- Published on 1969
- Author: Lennon/McCartney
- Track 11 on “Abbey Road“
JOHN 1980: “I’d read somewhere in the newspaper about this mean guy who hid his five-pound notes, not up his nose but ‘somewhere else.’ No, it had nothing to do with cocaine.”
PAUL circa-1994: “‘Mean Mr Mustard’ was very John. I liked that. A nice quirky song.”
About “Mean Mr. Mustard”
Written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney, it is the third track of the album’s B-side medley. It was recorded with “Sun King” in one continuous piece.
The song was written during the Beatles’ stay in India; Lennon said that it was inspired by a newspaper story about a miser who concealed his cash wherever he could in order to prevent people from forcing him to spend it. On reflection, Lennon did not think highly of the composition, dismissing it in Anthology as “a bit of crap I wrote in India.”
A demo version of the song was recorded in May 1968 at Kinfauns, George Harrison’s home in Esher. It appears on Anthology 3 and the 2018 Deluxe Edition of The Beatles. In this version, Mustard’s sister is named Shirley. Lennon changed it to Pam when he saw the opportunity to ease the segue into the song “Polythene Pam“, which follows “Mean Mr. Mustard” on the album. According to Lennon, “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 it.”
As eventually recorded, “Mustard” originally was to end in the chord of D major—this would have led into the next track in the climactic medley, “Her Majesty“. However, since the latter song was moved to the end of the album, “Mustard” instead hard-edits into “Polythene Pam“, and thus the final note of “Mustard” would open “Her Majesty“. as a stand-alone track at the album’s conclusion. The complete version of “Mustard” (with its original clean ending) can be heard on The Beatles: Rock Band video game, as well as Abbey Road’s 2019 Super Deluxe Edition.
Meaning of “Mean Mr. Mustard”
The song’s lyrics paint a vivid picture of a peculiar character named Mr. Mustard, portrayed as an eccentric individual with peculiar habits. This characterization could be a playful exploration of oddity and quirkiness. Some listeners and critics have speculated that Mr. Mustard may be a symbolic figure representing societal outcasts or unconventional individuals who don’t fit into traditional norms.
“Mean Mr. Mustard” is part of a medley on the “Abbey Road” album, sandwiched between “Sun King” and “Polythene Pam.” Its offbeat lyrics and character stand out in contrast to the dreamy atmosphere of “Sun King” and the energetic narrative of “Polythene Pam.”
Like many of The Beatles’ songs, “Mean Mr. Mustard” may not have a concrete, literal meaning. Instead, it could serve as an exercise in creative expression and wordplay, showcasing the band’s penchant for imaginative storytelling.
Ultimately, the true meaning of “Mean Mr. Mustard” may remain known only to the songwriters, and it’s possible that even they may have left room for interpretation. The song’s enigmatic lyrics and catchy melody contribute to its enduring popularity among fans of The Beatles.
- John Lennon – lead and harmony vocals, rhythm guitar, piano
- Paul McCartney – harmony vocals, fuzz bass
- George Harrison – lead guitar
- Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine, maracas