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In My Life

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"In My Life"
Song by The Beatles
Album Rubber Soul
Released 3 December 1965
Recorded 18 October 1965
EMI Studios, London
Genre Baroque popTemplate:Sfn
Length 2:28
Label Parlophone
Writer Lennon/McCartney
Producer George Martin
Rubber Soul track listing
Lennon's original manuscript for 'In My Life', from his personal Beatles-lyrics notebook.
I have had playmates, I have had companions / In my days of childhood, in my joyful schooldays / All, all are gone, the old familiar faces. ... How some they have died, and some they have left me, / And some are taken from me; all are departed / All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

—Charles Lamb (1775-1834), "The Old Familiar Faces", in Palgrave's Golden Treasury, a popular anthology of English poetry, 1861

I think 'In My Life' was the first song that I wrote that was really, consciously about my life, and it was sparked by a remark a journalist and writer in England made after In His Own Write came out. I think 'In My Life' was after In His Own Write .... But he said to me, 'Why don't you put some of the way you write in the book, as it were, in the songs? Or why don't you put something about your childhood into the songs?' ...

We were just writing songs a la Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, pop songs with no more thought to them than that, to create a sound. And the words were almost irrelevant. ...

'In My Life' started out as a bus journey from my house at 250 Menlove Avenue to town, mentioning every place I could remember. I wrote it all down and it was ridiculous. This is before even 'Penny Lane' was written and I had Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, Tram Sheds — Tram Sheds are the depot just outside of Penny Lane — and it was the most boring sort of 'What I Did On My Holiday's Bus Trip' song and it wasn't working at all. I cannot do this! I cannot do this!

But then I laid back and these lyrics started coming to me about the places I remember. Now Paul helped with the middle-eight melody. The whole lyrics were already written before Paul had even heard it. In 'In My Life,' his contribution melodically was the harmony and the middle eight itself.

—John Lennon, The Playboy Interviews, p.129-30, 1980

For 'In My Life,' I had a complete set of lyrics after struggling with a journalistic version of a trip from home to downtown on a bus naming every sight. It became 'In My Life,' which is a remembrance of friends and lovers of the past. Paul helped with the middle eight musically. But all lyrics written, signed, sealed, and delivered. And it was, I think, my first real major piece of work. Up till then it had all been sort of glib and throw-away. And that was the first time I consciously put my literary part of myself into the lyric. Inspired by Kenneth Allsop, the British journalist, and Bob Dylan.

—John Lennon, The Playboy Interviews, p.151, 1980

I wrote that in Kenwood. I used to write upstairs where I had about ten Brunell tape recorders all linked up, I still have them, I’d mastered them over the period of a year or two — I could never make a rock and roll record but I could make some far out stuff on it. I wrote it upstairs, that was one where I wrote the lyrics first and then sang it. That was usually the case with things like 'In My Life' and 'Universe' and some of the ones that stand out a bit. ... I think on 'Norwegian Wood' and 'In My Life' Paul helped with the middle eight, to give credit where it’s due.

—John Lennon, Rolling Stone interview, by Jann Wenner, 1971

I’ll give my memories of writing ‘In My Life.’ I arrived at John’s house for a writing session and he had the very nice opening stanzas of the song. ... That was what John had. But as I recall, he didn’t have a tune to it, and my recollection, I think, is at variance with John’s. I said, ‘Well, you haven’t got a tune, let me just go and work on it.’ And I went down to the half-landing, where John had a Mellotron, and I sat there and put together a tune based in my mind on Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. Songs like ‘You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me’ and ‘Tears Of A Clown’ had really been a big influence. You refer back to something you’ve loved and try and take the spirit of that and write something new.

So I recall writing the whole melody. And it actually does sound very like me, if you analyze it. I was obviously working to lyrics. The melody’s structure is very me. So my recollection is saying to John, ‘Just go and have a cup of tea or something. Let me be with this for ten minutes on my own and I’ll do it.’ And with the inspiration of Smokey and the Miracles, I tried to keep it melodic but a bit bluesy, with the minors and little harmonies, and then my recollection is going back up into the room and saying, ‘Got it, great! Good tune, I think. What d’you think?’ John said, ‘Nice,’ and we continued working with it from then, using that melody and filling out the rest of the verses. As usual, for these co-written things, he often just had the first verse, which was always enough, it was the direction, it was the signpost and it was the inspiration for the whole song. I hate the word but it was the template.

We wrote it, and in my memory we tagged on the introduction, which I think I thought up. I was imaging the intro of a Miracles record, and to my mind the phrases on guitar are very much Smokey and the Miracles. So it was John’s original inspiration, I think my melody, I think my guitar riff. I don’t want to be categorical about this. But that’s my recollection. We then finished it off and it was a fine song which John sang.

—Paul McCartney, Many Years From Now, p.277-78, 1997

'In My Life' is one of my favourite songs because it is so much John. A super track and such a simple song. There's a bit where John couldn't decide what to do in the middle and, while they were having their tea break, I put down a baroque piano solo which John didn't hear until he came back. What I wanted was too intricate for me to do live, so I did it with a half-speed piano, then sped it up, and he liked it.

—George Martin, The Beatles Anthology, p.197, 2000

The remainder of the afternoon was spent recording another marvellous new Lennon song, the autobiographical 'In My Life'. After a period of rehearsal, three takes were put down, two of which were complete. The 'best' was take three, with John's lead vocal underscored by Paul, and with lead guitar, tambourine and drums as the rhythm. At this point the middle eight of the song was left open since the Beatles had yet to decide how best to use it. The hole was plugged with an imaginative overdub recorded on 22 October. ...

First task of [22 October] was to superimpose an instrumental break onto the previously recorded 'In My Life.' But using which instrument? One of the keyboard types certainly, with George Martin playing. The tape box reveals that he originally tried a Hammond organ. Not right. Then he decided on a piano, though there was a problem in playing the type of solo he wanted, baroque style, at the right tempo. The solution was to play at half the speed and then play back the tape at double-speed. It worked, the song was complete, and it went on to become one of the Beatles' most respected pieces of work.

—Mark Lewisohn, The Beatles Recording Sessions, p.64-65, 1988



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