One day, according to Paul, “We were sitting on the roof at Maharishi’s just enjoying ourselves” — and perhaps enjoying a smuggled-in funny cigarette — when inspiration struck.

I started laying the chords and originally the title was “Rocky Sassoon.” Then me, John and Donovan started making up the words, they came very quickly and eventually it became “Rocky Raccoon” because it sounded more cowboyish.

It ended up sounding something like this:

There are those of you out there, I know, who hate this song with a passion. I, on the other hand, have a soft spot for it a mile wide. I’m not sure why; it is without a doubt one of the dorkiest things Paul’s ever written, and that’s saying something. I just find it charming. Maybe because I’ve always pictured Rocky as an actual raccoon, which could be why he gets outdrawn by Dan in the showdown at the hoedown; he has trouble handling a firearm with his little raccoon hands.

I wonder, am I the only one? When you visualize this song, do you see a human whose last name happens to be “Raccoon,” or a procyonid with a pistol?

In my imaginary music video, the other characters in the song would be various different animals: McGill/Lil/Nancy might be a chicken; Dan, an armadillo or a porcupine or something; and the stinking-of-gin doctor would be, I don’t know, a beaver. And at this point you might well be asking if I’ve been up on the Maharishi’s roof myself; the answer is not today, but I’ve spent quite a bit of time up there over the years.

According to Steve Turner’s A Hard Day’s Write, “Rocky Raccoon” was partly inspired by a poem called “The Shooting of Dan McGrew,” by one Robert Service. It begins thusly:

A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;
The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune;
Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew,
And watching his luck was his light-o’-love, the lady that’s known as Lou.

A stranger comes into the bar, buys a round of drinks for the house, and sits down at the piano. Turns out he has it in for Dan McGrew; eventually the lights go down and shots ring out. I’m not sure I see the influence, but judge for yourself — you can read the whole thing here, or listen to Service himself reading it aloud in 1958, if you prefer:

If the Wikipedia is to be believed, this poem was once recited in tandem by President Ronald Reagan and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. And I could probably keep going down this rabbit hole — raccoon hole? — indefinitely. But that’s enough for one day.

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