Unlike a lot of artists, John Lennon was more than happy to turn around, take aim, and fire at his own back catalogue (admittedly as well as the output of others). Sometimes there was politics behind his finger-pointing, but other times it was simply a sign of the strident artistry that made him an icon in the first place.
His work even apparently inspired Steve Jobs toward perfectionism, as he once remarked in regard to ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’: “It’s a complex song, and it’s fascinating to watch the creative process as they went back and forth and finally created it over a few months. Lennon was always my favourite Beatle.”
Adding, while listening to the record with, Walter Isaacson he said: “Did you hear that little detour they took? It didn’t work, so they went back and started from where they were…yet they just didn’t stop. They were such perfectionists they kept it going and going.”
Thus, if tracks like ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ came at the cost of disdain for others, then it’s a deal that even a meddling FBI agent in a frustrating thriller would be willing to cut. One track, in particular, felt the retrospective wrath of John Lennon as he looked back at The Beatles gilded discography when all was said and done.
‘Dig A Pony’ prances into the second spot on the tracklisting of their 1969 outing Let It Be, but it was most certainly not to Lennon’s liking. It contains the sort of Dadaist nonsense lyrics that Lennon had propagated on ‘I Am A Walrus’ and other hit tracks but on this occasion, he felt he it was less of Dada and more “garbage.”
Speaking in 1972, Lennon remarked: “I was just having fun with words. 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.” In 1980, he then confirmed that ‘Dig A Pony’ was one where the nonsense hurling failed to hit the mark, calling the track “another piece of garbage.”
However, as is always the case with anything obfuscated, people search for some sort of depth masked beneath the mayhem. In the 1988 film, Imagine: John Lennon, a fan asks the superstar for the truth behind it all, to which Lennon assures him the lyrics are nonsense and that “I just make it up as I go along.” With lines like “I do a road hot”, which was originally penned as “I did a groundhog,” it is quite easy to tell that he isn’t hiding any hard truths on this occasion.
The track, however, was originally bookended by at least a bit of normality that perhaps might have coloured the middle with some sort of context. Originally the song opened with the line “All I want is” and then closed with a final utterance of “All I want is you”, but the producer and murderer, Phil Spector, cut these from the final recording, and they only came to light on the Anthology 3 compilation.