(Click on pic to enlarge).
News item, 19 June 2010:
John Lennon's 'A Day in the Life' fetches $1.2 million
John Lennon's handwritten lyrics to 'A Day in the Life', have sold for $1.2 million (£810,000) at auction, double their pre-sale high estimate. Lennon's handwritten lyrics to the song, the final number on the Beatles album "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", had been expected to fetch between $500,000 to $700,000 (£338,000 to £473,000) at the Sotheby's New York auction. The most amount ever paid for Beatles lyrics at auction was $1.25 million in 2005 for 'All You Need Is Love'. 'A Day In the Life' however has set a record in sterling due to the fluctuating exchange rate ('All You Need Is Love sold for £690,000).
The single sheet of paper features a rough draft of the lyrics, including crossings out. On the reverse side is a neater version with fewer corrections. It appears that the line "I love to turn you on" – which prompted a BBC ban because the words were deemed to be a reference to taking drugs – was added later. The lyrics, which once belonged to the Beatles' road manager Mal Evans, provide a glimpse into the band's methods, with Lennon noting where Sir Paul McCartney would insert his more upbeat verse. Lennon's words appear to be inspired by newspaper headlines and articles.
Rolling Stone magazine listed "A Day in the Life" at No. 26 in its compilation of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. "Sgt. Pepper" won four Grammy awards in 1968. Sotheby's has described it as "the revolutionary song that marked the Beatles' transformation from pop icons to artists".
Hear the song at -
I read the news today oh boyAbout a lucky man who made the gradeAnd though the news was rather sadWell I just had to laughI saw the photographHe blew his mind out in a carHe didn't notice that the lights had changedA crowd of people stood and staredThey'd seen his face beforeNobody was really sureIf he was from the House of Lords.
I saw a film today oh boyThe English Army had just won the warA crowd of people turned awaybut I just had to lookHaving read the bookI'd love to turn you on
Woke up, fell out of bed,Dragged a comb across my headFound my way downstairs and drank a cup,And looking up I noticed I was late.Found my coat and grabbed my hatMade the bus in seconds flatFound my way upstairs and had a smoke,and somebody spoke and I went into a dream
I read the news today oh boyFour thousand holes in Blackburn, LancashireAnd though the holes were rather smallThey had to count them allNow they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.I'd love to turn you on
- This is the final track on the 1967 Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. As such, the final chord is a fitting end to the conclusion of the album.
- The song comprises separate compositions by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. McCartney composed the part commencing “Woke up, fell out of bed…”, Lennon composed the rest. McCartney’s portion was a segment that he had not yet used in a song and which was considered to be suitable to fit in here.
- Lennon’s lyrics came from a newspaper he was reading, McCartney’s from memories of his youth.
- The first verse was inspired by the death of Tara Browne, the 21-year-old heir to the Guinness fortune. He was a close friend of Lennon and McCartney and had crashed his Lotus Elan in 1966 when a Volkswagen pulled out of a side street into his path in Earls Court. Lennon has stated “I didn't copy the accident. Tara didn't blow his mind out, but it was in my mind when I was writing that verse. The details of the accident in the song — not noticing traffic lights and a crowd forming at the scene — were similarly part of the fiction." George Martin, the producer of their records, disagrees. He felt that the inspiration was the drug scene that they were into at the time and that Lennon and McCarthy were imagining a stoned [politician who had stopped at traffic lights.
- The final verse was inspired by an article that Lennon had read in The Daily Mail, that the local Council authorities were worried about the number of potholes in the roads at Balckburn in Lancashire. An official count had placed them at over 4,000. Lennon wanted to connect it with Albert Hall, a play on words, but couldn’t think of a link. His friend Terry Doran suggested “fill”, hence the lyric as to how many holes would fill the Albert Hall.
- McCartney’s verse was a recollection of younger school days. He also contributed the “I’d love to turn you on” phrase. According to Lennon: “ I had the bulk of the song and the words, but he contributed this little lick floating around in his head that he couldn't use for anything." It is a drug reference rather than a sexual one.
- The reference to the film of the war is to John Lennon’s acting role as an English soldier in the film “How I Won the War”.
