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Dear Prudence

The history of this classic Beatles song

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Dear Prudence

The original US sheet music for "Dear Prudence"

source: rarebeatles.com

Dear Prudence

Written by: John Lennon (100%)
(credited to Lennon-McCartney)
Recorded: August 28 and 29, 1968 (Trident Studios, London, England)
Mixed: August 30, October 5 and 13, 1968
Length: 3:53
Takes: 1

Musicians:

John Lennon: lead vocals (double-tracked), backing vocals, harmony vocals, rhythm guitars (1965 Epiphone E230TD(V) Casino), handclaps
Paul McCartney: backing vocals, harmony vocals, bass guitar (1964 Rickenbacker 400IS), piano (Bluthner), drums (Ludwig), handclaps
George Harrison: backing vocals, harmony vocals, lead guitar (1968 Fender Rosewood Telecaster), rhythm guitar (1957 Gibson Les Paul Standard), handclaps
Mal Evans, Jackie Lomax, John McCartney: handclaps

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:

  • Another "White Album" tune written while the Beatles were on a spiritual retreat in India in the spring of 1968, "Dear Prudence" was one of a handful to have as its subject a real person -- in this case, Prudence Farrow, younger sister of actress Mia Farrow. Seems Prudence had taken the meditation thing so far that she almost never left her bungalow, and when her friends became concerned, John made up this song, on the spot, to coax her out into the sun. As John relates in the demo laid down George Harrison's home in Esher (May 20, 1968): "All the people around her were very worried about her because she was going insane... so we sang to her." (The lads at first tried to reach her by singing "Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da," but this song was written when that failed.)
  • This song was the first to be recorded using a finger-picking technique, usually reserved for acoustic guitar, taught to him on the India trip by Donovan. Here, it's used on electric. There are actually no less than five guitar tracks on "Dear Prudence": two of John playing interlocking runs on his Casino in the right channel, one each of John and George in the left (John's Casino playing rather distorted, brass-like chords and George soloing somewhat on his Telecaster), and one in the center of George's Les Paul, adding extra weight under the phrase "won't you open up your eyes."
  • "Prudence" had a relatively simple recording history. On August 28, 1968, the three gathered in London's Trident Studios, intrigued by the facility's brand-new recording console, featuring an unheard-of eight tracks. (Ringo was still in Sardinia, having temporarily "quit" due to Paul's insistence on playing drums on "Back In The U.S.S.R.") The basic track was laid down in one all-night session, featuring John and George's guitar tracks and Paul on drums. (Though many takes were attempted, the eight-track allowed the three to keep recording over previous takes, which is why the final take is somewhat erroneously labeled "Take 1.") The next day, all vocal parts were laid down, along with bass and handclaps. Paul added a rather superfluous piano track and some tambourine on August 30.

Trivia:

  • Though some reference books claim Paul laid down a flugelhorn part, this is in fact a misrepresentation of George's "dirty" Les Paul fills in the center channel.
  • "Dear Prudence" was never presented as such to Prudence Farrow while in India, though George mentioned before leaving that the song had been written for her. In subsequent interviews, she has expressed her admiration for the song -- while still insisting her near-catatonic method of constant meditation was the correct way to go. (Farrow stayed on after the Beatles left to teach the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's method of Transcendental Meditation.)
  • Lennon's original handwritten lyrics to the song were sold at auction in 1987, fetching nearly twenty thousand dollars.
  • The original mix of this song ended with applause from the group and the others gathered to provide handclaps, but this was edited out. The idea, however, would later be revived on October 8 for John's song "The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill."

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