RaR22 – A Day in the Life
Listen to the recording of the tune by clicking the attached mp3 file. This will open the recording in a new window or tab. Listen and follow along with the listening guide in the book.
Read the liner notes below.
Read the information “What to Listen For”
Respond to the Rate-A-Record/Questions by clicking on the assignment link and then click on on the button “Write Submission” (to the right of Text Submission) to record your response. Do not use the comments field.
A Day in the Life – The Beatles
By 1966 the Beatles had been actively touring, with only short respite, for nearly four years, and they were exhausted and burned out. Therefore, they announced their retirement from the road to focus on making records. The band’s increased attention to sophisticated production and complex composition that began on Rubber Soul and Revolver reached its full potential with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Sgt. Pepper’s is a concept album in which all the songs (save one) are arranged around the concept of an alter ego for the Beatles. The album begins with a whimsical tune that introduces Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (the Beatles roadie Mal Evans came up with the name, which spoofed the long names of psychedelic bands emerging in San Francisco), and ends with its reprise. These songs create a frame that defines the fictional space in which Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band exists.
“A Day in the Life” is the only song to stand outside that frame, which to some has suggested that it has special importance. Many have heard it as the most obvious of a series of clues in the Beatles’ later albums that indicated that Paul McCartney had died in a car crash and was replaced by a double after 1966. Actually, much of the song is taken directly from contemporary newspaper stories. One refers to socialite Tara Browne, son of Lord Oranmore and Browne and heir to the Guinness beer fortune, who died when his car ran a red light and smashed into a van. The other told of how a city surveyor in the town of Blackburn, Lancashire, had counted all the holes in city roads. Both are examples of the surrealistic “automatic writing technique” of which Lennon was greatly enamored. “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” is another example; its lyrics were taken, verbatim, from an old circus poster.
The avant-garde “apocalyptic” section at the end has garnered much fascination over the years. A forty-one-piece orchestra was hired and the musicians were told to play from the lowest note on their instruments to the highest over the course of twenty-four bars; the climax is a crashing piano chord that ends with a long sustain. That is followed by a sound outside the range of human hearing (but audible to dogs) and a two-second tape loop of spoken gibberish (played backward, one can supposedly hear the phrase “Paul is dead”) that on a manual turntable would repeat infinitely until the needle was removed.
“Dub the mic on the piano quite low this
Just keeping it like maracas, you know
You know those old pianos”
“Ok, we’re on”
“Sugarplum fairy, sugarplum fairy”
I read the news today, oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well, I just had to laugh
I saw the photograph
He blew his mind out in a car
He didn’t notice that the lights had changed
A crowd of people stood and stared
They’d seen his face before
Nobody was really sure if he was from the House of Lords
I saw a film today, oh boy
The English Army had just won the war
A crowd of people turned away
But I just had to look
Having read the book
I’d love to turn you on
“Five, six, seven, eight, nine
Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen
Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen
Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up I noticed I was late
Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat
Made my way upstairs and had a smoke
And everybody spoke and I went into a dream
I read the news today, oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall
I’d love to turn you
“See the worst thing about doing this
Doing something like this
Is I think that at first people sort of are a bit suspicious
‘You know, come on, what are you up to?’
WHAT TO LISTEN FOR:
Unique timbres created by background vocal effects, production/studio technology, and interesting combinations of instruments
A lack of a Refrain or hook
Lennon’s vocal style
McCartney’s vocal style
Wild orchestral effects and ending!
Higher level of songwriting and sophistication
RATE-A-RECORD/QUESTIONS TO ANSWER:
This song sounds so much different than their earlier stuff back when they were creating pop hits. How is it different?
What is this song about? What is the point?
Give it a rating: 0 = Bad, 100 = Awesome. Defend your number.
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