- Originally the recording of the song consisted of the two sections, the Lennon part and the McCartney part, with a 24 bar bridge between the two, featuring a piano chord being repeated and roadie/assistant Mal Evans counting the bars with increasing echo until an alarm clock bell rings. You can hear it in a more pronounced way, with the counting, in the following clip at the 1.03 mark.
The final format of the bridge can be heard at the 3.49 mark. Funnily enough, it was intended to take out the counting and the bell but it was decided that the sound of the bell complemented the lyrics that followed - “Woke up, fell out of bed…” – that it was kept in.
- Subsequent recording sessions failed to find a solution to the missing bridge, the middle 24 bars. It was McCartney’s suggestion to use a 40 piece orchestra to fill the gap and to have them play an atonal, discordant crescendo. There was concern that classically trained musicians would not be able to ad lib discordant tones so George Martin wrote a loose score, telling them to be discordant within that framework:
“What I did there was to write ... the lowest possible note for each of the instruments in the orchestra. At the end of the twenty-four bars, I wrote the highest note...near a chord of E major. Then I put a squiggly line right through the twenty-four bars, with reference points to tell them roughly what note they should have reached during each bar ... Of course, they all looked at me as though I were completely mad.”
- McCartney had originally wanted a 90 piece orchestra but this was not feasible. The same effect was obtained by recording the same segment a number of times and putting them together. The final crescendo is a combination of four different recordings.
- To put them in the right frame of mind and mood, the classical musicians were issued with false noses, party hats, fake stick on nipples and the like. The lead violist played wearing a gorilla paw and the bassoon player placed a balloon over the end of his instrument. The musicians, in dinner suits wearing such items, can be seen in the above clip. That clip also shows studio guests Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, Keith Richards, Donovan, Patti Boyd and Michael Nesmith.
- The ending was originally intended to be the Beatles humming but when that was tried, they decided they wanted something with more impact. The closing chord used in replacement as become one of the most famous final chords in history. It was achieved by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Mal Evans playing a simultaneous loud E chord on 3 separate pianos while George Martin played it on the harmonium. The final chord was made to ring out for over forty seconds by increasing the recording sound level as the vibration faded out. Towards the end of the chord the recording level was so high that listeners can hear the sounds of the studio, including rustling papers, the air conditioner and a squeaking chair.
- The BBC banned the song for drug references, notably the phrase “I’d love to turn you on” but also for "found my way upstairs and had a smoke and somebody spoke and I went into a dream". A spokesman for the BBC stated, "We have listened to this song over and over again. And we have decided that it appears to go just a little too far, and could encourage a permissive attitude to drug-taking" Lennon and McCartney denied that the song was about drugs, Lennon stating "what we want to do is to turn you on to the truth rather than ...pot". George Martin thinks that the references were to drugs, despite the protests by Lennon and McCartney. He recalled in one interview years later that in those days the Beatles would "disappear and have a little puff".
- The boys decided that they would have a bit of fun with the ending of the song, which was the end of the album. They recorded a high pitched dog whistle at the end, which is inaudible to human hearing, the intent being that when the record (this was in the days of vinyl) dogs would begin barking and howling. There is also a continuous loop of Paul saying “Never could see any other way”, the vinyl record would not stop, just keep repeating. Hear it at the end of the above clip.
- George Martin in a 2007 interview:
"John's voice - which he hated - was the kind of thing that would send shivers down your spine. If you hear those opening chords with the guitar and piano, and then his voice comes in, 'I heard the news today, oh boy' It's just so evocative of that time. He always played his songs to me on the guitar and I would sit on a stool as he strummed. The orchestral section was Paul's idea. We put two pieces of songs together that weren't connected in any way. Then we had that 24-bars-of-nothing in between. I had to write a score, but in the climax, I gave each instrument different little waypoints at each bar, so they would know roughly where they should be when they were sliding up. Just so they didn't reach the climax too quickly. With A Day in the Life, I wondered whether we were losing our audience and I was scared. But I stopped being scared when I played it to the head of Capitol Records in America and he was gob smacked. He said, That's fantastic. And of course, it was."
- The lyrics were first sold by the estate of the late Mal Evans in 1992.