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Beatles 50th Blog

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 27, 1967

February 27, 1967 issue of London's Daily Mail

“Turn on, tune in, drop out.”  This phrase, first popularized by counter-culturist Timothy Leary in late 1966, advocated embracing cultural changes and detaching yourself from existing forms of conventionality.  Leary explained in his 1983 autobiography “Flashbacks” that “drop out” meant “self-reliance, a discovery of one's singularity, a commitment to mobility, choice, and change.”

The result of this highly publicized suggestion was, as Steve Turner’s book “A Hard Day’s Write” indicates, “streams of young people headed for San Francisco, center of Flower Power, leading the FBI to announce a record number of 90,000 runaways” in 1967.  The youth of that time would often quit school and anything else that had made them conform to ‘straight’ society, virtually vanishing from their previous lifestyle to one of supposed ‘freedom.’

One such teenager was Melanie Coe, the daughter of John and Elsie Coe from Stamford Hill, London.  The February 27th, 1967 isuue of London’s Daily Mail featured an article about her disappearance with the heading “A-Level Girl Dumps Car And Vanishes.”  It described Melanie as “the schoolgirl who seemed to have everything,” leaving not only her Austin 1100 outside the house unlocked, but also “a wardrobe full of clothes,” taking “only those she was wearing.”  Her father was quoted as exclaiming, “I cannot imagine why she should run away.  She has everything here…even her fur coat.”

“We’d seen a story in the newspaper about a young girl who had left home and not been found.  There were a lot of those at the time,” remembers Paul McCartney in his book “Many Years From Now.”  Continuing his account of the writing of the song, which took place in March of 1967 undoubtedly at Paul’s St. John’s Wood home, he states:  “That was enough to give us a story line.  So I started to get the lyrics:  she slips out and leaves a note and then the parents wake up and then…It was rather poignant.  I like it as a song, and when I showed it to John, he added the Greek chorus, long sustained notes, and one of the nice things about the structure of the song is that it stays on those chords endlessly.  Before that period in our songwriting we would have changed chords but it stays on the C chord.  It really holds you.  It’s a really nice little trick and I think it worked very well.”

Paul then defined what the “Greek chorus” entails by adding:  “While I was showing that to John, he was doing the Greek chorus, the parents’ view:  ‘We gave her most of our lives, we gave her everything money could buy.’  I think that may have been in the runaway story, it might have been a quote from the parents.”  John reiterated Paul’s explanation by saying:  “Paul had the basic theme for this song, but all those lines like ‘We sacrificed most of our life…we gave her everything money could buy,’ those were the things Mimi used to say to me.  It was easy to write.”

 

Therefore, it appears that the bulk of the chorus - the "long sustained notes" (“sheeeee….is leaving…..”) and the answering melody lines (“we struggled hard all our lives to get by” etc.) - was written by John while all of the verses were written by Paul.  “It was John’s idea for the words of the old couple, ‘What did we do that was wrong?’ in the background,” explained George Martin.  “He was looking at the misused old people and also the conflict between them and the young girl.  Originally, it was undoubtedly Paul’s song, but John contributed quite a bit in a way with the answering chorus.”  Paul confirms this by saying, “It was largely mine, with help from John.”

Like many other tracks on the "Sgt. Pepper" album, people read into the lyrics of “She’s Leaving Home” things that really weren’t there.  Even George Harrison came forward to dispel the rumor concerning an unsavory insinuation in the lyric:  “’A man from the motor trade’ means whatever’s in your mind, you know.  I know when I say it isn’t an abortion, and if people believe it is, then it’s up to them.  They’ll just go on believing it.”

 

Many reviewers revealed the “man from the motor trade” as an actual person.  “People have since said that was Terry Doran, who was a friend who worked in a car showroom, but it was just fiction, like the sea captain in Yellow Submarine,’ they weren’t real people.  George Harrison said once he could only write songs from his personal experience, but they don’t have to exist for me.  The feeling of them is enough.  The man from the motor trade was just a typical sleazy character, the kind of guy that could pull a young bird by saying, ‘Would you like a ride in my car, darlin’?’  Nice plush interior, that’s how you pulled birds.  So it was just a little bit of sleaze.”

“The amazing thing about the song was how much it got right about my life,” stated Melanie Coe in the book “A Hard Day’s Write.”  “It quoted the parents as saying ‘we gave here everything money could buy’ which was true in my case.  I had two diamond rings, a mink coat, hand-made clothes in silk and cashmere and even my own car.  Then there was the line ‘after living alone for so many years,’ which really struck home to me because I was an only child and I always felt alone…I heard the song when it came out and thought it was about someone like me but never dreamed it was actually about me...I must have been in my twenties when my mother said she’d seen Paul on television and he’d said that the song was based on a story in a newspaper.  That’s when I started telling my friends it was about me.”

While Paul’s lyrical detail about her leaving home was pure fiction, he oddly enough hit the nail on the head in many ways.  “I did leave a note, yes,” Melanie said in a television interview.  She did meet up with a man and shared an apartment with him in Bayswater, Central London.  “He was a croupier,” Melanie continued, “but previously, oddly enough, he’d actually worked in the car business, so he was a ‘man from the motor trade.’”

Even odder still is the coincidence concerning the chosen main character in the song.  Four years earlier, on October 4th, 1963, thirteen-year-old Melanie had actually met Paul during the filming of the hit British television show “Ready Steady Go.”  Melanie competed with three other contestants in a miming competition for the program, this episode being the first time The Beatles appeared on the show.  Paul was recruited to judge the competition and he picked Melanie as the winner.  “Paul McCartney came over and shook my hand and gave me a Beatles album, which was the greatest thing that could happen to any little teenage girl.”

