When was it recorded? Jan. 30, 1969
When was it first released, and on which album? May 8, 1970 on “Let It Be”
Who wrote it? Lennon
Have I heard this song before? No
What my research dug up:
As with most of John’s later output, “Dig a Pony” began life as an ode to Yoko Ono, this one titled “All I Want is You.” The chorus of that number was transplanted into “Dig a Pony” and surrounded by a number of nonsensical phrases presumably inspired by Bob Dylan. This song was also
- John Lennon’s only significant new contribution to the Let It Be album (“Across The Universe” was recorded earlier, as noted in “Day 2: Across the Universe”)
- The first song the band worked on and recorded for the “Get Back” project
- One of five songs performed during the band’s “rooftop concert” in London on January 30, 1969 and the last original song performed there
- Quoth John, “another piece of garbage” (he said that about a number of his songs in retrospect though)
Despite what I just wrote about the lyrics being nonsensical (which they totally are), there are some lucid life references. “I pick a moondog” is a nod to the Beatles’ potential moniker Johnny and the Moondogs, and critics posit “I roll a stoney” is a shoutout to Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones (duh). According to About.com’s Oldies section, the original title phrase was “Con a Lowrey,” a reference to a brand of electric organs, but John thought the plosive Ds and Ps of “Dig a Pony” would flow better.
“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.” — John Lennon (1972)
Also ignoring what I wrote above, the Beatles first recorded “Dig a Pony” in early Jan. 1969. A version recorded on Jan. 22 appears on “Anthology 3.” Worth pointing out is that Billy Preston (who I gushed about on “Day 7: All Things Must Pass”) plays the electric piano on this number.
OH wow, it’s weird already. Moving on to the aforementioned rooftop concert and why I have Jan. 30 as the actual date of recording…
Quoth Wikipedia, “’Dig a Pony’ was the penultimate song played at the concert on the rooftop of Apple Studios in Savile Row, London on 30 January 1969.” I had a bitch of a time finding a video, which I couldn’t embed, and then I did it by accident SO hopefully the link below still works (lookin’ at you again, Apple Corps.).
It sounds like there was a lot of fun stuff cut out of that video at the beginning and ending, but I won’t dwell on what can’t be seen. Here’s the version that appeared on the album “Let It Be.” It’s from the rooftop concert (judging from Ringo’s “Hold it!” at the start), but… well, you’ll hear the difference.
Did you notice anything missing? Say, an “all I want is you” or two? Despite beginning and ending every recording of the song, Phil Spector edited it out during his Mar. 1969 process. Alan Pollack questions his motives more eloquently than I, writing, “if he felt the track [ran] too long (which might be a point well taken, I’ll grant), then the cut is not sufficiently large enough to make a difference. And in the meanwhile, he winds up eliminating an element from the original that helps reinforce set the obsessional tone of the piece.”
“Dig a Pony” is an odd, odd jam, but I think I like it. The groove is solid and it owns the weirdness of its lyrics in a way I admire. I especially like the “all I want is you”s because they tie everything together. Nothing else has to make sense — all I want is you.