The Beatles

Paul McCartney reveals who actually wrote The Beatles song ‘A Day In The Life’

Despite the fact that he will soon celebrate his 80th birthday, Paul McCartney shows no signs of slowing down. As well as releasing his most recent album, Paul McCartney III, which dropped in 2020, and his new book: The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, which arrived more recently in August, he’s also taken to BBC Radio 4 for the Inside The Songs series, in which he breaks down the life of some of his biggest hits. Both the book and his radio series seem to hint at a desire to readdress some of the myths and legends surrounding The Beatles history, of which songs, of course, play an essential part.

Widely regarded as one of John Lennon’s greatest Beatles offerings, the subject of ‘A Day in The Life’ has been revered ever since it appeared on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band back in 1967. Even in the few bad reviews the album received, critics conceded that ‘A Day in the Life’, with its talk of a mystery figure blowing “their mind out in a car”, offered incredibly rewarding listening. The track’s popularity likely contributed to the sheer number of contradicting claims as to who actually wrote the bulk of it.

For many years, John Lennon maintained that he wrote ‘A Day In The Life’ about the Irish socialist and heir to the Guinness fortune, Tara Brown, saying that the track was inspired by the car crash that killed him in 1966. However, in 1997, McCartney denied rumours that Brown was the subject of the track: “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,” he argued.

However, in his new book, The Lyrics, Paul McCartney makes it clear that the song’s immortal opening lyrics were actually a joint effort. “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.”

One of the first stories they happened upon was a seemingly inane story about the ubiquity of potholes in Blackburn, which led them to write the line: “Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.” Subsequently, the pair came across the story of Tara Brown, a man Paul described as: “A very good friend. A young boy, lovely guy, very sweet, very gentle, and he’d had a car crash, I think it was in Chelsea, and it had killed him.”

The news of Brown’s death went on to inspire the micro-story that opens ‘A Day In The Life’, one which begins with Lennon opening a newspaper and ends with the image of Brown’s wrecked car. “Suddenly, this friend of ours was dead and, you know, being the sixties we used to get high with him and stuff,” McCartney recalled. “So that just morphed itself into the story of ‘He blew his mind out in a car.’ We took that little incident and just massaged it and put that little poetic thought into the song.”

But, while the opening was a joint effort, McCartney stated that the main bulk of the song was his work: As he remembered: “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. And 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.”

This next story saw Paul return to memories of the “half-hour bus journey into the city where the school was”. The memory acted as a catalyst for the subsequent verse, which traces McCartney’s morning ritual: “Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head,” he sings. “It was beautiful it was just started off, the first verse and the melody was brought in by John.”

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