Paul McCartney opens up on Beatles song he wrote about dead friend
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In 1967 John Lennon and Paul McCartney worked together to write a new collection of songs for The Beatles’ eighth studio album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. During their writing sessions, the pair heard some tragic news about one of their friends, prompting them to write candidly about losing one of their pals.
In McCartney’s new book, The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, he delved into the secrets of how he and Lennon wrote A Day In The Life. The song was a joint effort between the two pals mourning the loss of their friend, Tara Browne.
Browne was the heir to the Guinness empire and someone they hung out with frequently. Browne died in a car crash in London aged just 21-years-old.
McCartney described the young man as “a very good friend. A young boy, lovely guy, very sweet, very gentle”.
The Hey Jude singer then revealed: “Suddenly, this friend of ours was dead and, you know, being the sixties we used to get high with him and stuff. So that just morphed itself into the story of ‘He blew his mind out in a car.'”
McCartney went on: “We took that little incident and just massaged it and put that little poetic thought into the song.” He later said: “John came over as he often did and he said: ‘Look, I’ve got this idea.’ So, he started to play the first verse. Then we got a newspaper and we started to look at stories in the newspaper and we started to try to write a verse about it.” But that loss of their friend wasn’t the only inspiration behind A Day In The Life. McCartney said: “So there’s me and John sitting up in my little music room with the two guitars and we’re playing it, we’re writing it, we’re scribbling down the lyrics.”
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McCartney added: “Then we get to the middle bit and I start to get a little bit autobiographical then. I’ve got a story in my head which is about when I used to go to school in Liverpool.”
Using this thought process McCartney continued the story by writing of a “half-hour bus journey into the city where the school was” after his morning routine of “woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head”.
McCartney recalled: “It was beautiful it was just started off, the first verse and the melody was brought in by John.”
Lennon also spoke about writing the song while speaking in 1970.
Lennon said: “Paul and I were definitely working together, especially on A Day in the Life. The way we wrote a lot of the time, you’d write the good bit, the part that was easy, like ‘I read the news today’ or whatever it was, then when you got stuck or whenever it got hard, instead of carrying on, you just drop it.
“Then we would meet each other, and I would sing half, and he would be inspired to write the next bit and vice versa. He was a bit shy about it because I think he thought it’s already a good song.
“So we were doing it in his room with the piano. He said ‘Should we do this?’ [I replied:] ‘Yeah, let’s do that.'”
Beyond writing the track for their dead friend, A Day In The Life was later banned from BBC radio for its allusions to drugs and drug culture.
During Sgt Pepper’s release, DJ Kenny Everett was prevented from playing A Day In The Life because of the lyric: “I’d love to turn you on,” which the BBC stated was “advocating drug use”.
Another batch of lyrics alluded to drugs, specifically: “Found my way upstairs and had a smoke / somebody spoke and I went into a dream.”
The BBC later released a statement about the song, saying: “We have listened to this song over and over again, and we have decided that it appears to go just a little too far, and could encourage a permissive attitude to drug-taking.”
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