Mary Had A Little Lamb

Album This song officially appears on the Mary Had A Little Lamb / Little Woman Love (UK) 7" Single.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1972

Related sessions

This song has been recorded during the following studio sessions





"James Paul McCartney" sessions

February - March 1973

Related interviews


Fab? If you say so, pop pickers

Apr 25, 1997 • From The Times


Interview for Street Life

Apr 03, 1976 • From Street Life


Paul McCartney: The Rolling Stone Interview

Jan 31, 1974 • From RollingStone


Paul McCartney in the Talk-In

Dec 02, 1972 • From Sounds


Look out showbiz - Here come Wings

Dec 02, 1972 • From Disc And Music Echo


Interview for Melody Maker

Dec 02, 1972 • From Melody Maker


Wings And Things

Oct 28, 1972 • From Melody Maker

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Song facts

Mary Had a Little Lamb” is a song written by Paul and Linda McCartney, based on the traditional nursery rhyme of the same name. It was released in May 1972 as Wings’ second non-album single (Wings’ first non-album single was “Give Ireland Back To The Irish“, released in February 1972).

The nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb” was written by Sarah Josepha Hale and Lowell Mason, and published in 1830. It was the first audio recorded by Thomas Edison on his newly invented phonograph in 1877, and was the first instance of recorded English verse.

Paul McCartney took the lyrics and wrote a melody:

I do things that aren’t necessarily very carefully thought out. Now, you know, I’ve just got three kids over the last few years, and when I am sitting at home playing at the piano my audience a lot of the time is the kids. I just wrote that one up, the words were already written, you know, I just found out what the words to the nursery rhyme were, wrote a little tune up around it, went and recorded it. I had an idea in my head to find out what the words to the original nursery rhyme were. I thought it was all very deep and all very nice. I see now, you know, it wasn’t much of a record. That’s all. It just didn’t really make it as a record, and that’s what tells, the black plastic.

Paul McCartney – From “Paul McCartney In His Own Words” by Paul Gambaccini, 1976

From Wikipedia:

Background

At the time, some observers such as Roy Carr and Tony Tyler of New Musical Express presumed the song was recorded by McCartney in response to the BBC ban of his previous single, the political “Give Ireland Back to the Irish“, but McCartney has denied this, saying that it was a sincere effort to write a song for children. In fact, the song was written before “Give Ireland Back to the Irish”, as a demo of the song can be heard during an interview recorded for radio station WRKO in December 1971.

Charts and reception

“Mary Had a Little Lamb” was released as a single on 12 May 1972 in the UK, moved back from its original planned date of the 5th. The record was released in the US on 29 May. On 25 May, the band mimed a performance of the song for BBC TV’s Top of the Pops TV show.

The song was attacked by several contemporary rock critics, with one commenting that McCartney had “fallen to tripe” of this genre. However, some critics suspected this immediate change in musical direction to be a deliberately ironic musical manoeuvre. Cash Box said of it that “the nursery rhyme we all know and love gets a bouncy treatment.” It reached the top 10 in the UK, peaking at number nine. Some US radio stations also played the pop/rock B-side, “Little Woman Love“. Apple Records in the US even revised the picture sleeve for the single to credit both sides by name (see reverse cover), but the single still failed to rise above number 28 in the US. […]

The French single was released in mono, whereas the German single “features an alternate stereo mix with the children’s backing vocals buried in the mix, opposed to the standard mix where they are quite prominent” (from “Eight Arms to Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium” by Chip Madinger & Mark Easter).

Four promotional videos were shot, but only three were used for the promotion of the track (the “Desert” version was finally released on the “Red Rose Speedway – Archive Collection” in 2018). The videos have live vocals recorded on top of the studio backing track.

In February / March 1973, Wings recorded a lively version of the track, for the “James Paul McCartney” TV show.


My daughter Mary liked hearing her name sung. It’s the one song people seem to think is a bit daft. I don’t regret writing it, ’cos I wrote it for her.

Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After The Break-Up 1970-2001” by Keith Badman

I’m crazy. I’ve always been crazy from the minute I was born… Geminis are supposed to be changeable and I don’t know if that’s true or not but I’m a Gemini and I know one minute I might be doing ‘Ireland’ and the next I’ll be doing ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’. I can see how that would look from the sidelines, but the thing is we’re not either of those records, but we are both of them. ‘Mary’ is just a kids’ song. In our act we do “Ireland” and we do “Mary Had A Little Lamb”, and really they’re just two numbers. […] And Mary Had A Little Lamb – that was just a kids’ song. It was written for one of our kids, whose name is Mary and I just realised if I sang that, she’d understand. That’s it with us, that’s what you might expect from us – just anything.

