Tuesday, February 22, 2011

1966- "And Your Bird Can Sing" & from London with Luv

                                                        John Lennon outside his Kenwood home

Several years back, can't remember exactly where, I read somebody's riff on how John Lennon's "And Your Bird Can Sing" might be a dig at Mick Jagger and his relationship with Marianne Faithfull- she being the "bird" in question who can sing.  It was an amusing idea especially as I've always been fascinated by the interplay, competitiveness and socializing of the larger than life figures of the 1960's music scene and how their relationships with each other influenced the music they made.  Recently though while paging through a book that I first bought in the early 80's, The Rolling Stones-The First Twenty Years by David Dalton, I came across an excerpt from a column Jagger's girlfriend Chrissie Shrimpton wrote for a publication called Mod Magazine that I think might suggest an alternate origin for the song, one that also makes more sense when you look at the time line for the writing and recording of the song.

                                                                 Lennon's Kenwood home

In the column, which I've scanned below, Chrissie starts off by detailing how she and Mick on a recent visit with George and Patti Harrison had ended up going over to John Lennon's Kenwood home for a private screening of "Citizen Kane"- "Orson Welles surrounded by Bourneville chocolate and cups of coffee" Chrissie enthuses.   Then, after a paragraph long digression about the fabness of Stevie Winwood and his taste in crepe shirts, she mentions that she recently turned 21 and describes some of the gifts she received including the following from Mick Jagger-  "a bird cage with a Victorian brass bird in it. The bird sings.  That is, it does if you put money into it."

Now Chrissie Shrimpton was apparently born in 1945 and so would have turned 21 in 1966.  Her relationship with Mick Jagger is dated as lasting from 1963-1966.  Since these two items appear in the same column one would assume that the trip to Lennon's and her 21st birthday took place within the same couple of months at least.  So the trip to Kenwood was most likely early 1966, another clue here is the mention later in the column of the boutique Granny Take A Trip which first opened in February of 1966.

The Beatles recorded "And Your Bird Can Sing" on April 26, 1966 and we can assume that John probably wrote the song in early 1966 around the same time frame as the visit from Mick and Chrissie for the screening of Citizen Kane.  I would imagine either this visit took place shortly after her birthday and the singing Victorian brass bird was mentioned in conversation with the Lennon's and Harrison's as one of her gifts, or that John, no stranger to reading the pop papers, read about the bird in Chrissie's column after the visit thus inspiring the song.  Since Mick and Chrissie relationship didn't end till sometime in 1966, and the reference to the singing bird is so direct and literal (the song immediately came to mind when I read the mention of the singing brass Victorian bird), it seems a much more probable explanation for the genesis of the song than Jagger's relationship with Marianne Faithfull, which didn't fully flower till later in 1966 after the writing and recording of  "And Your Bird Can Sing".

As an accompaniment to this post I've uploaded the Mono/Stereo Dr. Ebbett's edition of the Beatles American album "Yesterday" ...and Today.  This record assembled by Capitol Records for the American market and first released in June of 1966 contained the first appearance of "And Your Bird Can Sing", in a slightly different mix, as well as two other Lennon songs, "I'm Only Sleeping" and "Dr. Robert", that would be released later in the year on the British version of Revolver

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