The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill - The Beatles

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"The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" - The Beatles (1968)

One version of its origins of "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" was that it was inspired by Richard A. Cooke, whose mother, Nancy Cooke, was a follower of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi from before the Beatles met him. Cooke had apparently visited the Rishikesh community to see his mother and while there had decided to go tiger hunting. Taking his mother with him, Cooke actually shot a tiger that leapt at them both.

Lennon was a bit more vague on the origins, saying:

“There used to be a character called Jungle Jim and I combined him with Buffalo Bill. It’s short of a teenage social comment song, and a bit of a joke.”

McCartney hardly thought it was a joke. Commenting on it in the mid-1990s, he said:

“This is another of his great songs and it’s one of my favorites because it stands for a lot of what I believe in now. ‘Did you really have to shoot that tiger’ is its message, ‘Aren’t you a big guy? Aren’t you a brave man.’ I think John put it very well.”

The opening riff which sounds like a flamenco guitar was actually played on a Mellotron, which is a type of synthesizer. The backing ensemble is predominated by acoustic guitar, drum kit without cymbals, bass guitar, tambourine, and in the verses, some kind of tremolo guitar strumming. A bassoon shows up in the outro.

Beatle scholar Alan Pollack points out how the song is an example of a folk ballad notable in for the way in which the refrain is used as an intro, and is repeated several times (“Sing it, one more time, everybody!”) at the end. This, he contends, creates an atmosphere of a live, rather than studio, performance.”

 “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” is generally considered to be a mockery of American gun culture. Despite its child-like sound- there is definitely something knowingly adult and ambiguous in John’s verbal whirls or pirouettes as the understated social comments elevates the track above its child-like presentation. The chorus includes the accompaniment of children: a duality of innocence and insight which serves the track’s purpose of social criticism.

The song had its share of critics. David Quantick, who wrote the only book on The White Album, said that for all its honesty and accuracy, he claims it was the dullest songs on the album arguing that the production is murky, the melody drags, and far too much irony for a song- even a Beatle track.

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