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The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: April 28, 1966

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

The first session for Paul McCartney's most famous and best-loved songs, Elanor Rigby, took place on this day, with the recording of the string octet backing.

The session was a short one, beginning at 5pm and finishing at 7.50pm. A string octet had been booked, featuring four violins (played by Tony Gilbert, Sidney Sax, John Sharpe and Jurgen Hess), two violas (Stephen Shingles and John Underwood), and two cellos (Derek Simpson and Norman Jones).

The performers were each given a standard Musicians' Union fee of £9 for their work, and performed a score written by George Martin. Two brief rehearsals took place, with and without vibrato, and the musicians opted to play without.

Both John Lennon and Paul McCartney were present at the studio, but remained in the control room of Studio Two. George Martin was on the studio floor conducting the musicians.

The strings were recorded with a close microphone technique, giving them a timbre different from anything that had previously been heard.

Fourteen takes of the strings backing were recorded, the last of which was the best. The instruments were recorded two per track, and a reduction mix - numbered take 15 - was made at the end of the session to free up three further tracks.

A new mix of the instrumental backing was made in 1995 for the Anthology 2 collection, presenting the strings in full stereo for the first time.

The picture below is from the graveyard next to the church where Paul and John met. However, Paul said in later interviews that the line in the song had nothing to do with the grave that he could remember, but maybe subconsciously he did.

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