Easily one of the most powerful songs in The Beatles’ discography is “A Day In The Life,” from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band. Studio recordings for the legendary track began 50 years ago on January 19, 1967.
Here are five things you perhaps didn’t know about “A Day In The Life”:
1. A friend of The Beatles that died inspired the line about a man who “blew his mind out in a car.”
A major inspiration for the song — specifically the opening part with John Lennon — was the death of the band’s friend, Tara Browne. He had died at the age of 21 in a car accident just four weeks prior to recording. Browne was the heir to the Guinness empire, and two days before recording began, The Daily Mail had published an article about the custody battle over Browne’s two children. Lennon said his friend hadn’t actually “blown his mind out,” but the line was in his head while writing the lyrics.
2. “A Day In The Life” was initially recorded with the intention of creating a concept album about childhood.
The recording sessions for “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” had both Lennon and Paul McCartney looking back to their childhoods in Liverpool for inspiration. Some thought was given to recording a whole album about their childhood, which can even be heard in McCartney’s portion of the song about waking up, getting out of bed, and racing to the bus. However, the idea was scrapped during “A Day In The Life” sessions, in favour of a more grown-up vibe.
3. Beatles’ roadie Mal Evans is responsible for the alarm clock heard in the song.
During recording, the band had Evans count 24 bars for them, and at the end of the 24 bars, he had an alarm clock go off. George Martin said later that the alarm clock was actually a joke, but was kept in the song because they couldn’t get rid of it! The interesting twist is that the sound of the alarm clock became a perfect trigger for McCartney’s part of the song.
4. The third verse includes a line referring to John Lennon’s recent acting gig.
Lennon had just finished acting for the film, How I Won the War, in the previous Fall, and was writing lyrics intended for “Strawberry Fields Forever” during his off-time. He penned, “I saw a film today, oh, boy/The English army had just won the war.” It is also worth noting that during filming is when Lennon started wearing those iconic granny-style glasses that became so pivotal during the Sgt. Pepper era.
5. It took three men to play the final chord of the song.
During a giant overdub session on February 22, Mal Evans, John Lennon, and Ringo Starr sat at three pianos, playing an E major chord simultaneously. It took nine takes to get it the way they wanted because the trio had trouble playing the chord at the exact same time. The ninth take was considered the best one, and was overdubbed three times to make it sound like 12 men playing 9 pianos. Engineer Geoff Emerick kept increasing the volume faders to hear the full sustain of the chord, which is why the studio’s heating system can be heard in the background.