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  • September 25, 2017
Song Details
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A Day In The Life
Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Released on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album
Clean opening version - released on Imagine: John Lennon - Music From The Motion Picture album
Takes 1, 2 and take 6 overdub - released on Anthology 2 album

Recording sessions

Studio Two, Abbey Road EMI Studios, London, England - January 19, 20 and 30, February 3, 13, 22 and 23, March 1, 1967
Studio One, Abbey Road EMI Studios, London, England - February 10, 1967

Notes

"A Day In The Life" shows exactly how the Beatles magic or Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership works. John had a song without the middle part, Paul had a song that has only the middle part and "A Day In The Life" is the combination of that.

Probably the most outstanding track on the album and in the Beatles' career, the song started with John's part about a car accident (many suggested this is a reference to Tara Browne who died in a car accident), and English army winning the war (a direct reference of John's movie How I Won The War directed by Richard Lester), then it was bars of empty gap to the middle section (Paul's part was not filled in yet), and finally back to John's part about the holes in the roads in Blackburn, Lancashire (the idea which was taken from a Daily Mail column titled "The holes in our roads"). At this stage the Beatles still did not know what to fill in the empty gap, in order to mark out the place where the item would go they had Mal Evans count out the bars, 1 to 24, his voice plastered with tape echo and backed by a tinkling piano, and to flag the end of this section an alarm clock was sounded.

Paul filled in his middle when they recorded take 6. Paul's first line: "Woke up, fell out of bed" occurred immediately after the alarm clock which marked the 24-count gap, which seems like a happy coincidence. Therefore, the alarm clock was kept on the track permanently.

Now the lyrics are completed, but how about the empty gap? Paul had decided the best way of filling the 24-bar gap in the song is an orchestral build-up, with perhaps 90 musicians playing from a pre-selected low note to the highest their respective instrument could play. So it fell on George Martin to turn this into reality and on February 10, 1967, he and Paul took turns to conduct the orchestra of 40 musicians instead of 90. The orchestra was recorded four times, onto all the tracks of a four-track tape (it was later mixed down to one) so, in essence, there was the equivalent of 160 musicians. In addition of the recording, the Beatles asked the musicians to wear full evening dress but then, additionally, don novelties. Everyone wore funny hats or some other sort of carnival novelty.

This orchestral session was filmed by NEMS Enterprises, with Tony Bramwell producing, execising as much control as he could over the seven hand-held cameras utilised for shooting this most chaotic of events. The film was later edited, along with some stock non-Beatles footage, into a finished clip for "A Day In The Life" but it was never screened at the time.

With the orchestral part finished, the Beatles attempted to record the song's coda. At beginning stage it was going to be a long "hummmmmmm", but then on February 22, 1967, John, Paul, Ringo and Mal Evans, sharing three pianos, recorded the sound of the simultaneous striking of one note, E major. The ninth take of this piano chord was overdubbed three times, with George Martin compounding the sound further on a harmonium, until all four tracks of a tape were full. The resultant wall of sound, lasting for 53 seconds, was the perfect ending to "A Day In The Life" and the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The Beatles Studio