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The Beatles Songs: Dig A Pony

The history of this classic Beatles song

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The Beatles Songs: Dig A Pony

The Beatles at the "rooftop concert," January 30, 1969

Dig A Pony

Working title: All I Want Is You
Written by: John Lennon (100%)
(credited to Lennon-McCartney)
Recorded: January 30, 1969 (Rooftop, Apple Studios, 3 Savile Row, London, England)
Mixed: February 5, 1969; March 23, 1970
Length: 3:55
Takes: 1

Musicians:

John Lennon: lead vocals, rhythm guitar (1965 Epiphone E230TD(V) Casino)
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, bass guitar (1961 Hofner 500/1)
George Harrison: lead guitar (1966 Gibson Les Paul Standard SG)
Ringo Starr: drums (1968 Ludwig Hollywood Maple)

Available on: (CDs in bold)
Let It Be (UK: Apple PX1, Apple PCS 7096, US: Apple AR 34001; Parlophone CDP 7 46447 2)

History:

  • Reflecting the simplicity of John's recent musical turn, but also employing the trademark wordplay he was about to abandon forever, "Dig A Pony" (mistakenly listed as "I Dig A Pony" on early US releases, but since corrected) was the very first song the band worked on for the "Get Back" project (later to become the film and album Let It Be), and one of only five songs performed during the band's infamous "rooftop concert" in London on January 30, 1969.
  • Lennon had already come up with the song's chorus in another composition, a Yoko Ono devotional entitled "All I Want Is You," then built the verses around it, mostly in the studio, based on a series of nonsense phrases with similar structures. The band first attempted the song on January 2, 1969, then rehearsed and refined it on the 7th, 13th, 22nd, 23rd, 26th, 28th, and 29th. On January 30th, after a brief run-through, the band recorded the rooftop performance that would be featured in the film and the album. It was the fifth and last of the original songs to be performed, though the group would then go back over the set list and perform it again.
  • The lyrics of "Dig A Pony" were the most fluid and changing of Lennon's career: the title phrase began as "Con A Lowrey (organ)," but was changed because John thought the plosives of "d" and "p" would flow better. Similarly, the last verse's opening line started as "dog a boney" and accidentally became "bog a doney" before John settled on "rode a lorry." "I dig a skylight" became "I do a groundhog" and then, later, "road hog." In the next verse he sings "I pick a moondog," a reference to one of the Beatles' earlier band names, Johnny and the Moondogs. During the performance, an assistant held the lyrics up on a clipboard, to make sure Lennon remembered the latest version. In later years, John would be very critical of this song for its nonsense lyrics.

Trivia:

  • At the beginning of the song, the band does a count-off but then stops abruptly after Ringo shouts "Hold it!" Although it's often thought that the drummer was busy putting down his cigarette, the scene in the film clearly shows him having already put the cig down; he actually stopped to blow his nose.
  • In the film, "Dig A Pony" both opens and closes with a snippet of the "All I want is you" chorus, but this was edited from the album version by producer Phil Spector.
  • This song would not become "Dig A Pony" until the very last minute; test pressings list it as "All I Want Is You." John himself jokingly refers to it as "I Dig A Pygmy" during the rooftop concert, and the take on Let It Be preserves his other, post-song chatter, including a comment on how cold his hands are and an impromptu version of the standard "Danny Boy."
  • The 1988 movie Imagine: John Lennon features home footage of John at his Tittenhurst estate talking to a somewhat disturbed hippie who'd wandered onto the grounds, certain that Lennon was "calling him" in the lyrics to this song. John patiently explained that the lyrics were nonsense, and as such could have any meaning read into them.

Covered by: Laibach, Ray LaMontagne and David Gray, Chris Lightcap, Marisa Monte, St. Vincent, Screaming Headless Torsos, Kim Stone

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