Monday 18 June 2012

11:18 Dig A Pony

Dig A Pony is a song of two halves. The chorus is a lover's plea for help along the same lines as I Want You (She's So Heavy) whereas the verses are sub par Dylanesque gibberish that doesn't even try to reach for the heights of I Am The Walrus. It's all lazy free association wordplay (Rolling Stones = roll a stoney) and arbitrary rhymes (celebrate/penetrate/radiate/imitate) which tread the same ground as George's outbreak of rhyme fever on While My Guitar Gently Weeps (alerted/diverted/perverted/squirted), only less successfully.

The music is not much better. The beat plods and the verse chord progression is angular and ugly. Beginning on the root chord (actually the same alternating A to D/A that drives I've Got A Feeling) we have

A       A       A      A
F#m  F#m
Bm    G       G
Bm    G       E      E

The G is out of key (a bVII) and Lennon employs his usual method of subtracting (Ticket 37) and adding (Ticket 52) bars at will - thus giving us a 4 bar phrase, then 2, then 3 and finishing on a 4 bar one.

A few clever touches, but I don't think there's a single idea in this song that John hasn't used to better effect somewhere else. It's not even the only song with 'Dig' in the title for crying out loud!

And on that rather underwhelming note – we have finished our fourth album! So before we dive into the White Album (which personally I'm looking forward to immensely) you can expect a couple of 'concluding thoughts' type posts, an index of all the Let It Be posts and a review of three Paul McCartney biographies!!!!!


  1. Well, I like this song. One of my favourite Beatles tunes, actually, precisely because it plods along and because of the extra or missing bars. The song sounds a bit off kilter, as if it's about to fall apart, and that, for me, is part of the appeal.
    You know what they say; one man's trash is another man's treasure...

    1. Hey Geordie - I was just thinking that I love your comments cos you always give musical reasons for disagreeing with me and then I found blogger had marked it as spam. Bad Blogger!!!

  2. The White Album, now we're getting somewhere! Although it's more a solo album then a Beatle album. From a songwriting perspective albums like For Sale and Revolver may be more interesting. The White Album is very straightforward (except Happiness Is A Warm Gun).

  3. I think these are some of the worst put together lyrics that have been put together. It is a song that I skip very often.

    The chorus is much better than the verse, but even then it doesn't get close to "She's so... ... heavy"

    I too am looking forward to your thoughts on The White Album.

  4. Thanks guys! You really think so Rob? I was just looking at Julia, which is the first song up and it looks mental!!!!! With Abbey Road and Rubber Soul I had to 'learn' the album. With the WA I have to remove the layers of familiarity as I've been listening to it ever since I borrowed my sister C120 cassette tape copy!

  5. I have to disagree. Perhaps Dig A Pony doesn't have the most sophisticated structure, but it so loose and Paul and John sound like they are having so much fun singing the choruses. This is what makes Let It Be so unique from their other albums.

    For what it's worth, Dig A Pony is a "most requested" song when I bust out Beatles Rock Band. lol

    Thanks for all the song reviews, Matt - they are awesome!!

  6. Bit of an aside here, but what story does that picture tell?

    1. Probably Lennon giving a pair of donkeys to every word leader to promote world peace...?

  7. I actually think this it's a pretty interesting song. If I had to pick just a couple of highlights:

    1) Ringo's drumming. The song is in 3/4 - but I'm not convinced Ringo approaches it that way. The band swings a bit during the verses - but Ringo applies a more 4/4-like steady feel. He also manages to fit some of his patented Ringo fills into some tight spaces.

    2) The use of that G7 chord. Lennon loved the VII chord - but I think his adding of the 7th in this context unique for him. The melody doesn't actually use the 7th note (F) - but George highlights it in the guitar solo.

    By the way - recently discovered this blog and have enjoyed reading it. Great work and a fun topic.

  8. Thanks Lost - Very perceptive comments!

    Agree with you about Ringo - his fills are great and he really was endlessly inventive in coming up with a fresh take on each song. The verse sounds more like a 6/8 feel to me - with a strong accent on the 1 and 4, which is probably why it sounds less waltz like than the average 3/4.

    You may be right about the bVII (G in the key of A) being unique - though the individual change - Bm to G7 - is the same as the chorus to Drive My Car (where it is the vi to the IV). I've found a lot of examples in Beatles tracks where chord ideas in one song would get moved to different intervals in another song. There may be a few posts on that sometime... ;-)

  9. Yeah - the song can't decide if it's 3/4 or 6/8. The scores (for what it's worth) choose 3/4. I tend to agree with you - the 8th pulse is there to go ahead and call it 6/8.

    I've been wracking my brain for another use of the VII7 chord and not coming up with one. I'm sure it's out there, though. A good example of where John had used these chords (without the 7) in this key before is "Help" - (Bm, G, E7, A)

    Lennon liked the flat-6 note. He typically added it by way of a minor 6 (vi) chord - ala "In My Life". He got there other ways, though. "Starting Over" used the A+ chord - and "Free As A Bird" uses the whole F chord. I'm guessing the G7 in "Dig A Pony" is incidental and is there only for blues feel. I just like the way George's used it in the solo.

    One other note: The song has another Lennon trait - a bluesy song that (for the most part) would hang within the pentatonic scale for the melody - but uses chords outside the key. "Come Together", "I Want You", "I'm So Tired" are a few others off the top of my head.

  10. Plenty of good points there Lost - the b6 is one of the first things I subconciously absorbed from the Beatles decades before I started BSA

  11. Dude who are you? And what songs have you written? As a bass player this is one of my favorite bass riffs of all time. As for lyrics, what you don't understand is that a lot of the time they aren't conscious (except when youre trying to write pop hits), they come from sub conscious. This song and lyrics are pure extraction from lennons subconscious mind. The same applies for many of Bob Dylans songs.

  12. I find it very odd that you don't seem to recognize humour in the Beatles songs. This is odd to me because I find your writing tone very witty and humorous; I've been enjoying reading this blog, you made me laugh more than once.

    So I think your insistence that lyrics in the Beatles songs must make sense in a narrow everyday prosaic sense is a bit misplaced. They were four very playful minds, messing around with words and imagery, creating self-effacing irreverent results. I don't see anything wrong in that.

  13. Hey Alex, thanks for taking the time to comment. You're right about the Beatles playfulness and humour, which are both qualities that I love them for and try to emulate. I've obviously given the wrong impression if you think I'm looking for the lyric to make sense. That's not really the point of this song. But just as you can have 'sensible' songs that are good or bad, you can have nonsense songs that are better or worse. For me Come Together, I Am The Walrus are high points of this style.

    Dig A Pony isn't anywhere near that IMO, and I think that's down to lazy rhymes and predictability, as well as the fact that it lacks the sort of wordplay (alliteration, assonance etc) that really make a track like come together 'sing'

    However, as you say, there isn't anything wrong with 'playing' or 'messing about with words/imagery' - I think it's vital to open up creativity. But not everything we write that way will be golden.

    Thanks again for the thought provoking comment!