Covering The Beatles is a task that can make or break an artist’s credibility. Some have sunk at this onerous juncture, but not St. Vincent, even if John Lennon did describe ‘Dig A Pony’ as total “nonsense”.
As Lennon did bluntly state, there aren’t exactly subconscious levels to be gorged on from ‘Dig A Pony’ and, in truth, it isn’t one of The Beatles’ most profound moments. However, that didn’t stop their devoted fanbase from attempted to make sense of his abstract lyricism and preposterous lines, such as “I pick a moondog” or the even more absurd: “You can syndicate any boat you row”.
‘Dig A Pony’ was Lennon’s attempt at a simplistic love song for Yoko Ono, and he communicated his undying devotion to her in a characteristically mystifying manner. These were just the words that came to his inexplicable mind during the microscopic pocket of time in which he penned it. People have spent infinitely more time scrutinising the lyrics than Lennon spent writing them or, in truth, even thinking about the song.
“I was just having fun with words,” he said in an interview in 1972. “It was literally a nonsense song. You just take words and you stick them together, and you see if they have any meaning. Some of them do and some of them don’t.” Lennon’s evaluation of the track didn’t soften as the years progressed; in fact, his indifference heightened, and in 1980, Lennon referred to ‘Dig A Pony’ as “another piece of garbage”.
St. Vincent, however, doesn’t think it’s a “piece of garbage”, and it’s a number that she has covered periodically throughout her career. Her version from Jersey’s All Points West festival is enchanting, and Annie Clark’s glistening one-woman performance of ‘Dig A Pony’ puts a delicate new slant on the beloved effort.
Earlier this year, Clark got to live out every Beatlemaniac’s fantasy when she received a call from Paul McCartney inviting her to remix ‘Women and Wives’ for his McCartney III Reimagined album. “After it was all done and everything, Paul called me to thank me and tell me that he liked it,” she recalled to NME. “It was the best moment of my life… maybe? I mean, I don’t…I don’t know where to put that.
Calrk continued: “One thing that occurred to me was, think about how many hours of enjoyment in the world have happened as a result of Paul McCartney’s music. Lifetimes and lifetimes of hours that people have spent listening to his work.”
“At the end of the conversation, he said, ‘It’s a great thing that we get to do, this music thing, right?'” she added. “I was like, ‘Yes Paul – yes it is.'”
St. Vincent’s cover of ‘Dig A Pony’ explains in just four minutes precisely why the mercurial talent is one of a select few McCartney-approved artists. She brings her own dazzling pinch of dynamism to the track and makes the lyrics feel anything but “garbage” when they gracefully sail out of Clark’s mouth.