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Sun King by the Beatles

The history of this classic Beatles song

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Sun King by the Beatles

The "Sun King" section of "The Beatles: Rock Band"

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Sun King

Working title: Here Comes the Sun King
Written by: John Lennon (100%)
(credited as Lennon-McCartney)

Recorded: July 24-25 and 29, 1969 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England)
Mixed: July 30, August 14 and 21, 1969
Length: 2:26
Takes: 35

Musicians:

John Lennon: lead harmony vocals, rhythm guitar (1965 Epiphone E230TD(V) Casino), maracas
Paul McCartney: lead harmony vocals, bass guitar (1961 Fender Bass VI), piano (1905 Steinway Vertegrand "Mrs. Mills"), harmonium (Mannborg), tape loops
George Harrison: lead harmony vocals, lead and rhythm guitar (1968 Fender Rosewood Telecaster)
Ringo Starr: drums (1968 Ludwig Hollywood Maple), tambourine
George Martin: organ (1965 Lowrey Heritage DSO-1)

Available on: (CDs in bold)

  • Abbey Road, (US: Apple SO 383, UK: Apple PCS 7088, Parlophone CDP 7 46446 2)

    History:

    • "Sun King" is one of the slightest, silliest Beatles songs, and yet, perhaps because it came from the mind of John Lennon, it has quite a bit of backstory behind it. He claimed to have first heard of the title in a dream, but Nancy Mitford's very popular 1966 history of France's King Louis XIV The Sun King may have subconsciously influenced him. One of many fragments left over from the group's ill-fated India sojourn in 1968, it was revived by Paul for the "long medley" that takes up most of Abbey Road's second side. By the time it was revived, first in the Let It Be sessions and then for this album, John had puckishly changed the lyrics and working title to "Here comes the Sun King," a play on George's new song "Here Comes the Sun."
    • The opening guitar riff, meanwhile, came directly from the Let It Be sessions of early '69, where it was closely tied into another John composition called "Don't Let Me Down." (Note the similarities of the opening riffs.) The chiming guitars and chords of the intro were inspired by Fleetwood Mac's 1969 single "Albatross," which was a highly influential hit in the UK. During the recording of Abbey Road, the band decided to return to this guitar figure for the outro; realizing the vaguely Latin feel of the rhythm, John and Paul made up a verse of pure gibberish in four different but similar Romance languages.
    • As with "You Never Give Me Your Money," which directly proceeds it in the medley, "Sun King" was learned, rehearsed and recorded by the band in one session -- 35 takes on July 24, 1969. (The group then overdubbed "Come Together" and began work on the "Polythene Pam / She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" portion of the medley.) It was rehearsed and cut as a medley with the next song in sequence on the album, John's "Mean Mr. Mustard." The next day Paul added piano and George Martin added some organ for color, and then John, Paul, and George sang the entire song in triple harmony, much as they would do a few days later, when they began work on "Because." Extra tracks were added to "Mean Mr. Mustard" on the 29th, as well percussion and Paul's harmonium for "Sun King," and the mini-medley was complete.

    Trivia:

    • The gibberish at the end of "Sun King" is made up of real words, for the most part, though they make no sense whatsoever in the context in which they're presented here. The first line is all Spanish: "Quando para mucho mi amore de felice corazon." It translates more or less to "When for much my love the happy heart." The second line, "Mundo paparazzi mi amore chicka ferdy parasol," contains words that have crossed over to English -- the Italian "paparazzi" and the Spanish "parasol," meaning literally (and probably unintentionally) "for the sun." "Chicka ferdy" is a nonsense schoolboy taunt straight from the lads' schoolboy days. The last line is "Cuesto obrigado tanta mucho que can eat it carousel." "Carousel" is actually a French word, which has also made it over to the English language; "Cuesto" is Italian for "very," while "obrigato" is Portugese for "thank you" (though the band may have been confusing it with the Italian musical term "obligado." "Tanta mucho" means "very much" in Spanish. Finally, the Beatles end with a pun: "que can eat it," a reference to both the Spanish word for "what" ("que") and the common English expression "You can't have your cake and eat it, too."
    • What sounds like bongos, or in John's instruction, "jungle drums," is actually Ringo draping his kit with small "tea towels" and then hitting them with timpani mallets.
    • Although, or perhaps because, it was prominently featured in the Abbey Road medley, Lennon would later refer to this song as "a piece of garbage."

    Covered by: The Bee Gees, Booker T. and the MGs, Percy Faith, Mike Westbrook, Tamara Kaboutchek, San Francisco, Mugison, The Wandering Bartletts, Emanuel Santarromana, Samson Trinh and the Upper East Side Big Band, The Devil's Rubato Band, The Atrium Vocal Ensemble, The Flying Nuns

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