 

 

 

 

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 26, 1967

The Beatles in-between recording sessions.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 25, 1967

1967--The Beatles' promotional films for Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane are broadcast for the first time on US television, on the ABC-TV program "Hollywood Palace." Additional showings are on March 11 ("Clay Cole's Diskotek" and "American Bandstand") and March 14 ("Where the Action Is").

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 24, 1967

Recording: Lovely Rita

Studio Two, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Work continued on the Sgt. Pepper song Lovely Rita during this session, which began at 7pm and finished at 1.15am the following morning.

The Beatles were visited in the studio by Tony Hicks of The Hollies and David Crosby of The Byrds. Also present was Leslie Bryce, the staff photographer from The Beatles Book Monthly magazine. A report on the session appeared in its sister publication Beat Monthly.

From this we know several key details of Lovely Rita's development. John Lennon and Paul McCartney took themselves off to a corner of Studio Two, together with Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans, and completed the song's lyrics.

In one of Bryce's photographs McCartney is seen holding the original lyrics sheet, which had only the opening chorus and verse. It also had Rita "filling in a ticket with her little blue pen". Below, in Evans' handwriting, were two more rough verses including an unused line, "Now I go to meet her".

Once the words were complete, McCartney recorded his lead vocals. As with the previous session, this was done with the tape machine running slower - at 46.5 cycles per second rather than the usual 50 - raising the pitch and speed upon playback.

Beat Monthly reported that David Crosby assisted with the vocals, but these cannot be heard on the final version.

At the end of the session two reduction mixes was made to free up space on the tape. These were numbered takes 10 and 11, the latter of which was used for further overdubs on 7 March 1967.

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 23, 1967

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

This 7:00 pm to 3:45 am session began with Geoff Emerick preparing the stereo master of "A Day In The Life". When completed, the Beatles set to work on a new song; Paul's Lovely Rita, recording eight rhythem track takes and reducing the eighth into take nine, onto which Paul overdubbed bass.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 22, 1967

Recording, mixing: A Day In The Life

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

Following the February 10th session, in which the orchestral overdubs were added to A Day In The Life, the song was completed on this day with the recording of the final piano chord.

At the close of the 10 February session an ad-hoc choir was assembled for the recording of a hummed final note. This was felt to be not dramatic enough, and an alternative was sought.

The idea of a piano chord was eventually settled upon. Initially using three pianos, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Mal Evans all played an E major chord. McCartney led the recording, which was captured by Geoff Emerick in the control room of Studio Two.

Paul: "Have you got your loud pedal down, Mal?"
Mal: "Which one's that?"
Paul: "The right hand one, far right. It keeps the echo going."
John: "Keep it down the whole time."
Paul: "Right. On four then. One, two, three..."
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

It took nine attempts to record a satisfactory version, as the five performers had trouble hitting the chord at precisely the same time. Take seven was the longest at 59 seconds, but take nine was the best.

Three more overdubs were added to further thicken the sound. Two of these were of more pianos chords, and the third was of
George Martin playing a harmonium.

I wanted that chord to last as long as possible, and I told Geoff Emerick it would be up to him, not the boys, to achieve that. What I did was to get all four [sic] Beatles and myself in the studio at three pianos, an upright and two grands. I gave them the bunched chords that they were to play.

Then I called out, 'Ready? One, two, three - go!' With that, CRASH! All of us hit the chords as hard as possible. In the control room, Geoff had his faders - which control the volume input from the studio - way, way down at the moment of impact. Then, as the sound died away, he gradually pushed the faders up, while we kept as quiet as the proverbial church mice. In the end, they were so far up, and the microphones so live, that you could hear the air-conditioning. It took forty-five seconds to do, and we did it three or four times, building up a massive sound of piano after piano after piano, all doing the same thing.

Mono and stereo mixes for A Day In The Life were made towards the end of the session. This required two four-track tape machines to be played in sync - a first for EMI. The main part of the song was mixed first in four attempts, numbered 6-9, onto which the final chord was then edited to create the mono master.

Nine stereo mixes were then made. These were numbered 1-9, but there were problems with keeping the two tape machines in time and the attempt was abandoned until the following day.

At the end of the session The Beatles recorded an experimental piece, its purpose unknown. It lasted 22'10" and primarily featured Ringo Starr's drums, augmented by tambourine and congas. A single take was recorded, and was known in the studio as Anything, or Drum Track (1).

Source: The Beatles Chronicle - Mark Lewisohn

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 21, 1967

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

"Fixing A Hole", one of the least complicated recordings on Sgt. Pepper, was completed during this 7:00 pm to 12:45 am session by means of overdubs onto a reduction mixdown of the second take from the Regent Sound session of February 9th. The song was then mixed into mono several times, with an edit of mixes numbered three and six serving as the master.

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 20, 1967

Studio Three, EMI Studios, London

When the Beatles started work on "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite" John had told George Martin that he wanted the recording bathed in circus atmosphere. Unable to trace an authentic hand-operated stream organ for the part, George realized that the required sound would have to be self-created inside Abbey Road using other means. So he got hold of old calliope tapes of Sousa marches and had Geoff Emerick chop them up into small sections, throw them in the air and re-assemble the pieces at random.

The work was done in this 7:00 pm- 2:15 am session (although the effects were not superimposed on the Beatles' recording until March 29th), along with a rough mono mix of "Good Morning Good Morning" for acetate-cutting purposes.

Source: The Complete Beatles Chronicle - Mark Lewisohn

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 19, 1967

February 19, 1967 - Fan photo of Cynthia on husband John's lap with Ringo Starr in the backseat of a car after attending a Chuck Berry concert at the Savile Theatre. Brian Epstein's reflection is captured in the window.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 18, 1967

The Beatles in-between recording sessions.