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"A Day In The Life"

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News photograph of Tara Browne's crashed car, which inspired the first verse of John Lennon's "A Day In The Life"

Newspaper article reporting the death of Tara Browne in a car accident

Tara Browne crashed his car and died in December 1966; a friend of the Beatles, his death inspired the poignant first verse of "A Day In The Life"
Before the applause for the "Reprise" has fully died away, in fades the intro for Sgt Pepper's final encore, "A Day In The Life": a lonely acoustic guitar, closely followed by ominous grand piano.

"The News" was lifted directly from The Daily Mail, including the coroner's report on Beatlepal Tara Browne — socialite heir to the Guinness fortune — though there were those who claimed it was someone rather closer to the circle who

blew his mind out in a car...

An article on the state of the streets of Blackburn and a Royal Albert Hall concert review appeared in the same issue, and all were subsequently subjected to a little poetic license by Lennon, et al. "The film", presumably, was Dick Lester's recently released How I Won The War, in which John had co-starred,

having read the book.

Between them, GM and JL were finding the voice which would characterize much of the rest of the latter's career, even though they would never again collaborate after The Beatles was done. Imperceptible switches between intimate, spine-tingling sensitivity and a faraway echoey detachment. There's a real special telepathy between Paul and Ringo on this track, too, passing the rhythm to and fro, so subtly allowing each other to alternately fill and to frill: not forgetting George on lead maraca. But "oh boy", they really shoulda seen they was gonna get some flack (not to mention a BBC ban) for "I'd love to turn you on" — especially as that 'most innocent of phrases' was followed by a headfuck orchestral rush.

That was Paul's brainstorm, 'This is the song, man!' — though John can't have taken much persuading. Maybe the combined effects of Macca's having recently composed an instrumental filmscore and finally gotten round to tripping out had something to do with it...

The written instruction on George Martin's score for the members of the forty-piece ensemble (later delay-dubbed to give the impression of eighty) was to go from their lowest to highest note over the course of 15 bars. God only knows what all those serious classically-trained players made of it: especially as microphones were shoved down the bells of their brass, or reversed-polarity headphones strapped onto the strings; then all and sundry being issued with rubber headpieces, false noses and the like, so the whole spectacle could be captured for posterity on celluloid alongside the acetate. "The news today will be the movies of tomorrow", as was to be prophesied by Love.

The first onslaught cedes to Big Mal's authoritative count-in, the alarm clock ringing for the start of A Day In Paul's (past?) Life:

Woke up, fell out of bed...

Incorporating that ostensibly incongruous extract from The McDiaries was a masterstroke. "Do I have to spell it out?" Lennon and McCartney at their most radically different in every way, coming together to take the thing way, way beyond the vision of either of them individually.

Found my way upstairs and had a smoke,
Somebody spoke and I went into a dream...

He passes the joint across to John ('turn me on, dead man') and what a hit he gives it — a full quarter-minute vocal freefall; drifting from channel to channel on the billowing smoke-cloud, carried by the instrumental currents: back down to earth for the moody brass and strings to return us to The News Today.

Oh boy:
I'd love to turn you on!

Not the Last Night of the Proms, nor any other hole in the Albert Hall has ever been so effectively filled. The second orchestral orgasm — the big one — drops you breathless into the most infamous E-chord in history: three pianos and a harmonium with mikes stuffed in 'em where the sun don't shine, the volume faded up as their resonance died away and the ventilation system started to provide a little ambient harmony.

The chord which goes on forever.


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