Reviewed by Ian MacDonald, in Revolution in the Head:
Written in India under the influence of a lecture by the Maharishi (as was Lennon's CHILD OF NATURE), MOTHER NATURE'S SON is a plain and simple evocation of rural peace. Unlike the metropolitan pop mainstream, the burgeoning rock idiom (then referred to as progressive or underground music) was, owing to its roots in countercultural values, strongly back-to-nature in spirit. Indeed so conscious were contemporary rock musicians of this symbolic divide between the two genres that their mandatory retreats for the purpose of 'getting our heads together in the country' became a standing joke among the urban cynics of the UK music press. As such, MOTHER NATURE'S SON should be heard in the context of tracks like The Pink Floyd's 'Scarecrow', Traffic's 'Berkshire Poppies', and the Incredible String Band's 1967-8 output in general (as well as the then-nascent folk-rock and country-rock movements in Britain and America respectively).
Founded on familiar guitarists' games with the D-chord, McCartney's melody rises over a hint of a rustic drone, suggesting rootedness and rest. Harmonically similar to THE FOOL ON THE HILL, it has the same remote, cyclical quality - a mood piece with murmuring onomatopoeic words to match. Paradoxically, it was recorded at a time when the underlying tensions within The Beatles were surfacing with a vengeance. Running Apple Corps was testing their limited patience and, just before the last session for HEY JUDE, they had been forced to close the loss-making boutique in Baker Street. With a busy George Martin less in evidence at Abbey Road, they had taken to producing themselves, as a result of which sessions were starting to ramble badly with frequent stories of unpleasantness to the studio staff. McCartney seems to have got bored during umpteen run-throughs for Lennon's YER BLUES and took no part at all in the chaotic proceedings for WHAT'S THE NEW MARY JANE. Meanwhile, having struggled vainly for two days with NOT GUILTY, Harrison summarily decamped for Greece, leaving the others to cancel a session at short notice. On 20th August, Lennon and Starr, then working in Studio 3 on YER BLUES, visited Studio 2 where McCartney was finishing MOTHER NATURE'S SON. According to those present, the atmosphere instantly froze. Two days later, during the first session for BACK IN THE USSR, Starr walked out, declaring that he was leaving the group.
While it's tempting to hear the flat seventh in the final brass chord of MOTHER NATURE'S SON as an ironic token of this sour background, it's likelier to have been an accident of George Martin's orchestration. McCartney's spirits were high and he spent much of the session playing about with the position of his drums, eventually recording them half-way down the corridor outside the studio. Before packing up, he taped two extra numbers: WILD HONEY PIE and a song called 'Etcetera', which was never heard of again.
Posted: 10 mrt 2012