Beatles 50th Blog

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: January 17, 1967

John Lennon begins writing A Day In The Life

The Beatles began recording A Day in the Life, with the working title In The Life Of..., on January 19, 1967. Two days previously, however, two stories were published in the Daily Mail newspaper which provided John Lennon with inspiration for the lyrics.

Lennon wrote the song at a piano in his home Kenwood, while reading a copy of the day's newspaper. One article inspired the song's first two verses: a brief news item reporting the coroner's verdict into the death of Tara Browne, the 21-year-old heir to the Guinness fortune.

Browne, a close friend of Lennon and Paul McCartney, had crashed his Lotus Elan car on December 18, 1966, after failing to notice a red light. The accident happened in London's South Kensington; the car collided with a stationary van in Redcliffe Gardens after swerving to avoid an oncoming Volkswagen car.

I was writing A Day In The Life with the Daily Mail propped in front of me on the piano. I had it open at their News in Brief, or Far and Near, whatever they call it. I noticed two stories. One was about the Guinness heir who killed himself in a car. That was the main headline story. He died in London in a car crash.

John Lennon

In Hunter Davies' 1968 authorised biography of The Beatles, Lennon explained how the words of the song were indirectly inspired by the events.

I didn't copy the accident. Tara didn't blow his mind out. But it was in my mind when I was writing that verse.

John Lennon
The Beatles, Hunter Davies

However, in his 1997 authorised biography Many Years From Now, Paul McCartney downplayed suggestions that the song was directly about Browne's death.

The verse about the politician blowing his mind out in a car we wrote together. It has been attributed to Tara Browne, the Guinness heir, which I don't believe is the case, certainly as were were writing it, I was not attributing it to Tara in my head. In John's head it might have been. In my head I was imagining a politician bombed out on drugs who'd stopped at some traffic lights and didn't notice that the lights had changed. The 'blew his mind' was purely a drugs reference, nothing to do with a car crash.

Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

The song's final verse was taken from the Daily Mail's Far And Near column. "There are 4,000 holes in the road in Blackburn, Lancashire," it read, "or one twenty-sixth of a hole per person, according to a council survey."

There was still one word missing in that verse when we came to record. I knew the line had to go 'Now they know how many holes it takes to... something, the Albert Hall.' It was a nonsense verse really, but for some reason I couldn't think of the verb. What did the holes do to the Albert Hall?

It was Terry [Doran, a former car dealer and friend of Brian Epstein's who later became head of Apple Music] who said 'fill' the Albert Hall. And that was it. Perhaps I was looking for that word all the time, but couldn't put my tongue on it. Other people don't necessarily give you a word or a line, they just throw in the word you're looking for anyway.


The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: January 16, 1967

Joe Orton begins writing a script for The Beatles’ third film

In 1967 English playwright Joe Orton was asked by producer Walter Shenson to write a script for The Beatles' third film.

Shenson, producer of the films A Hard Day's Night and Help!, asked Orton to rework a draft script written by a now-unknown writer. In Orton's diary entry for January 12, 1967 he noted that Shenson had called Orton's agent and said that he had a script. Although Shenson considered it to be "dull", he asked if Orton might take a look. Orton agreed, and had read it by 15 January when he wrote:

Like the idea. Basically it is that there aren't four young men. Just four aspects of one man. Sounds dreary, but as I thought about it I realised what wonderful opportunities it would give.

Diary of Joe Orton

Orton met Shenson on January 16, and began writing what would become Up Against It. He also met Paul McCartney and Brian Epstein on January 24th. A contract was drawn up, which allowed Orton to buy back the script rights if it were rejected.


The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: January 15, 1967

McCartney and Harrison watch Donovan in London

Paul McCartney and George Harrison watched Donovan performing at the Royal Albert Hall in London on this day.

Donovan was a friend to The Beatles, particularly McCartney. He had been present during the writing of Yellow Submarine and Eleanor Rigby, and had suggested the line "Sky of blue and sea of green". In 1968 he studied Transcendental Meditation alongside The Beatles in India.


The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: January 14, 1967

The Beatles in-between recording at EMI Studios in London.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: January 13, 1967

The Beatles in-between recording at EMI Studios in London.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: January 12, 1967

Recording, mixing: Penny Lane

Studio Three, EMI Studios, Abbey Road

This session, which began at 2.30pm and ended at 11pm, saw the second set of session musicians record contributions to Penny Lane, following the January 9, 1967 addition of flutes of trumpets.

On this day seven instruments were recorded: two trumpets, played by Bert Courtley and Duncan Campbell; two oboes, played by Dick Morgan and Mike Winfield, who also both added cor anglais parts; and a double bass played by Frank Clarke.

The cor anglais were used during the instrumental passage, but went unused in the final mix. They can be heard on Anthology 2. The double bass, meanwhile, played just a three-second passage of descending notes as the banker sits waiting for a trim.

The Beatles considered Penny Lane to be complete at this stage, and two mono mixes were created at the end of the session. However, on 17 January the piccolo trumpet solo was added, rendering the mixes unnecessary.


The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: January 11, 1967

McCartney and Starr watch Jimi Hendrix in London

On this evening Paul McCartney saw trumpet player David Mason performing Bach's Brandenburg Concerto Number 2 in F Major with the English Chamber Orchestra from Guildford Cathedral, on the the BBC 2 television series Masterworks. Impressed with what he heard, McCartney decided to use him for the final overdub on Penny Lane.

Mason was telephoned the following day by George Martin, and booked for a studio session on January 17, 1967. There, he added the famous piccolo trumpet solo.

In the evening McCartney and Ringo Starr saw Jimi Hendrix perform for the first time, at one of Hendrix's regular shows at the Bag O'Nails club in London.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: January 10, 1967

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

Sound effects experiments for "Penny Lane" work with scat harmonies and a hand-bell overdubbed onto take nine during this 7:00 pm to 1:40 am session.



The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: January 9, 1967

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

Penny Lane over-dubbing of four flutes and two trumpets and - with three of the six musicians playing second instruments, two piccolos and a flugelhorn. The four flautists were Ray Swinfield, P Goody, Manny Winters and Dennis Walton and the trumpeters were Leon Calvert and Freddy Clayton. At the same time, unbeknown to all, John was taping the musicians' between-takes conversations for his private collection. Two more rough mono mixes were made before the 7:00 pm-1:45 am session ended.


Source: The Complete Beatles Chronicles - Mark Lewisohn


The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: January 8, 1967

The Beatles still in-between recording at EMI Studios in London.