A talk given by the Maharishi while The Beatles were studying Transcendental Meditation in Rishikesh, India, would prove to be the inspiration of two of Lennon and McCartney’s most tender songs – “Mother Nature’s Son” and “Child Of Nature.” John later explained that it was “a lecture of Maharishi where he was talking about nature” which inspired both songs.
“A heartfelt song about my child-of-nature leanings”
John demoed “Child Of Nature” for “The White Album”, but the song had been shelved by the time they came to recording the album. Paul’s “Mother Nature’s Son,” however, was to make the cut. The first two verses appear as the second song in Paul’s notebook entitled Spring Songs, Rishikesh 1968, while the third verse was added back in England.
The Maharishi’s lecture may have been the starting point for the song, however, but as Paul later explained, it was written with his childhood explorations of local nature sights in mind. “I was always able to take my bike, and in five minutes I’d be in quite deep countryside. This is where my love of the country came from. I remember the Dam Wood, which had millions of rhododendron bushes. This is what I was writing about in ‘Mother Nature’s Son,’ it was basically a heartfelt song about my child-of-nature leanings.”
The final verse was written back on Merseyside, while visiting his family at Rembrandt, the house on the Wirral that Paul had bought for his father, Jim, in 1964. “Visiting my family, I’d feel in a good mood, so it was often a good occasion to write songs… I’ve always loved the song called ‘Nature Boy’; ‘There was a boy/A very strange enchanted boy…’ He loves nature, and ‘Mother Nature’s Son’ was inspired by that song. I’d always loved nature, and when Linda and I got together we discovered we had this deep love of nature in common.”
“They never taught you how to get the best sound out of a book”
Recording began on August 9th, with Paul running through take after take of the song alone with his acoustic guitar, trying out different vocal stylings before finally settling on Take 24 as the keeper. On August 20th, Paul and George Martin returned to the song to add overdubs – including a brass ensemble first suggested back in June.
While working on “Blackbird,” Paul, John, and George Martin were discussing arrangement possibilities for the song. John had come up with the idea of a small brass section, having been inspired by the arrangement on Harry Nilsson’s recent cover of Paul’s “She’s Leaving Home.” And while it was decided to keep “Blackbird” to Paul and his guitar (plus a few common blackbirds backing him up), the horns got Paul’s thumbs up for “Mother Nature’s Son” instead. And, sure enough, George Martin scored an arrangement for a pair of trumpets and a pair of trombones, making their appearance in time for the second verse. (Conversely, when Nilsson came to record a version of “Mother Nature’s Son,” he opted for strings rather than horns.)
That same day, Paul added vocal and guitar overdubs, before finishing things off with a couple of unusual percussion tracks. First off was something quite different for engineer Ken Scott. While listening to the track up in the control room, Paul had come up with a rhythm pattern and sound he liked by tapping on a book. As Scott joked, “They never taught you how to get the best sound out of a book at EMI, but I carefully miked it as best I could.” Scott was then called upon to mike a bass drum from two floors up in an Abbey Road stairwell, where the sound of the drum reverberating around the concrete gave the desired effect.
Speaking about “Mother Nature’s Son” to Radio Luxembourg in 1968, Paul joked, “The only thing about this one, however, it says, ‘Born a poor young country boy,’ and I was born in Walton Hospital actually – so it’s a dirty lie!”