Paul McCartney – Interview for Sounds Magazine, December 2, 1972

I got a few knocks with people saying ‘ooh blimey, Mary Had A Little Lamb what are you doing?’ As if everything that came from my pen had to be earth-shattering. Beatle records, any records there’s always something daft there.

The great thing about Mary Had A Little Lamb for me – I was never wild about it personally – was that when we took it on tour it was the song that got the audience singing along on the ‘Ia la’s’. That was fantastic because it saved the number for me. And kids love it. Pete Townshend’s daughter had to have a copy. I’d never realised there was a four-year-old audience. Whilst toymakers have got that wen sussed around Christmas, no one outside the business, short of the Osmonds and the Jacksons, cater for it.

Having three kids of our own we really know what they like to get into – simple little things, like Bip Bop off the Wild Life album. That’s what they used to about She Loves You – kids loved that.

At the time I can remember Brian Matthew saying it was a terrible record. The week it was number one he had to admit it was good. You can’t do everything in line all the time or else you vanish up a trend. You’ve got to step outside trends and be a little outrageous even if it’s in the direction of Mary Had A Little Lamb.

Paul McCartney – From interview with Disc Magazine, December 1972

In retrospect, Paul was to admit that Mary “wasn’t a great record.” However, he pointed out that it went down well at live shows and that there were quite a few people who did enjoy it. “The quote that sums up that song for me is I read Pete Townshend saying that his daughter had to have a copy … I like to keep in with the five-year-olds!

From “Paul McCartney and Wings” by Jeremy Pascall, 1977

‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’ … those lyrics are a heavy trip. Anyway, it sold as many as ‘Tumbling Dice’, so there! There was a critical thing about it, but listen, the point is we were all babies once and there are still a lot around who like to sing the song.

Paul McCartney – Interview with Melody Maker, December 2, 1972

For me there were lots of silly little interesting things about the song, like I never knew beyond the first verse before. I knew ‘Mary had a little lamb and its feet were white as snow, and everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go’ and I knew they sang the la las. Then after that I knew it followed her to school, but I never knew that the whole story was about the teacher chucking the lamb out of class. I thought it was just a great end where it gets chucked out. Everyone’s wondering why this lamb is hanging about ’cause Mary loves the lamb. To me that’s like a heavy trip those lyrics. It’s very spiritual when someone hangs around because it’s loved. I’m sure no one ever thinks about those kind of things.

Paul McCartney – Interview with Melody Maker, December 2, 1972

“Mary Had a Little Lamb” was a nice song for kids, but it was wrong for the direction of the band.

Denny Laine – Interview with Spencer Leigh

How did you feel with your own background – being a pretty heavy, sort of rugged, rebel, gypsy guitarist – to be suddenly playing something like “Mary Had a Little Lamb?”

Look, I don’t take the business that seriously. If I was running the band, which I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have put it out as a single. I would have picked something a bit more in line with what I like in music.

Denny Laine – From “Blackbird: The Life and Times of Paul McCartney” by Geoffrey Giuliano, 1997

Mary Had A Little Lamb – were you surprised by this track. Was this what you had signed up for?

I think what you gotta look at is that it’s like saying “why did the Beatles do Yellow Submarine?” Because you can, why not. I always thought that, with Paul, it’s all about the humour and the attitude in the band, and if he wants to do something like “Mary Had A Little Lamb”, that’s up to him. I go and tongue-in-cheek it myself, “yeah okay all right”, and you do it. But then at the end of the day, you look back and you hear it years later, and you go “well, it’s not that bad really”, it adds its little thing to it, so there’s nothing wrong with that as far as I’m concerned. It’s Paul being Paul.

Denny Laine – From interview Wings: Denny Laine Part 3 – YouTube, circa 2012

I wanted to be the guitar player in the band and I didn’t like to have a comical arrangement like ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’. It’s a far cry from fuckin’ John Lee Hooker, you know? The stage clothes were all co-ordinated. I left Ireland to get away from having to wear a tartan jacket. That’s the truth!

Henry McCullough – About why he left Wings – Interview with Hot Press, 2008

And by the time we were doing Band on the Run in Scotland, I mean we had truly become a band. I mean, we had the British tour right before that, and we gelled as a band and it was a good, as Paul used to call it, “A shit-hot rock and roll band”. And so we had all of that other element too, you know, but we could go from ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ to ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’ to ‘1882’ or ‘Wild Life’. There were so many different styles which is what really made it interesting.

