Beatles – Rocky Raccoon

This coming weekend I’m going to attempt a Beatles album ranking post which I’ve never done… so I’ve been listening to the White Album. Rocky Raccoon is a  great way to start out the week

I bought the White Album in the winter of 1981 right after John Lennon was murdered. It has remained my favorite album ever by far. You have such a variety on this album and it gives you different glances at the Beatles without many studio tricks and sounds.

This song starts with a strumming guitar and then comes Paul talking/singing in his best western voice. Now somewhere in the Black Mountain Hills of Dakota
There lived a young boy named Rocky Raccoon. 

The main character was originally called Rocky Sassoon but McCartney changed it to Raccoon, as he thought the name was more cowboyish.

The original title of the album was going to be “A Doll’s House“… but the band  Family used the title Music from a Doll’s House for its debut album, so The Beatles scrapped the idea. The album’s real name ended up being “The Beatles” but the plain white cover nickname soon took over. From some accounts here is the original cover.

A Doll's House

In 1968, McCartney got the idea for it when he was playing guitar with John Lennon and Donovan Leitch at the Maharishi’s camp in India. Rocky in the song is a cowboy in the old west and challenges Dan when Dan ran off with Rocky’s girl. In the gunfight, Dan is too quick and shoots Rocky wounding him. When the song was recorded… Beatles producer George Martin played the piano in an old-west saloon style.

Rocky in this song is not a raccoon but a boy whose girl runs off with his rival, Dan. The song is set in the Old West, so Rocky does what any self-respecting cowboy would do: he challenges Dan to a gunfight. Unfortunately for Rocky, he Dan is quick on the draw and shoots him first, wounding Rocky and proving himself worthy of the girl.

The album peaked at #1 in the US, Canada, UK, and just about everywhere in 1968.

Paul McCartney: “Rocky was me writing (speaks-sings in a baccy-chewing old prospector voice), ‘It was way back in the hills of Dakota-or Arkansas-in the mining days. And it was tough, picking shovels, and we were underground 24 hours a day…’ I could have taken this serious route, researched it – ‘Take This Hammer’ (a prison work song recorded by British skiffle star Lonnie Donegan in 1959), stuff I’d been brought up on. But at that point I was a little tongue-in cheek. So I crossed it with a (British singer and banjo player popular in the 1940s) George Formby sensibility, where John and I would go (sings a bit of doggerel in a choppy rhythm) – Stanley Holloway, Albert in The Lion’s Den (the comic poem The Lion and Albert, written by Holloway’s creative partner Marriott Edgar in 1932). We were very versed in all that stuff (sings opening lines of Rocky Raccoon in the same choppy way). The scanning of the poetical stanza always interested me. Somehow this little story unfolded itself.

I was basically spoofing ‘the folk-singer.’ And it included Gideon’s Bible, which I’ve seen in every hotel I’ve ever been in. You open the drawer and there it is! Who’s this guy Gideon! I still don’t know to this day who the heck he is. I’m sure he’s a very well-meaning guy. Rocky Raccoon was a freewheeling thing, the fun of mixing a folky ramble with Albert In The Lion’s Den with its ”orse’s ‘ead ‘andle,’ ha ha.”

Many cover versions have been recorded. Some of the artists are Richie Havens, Ramsey Lewis, Jack Johnson, Andrew Gold, James Blunt, Phish, Jimmy Buffett, Maureen McGovern, Kingston Wall, Charlie Parr, and Andy Fairweather Low.

Rocky Raccoon

Now somewhere in the Black Mountain Hills of Dakota
There lived a young boy named Rocky Raccoon
And one day his woman ran off with another guy
Hit young Rocky in the eye
Rocky didn’t like that
He said, “I’m gonna get that boy”
So one day he walked into town
Booked himself a room in the local saloon

Rocky Raccoon checked into his room
Only to find Gideon’s Bible
Rocky had come, equipped with a gun
To shoot off the legs of his rival
His rival it seems, had broken his dreams
By stealing the girl of his fancy
Her name was Magill, and she called herself Lil
But everyone knew her as Nancy
Now she and her man, who called himself Dan
Were in the next room at the hoe down
Rocky burst in, and grinning a grin
He said, “Danny boy, this is a showdown”
But Daniel was hot, he drew first and shot
And Rocky collapsed in the corner

