Paula Cole's 'Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?' Originally Sampled The Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper'

Paula Cole interrogated gender norms with her soft-rock hit “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” During an interview, Cole said a demo of the song sampled The Beatles‘ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Specifically, Ringo Starr‘s drumming appeared in an early version of Cole’s track.

Paula Cole wanted ‘Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?’ to be similar to the music of Al Green and Prince

During a 2016 interview with SongFacts, Cole discussed the origins of “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” “Well, ‘Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?’ was a song that had been kicking around in my home-demo coffers for many years, but I had written it with a rumba feel, which is really strange, right?” she recalled. “Nobody paid any attention to it with a rumba feel, and that bothered me.”

Cole had faith in the tune. “For some reason the song was speaking to my unconscious and was saying, ‘Believe in me. Hey, I’m down here, I’m good,’” she remembered. Cole wanted “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” to be as sexual as songs by Al Green and Prince, but from a female perspective.

Ringo Starr’s drumming from ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)’ was once part of the song

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise),” the final song from Sgt. Pepper, influenced Cole. “It bothered me enough that I re-demoed it with like a Ringo Starr reprise of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,’” she said. “On that album, Paul McCartney counts off at the last song, ‘One, two, three, four … [drum beat].’ That’s Ringo.”

The sample changed others’ perception of “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” “So, I sampled Ringo and looped it for just home-demo purposes, not for the recording, and then I put on the catchy BVs [backing vocals] and added a bridge and suddenly everyone was really over the top about the song,” Cole added.

The way fans from the United States and the United Kingdom reacted to Paula Cole’s ‘Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?’

“Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” became Cole’s highest-charting hit in the United States. It reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the chart for 21 weeks. “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” appeared on Cole’s sophomore album, This Fire. This Fire reached No. 20 on the Billboard 200, remaining on the chart for 77 weeks.

“Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” was popular in the United Kingdom as well. According to The Official Charts Company, the song reached No. 15 in the U.K., staying on the chart for 10 weeks. Meanwhile, This Fire reached No. 60 there, staying on the chart for two weeks.

While the final version of “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” doesn’t sound much like The Beatles, the song proves the Fab Four had an influence on 1990s rock.

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