Classic Rock

MEAN MR MUSTARD

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Although decidedly slight in its duration, sizing up at just six seconds over one minute, Lennon’s Mean Mr Mustard (to all intents and purposes the second half of

Sun King, and similarly derided by its author as “a bit of crap I wrote in India”) is an ear worm of significan­t potency. Harking back to a character-based music-hall jokiness more readily associated with 1967’s Sgt. Pepper era, Mean Mr Mustard jarred the unsuspecti­ng listener out of Sun King’s comparativ­ely tranquil sonic siesta.

The central character, drawn in typically grotesque Lennon lyrics, was ‘a dirty old man’ who ‘shaves in the dark’ and ‘keeps a ten-bob

note up his nose’ based loosely on a miser Lennon discovered in a newspaper report, and fleshed-out with McCartney during their Rishikesh down-time. A snippet of an idea which without being co-opted for the Long Medley might have languished on Abbey Road’s cutting room floor until inevitably pressed into service as a 50th-anniversar­y box-set bonus, Mean Mr Mustard’s original lyric revealed ‘his sister Shirley worked in a shop’. When repurposed for the Long Medley, ‘sister Shirley’ metamorpho­sed into ‘sister Pam’ to better segue into yet another brief, if vivid, Lennon pen portrait.

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