The song opens with a flamenco guitar solo (actually created by a rarely used preset button on a Mellotron keyboard, here functioning as somewhat of a primitive sampler; on some CD reissues, this solo closes the previous track, "Wild Honey Pie"), followed by the chorus, sung by all four Beatles, Ringo's then-wife Maureen, and Yoko Ono (providing the only female lead vocal on a Beatles recording, for a single line). John Lennon, who wrote the song, is the primary lead singer. Like all songs by either Lennon or Paul McCartney it is credited to Lennon/McCartney.
The song was recorded at Abbey Road on 8 October 1968 and was completed including all overdubs in this one session. The Beatles also started and completed the Lennon-composed 'I'm So Tired' during the same recording session.
This song mocks the actions of a young American named Richard A. Cooke III, known as Rik who was visiting his mother, Nancy Cooke de Herrera, at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh at the same time that the Beatles were staying with the Maharishi. According to his mother, both she and her son maintained friendly relations with all of the Beatles except for Lennon, who by Cooke de Herrera's account was "a genius" but distant and contemptuous of the wealthy American Cooke de Herrera and her clean-cut, college-attending son. According to Nancy's life account, Beyond Gurus, the genesis of the song occurred when she, Rik, and several others, including native guides, set out upon elephants to hunt for a tiger (allegedly presented by their Indian guide as a traditional act). The pack of elephants was attacked by a tiger, which was shot by Rik. Rik was initially proud of his quick reaction and posed for a photograph with his prize. However, Rik's reaction to the slaying was mixed, as he has not hunted since. Nancy claims that all present recognised the necessity of Rik's action, but that John Lennon's reaction was scornful and sarcastic, asking Rik: "But wouldn't you call that slightly life-destructive?" The song was written by Lennon as mocking what he saw as Rik's bravado and unenlightened attitude.
Lennon later told his version of the story in a Playboy interview, stating that: "‘Bungalow Bill’ was written about a guy in Maharishi's meditation camp who took a short break to go shoot a few poor tigers, and then came back to commune with God. There used to be a character called Jungle Jim, and I combined him with Buffalo Bill. It's sort of a teenage social-comment song and a bit of a joke." Mia Farrow, who was also at the ashram during the period supports Lennon's story in her autobiography; she writes, "Then a self-important, middle-aged American woman arrived, moving a mountain of luggage into the brand-new private bungalow next to Maharishi's along with her son, a bland young man named Bill. People fled this newcomer, and no one was sorry when she left the ashram after a short time to go tiger hunting, unaware that their presence had inspired a new Beatles' song - 'Bungalow Bill.'"
- John Lennon – Lead Vocals,Acoustic Guitar (1964 Framus Hooternanny),Organ and Mellotron
- George Harrison –Backing Vocals and Acoustic Guitar (1950 Jose Ramirez De Estudio)
- Paul McCartney –Backing Vocals and Bass Guitar (1963 Hofner 500/1)
- Ringo Starr – Backing Vocals,Drums and Tambourine
- Chris Thomas – Mellotron
- Yoko Ono – Co-Lead Vocal and Backing Vocals
- Maureen Starkey – Backing Vocals
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