Okay, point is that sometimes, despite the fact that Paul is wicked cool (see "Lucille," "Why Don't We Do It in the Road," "Let It Be", and about a thousand others), he sometimes indulges that very uncool part of his brain that likes to whistle songs like "Honey Pie" to itself. But who's to say what's cool or uncool anyway? My understanding is that this song is a straight-up homage to the English music hall scene of the 1920s (I say it's my understanding because I have no real personal experience with this music), and that was most certainly cool to a particular generation, no doubt. And anyway, who am I to hint that something is uncool for being old?-- I, who consider Little Richard the arbiter of cool about 50 years after his prime, I whose mp3 player consists almost entirely of classical choral music and old-school rock and roll, I who write a daily blog about the Beatles at the ripe old age of 29?
Frankly, I am the last person on earth who should be judging anyone for coolness. So maybe you should just listen to "Honey Pie" and judge for yourself.
Among cool people, "Honey Pie" has been almost universally vilified. My July 2006 issue of MOJO, an all-Beatles theme issue, constantly references this song as one of the worst, and JBev at JamsBio names it the second-worst Beatles song ever, calling only "Revolution #9" more painful. Ouch. Ian MacDonald, normally a committed a-PAUL-o-gist, begrudgingly notes the accuracy of the parody before writing off its "air of faintly smarmy pointlessness." (He truly has a way with words, MacDonald does, which is why his book is a must-have in any Beatles library.)
I guess it's MacDonald who nails down my main problem with "Honey Pie"-- I just can't figure out what it's doing on the White Album except as a vehicle for Paul to be adorable. Now, this is the WHITE ALBUM, with its notorious stylistic incongruity, and yet "Honey Pie" still makes me wonder what the heck Paul was thinking. Paul, we KNOW you're adorable! It's a solid song, actually-- very singable-- and unlike a lot of White Album songs, the other Beatles are playing on it. Playing WELL. Check out George on the bass! It's a great line he has, actually. You can tell that the rest of the band has followed Paul down this dementedly uncool path through his brain, because they're totally nailing the parody of the sound Paul's going for. And I really do appreciate a good parody, which this sounds like to my untrained ear, so I want to acknowledge that the art of parody is alive and well on this track. Despite all this, though, it sounds absolutely perfect to give to someone else. Paul gave a lot of songs away, and why not this one? I don't know.
All that said, well, I might be uncool (and in fact I deeply, deeply am) but I sing along when "Honey Pie" is playing. Yeah, that's right. So shoot me. I also like silent movies and Angela Carter's Wise Children, so maybe there's something about the era being parodied that speaks to me. Whatever else it is, "Honey Pie" is an anomaly in the Beatles canon, and it's OK to hate it, though I don't particularly. I love hard-rocking Paul and foxtrotting Paul alike, myself-- even if I do prefer the former most days.
"Honey Pie," released in the U.K. side D track 2 of The Beatles a.k.a. the White Album, November 22, 1968; in the U.S. November 25, 1968.I am indebted for all discography information to the tremendous Beatles-Discography.com.