Denny Seiwell – From interview with SuperDeluxeEdition, 2021

Last updated on May 9, 2022

Lyrics

Mary had a little lamb
His fleece was white as snow
And everywhere that Mary went
That lamb was sure to go

And you could hear them singing
La la, la la, la, la, la, la, la, la
La la, la la, la, la, la, la, la, la

He followed her to school one day
It was against the rules
It made the children laugh and play to
See a lamb at school

And you could hear them singing
La la, la la, la, la, la, la, la, la
Everybody singing
La la, la la, la, la, la, la, la, la

And so the teacher turned it out
But still it lingered near
And waited patiently about till
Mary did appear

And you could hear them singing
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
Everybody singing
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la

"But does the lamb love Mary so"
The eager children cried
"And Mary loves the lamb, you know"
The teacher did reply

And you could hear them singing
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
Everybody singing
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la

Variations


A Stereo version • From "Mary Had A Little Lamb (UK)"

A1 Mono version • From "Mary Had A Little Lamb (France)"

A1993 Stereo version. 1993 remaster • From "Wild Life (1993)"

A2 "Barn" promo video soundtrack (with live vocals)

A2018 Stereo version. 2018 remaster • From "Red Rose Speedway - Archive Collection"

A3 "Psychedelic" promo video soundtrack (with live vocal)

B Alternate stereo mix released in Germany • From "Mary Had A Little Lamb (Germany)"


D Rough mix

E Piano rehearsal - Heard in a December 1971 interview of Paul and Linda McCartney for WKRO radio

L1 Live version • The Hague • Congresgebouw • Netherlands • Aug 21, 1972 • From "Wings Over Europe"

Officially appears on


Mary Had A Little Lamb / Little Woman Love (UK)

7" Single • Released in 1972

3:32 • Studio versionA • Stereo

Paul McCartney :
Backing vocals, Bass (?), Percussion, Piano, Producer, Recorder (?), Vocals
Linda McCartney :
Backing vocals, Maracas (?), Moog (?), Vocals
Denny Laine :
Backing vocals, Bass (?), Electric guitar
Henry McCullough :
Backing vocals, Electric guitar, Mandolin
Denny Seiwell :
Backing vocals, Drums, Percussion, Recorder (?), Xylophone (?)
Heather McCartney :
Backing vocals
Glyn Johns :
Recording engineer
Mary McCartney :
Backing vocals
Phil Ault :
Assistant recording engineer

Session Recording:
Mar 27, 1972
Studio :
Olympic Sound Studios, London

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


Mary Had A Little Lamb / Little Woman Love (Germany)

7" Single • Released in 1972

3:32 • Studio versionB • Stereo • Alternate mix released in Germany

Paul McCartney :
Backing vocals, Bass, Percussion, Piano, Producer, Recorder, Vocals
Linda McCartney :
Backing vocals, Maracas, Moog, Vocals
Denny Laine :
Backing vocals, Bass, Electric guitar
Henry McCullough :
Backing vocals, Electric guitar, Mandolin
Denny Seiwell :
Backing vocals, Drums, Percussion, Recorder, Xylophone
Heather McCartney :
Backing vocals
Glyn Johns :
Recording engineer
Mary McCartney :
Backing vocals
Phil Ault :
Assistant recording engineer

Session Recording:
Mar 27, 1972
Studio :
Olympic Sound Studios, London

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


Mary Had A Little Lamb / Little Woman Love (France)

7" Single • Released in 1972

3:32 • Studio versionA1 • Mono

Paul McCartney :
Backing vocals, Bass, Percussion, Piano, Producer, Recorder, Vocals
Linda McCartney :
Backing vocals, Maracas, Moog, Vocals
Denny Laine :
Backing vocals, Bass, Electric guitar
Henry McCullough :
Backing vocals, Electric guitar, Mandolin
Denny Seiwell :
Backing vocals, Drums, Percussion, Recorder, Xylophone
Heather McCartney :
Backing vocals
Glyn Johns :
Mixing engineer, Recording engineer
Mary McCartney :
Backing vocals
Phil Ault :
Assistant recording engineer

Session Recording:
Mar 27, 1972
Studio :
Olympic Sound Studios, London

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


Wild Life (1993)

Official album • Released in 1993

3:34 • Studio versionA1993 • Stereo • 1993 remaster

Paul McCartney :
Backing vocals, Bass (?), Percussion, Piano, Producer, Recorder (?), Vocals
Linda McCartney :
Backing vocals, Maracas (?), Moog (?), Vocals
Denny Laine :
Backing vocals, Bass (?), Electric guitar
Henry McCullough :
Backing vocals, Electric guitar, Mandolin
Denny Seiwell :
Backing vocals, Drums, Percussion, Recorder (?), Xylophone (?)
Heather McCartney :
Backing vocals
Glyn Johns :
Recording engineer
Mary McCartney :
Backing vocals
Peter Mew :
Remastering
Phil Ault :
Assistant recording engineer

