- Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Mono) LP.
- EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road
More from year 1967
Some songs from this session appear on:
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The Beatles had recorded “A Day In The Life” in four sessions so far, on January 19, January 20, February 3 and February 10, 1967. At the end of the February 10 session, in which the orchestral overdubs were added to “A Day In The Life“, The Beatles and friends present in the studio recorded an extended humming sound to close the song. However, they felt that this wasn’t dramatic enough, so they came up with the idea of ending the track with a piano chord.
On this day, in a session lasting from 7 pm to 3:45 am, they recorded this piano chord, completing the recording of “A Day In The Life“, and started the mixing process.
John Lennon and Mal Evans played two different pianos, and Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr shared a third one.
Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Mal Evans played three different pianos, while George Martin played the harmonium. They all played an E-major chord simultaneously. The chord was made to ring out for over forty seconds by increasing the recording sound level as the vibration faded out. Towards the end of the chord the recording level was so high that listeners can hear the sounds of the studio, including rustling papers and a squeaking chair.
That sound was used twice during the song. The first time, we ended it artificially, by literally splitting the tape, leaving silence. There is nothing more electrifying, after a big sound, than complete silence. The second time, of course, came at the end of the record, and for that I wanted a final chord, which we dubbed on later. I wanted that chord to last as long as possible, and I told Geoff Emerick it would be up to him, not the boys, to achieve that. What I did was to get all four Beatles [sic] and myself in the studio at three pianos, an upright and two grands. I gave them the bunched chords that they were to play.
Then I called out, ‘Ready? One, two, three – go!’ With that, CRASH! All of us hit the chords as hard as possible. In the control room, Geoff had his faders – which control the volume input from the studio – way, way down at the moment of impact. Then, as the sound died away, he gradually pushed the faders up, while we kept as quiet as the proverbial church mice. In the end, they were so far up, and the microphones so live, that you could hear the air-conditioning. It took forty-five seconds to do, and we did it three or four times, building up a massive sound of piano after piano after piano, all doing the same thing. That chord was a fitting end to ‘A Day in the Life’.George Martin – From “All You Need Is Ears“, 1979
Following the 10 February 1967 session, in which the orchestral overdubs were added to ‘A Day In The Life’, the song was completed on this day with the recording of the final piano chord.
At the close of the 10 February session an ad-hoc choir was assembled for the recording of a hummed final note. This was felt to be not dramatic enough, and an alternative was sought.
The idea of a piano chord was eventually settled upon. Initially using three pianos, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Mal Evans all played an E major chord. McCartney led the recording, which was captured by Geoff Emerick in the control room of Studio Two.
Paul: “Have you got your loud pedal down, Mal?”
Mal: “Which one’s that?”
Paul: “The right hand one, far right. It keeps the echo going.”
John: “Keep it down the whole time.”
Paul: “Right. On four then. One, two, three…”
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn
It took nine attempts to record a satisfactory version, as the five performers had trouble hitting the chord at precisely the same time. Take seven was the longest at 59 seconds, but take nine was the best.
Three more overdubs were added to further thicken the sound. Two of these were of more pianos chords, and the third was of George Martin playing a harmonium.
Mono and stereo mixes for A Day In The Life were made towards the end of the session. This required two four-track tape machines to be played in sync – a first for EMI. The main part of the song was mixed first in four attempts, numbered 6-9, onto which the final chord was then edited to create the mono master.
Nine stereo mixes were then made. These were numbered 1-9, but there were problems with keeping the two tape machines in time and the attempt was abandoned until the following day.
At the end of the session The Beatles recorded an experimental piece, its purpose unknown. It lasted 22’10” and primarily featured Ringo Starr’s drums, augmented by tambourine and congas. A single take was recorded, and was known in the studio as Anything, or Drum Track (1).
Last updated on February 18, 2023
Editing • Edit pieces 1-9
Album Officially released on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (50th anniversary boxset)
Recording • Take 1
The definitive guide for every Beatles recording sessions from 1962 to 1970.
We owe a lot to Mark Lewisohn for the creation of those session pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - the number of takes for each song, who contributed what, a description of the context and how each session went, various photographies... And an introductory interview with Paul McCartney!
The third book of this critically - acclaimed series, nominated for the 2019 Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) award for Excellence In Historical Recorded Sound, "The Beatles Recording Reference Manual: Volume 3: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band through Magical Mystery Tour (late 1966-1967)" captures the band's most innovative era in its entirety. From the first take to the final remix, discover the making of the greatest recordings of all time. Through extensive, fully-documented research, these books fill an important gap left by all other Beatles books published to date and provide a unique view into the recordings of the world's most successful pop music act.
If we like to think, in all modesty, that the Paul McCartney Project is the best online ressource for everything Paul McCartney, The Beatles Bible is for sure the definitive online site focused on the Beatles. There are obviously some overlap in terms of content between the two sites, but also some major differences in terms of approach.