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Mean Mr. Mustard / Polythene Pam -- John Lennon

Twenty years on, and the loss is still palpable...
(Poem #631) Mean Mr. Mustard / Polythene Pam
 Mean Mister Mustard sleeps in the park
 Shaves in the dark trying to save paper
 Sleeps in a hole in the road
 Saving up to buy some clothes
 Keeps a ten-bob note up his nose
 Such a mean old man
 Such a mean old man.

 His sister Pam works in a shop
 She never stops, she's a go-getter
 Takes him out to look at the Queen
 Only place that he's ever been
 Always shouts out something obscene
 Such a dirty old man
 Dirty old man.


 Well you should see Polythene Pam
 She's so good-looking but she looks like a man
 Well you should see her in drag dressed in her polythene bag
 Yes you should see Polythene Pam.
 Yeah yeah yeah!

 Get a dose of her in jackboots and kilt
 She's killer-diller when she's dressed to the hilt
 She's the kind of a girl that makes the 'News of the World'
 Yes you could say she was attractively built.
 Yeah yeah yeah!
-- John Lennon
[Credits]

 Officially attributed to John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
 Unofficially accepted as Lennon's work.
 Composed (probably) in India, some time in the summer of 1968.
 Recorded July 1969, Abbey Road Studios, London.
 Lead vocals: John Lennon.
 Released as part of the album "Abbey Road", 1969.

[Commentary]

John Lennon, a poet? Yes indeed. In his twenties, young Winston dabbled
quite extensively in verse, going so far as to publish two volumes of highly
idiosyncratic excursions into the form - "In his Own Write" and "A Spaniard
in the Works". Titles such as 'I sat belonely down a tree' and 'The Faulty
Bagnose' serve to illustrate the charming whimsicality of his style, and my
original inclination (when planning this tribute) was to run one of the two
[1].

I changed my mind, though: I chose, instead, to go with his equally quirky
description of two human oddities, Mean Mr. Mustard and Polythene Pam [2].
Further comment is superfluous; I'll just add that (imho) this passage is,
in its own way, every bit as surreal and nonsensical as anything Lear or
Carroll ever wrote.

thomas.

[1] Those are the only two I have at hand right now, thanks to their
inclusion in the chapter titled 'Sense and Nonsense', in Douglas
Hofstadter's wonderful collection of essays, "Metamagical Themas".

[2] The fact that the two songs form what is possibly my favourite sequence
in what is almost definitely my favourite album of all time, may have had
something to do with that decision <grin>.

[Coda]

John Winston Lennon was assassinated on the night of December 8th, 1980 -
twenty years ago to this day. May his spirit rest in peace.

12 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

mbeale said...

Came in to get the lyrics of the first two lines of 'Mean Mr Mustard'
(never could pick what they were) but then noted your interpretation of
Polythene Pam's "She's killer diller when she's dressed to the hilt."

Are you sure about this?

I always thought Lennon said "She'd kill Attila when she's dressed to the
hilt" - a wonderful Lennon-esque line to challenge "If you go carrying
pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow" as an
all-time classic.

Are you sure about your line?

If so, what does "killer diller" mean?

Martin Beale

David Estes said...

Point well taken, but then, what does "Goo goo ga choob" or "Crabalocker fishwife" mean?

Came in to get the lyrics of the first two lines of 'Mean Mr Mustard'
(never could pick what they were) but then noted your interpretation of
Polythene Pam's "She's killer diller when she's dressed to the hilt."

Are you sure about this?

I always thought Lennon said "She'd kill Attila when she's dressed to the
hilt" - a wonderful Lennon-esque line to challenge "If you go carrying
pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow" as an
all-time classic.

Are you sure about your line?

If so, what does "killer diller" mean?

Martin Beale

Porl Smith said...

I've never been a Beatles fan, but killer diller is a great thrill
check out the jive speak of the thirties - Cab Calloway et al

Darcy Clemens said...

Well, I always thought it was "she's the kind of a girl that makes a musical fail"

Just kidding. I miss you, John Lennon.

-Mark Clemens

David Lowry said...

In the final stanza, the line is NOT "she's the kind of a girl that
makes the News of the World"; it's:

"She's the kind of a girl that makes GOOD USE OF THE PILL"

Stefan Petersen said...

I love abbey road. listen to the /anthology 3 version /of mean mister
mustard though. it's /weird.
/R.I.P John

JoeBlinn said...

Maybe you should listen to the Beatles and you might learn something.

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gambar rumah minimalis said...

This poem practically brings me to tears, because I know so many people, perhaps even more than when Prine wrote it, are trapped in
situations just like that.

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