Sunday, 25 January 2015

White Album Redux #6: The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill

White Album Redux is an ongoing series in which I share notable or unusual covers of songs on The Beatles' White Album, one track at a time. 

Because the first part of the White Album includes such accessible, well-known songs as "Dear Prudence", "Happiness is a Warm Gun" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", it can be easy to overlook how weird the rest of Side One is. "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" may be the strangest of them all.

Lyrically, "Bungalow Bill" includes a shout-out to Captain Marvel, oblique imagery, and an irreverent singalong chorus. Musically, it's not as unhinged as "Wild Honey Pie" - its immediate predecessor on the record - but it does feel like the band throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks. Trombone by way of Mellotron! Yoko Ono singing lead for a single line (and the only time this happens on a Beatles song)! Flamenco guitar! (There's a defiantly strange and unabashedly Beatles-influenced song called "Giant's Rolling Pin" on Tori Amos' newest album, and I can't help but suspect "Bungalow Bill" is one of its direct ancestors.)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, professional covers of this song are few and far between, so it took some digging to find one that was notable enough for inclusion. Deerhoof's cover fits the bill. It's an off-kilter, sped-up rendition that still, thanks to Satomi Matsuzaki's cheery vocal performance, finds an unexpected balance between eccentricity and sweetness.