The Beatles, ‘A Day in the Life’ – Lyrics Uncovered
With the recent news of the Beatles' 'Anthology' collections being released to iTunes on June 14, we take a look at one of the most compelling Fab Four songs of all time: 'A Day in the Life,' the last track on 1967's 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.'
'A Day in the Life' is quite unique in that, in many ways, it's like two songs in one -- musically and lyrically. The tune combines the "current events" verses written by John Lennon with a Paul McCartney-penned middle section that was, in fact, originally intended for use in another song.
Lennon drew from newspaper headlines for inspiration in writing the song. The first couple of verses were based on a story involving a young man named Tara Browne, an heir to the Guinness fortune who died in a car crash. Lennon embellished the story in the tune, especially with the line "He blew his mind out in a car."
The song's third verse, which starts with the lyrics "I saw a film today, oh boy / The English army had just won the war," is said to be a reference to a movie that Lennon starred in around the same time called 'How I Won the War.' Lennon played a British soldier in the film, which is the only non-Beatles movie that he ever starred in.
That verse ends with the line "I'd love to turn you on," an apparent drug reference that McCartney later confirmed in the biography 'Many Years From Now.' "This was the time of Tim Leary's 'Turn on, tune in, drop out' and we wrote, 'I'd love to turn you on'," explained Macca. "John and I gave each other a knowing look: 'Uh-huh, it's a drug song. You know that, don't you?'."
As a result of that line, the tune was banned by the BBC. McCartney's section, which comes in next, also had some supposed drug allusions with the lyrics "Found my way upstairs and had a smoke / And somebody spoke and I went into a dream."
The song returns to Lennon's lyrics for its last verse, which are based on an article about the large number of potholes in Blackburn, Lancashire. A friend had told Lennon that they can fill up Albert Hall with that many potholes, and thus the line, "Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall."
At the end of the song, there is a haunting loop with the words "Never could see any other way" repeated over and over again that closes out the 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' album.
An alternate take of 'A Day in the Life' that appears on the 'Anthology 2' collection doesn't include the 41-piece orchestra featured on the original album version.
While Lennon and McCartney wrote dozens of classic songs, 'A Day in the Life' truly stands out as one of the more remarkable compositions in rock history.
Watch a Video Montage Set to the 'Anthology 2' Version of 'A Day in the Life'