Sheila Bromberg

Sep 02, 1928
Aug 24, 2021

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From It’s been a harp day’s night | Oxford Mail, May 3, 2011:

[In 1967, Sheila Bromberg] received a call from a ‘fixer’ – a middleman between producers and session musicians – for a three-hour recording. She did not know who it was for. The now 82-year-old said: “He asked if I was free from 9pm to midnight, but I had been working since 8am that morning and really didn’t want to go. Unfortunately, I did a lot of work for that particular person and didn’t want to say no because otherwise they would choose someone else next time, and you don’t want that.

She arrived early and began tuning her harp, when she suddenly became aware of someone standing behind her. It was Paul McCartney and Mrs Bromberg was about to become the first woman musician to play on a Beatles album. He briefly asked about the music she was playing, before disappearing to the control booth. For the next three hours McCartney had Mrs Bromberg and the other session musicians play the same piece over and over.

Mrs Bromberg said: “After every take he would say: ‘No I don’t want that, I want something… err…’

She said the musicians became more and more frustrated as the night wore on, until, at midnight, the orchestra’s leader stood up and said they were leaving.

McCartney responded: “Well, I suppose that’s that then.

Mum-of-two Mrs Bromberg said: “Thinking back, I’m really proud to be part of it, but at the time I could have wrung his neck. He didn’t know what he wanted, which was very annoying, but when you listen to the album you realise what he really wanted – and that was the album.

Sgt Pepper’s is widely regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time and spent 27 weeks at the top of the UK chart.

Mrs Bromberg, who now teaches the harp, said: “I feel very grateful to have been chosen to have been on it. And I feel very proud that that piece of work has given such a tremendous amount of pleasure to everyone. But what amazes me, of all the music I’ve performed in, I’m noted for four bars of music. I found that a little bit bizarre.

From Bucks Free Press, October 26, 2013:

ONE day it would be Paul McCartney, the next day, the Bee Gees, or perhaps Bing Crosby. That was the kind of star studded daily routine Lane End harpist Sheila Bromberg used to lead. Back in the 1960s the session musician would be asked to go along and play on various tracks, but would often not know who she was going to be working with until she turned up.

Her claim to fame, as she puts it, was that she was the first female musician to be on a recording with The Beatles, which was on “Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”. Sheila played on the track “She’s Leaving Home”.

Two years ago was the 50th anniversary of that album, and she was invited to appear on The One Show with Chris Evans to talk about her experience. She also met drummer Ringo Starr on the BBC one programme.

She said of her TV appearance: “It was brilliant. On the show I played Yellow Submarine and everyone joined in in the studio, it was great fun.

She told Freetime she is proud of her role on that famous album.

It was an awfully long time ago now but still it’s a worthwhile project and I enjoyed playing with them,” she said.

Remembering that day in the mid 1960s, when she encountered a young Liverpudlian, whom she didn’t instantly recognise, she explained: “We were booked to go to EMI studio 2 for 9am until midnight. In those days you never knew who you’d be working for. You were never told. You had to be very good sight readers so you could play whatever was put in front of you. I got to the studio early to tune the instrument. I walked in and there was Paul McCartney but I didn’t recognise him at first. I was concentrating on what was written on the manuscript, then I turned around, heard the Liverpool accent and realised it was him. I hadn’t got a clue, I had just talked to the other musicians and waited. In actual fact he was quite difficult to work with because he wasn’t too sure what he actually wanted. He said ‘no I don’t want that, I want something…’ but he couldn’t describe what he wanted and I tried it all every which way.

She worked alongside producer George Martin that day, though Paul McCartney was the only member of the Beatles she worked with.

From Sheila Bromberg, harpist on Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,’ dies at 92 – The Washington Post:

Sheila Bromberg was a busy harpist in British symphony orchestras when an agent called on March 17, 1967, to offer her a three-hour stint that night as a session musician at the EMI recording studio on Abbey Road in London.

The pay was 9 pounds — about $17. With two young children to feed, she showed up at 8:30 p.m. to tune her harp and was handed a piece of sheet music. Only later did she learn that the notes she played were to be the intro on “She’s Leaving Home” by the Beatles. The song was released months later on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” which Rolling Stone magazine ranked in 2003 as No. 1 of the 500 greatest albums of all time. […]

Mrs. Bromberg’s harp intro and rhythm, backed by a full string section, set the poignant tone of the track before Paul McCartney (who recorded separately) began the lyric “Wednesday morning at 5 o’clock as the day begins.” […]

Last updated on September 18, 2021


Recording "She's Leaving Home"

Mar 17, 1967 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Mono)


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Beverley 3 years ago

why is this video no longer on YouTube. Sheila is my great Aunt, and it would be great to still be able to see the interview on the One Show with Ringo Starr

The PaulMcCartney Project 3 years ago

Hi Beverley, a shame indeed this video is not available on Youtube anymore. However, I've found it on DailyMotion - !

Beverley 3 years ago

Hi Paul McCartney Project, Only just seen your reply! thank you so much for uploading it! (although it is in wide format mode!!! are you able to change it by any chance? Thank you so much :-)

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