Dig a Pony - The Beatles

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"Dig a Pony" - The Beatles (1969)

Lennon wrote “Dig A Pony” his soon-to-be wife Yoko Ono, and featured a multitude of strange, seemingly nonsense phrases which were strung together in what Lennon refers to as a Dylan style of lyric.

In 1972 he said:

“I was just having fun with words. It was literally a nonsense song. You just take words and you stick them together, and you see if thy have any meaning. Some of them do and some of them don’t.”
In 1980 he called the song “another piece of garbage.”

The track features an “aggressive ostinato riff,” a motif or phrase, that persistently repeats in the same musical voice, usually at the same pitch. According to Alan Pollack this introduces the speaker’s unabashed, free-form ruminations about falling in love. The speaker’s attempt to express his passion with concrete words underscores the seeming impossibility of capturing the nature of romantic love with the precision of concise language.

The entropy oozing out of the three-beat measures of “Dig A Pony” impacts a mixture of charm and pun. Music critic Steve Handleman calls the song a “junkie’s verbal ramble” until the junkie “comes clean” as it were, crying out, “All I want is you/Everything has got to be just like you want it to.”

Handelman writes:

“Lines such as you can syndicate any boat you row,’ or his swipe at the Rolling Stones, ‘I roll a stoney,’are as intriguing as any ever concocted by Lennon, which is not to suggest they can lay claim to coherence.”

Dennis Alstrand, author of Evolution of Rock Bass Playing; McCartney Style, wonders how true the accepted version is that the group did not enjoy the Let It Be recording sessions due to their impending break up. “Dig A Pony” shows how much fun they seem to be having:

“The track is a good example of how a bass player can best underscore a guitar heavy composition. At times the bass is following the guitar lines, and at times it plays counter to the guitars.”
Alan Pollack points out that the amount of non-routine musical detail in “Dig A Pony” is all the more surprising and impressive because of its intentionally candid, rough presentation. He says that two of John’s most familiar and effective musical personae are, for lack of better labels, the “Exhorting Prophet” and the “Love Obsessed Screamer”.

“We’re used to encountering these one at a time, in separate pieces. One of the most unusual aspects of ‘Dig A Pony’ may be the way it makes a special effect out of alternating the two of them in real time within the same song.”

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