: bass (1964 Rickenbacker 4001S)
George Harrison: lead and rhythm guitar (1966 Gibson Les Paul Standard SG)
Ringo Starr: drums (Ludwig)
George Martin: harmonium (Mannborg)

Available on: (CDs in bold)

The Beatles (a/k/a "The White Album"; UK: Apple PMC 7067-8; US: Apple SWBO 101; Parlophone CDP 7 46443 2; CDP 7 46444 2)

History:

  • One of the rare "White Album" songs carried over from the previous year, John's "Cry Baby Cry" was written and demoed in late 1967, after a toy commercial inspired him to come up with the line "Cry baby cry, make your mother buy." He made no less than four attempts at the song while at his home in Esher, London, in late 1967 and February 1968, trying it out as a lighthearted musichall number on piano and even as a straight-up rocker on electric guitar. But he was never able to complete the original concept.
  • By the time he'd gone to in India to study under the Maharishi, he'd moved instead to a very "Sgt. Pepper"-like word salad about queens, kings, and naughty children, one heavily influenced by nursery rhymes such as "Six a Song of Sixpence," which also describes the everyday actions of each member of a royal family -- "The king was in his counting house counting out his money / The queen was in the parlour eating bread and honey." (Folk-pop singer Donovan, also present at the spiritual retreat, thinks the song may have been inspired by his own fairytale-style lyrics.)
  • The best Lennon could do for a bridge at that time was the phrase "Jai Guru Deva Om," a passage which would eventually be transplanted directly into the chorus of "Across the Universe," a song he wrote and demoed at the exact same moment in his timeline. "Cry Baby Cry," therefore, was to be structured without a bridge or solo, a very rare circumstance for the group.
  • Perhaps because of its unfinished nature, the loss of its original meaning, or John's growing dissatisfaction with florid wordplay, he never thought much of the song. Yet because it was demoed at George's "Kinfauns" home in May 1968 with most of the other "White Album" songs, it was recorded anyway, fairly early on in the sessions. (One wonders if it would have made the cut on a single album.)
  • The band spent all of July 15, 1968 rehearsing the song after finally completing work on "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da." Folk-based as it was, John led the recording on July 16 with his acoustic guitar, and Paul and Ringo took on their usual roles. The same day John added a piano track, and George Martin, in a very Peppery touch, contributed some harmonium. On the 18th, John laid down his lead vocal and Paul assisted with a backing vocal and some tambourine. That same day, the final touches of color were added: more of Martin's harmonium in the intro, some electric guitar flourishes by George to spice up the third verse, and clattering cups for the line about taking tea. When the song was done, the group began to rehearse one of Paul's new contributions, "Helter Skelter."

Trivia:

  • Although John did indeed tell Beatles biographer Hunter Davies about his idea for "Cry Baby Cry" while in the process of writing it, describing the original inspirational phrase as coming "from an advert," it's unlikely the ad used that kind of direct psychology. In context, John seems to be saying he was inspired by the ad, and didn't transcribe the phrase directly from it.
  • The infighting between the band members had already become so uncomfortable by July that longtime engineer Geoff Emerick, during the recording of this song, quit on the spot. He would later be persuaded to return early the following year, during the recording of the single "The Ballad of John and Yoko."
  • Kircaldy, mentioned by John in the phrase "Duchess of Kircaldy," was a town in Fife, Scotland that John had visited often when traveling to see his Welsh relatives. The Beatles had also performed there in 1963.
  • The Les Paul that George plays here makes its first appearance on a Beatles song. A gift from Eric Clapton, it was soon to play a major role in Let It Be and Abbey Road.
  • The original vinyl version released in America has a strange drop in the vocal level as John sings "by the children"; this has since been corrected.

Covered by: Del Shannon, Phish, Ramwey Lewis, Throwing Muses, Richard Barone, Samiam, Fool's Garden, Bardo Pond, Katie Melua

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