Session Recording:
Mar 27, 1972
Studio :
Olympic Sound Studios, London

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


All Time Favourites

Official album • Released in 1993

3:32 • Studio versionA • Stereo

Paul McCartney :
Backing vocals, Bass (?), Percussion, Piano, Producer, Recorder (?), Vocals
Linda McCartney :
Backing vocals, Maracas (?), Moog (?), Vocals
Denny Laine :
Backing vocals, Bass (?), Electric guitar
Henry McCullough :
Backing vocals, Electric guitar, Mandolin
Denny Seiwell :
Backing vocals, Drums, Percussion, Recorder (?), Xylophone (?)
Heather McCartney :
Backing vocals
Glyn Johns :
Recording engineer
Mary McCartney :
Backing vocals
Phil Ault :
Assistant recording engineer

Session Recording:
Mar 27, 1972
Studio :
Olympic Sound Studios, London

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


Red Rose Speedway - Archive Collection

Official album • Released in 2018

3:32 • Studio versionA2018 • 2018 remaster

Paul McCartney :
Backing vocals, Bass (?), Percussion, Piano, Producer, Recorder (?), Vocals
Linda McCartney :
Backing vocals, Maracas (?), Moog (?), Vocals
Denny Laine :
Backing vocals, Bass (?), Electric guitar
Henry McCullough :
Backing vocals, Electric guitar, Mandolin
Denny Seiwell :
Backing vocals, Drums, Percussion, Recorder (?), Xylophone (?)
Heather McCartney :
Backing vocals
Glyn Johns :
Mixing engineer, Recording engineer
Mary McCartney :
Backing vocals
Alex Wharton :
Remastering
Phil Ault :
Assistant recording engineer

Session Recording:
Mar 27, 1972
Studio :
Olympic Sound Studios, London

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


Red Rose Speedway - Archive Collection

Official album • Released in 2018

5:22 • Rough mixC

Performed by :
Paul McCartneyLinda McCartneyDenny LaineHenry McCulloughDenny Seiwell
Glyn Johns :
Mixing engineer, Recording engineer
Phil Ault :
Assistant recording engineer

Session Recording:
Mar 27, 1972
Studio :
Olympic Sound Studios, London

Session Mixing:
March 1972
Studio :
Olympic Sound Studios, London

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


Wings Over Europe

Official album • Released in 2018

2:49 • LiveL1

Performed by :
Paul McCartneyLinda McCartneyDenny LaineHenry McCulloughDenny Seiwell
Paul McCartney :
Producer
Alan Parsons :
Recording engineer
Alex Wharton :
Mastering
Steve Orchard :
Mixing engineer
Jeremy Gee :
Recording engineer assistant
Graham Fleming :
Recording engineer assistant

Concert From the concert in The Hague, Netherlands on Aug 21, 1972

Bootlegs


MoMac's Hidden Tracks Vol. 3

Unofficial album

5:02 • InterviewE • An interview of Paul and Linda McCartney for WKRO radio, recorded in the McCartney Productions Ltd offices in New York, and featuring a piano rehearsal of “Mary Had A Little Lamb”

Session Recording:
Circa December 1971
Studio :
McCartney Productions Limited office, New York, USA


Studio Rarities Vol. 1

Unofficial album • Released in 2014

4:43 • Rough mixD • "“Heather and Mary’s backing vocals are not yet included and there are a few overdubs yet to add. Additionally, there is an extended coda ending here that was not included in the single mix”

Performed by :
Paul McCartneyLinda McCartneyDenny LaineHenry McCulloughDenny Seiwell
Glyn Johns :
Mixing engineer, Recording engineer
Phil Ault :
Assistant recording engineer

Session Recording:
March 1972
Studio :
Olympic Sound Studios, London


James Paul McCartney

Unofficial live

3:37 • LiveL1 • Live vocals, over pre-recorded soundtrack

Session Recording:
February - March 1973



Arles'72

Unofficial live • Released in 2001

3:26 • Live

Concert From the concert in Arles, France on Jul 13, 1972


Films


Mary Had A Little Lamb (Barn version)

1972 • For Wings • Directed by Nicholas Ferguson


Mary Had A Little Lamb (Countryside version)

1972 • For Wings • Directed by Nicholas Ferguson


Mary Had A Little Lamb (Desert version)

1972 • For Wings • Directed by Nicholas Ferguson


Mary Had A Little Lamb (Psychedelic version)

1972 • For Wings • Directed by Nicholas Ferguson

Live performances

“Mary Had A Little Lamb” has been played in 18 concerts.

Latest concerts where Mary Had A Little Lamb has been played







Contribute!

Have you spotted an error on the page? Do you want to suggest new content? Or do you simply want to leave a comment ? Please use the form below!

Sandy Boyer 1 year ago

I was told that this song was on an album called For The Children. Do you have any information on that? I would love to purchase the album.


The PaulMcCartney Project 1 year ago

Hi Sandy, you might refer to this album - https://www.discogs.com/Various-For-Our-Children/master/203038 - from 1991. There are 38 for sale on this site, from US, EU or Japan. Hope this helps.


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