George Harrison was one of the best songwriters of the 20th century, but even he sometimes needed a little help in the songwriting process, especially on “Piggies.” The White Album track contains a lyric from George’s mother, Louise.
However, the song about snooty rich people soon morphed into something disturbing by a notorious cult leader.
George Harrison’s mother added some important lyrics to ‘Piggies’
In his 1980 memoir, I Me Mine, George said that his mother stepped in to help him write “Piggies” when he needed help.
“‘Piggies’ is a social comment,” he wrote. “I was stuck for one line in the middle until my mother came up with the lyric ‘What they need’s a damn good whacking!’ (a damned good throttling), which is a nice simple way of saying they need a good hiding. It needed to rhyme with ‘backing,’ ‘lacking.'”
George had no clue he’d be giving some dangerous people bad ideas.
Charles Manson thought George’s ‘Piggies’ was about the police
In 1969, Charles Manson and his Family misinterpreted George’s “Piggies,” along with other tracks on The White Album. Manson believed that Black people would start a war and kill all white people. He promised his followers that they’d be saved using clues found in the Book of Revelation and The Beatles’ White Album.
According to Beatles Bible, in Manson’s mind, “Piggies” represented the doomed white people. Rolling Stone wrote, “In Manson’s mind, benign songs like ‘Blackbird,’ ‘Piggies’ and, most prominently, ‘Helter Skelter,’ foretold a bloody, apocalyptic race war. But when the battle never began, he decided to kick-start it with the murders.”
“This music is bringing on the revolution, the unorganized overthrow of the establishment,” Manson told Rolling Stone in 1970. “The Beatles know [what’s happening] in the sense that the subconscious knows.”
Concerning “Piggies,” Manson Family member Gregg Jakobson told prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, “By that, he meant the black man was going to give the piggies, the establishment, a damned good whacking.” Susan Atkins later wrote “pig” in Sharon Tate’s blood on a door of the Cielo Drive house. The Family also wrote “Death to pigs” in blood on the wall of the LaBiancas.
George meant for “Piggies” to be a “takedown of the bourgeoisie, dining out with forks and knives,” Rolling Stone wrote. Like what he was writing about in “Taxman,” George complained about the snooty aristocratic population. Not policemen or white people.
“It was upsetting to be associated with something so sleazy as Charles Manson,” George later said in Anthology.
John also contributed some lyrics
George’s “Piggies” had “absolutely nothing to do with American policemen or Californian shagnasties!” he wrote in his memoir. It was just a satirical song about rich people.
Louise wasn’t the only one to contribute lyrics either. John Lennon added a line when George demoed the song at his Esher home, Kinfauns, in 1968.
John gave the line, “Clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon.” However, the line was changed to “…to eat their pork chops.” The earlier version is on the Anthology 3 collection and the super deluxe 50th-anniversary edition of the White Album.
George also wrote an additional verse but decided to omit it. He revealed it in his memoir: “Everywhere there’s lots of piggies/ Playing piggy pranks/ You can see them on their trotters/ At the piggy banks/ Paying piggy thanks/ To thee pig brother!”
George’s “Piggies” might have been misconstrued by a serial killer, but the song hasn’t lost its playful cheeriness for Beatles fans.