The Beatles: John Lennon denied ‘garbage’ Abbey Road song was about drugs

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The Beatles spent a large portion of time in India in 1968 to write their ninth studio album, The White Album. The record included influences from a range of genres including folk, blues and ska. John Lennon was not entirely pleased with every song he wrote while out there, however.


The band visited India from March to April of 1968, before returning to London in May and recording the album until October.

The record, which has been certified 24x platinum, included such iconic songs as While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Helter Skelter and Back in the USSR.

At the time the band also wrote and recorded a song which was later included on their 11th album, Abbey Road: Mean Mr Mustard. This track, however, is a song Lennon was not pleased with at all.

Speaking to Playboy’s David Sheff, Lennon said of the song: “That’s me, writing a piece of garbage.”

Lennon recalled where he got the idea for the song in the interview.

He explained that he was not writing about drugs, despite the lyrics which indicated otherwise.

The song coos: “Mean Mister Mustard sleeps in the park / Shaves in the dark trying to save paper / Sleeps in a hole in the road / Saving up to buy some clothes / Keeps a ten-bob note up his nose /Such a mean old man, Such a mean old man.”

The singer told Sheff: “I’d read somewhere in the newspaper about this mean guy who hid five-pound notes, not up his nose but somewhere else.”

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Lennon then definitively stated: “No, it had nothing to do with cocaine.”

In the Beatles Anthology Lennon touched upon the second verse, which references Mr Mustard’s sibling.

He said: “In Mean Mr Mustard I said ‘his sister Pam’ – originally it was ‘his sister Shirley’ in the lyric.

“I changed it to Pam to make it sound like it had something to do with [Polytheme Pam, another Abbey Road song].”

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Lennon added: “They are only finished bits of cr*p that I wrote in India.”

These interviews were not the only instances of the star denying his songs were talking about drugs.

One of the band’s most famous songs with narcotic connotations is Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, which is often abbreviated to LSD.

However, Lennon once again claimed this was not the intention.

Lennon told Sheff: “I had no idea it spelt LSD. This is the truth: my son came home with a drawing and showed me this strange-looking woman flying around.

“I said: ‘What is it?’ and he said: ‘It’s Lucy in the sky with diamonds.’ I thought: ‘That’s beautiful.’ I immediately wrote a song about it.”

Bandmate Paul McCartney later backed up this story, saying in Anthology: “I showed up at John’s house and he had a drawing Julian had done at school with the title Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds above it.

“Then we went up to his music room and wrote the song, swapping psychedelic suggestions as we went.”


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