Sunday, April 11, 2010

He Hadn't Noticed That The Lights Had Changed


The final musical song on the marvellous Parlophone UK LP "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" is often cited as one of the best recorded by The Beatles. This epic, thematic finale was another original composition written by Lennon/McCartney and shared by the two songwriters who evenly wrote this tune ( a rarity during this time frame of the Beatles' career). The title of the song is "A Day In The Life". The verses were written by John Lennon while the middle was written by Paul McCartney. They are joined by a series of ochestral glissandos from the lower note of the respective instrument to the highest.

Originally on the first day of recording "A Day In The Life" was known as "In The Life Of...". The basic track was recorded on Thursday January 19 1967 in EMI studio two. The instrumentation consisted of acoustic guitar, piano, maracas and bongos. John Lennon sang a guide vocal heavy with reverb. The two points between the verses and the middle section consisted of the same note played over and over with Beatles' roadie Mal Evans counting 24 bars. As he spoke the numbers, the higher the number, the more echo was added to his voice. An alarm clock was sounded at the end of the 24 bars. Once this was complete, Lennon added more vocal passages also laden with reverb onto two tracks of the four track machine. The basic track at this session took four takes to perfect.

The next day on January 20 1967, a reduction mix of the four tracks from take four were reduced three times taking the song into takes 5,6 and 7. Take six was deemed best and onto this take went Paul playing the bass and Ringo playing the drums. John Lennon added another vocal onto the current take six. Paul also added his vocal, but was inturrupted by his mistake and then his expletive ("shit!).

The first mono mix was completed ten days later on January 30 1967 from the control room of EMI studio three. This mix was put on an acetate and can be heard on various bootleg LPs and CDs such as "Foretaste", "1967" and "Acetates".

The next session for "A Day In The Life" took place on February 02 1967 at EMI studio two. After hearing the mono mix from January 30, it was decided to re-record both the bass and the drums. Paul's vocal was also re-recorded on this night.

By this time in the history of the "A Day In The Life" recordings, it was decided that an orchestra would filled the 24 bars left empty up until now. These 24 bars would consist of the orchestral building from the lowest note to the highest note of thier instruments and getting louder as they were going to do this! A very strange idea at the time. Therfore, the Beatles gathered at EMI studio one on February 10 1967 with the orchestra and the orchestral instruments were recorded on a separate four track machine. 40 extra musicians were used for this session. The orchestra was recorded four times therefore you hear the equivalent of 160 musicians on the commercial recording! Paul McCartney and George Martin conducted the orchestra. Also recorded at this session was The Beatles and various friends "humming" at the very end of the song where the elongated piano would later be. This was considered an "edit piece" and three attempts were made of the noise. The third attempted was considered the best version and was added to the song. The orchestral overdub brought the song to take seven.

Three days later on February 13 1067, the current state of "A Day In The Life" was given three mono mixes. None of these mono mixes were used.

On Wednesday February 22 1967, it was decided to scrap the previous ending of the with the Beatles and their friends "humming" the ending and the idea of the elongated piano chord was born. Three pianos played by John, Paul, Ringo and Mal Evans were played simultaneously as an E chord with the sustain pedals held down. It took nine attempts to completed this. After the ninth attempt, the sounds were overdubbed three more times and George Martin added a further sound from a harmonium. Once this was complete, nine mono mixes of "A Day In The Life" were completed including the ninth mix which was used on the commercial release. There were also nine attempts at a stereo mix of the song but none of the nine stereo mixes were used.

The next day on February 22 1967 from EMI studio two, three more stereo mixes were completed with number 12 attempt being used for the commerical version. The difference between the mono and stereo mixes is mainly the sync factor of the band and the orchestra. I can't tell the difference too much, but supposedly the sync is better on the mono mix rather than the stereo mix.

It should be noted that a piano overdub was recorded on March 01 1967 in EMI Studio two but was never used as both the mono and stereo mixes had been completed and compiled.

"A Day In The Life" is available on the Parlophone UK/CD "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" as well as the North American Capitol LP of the same name. It appears on the Apple 2-LP/2-CD "The Beatles 1967-1970".It is also available on the 1978 release as the B side of the single "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band/ With A Little Help from My Friends" released on EMI in the UK and Capitol in North America. The song is also featured on the picture discs of "Pepper" released in the UK and North America in the late 1970s. Finally, "A Day In The Life" can be found on the EMI/ Apple 2-LP/CD "Love".

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