Saturday, April 14, 2007
So, You Wanna Be A Rock 'N' Roll Star
February 22, 1967:
Beatles Monthly photographer Leslie Bryce and editor Johnny Dean were granted access to document an important overdub session for "A Day in the Life" the evening of February 22, 1967. Dissatisfied with the previously recorded "hums" ending of the song, Paul came up with an idea to use a piano chord instead. John, Paul, Ringo, and Mal attempted nine takes of a synchronized E chord, hoping to capture a massive sound that seemed to extend into infinity. The perfected take is actually one minute long, from the striking of the keys until the last sound fades away. One can actually hear a piano bench squeak and the air conditioning at Abbey Road turn on before the last vibration dissolves. The pianos produce such a majestic ending, very appropriate, and a vast improvement over the hum! (The hums ending can be heard on the Anthology Directors Cut and the Yellow Dog A Day in the Life boot. It was nice to finally hear it, but it's easy to see why they had to find a "suitable ending.")
According to engineer Geoff Emerick, it was after this session that George Harrison arrived at the studio with Byrds' member David Crosby, who was in London for a promotional tour. John jokingly chastised George for missing the session, but soon a party atmosphere emerged. The studio was filled with many guests, including Teenset editor Judith Sims (a color photo of Paul at the drums would be a future cover for the magazine), Alistair Taylor, Peter Brown (who can be glimpsed in between John and George in a picture above), folk singer Shawn Phillips, Ravi Shankar's brother, and George's wife Pattie.
As the visitors chatted, John introduced "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" to Ringo and Paul using his Gibson J-160E acoustic, moving on to a piano next. When John was finished, Paul ran through "Lovely Rita" on piano, the song the Beatles were planning on recording at the next session. As Paul ran through the song, Mal and Neil jotted down any changes Paul made in the lyrics. Everyone added some ideas for lyrical changes, often comical in nature!
Once the informal run-throughs were complete, an "end of session experiment" began. Paul spent a few minutes on the drums before handing them over to Ringo. The other Beatles (and I'd imagine some of the guests, too) began playing congas, tambourines, etc. Three tracks of a four-track tape were filled with this experiment in sound--20 minutes in the making. I wonder what this sounds like, because it has never been bootlegged or emerged in any other fashion. (This would definitely be something that should appear on a dream Sgt. Pepper 40th anniversary box set!) Apparently most of their sessions in 1967 ended with a sort of jam session. Nine hours after it began the session ended; the Beatles, their guests and friends then departed for a bit of repose before the next night's session.
(I would give anything to have been able to witness a Beatles recording session. I don't think my heart could contain such joy. I'm the kind of girl who's idea of a splendid evening is putting on the four CD set of Studio Sessions at Abbey Road, slapping on the headphones, reading along with John Winn's books, and imagining what it would be like to actually be there with them in the middle of those beautiful moments.)
These pictures document the proceedings of the evening--it's amazing to be able to see John run through "Lucy" on the Gibson, and David Crosby laugh with the lads...Enjoy the beautiful photos. Click to enlarge, as usual. I love the Beatles' fashions, particularly John's "Down With Pants" badge.
By the way: I get a little sad seeing the photos of Mal and Neil. I wish Neil lots of love, and many thanks for his years of service and devotion to the boys we all adore. We wouldn't have the Anthology if it weren't for him!
(References: Scans from the April 1967 and October 1991 issues of The Beatles Book Monthly; information from The Best of the Beatles Book, p. 182) A small request: if you post these photos on other sites, please credit where you found them or link back. Thank you!