Robert Bunter: Hey, did you know this song is about Paul's sheepdog and not a woman?
Richard Furnstein: Well, now that we got that out of the way, can I say this is one of my favorite songs on the White Album? Of course it's about a dog. Only something as magnificent as a dog could produce such a joyous song.
It's also a great piece on Side Two of the White Album: the country side. Where Sgt, Pepper focused on suburbs and the technicolor release of recreational drugs, much of The Beatles (especially the second side) focused on the simple pleasures of country living. Beasts are everywhere on the record and nature influences both the textures and the lyrics. Sure, India had a role in shaping the lyrical themes of the White Album, but it's important to consider that the Beatles had all retreated to the country in their quiet, post-touring lives. "Martha My Dear" can be viewed as Paul's love song to his new freedom. The joy leaps from every second of this perfect record.
Robert Bunter: This is another example of that disquieting sense of looming dread that tints the entire White Album. What? Hey, we're having cute fun here! Paul is singing a playful ode to a wonderful, shaggy friend who he loves very much. So why am I completely terrified? Maybe it's because so many of the surrounding tracks are scary ("Piggies," "Glass Onion," "Wild Honey Pie," "Revolution 9,"
"Happiness Is A Warm Gun," "I Will," "Helter Skelter," and "Good Night," to name just eight).
I don't think Paul even realized how scary this song would be when he wrote it. He probably thought it was a nice little ditty for the grannies and little kids to dig. To his credit, by the time the actual recording sessions rolled around, he could see the writing on the wall. He obviously requested George Martin to write a score with horrifying strings and tubas in order to give the uncanny aural impression of an unhinged madman staring you unblinkingly in the face with the kind of exaggerated, immovable grin that is usually symptomatic of clinical dementia. Horrifying 1968-era Lennon and creepy Harrison must have chuckled softly with grim approval when sweet little Paulie recorded this nightmare, knowing that innumerable LSD-incapacitated fans would hear this track and start to have harrowing bad trips. It wouldn't surprise me if they tried to claw out their own eardrums in order to stop hearing the eerie "Look what you've donnnnnnnnnne" falsetto on an endless loop in their tortured skulls.
Richard Furnstein: I have no idea what you are listening to, Robert. This is an insanely beautiful track without a hint of fear or drug induced mania. Paul created it by himself, and it's the better for it. He completely gives in and delivers a lovely and cohesive track. The acrimony and second guessing that plagues much of the White Album is nowhere to be found. He pleads with his dog not to forget him, putting words to my greatest fear as a dog owner. You mean the world to me, crazy beast, don't just go running off with some other schmuck that buys the 25 pound bags of Trader Joe's kibble. What we have is special. Let's make these years together count, silly girl.
It's also my duty to inform you that Slade provided a perfect contemporary cover of "Martha My Dear."
Robert Bunter: I love it when the Beatles sing about dogs!
Richard Furnstein: Are you making fun of me?