The Beatles song by John Lennon inspired by Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’
The Beatles are undoubtedly one of the most influential rock bands of all time. Let’s be clear, they are the most influential band of the last 100 years. But even they are inspired by other bands as George Harrison confirmed in 1987.
Many people have pointed to Eastern classical music as a point of inspiration for the Fab Four and while it is clear the group drew from wide-ranging influences they also, on rare occasions, looked towards the pop charts too. Whether it’s pinching the vibe of Bob Dylan or paying attention to The Beach Boys, sometimes the inspiration for their songs came from their contemporaries.
The same can certainly be said of one song which featured on the band’s 1969 album Abbey Road, the often-overlooked ‘Sun King’. While in 1980, Lennon may have eloquently referred to the song as, “a piece of garbage I had around,” it has become a cult-favourite.
Originally titled ‘Here Comes The Sun King’ but changed to avoid confusion with Harrison’s ‘Here Comes The Sun’, the track acts as a refreshing moment during the record. Fading in form the harbour sounds of ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’ the song ends with a unique drum fill from Ringo. But in between those moments are some really joy, if not a little silliness.
The second side of Abbey Road is imbued with a certain degree of revelry. The songs are slightly humourous or at least rendered with joviality and are maybe in reaction to the seriousness of the the Let It Be sessions which had come before it. But it did allow the band to improvise the final three lines of the song and mix a range of faxu Romance languages.
“We just started joking, you know, singing `quando para mucho,’” recalls Lennon in 1969. “So we just made up… Paul knew a few Spanish words from school, you know. So we just strung any Spanish words that sounded vaguely like something. And of course, we got `chicka ferdy´ in. That´s a Liverpool expression. Just like sort of— it doesn’t mean anything to me but (childish taunting) `na-na, na-na-na!´ `Cake and eat it´ is another nice line too, because they have that in Spanish— ‘Que’ or something can eat it. One we missed– we could have had ‘para noya,’ but we forgot all about it.”
The song may well have been a creation from the brain of John Lennon but in 1987, George Harrison confirmed that the song’s inspiration had a completely different jump off point: “At the time, ‘Albatross’ (by Fleetwood Mac) was out, with all the reverb on guitar.”
The song, a bonafide commercial-making iconic piece of music, is an instrumental guitar piece which put Fleetwood Mac—at this point without their legendary line-up including Stevie Nicks—in the driving seat for a new style of music. Far from the pulsating R&B of old, now Mac had changed the game and added a welcomed haze to their sound. It had clearly made an impression on The Beatles.
“So we said, ‘Let’s be Fleetwood Mac doing Albatross, just to get going.’ It never really sounded like Fleetwood Mac… but that was the point of origin.” The first notes of ‘Sun King’ are most certainly a similar motif and the imagery created with the Fab Four’s music is equally as enticing.
Eventually, the band take it into more familiar territory, using their three-part harmonies and tight musical ears to create a more welcoming psyche experience.
Listen below and get swept away in the glory of the ‘Sun King’