On an album like Sgt Pepper’s it almost seems unfair to say that one track stands out. But it’s hard to ignore the sheer scope of the album’s closing track, A Day in the Life, a track Rolling Stone said “made rock’s possibilities seem infinite.”
It’s hard to pick a track from the Beatles catalogue that better reflects the two unique songwriting talents at the heart of the group. Paul’s upbeat bridge a great foil to John’s prosaic verse. This was the two in absolute sync, separate identities fused into one song worthy of them both.
It’s not just the songwriting that shines in the track. There was much inventiveness and whimsy in the decision to include a high-frequency dog whistle on the track.
And by encoding a musical loop into the ‘inner groove’ of the record, the band acknowledged the experience of their listeners, who were tripping out even as the record was playing out.
The original four-part harmony recorded as the song’s ending was felt to not have enough impact, so they brought three grand pianos and a harmonium into the studio, and played the final E-major chord with 10 hands.
They sustained the chord by upping the recording volume as it faded out, so much so that you can hear the ambient sounds of the studio in the background. This was a band challenging themselves in the studio, and challenging their audience.
A lasting impression
When Lennon’s hand-written lyrics for A Day in the Life came up for auction 43 years after they’d been penned, they sold for $1.2 million.
Hardly surprising considering this was the final statement on the most ambitious album by the world’s greatest band at the height of their powers.
The cover version played by Jeff Beck in the video in this post is an apt tribute to this epic song. Stripped of its lyrical power, you’re left to marvel at the dual intertwined melodies.