Crying Over “Sour Milk”
Lamenting a Beatles' song that never was.
by Dr. Spin
December 1, 2003
“Sour Milk Sea” was eventually recorded by Jackie Lomax, one of the “discoveries” of the Beatles’ Apple Studios. While Lomax does a fine job with it (and members of the Beatles played on his album, with George Harrison producing it), I cannot fathom why the Beatles never made more than a demo of it themselves. Granted, it was a George Harrison song, and George had to really lobby to get his usual two cuts. But Harrison should have pushed harder to get this one recorded and released, even as a B-side on a single. And did they really need “Revolution #9” or “Wild Honey Pie?”
What makes “Sour Milk Sea” an even bigger loss was Harrison never went back to make his own version, like he did with “Not Guilty.” There is some speculation that Harrison felt his voice wasn’t powerful enough to pull this rocker off; perhaps he felt Lomax’s voice did it enough justice.
Either way, with all the work that went into Anthology, and the reworking of Let It Be... Naked, the remaining Beatles owe it to their public to give this great little number the life it deserved 35 years ago. Again, this would have given George Harrison an unprecedented three tracks, but couldn’t Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr have “finished” this song (the way Paul, George and Ringo finished “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love” for the Anthology series) and included it on Let It Be... Naked instead of “Don’t Let Me Down?” Wouldn’t that make the album all the more valuable, with a “new” unreleased song?
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Dear Dr. Spin,
Whenever we hear the exhortation, from Aretha Franklin in "Spirit in the Dark," or from Sly and the Family Stone in "Dance to the Music", and maybe other places, to "Ride, Sally, Ride!" is that in reference to "Mustang Sally" or does the song "Mustang Sally" refer to something else? It seems that the song "Mustang Sally" is a bit obscure to be paid this kind of tribute. Is Sally Walker from "Spirit in the Dark" supposed to be "Mustang Sally?" Is there a funky dance move in which I but my hands on my hips and shut my eyes, as Franklin tells me to do after she says "Ride Sally Ride"? Does all of this just prove that I'm a white person?
Looking for Sally
I did some research on your question, and according to my research, this is the truth.
Mark Rice, the man who wrote “Mustang Sally” was hanging out at Della Reese’s place in New York. He heard Reese’s band leader was looking to buy a new car. Rice assumed he wanted a big car, like a Lincoln, but no, the guy wanted a new Mustang (this was 1965). Rice thought he was crazy for wanting such a little car and began to write a song called “Mustang Mama.” The chorus, “ride Sally, Ride” came from the children’s rhyme, Little Sally Walker, “rise, Sally rise.” When Rice played the tune for Aretha Franklin, she told him to change the title to “Mustang Sally.”
Apparently there is also a dance to Little Sally Walker where people form a circle, with one person in the middle. As the song is sung, the person in the middle chooses someone to join her (or him), where the first person does the dance and second one mirrors the first’s movements. So, essentially Aretha Franklin is asking you to participate in child’s game.
About the Author:
Dr. Spin wonders if Little Sally Walker was crying because she knew the Beatles would never release Sour Milk Sea.
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