Now the doctor came in, stinking of gin
And proceeded to lie on the table
He said, “Rocky, you met your match”
And Rocky said, “Doc, it’s only a scratch
And I’ll be better, I’ll be better, Doc, as soon as I am able”

Now Rocky Raccoon, he fell back in his room
Only to find Gideon’s Bible
Gideon checked out, and he left it, no doubt
To help with good Rocky’s revival

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

39 thoughts on “Beatles – Rocky Raccoon”

  1. That cartoon is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my whole entire life. Rocky gets married at the end!! Was that made in the days of the White Album or is it something newer? I never saw it before. It looks like it could be old. I’m not as big a fan of White Album as most people, but I love Rocky Raccoon and most of Paul’s other songs on the album. Actually, I like most of the album only up until the 2nd disc, then I only like a few songs after that. Why were they going to call it A Dolls House?? I know the famous play called that, but I wonder why they wanted to use that title. That’s a cool album cover. Can you imagine if that was the one they used?? It would be so weird to not have the white cover when you think of the album.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh that is something newer…in fact I think it’s fairly new.
      A Dolls House…I’ve never read where they explained why… probably because they thought it was a cool title and cover.

      Like

  2. A wink and a nod from the Fabs and George Martin. It is one of my favorites on the album. I bought two White albums back in 68 and managed to hold on to both all these years. My 16 year old granddaughter is a Beatles fan so I sent her one of them and my copy of Lennon’s “Imagine” album. At one time, I had all of the Beatles albums but when we moved around 3.5 years ago, one box was stolen by the movers, of course it was the one with many of the Beatles albums. ” All My Sons” moving company, think twice before using them. I have a raccoon that visits my bird feeder and eats the sunflower seeds. Of course I call him Rocky.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I hope so. I have plans to give her more in the future. I’m down to three boxes of albums including the famous British only “Introducing the Beatles” on the VeeJay label. I’m saving that one for extra retirement money.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. One of my big regrets in the 80s was not buying the Butcher Cover that I had a chance to buy for $180 …. that would have been like buy an great stock.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yep, no telling what it’s worth today. The VeeJay album, depending on the condition of the jacket and vinyle itself is worth from 1000 to 3500. Really, it’s like ebay, whatever someone will pay.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Gideon was an Israelite warrior that battled against the Midianites. The Midianites were stealing their crops when an angel came to the judge Gideon and told him that he would have to save Israel. He doubted his abilities, but he was victorious. Gideon’s Bible is different from the King James version, and it is distributed by Gideons International organization.

    Like

  4. Not a bad tune by any means though not one of the tiptop pinaccles of their output. Like Randy said, I never really thought much about its story or background, that was interesting. Where will it rank…we’re all anxious to find out!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh I’m doing albums not songs…yet…when I do songs…this would be in my top 60 …..people would not like mine….Sexy Sadie would be in my personal top 20. Although it’s not as known… but I might try that.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I always liked this- the humour and whimsical wordplay is front and centre. Paul just having fun… ‘Her name was Macgill, and she called herself Lill- But everyone knew her as Nancy.’ Throw away yet inspired.
    Does not the Dolls House cover look sorta Cat Stevens ‘Teaser and The Firecat’ or is it just me?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Not only I am severely ranking-challenged, but The Beatles are my all-time favorite band, so the thought of ranking their albums sounds even more terrifying! 🙂

    Now that these encouraging words are out of the way, I would also like to say that “Rocky Raccoon” is a tune that has grown on me. When I heard it for the first time many moons ago, I was a bit lukewarm about it. Over the years, I’ve significantly changed my opinion and now consider it to be a great cinematic story-telling tune.

    That cartoon clip is great. I also had never seen what the initial cover of The Beatles/White Album looked like.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It IS terrifying!
      I do warn you that not many will agree with my favorite but that is all rankings are to me…my favorites…you know what my favorite Beatle album is probably.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. The White Album is one of the best albums ever and I’m pretty sure I can sing the words to every song on it. I love singing Rocky Racoon! It’s a hella good song and I love how Paul sings it. Thanks for including the Eddie video 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      1. The first time I heard him cover something was Light My Fire with the Doors…and I loved it.

        No…but I’ll go and check it out now.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. He really channeled Jim at the end there. Have a great night, Max. Heading over to the TV to watch the last 2 episodes of Wednesday on Netflix. Good series! Geared towards younger people but still good FX and directed by Tim Burton.

        Liked by 1 person

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