Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor

Album: Little Games (1967)
  • Written by Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty and guitarist Jimmy Page, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor" is based on a children's nursery rhyme:

    Tinker, tailor
    soldier, sailor
    rich Man, poor man
    beggar man, thief

    The guy in the song is trying to figure out just what he want to do with his life, and is overwhelmed by his choices.
  • Jimmy Page started experimenting with scraping a violin bow across his guitar strings during his time with the Yardbirds, notably on this track and another one on the same album "Glimpses." Later with Led Zeppelin, Page became renowned for the violin bow technique on such tracks as "Dazed And Confused." The legendary axeman spoke to Rolling Stone about what prompted him to start using it: "It was proposed to me when I was doing studio work. One of the session violinists was the father of David McCallum, the actor in the TV show The Man From U.N.C.L.E. String players would keep to themselves, but this guy was quite friendly. He said to me one day - we'd just finished a session - 'Have you ever tried bowing the guitar?' I said it wouldn't work. The strings aren't arched over the guitar, the way they are on a violin. He said, 'Have a go.' He gave me a bow. I tried it and realized there was something in it. I don't remember if I used it on any sessions, but I certainly used it the minute I was in the Yardbirds."
  • Jimmy Page was not the first person to use a violin bow with a guitar. That honor is often credited to Eddie Phillips of the UK band Creation, one of the bands managed by Shel Talmy, who often used Page as a session musician.
  • This was the B-side of the Yardbirds' US-only single release "Ha Ha Said the Clown" target="_blank">Ha Ha Said The Clown," which peaked at #45.
  • This was included on Little Games, the last Yardbirds album before their 1968 breakup. Jimmy Page, who had taken over for Jeff Beck, went on to form Led Zeppelin.
  • This song, and the rest of the album, was produced by Mickie Most, whose other clients included Donovan, The Animals and Hot Chocolate.

Comments: 2

  • Dierk from Hamburg, GermanyNo, Willie, it is not. If at all it would be the other way round, since le Carré's novel was published only in 1974, seven years after Page et al. wrote their song. Actually those lines - Tinker, tailor ... up to just before the 'please' reference an old English nursery rhyme.
  • Willie from Scottsdale, AzThe title is a rather obvious take-off of the John LeCarre novel "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy."
see more comments

Don Brewer of Grand FunkSongwriter Interviews

The drummer and one of the primary songwriters in Grand Funk talks rock stardom and Todd Rundgren.

The Punk Photography of Chris SteinSong Writing

Chris Stein of Blondie shares photos and stories from his book about the New York City punk scene.

The FratellisSongwriter Interviews

Jon Fratelli talks about the band's third album, and the five-year break leading up to it.

The Girl in That SongFact or Fiction

Billie Jean, Delilah, Sara, Laura and Sharona - do you know who the girls in the songs really are?

Dr. JohnSongwriter Interviews

The good doctor shares some candid insights on recording with Phil Spector and The Black Keys.

Victoria WilliamsSongwriter Interviews

Despite appearances on Carson, Leno and a Pennebaker film, Williams remains a hidden treasure.