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A Day in the Life

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"A Day in the Life"
Song by The Beatles
Album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Released 1 June 1967
Recorded 19, 20 January, 3, 10 February 1967
Genre Psychedelic Rock
Length 5:08
Label Parlophone, Capitol, EMI
Writer Lennon/McCartney
Producer George Martin
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band track listing
I was writing the song with the 'Daily Mail' propped up in front of me on the piano. I had it open to the 'News In Brief' or whatever they call it. There was a paragraph about four thousand holes being discovered in Blackburn Lancashire. And when we came to record the song there was still one word missing from that verse... I knew the line had to go, 'Now they know how many holes it takes to — something — the Albert Hall.' For some reason I couldn't think of the verb. What did the holes do to the Albert Hall? It was Terry Doran who said 'fill' the Albert Hall. And that was it. Then we thought we wanted a growing noise to lead back into the first bit. We wanted to think of a good end and we had to decide what sort of backing and instruments would sound good. Like all our songs, they never become an entity until the very end. They are developed all the time as we go along.

—John Lennon, 1967

'A Day in the Life' — that was something. I dug it. It was a good piece of work between Paul and me. I had the 'I read the news today' bit, and it turned Paul on. Now and then we really turn each other on with a bit of song, and he just said 'yeah' — bang bang, like that. It just sort of happened beautifully, and we arranged it and rehearsed it, which we don't often do, the afternoon before. So we all knew what we were playing, we all got into it. It was a real groove, the whole scene on that one. Paul sang half of it and I sang half. I needed a middle-eight for it, but Paul already had one there. It's a bit of 2001, you know.

—John Lennon, November, 1968

Definitely a reference to marijuana. I thought, 'Found my way upstairs and had a smoke,' was a drug reference ... they always used to disappear and have a little puff. They never did it in front of me. They always went downstairs to the canteen and Mal Evans used to guard it.

—George Martin

It was about me remembering what it was like to run up the road to catch the bus to school, having a smoke and going into school. We decided, 'Bugger this. We're going to write a turn-on song.' It was a recollection of my school days. I would have a Woodbine then, and somebody would speak and I would go into a dream. That was the only song on the album written as a deliberate provocation.

—Paul McCartney

He was a bit shy about it, because I think he thought it's already a good song. Sometimes we wouldn't let each other interfere with a song either, because you tend to be a bit lax with someone else's stuff, so you experiment a bit. We were doing it in his room with the piano. He said, 'Should we do this?' (I said) 'Yeah, let's do that!'

—John Lennon

This was a song written by the two of them quite separately. John had the idea originally. For the first bit, he said to me, 'I don't know where to go from here.' So, Paul said, 'Well, I've got this other song I've been working on. What do you think of it?' This ended up being the middle bit and so they joined the two bits together to make one song. It was Paul's idea to leave 24 bars empty, which we would fill in later with something. We asked him, 'What are you going to do with it?' 'Well,' he replied, 'let's worry about it later. Let's play the 24 bars down anyway.' So, in order to keep the 24 bars regular, we got Mal Evans, the Beatles' roadie, to should, '1, 2, 3, 4,' at the beinning of every bar. And, in order to make the song less boring, we put tape echo on it. So, on the original tapes, you can hear Mal's voice with an echo as the bars go through. At the end of it, just to make sure we didn't forget the 24th bar, he sounded an alarm clock. Those with very keep ears can listen to 'A Day in the Life' and you can actually hear Mal's voice in the background.

—George Martin

Then I went around to all the trumpet players and said, 'Look all you've got to do is start at the beginning of the 24 bars and go through all the notes on your instrument from the lowest to the highest-- and the highest has to happen on that 24th bar, that's all. So you can blow 'em all in that first thing and then rest, then play the top one there if you want, or you can steady them out.' And it was interesting because I saw the orchestra's characters. The strings were like sheep-- they all looked at each other: 'Are you going up? I am!' and they'd all go up together, the leader would take them all up. The trumpeters were much wilder.

—Paul McCartney, 1988


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