A Day In The Life (Lennon/McCartney)

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A Day In The Life (Lennon/McCartney)

Recorded under the working title “In The Life Of…,” John wove together several newspaper stories to create A Day In The Life and combined them with an unfinished song of Paul’s (the middle eight: “woke up, fell out of bed…”). The lines about the “four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire” stemmed from an article in the Daily Mirror which reported “one-twentieth of a pothole” for every Blackburn resident in the streets. The lyrics about the English army winning the war came from the film How I Won the War, which John starred in. The man who “blew his mind out in a car” was Tara Browne, the Guinness heir who was killed in a car crash.

The Daily Mail: The Holes in Our Roads

The Daily Mail: The Holes in Our Roads article from January 17, 1967

The recording marked the first time the Beatles used two 4-track recorders running at the same time

The crashing piano

The famous crashing piano chord was originally intended to be a long hum that ended the record, however, it was ultimately decided that something with more of an impact was required. Paul struck the chord and held it for forty seconds as the recording levels were gradually increased higher and higher to maintain the sound level – to the point that, at the end, studio voices and rustling papers can be heard.

An expensive orchestra

The orchestra was conducted by George Martin and Paul McCartney at a cost of £367 – extremely high considering it was for a small part of a single song. Paul had originally wanted a 90 piece orchestra, which was not possible, so the piece was recorded numerous times and four versions were combined into one. The performers were asked to wear evening wear and their choice of novelty items. One violinist wore a red clown nose, while another wore a fake gorilla paw on his bow hand. The purpose of the humorous dress was for show as they recorded a TV special, but the plan was ultimately abandoned.

The 1967-1970 variation

The original version which closes Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band begins with a crossfade – applause – from the previous track, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise). This version is also used on the original vinyl release of 1967-1970. However, the CD version of 1967-1970, released in 1993, eliminates the crossfade and begins cleanly.

Banned by the BBC

On May 23, 1967, BBC Director of Sound Broadcasting Frank Gillard wrote to EMI Chairman Sir Joseph Lockwood explaining that, due to perceived “sinister meaining,” the BBC would be banning “A Day In The Life” from being played on its airwaves.

Letter from BBC Director of Sound Broadcasting Frank Gillard to EMI chairman Sir Joseph Lockwood announcing a ban on A Day In The Life.

Letter from BBC Director of Sound Broadcasting Frank Gillard to EMI chairman Sir Joseph Lockwood announcing a ban on A Day In The Life.

The letter reads:

I never thought the day would come when we would have to put a ban on an EMI record, but sadly, that is what has happened over this track. We have listened to it over and over again with great care, and we cannot avoid coming to the conclusion that the words “I’d love to turn you on”, followed by that mounting montage of sound, could have a rather sinister meaning.

The recording may have been made in innocence and good faith, but we must take account of the interpretation that many young people would inevitably put upon it. “Turned on” is a phrase which can be used in many different circumstances, but it is currently much in vogue in the jargon of the drug-addicts. We do not feel that we can take the responsibility of appearing to favour or encourage those unfortunate habits, and that is why we shall not be playing the recording in any of our programmes, Radio or Television.

I expect we shall meet with some embarrassment over this decision, which has already been noted by the Press. We will do our best not to appear to be criticising your people, but as you will realise, we do find ourselves in a very difficult position. I thought you would like to know why we have, most reluctantly, taken this decision.

The Beatles responded to the ban:

“The BBC have misinterpreted the song. It has nothing to do with drug taking. It’s only about a dream.” – Paul McCartney

“The laugh is that Paul and I wrote this song from a headline in a newspaper. It’s about a crash and its victim. How can anyone read drugs into it is beyond me. Everyone seems to be falling overboard to see the word drug in the most innocent of phrases.” – John Lennon

Gillard retired from his position at the BBC in 1969 and, under his successor Sir James Ian Raley Trethowan, the ban on “A Day In The Life” was finally lifted on March 13, 1972.


“Just as it sounds: I was reading the paper one day and I noticed two stories. One was the Guinness heir who killed himself in a car. That was the main headline story. He died in London in a car crash. On the next page was a story about 4000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire. In the streets, that is. They were going to fill them all. Paul’s contribution was the beautiful little lick in the song “I’d love to turn you on.” 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. I thought it was a damn good piece of work.” – John Lennon, Playboy, 1980

“At the very beginning I put into the musical score the lowest note each instrument could play, ending with an E major chord. And at the beginning of each of the 24 bars I put a note showing roughly where they should be at that point. Then I had to instruct them. ‘We’re going to start very very quietly and end up very very loud. We’re to start very low in pitch and end up very high. You’ve got to make your own way up there, as slidey as possible so that the clarinets slurp, trombones gliss, violins slide without fingering any notes. And whatever you do, don’t listen to the fellow next to you because I don’t want you to be doing the same thing.’ Of course they all looked at me as though I was mad.” – George Martin describing the construction of the orchestral piece at the end of the song.

“But what we want to do is turn you on to the truth rather than on to pot.” – Paul McCartney, talking about the drug references in the middle eight section (which he wrote) of A Day In The Life

Recording dates

  • January 19, 1967 (4 takes; basic track)
  • January 20, 1967 (vocal, instrumental overdubs)
  • January 30, 1967 (mixing)
  • February 3, 1967 (vocal, bass, drum overdubs)
  • February 10, 1967 (orchestral overdub)
  • February 13, 1967 (mixing)
  • February 22, 1967 (final piano chord overdub; mixing)
  • February 23, 1967 (mixing)
  • March 1, 1967 (unused piano overdub)


  • John Lennon – lead vocal (verses), acoustic guitar, piano (final chord)
  • Paul McCartney – lead vocal (middle-eight), piano (throughout and final chord), bass guitar
  • George Harrison – maracas
  • Ringo Starr – drums, congas, piano (final chord)
  • Mal Evans – alarm clock, counting, piano (final chord)
  • George Martin – orchestral arrangement, harmonium (final chord)
  • Erich Gruenberg, Granville Jones, Bill Monro, Jurgen Hess, Hans Geiger, D. Bradley, Lionel Bentley, David McCallum, Donald Weekes, Henry Datyner, Sidney Sax, Ernest Scott, Carlos Villa – violin
  • John Underwood, Gwynne Edwards, Bernard Davis, John Meek – viola
  • Francisco Gabarro, Dennis Vigay, Alan Delziel, Alex Nifosi – cello
  • Cyril Mac Arther, Gordon Pearce – double bass
  • John Marson – harp
  • Roger Lord – oboe
  • Basil Tschaikov, Jack Brymer – clarinet
  • N. Fawcett, Alfred Waters – bassoon
  • Clifford Seville, David Sandeman – flute
  • Alan Civil, Neil Sanders – French horn
  • David Mason, Monty Montgomery, Harold Jackson – trumpet
  • Raymond Brown, Raymond Premru, T. Moore – trombone
  • Michael Barnes – tuba
  • Tristan Fry – timpani
  • Marijke Koger – tambourine

Release history


  • Nominated for the 1967 Grammy for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) Or Instrumentalist(s)

Notable covers

  • Sting (from the Demolition Man Soundtrack)

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