Each week on Rear-view Mirror, Rich Terfry and the Radio 2 team look back at a great song from the good ol’ days. Today, the Beatles' "A Day In the Life"...
"A Day In The Life" is regarded by many as the greatest Beatles song of all. It's a thrilling, beautiful and extremely unusual song. What went on behind the scenes while recording is arguably even more interesting.
Rich Terfry gives you the history behind the bizarrely beautiful "A Day In The Life"
Most of the lyrics for the song came from stories in the Daily Mail newspaper on the day of recording: the heir to the Guinness fortune had died in a car accident, the problem of potholes in the streets of UK cities...
The most exciting part of the song is the enormous crescendo played by a 40-piece orchestra. The Beatles' producer, George Martin wrote that part, which proved rather confusing to the players. He later described the situation by saying: I wrote the lowest possible note for each of the instruments in the orchestra. At the end of the twenty-four bars, I wrote the highest note. Then I put a squiggly line right through the twenty-four bars. Of course, they all looked at me as though I were completely mad.
For as unusual as that was, it wasn't wild enough for the Beatles. They wanted to create an atmosphere of fun in the studio. So they asked each of the musicians in the orchestra to arrive at the studio dressed in a costume. Those who didn't have a costume were either given one or some sort of prop. Players wore gorilla masks, funny-nose glasses and wigs. The bassoon player had a balloon fixed to the end of his instrument. It was a bizarre scene. And as they played, a who's who of the music world watched. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were guests in the studio. Marianne Faithful was there. So was Donovan and Michael Nesmith of the Monkees.
After 30 hours of repeated takes and in-studio partying, a masterpiece was complete. Here's the song regarded as one of the greatest of all time and by some, the Beatles' greatest achievement. Here's "A Day In The Life" on Rear View Mirror.
Here are some other great editions of Rear-view Mirror:
The Kinks - "Waterloo Sunset"
Bruce Springsteen - "Fire"
Buddy Holly - "That'll Be The Day"
Johnny Cash - "Walk the Line"
Bob Dylan - "Like a Rolling Stone"
George Harrison - "My Sweet Lord"
Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Sweet Home Alabama"
Bobbie Gentry - "Ode to Billie Joe"
The Beach Boys - "Never Learn Not to Love"
Johnny Cash - "Ring of Fire"
The Kinks - "You Really Got Me"
The Beatles - "Yesterday"
Al Green - "Let's Stay Together"
Simon and Garfunkel - "The Boxer"
Smokey Robinson and the Miracles - "Tracks of my Tears"
Elvis Presley - "Heartbreak Hotel"
Bruce Cockburn - "Lovers In A Dangerous Time"
The Doors - "Light My Fire"
Bob Dylan & Jimi Hendrix - "All Along The Watchtower"
The Clash - "London Calling"
Phil Spector and the Ronnettes - "Be My Baby"
Os Mutantes - "Ando Meio Desligado"
The Diamonds - "Little Darlin"
Captain Beefheart - "Yellow Brick Road"
Elton John - "Bennie and the Jets"
Hank Williams - "Long Gone Lonesome Blues"
R.E.M. - "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?"
Tom Waits - "Jockey Full of Bourbon"
Neil Diamond - "Sweet Caroline"
The Who - "Pinball Wizard"
Buffalo Springfield - "For What It's Worth"
Five Man Electrical Band - "Signs"
Band Aid - "Do They Know It's Christmas"
John Lennon - "Imagine"
The Ugly Ducklings - "Nothin"
Bob Dylan - "Tangled Up In Blue"
The Beatles - "Norwegian Wood"
The Pursuit of Happiness - "I'm An Adult Now"
Bruce Springsteen - "Born To Run"
Arcade Fire - "Wake Up"
Gnarls Barkley - "Crazy"
Big Joe Turner - "Shake Rattle and Roll"
Martha and the Muffins - "Echo Beach"
Wilson Pickett - "In The Midnight Hour"
The Band - "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"
Fleetwood Mac - "Go Your Own Way"
The Animals - "House of the Rising Sun"
Ian and Sylvia - "Four Strong Winds"
James Brown - "Please Please Please"
John Cougar Mellencamp - "Pink Houses'"
Leonard Cohen - "Suzanne"
The Ramones - "I Wanna Be Sedated"
Blue Rodeo - "Try"
The Guess Who - "American Woman"
U2 - "I Still Have't Found What I'm Looking For"
Janis Joplin - "Me and Bobby McGee"
Gordon Lightfoot - "If You Could Read My Mind"
The Byrds - "Eight Miles High"
Simon and Garfunkel - "The Sound of Silence"
Bill Haley and his Comets - "Rock Around The Clock"
The Velvet Underground - "I'm Waiting For The Man"
Johnny Cash - "Folsom Prison Blues"
Bobby Fuller - "I Fought The Law"
Big Star - "September Gurls"
The Hollies - "Bus Stop"
Joy Division - "Love Will Tear Us Apart"
Booker T and the MGs - "Green Onions"
Jimi Hendrix - "Hey Joe"
Neil Young - "Rockin' in the Free World"
Dolly Parton - "Jolene"
The Left Banke - "Walk Away Renee"
Lou Reed - "Walk On The Wild Side"
James Taylor - "Fire And Rain"
The Clash - "Should I Stay or Should I Go"
Marvin Gaye - "Sexual Healing"
Radiohead - "Paranoid Android"
M.I.A. - "Paper Planes"
The Animals - "We Gotta Get Out of this Place"
Dusty Springfield - "Son of a Preacher Man"
Screamin' Jay Hawkins - "I Put A Spell On You"
Cheap Trick - "Surrender"
Mott The Hoople - "All the Young Dudes"
Beach Boys - "Sloop John B"
Amy Winehouse - "Rehab"
New York Dolls - "Personality Crisis"
Modern Lovers - "Roadrunner"
George Jones - "He Stopped Loving Her Today"
Bruce Springsteen - "Born in the USA"
The Beatles - "With A Little Help From My Friends"
Rolling Stones - "Miss You"
The Coasters - "Run Red Run"
Elvis Costello - "Alison"
James Brown - "Hot (I Need to be loved loved loved)"
Inner Circle - "Tenement Yard"
Ray Charles - "I Don't Need No Doctor"
Curtis Mayfield - "Freddy's Dead"
Gang Starr - "Beyond Comprehension"
Bo Diddley - "Bo Diddley"
Aretha Franklin - "Rocksteady"
Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Have You Ever Seen the Rain'
Howlin' Wolf - "Smokestack Lightning"
Bobby Womack - "Across 110th Street"
Roy Orbison - "In Dreams"
Foggy Hogtown Boys - "Man of Constant Sorrow"
Pink Floyd - "Wish You Were Here"
Neil Young - "Cortez The Killer"
Bob Dylan - "Subterranean Homesick Blues"
Little Eva - "Loco-Motion"
Elvis Costello - "Watching the Detectives"
Jimmy Cliff - "The Harder They Come"
The Verve - "Bittersweet Symphony"
Roberta Flack - "Killing Me Softly with his Song"
R.E.M. - "Radio Free Europe"
Radiohead - "No Surprises"
Led Zeppelin - "Ramble On"
Rolling Stones - "Beast of Burden"
Glen Campbell - "Wichita Lineman"