Recording "Getting Better", "Lovely Rita", mixing "Lovely Rita"

Tuesday, March 21, 1967 • For The Beatles

Part of

Recording "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"

Nov 24, 1966 - Apr 20, 1967 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (UK Mono)

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (UK Mono) LP.
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

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On this day, The Beatles worked on their songs “Getting Better” and “Lovely Rita” from 7 pm to 2:45 am. They added overdubs to “Getting Better” and then focused on “Lovely Rita” to add the latest overdub and mix the track in mono. Visitors to the studio included their music publisher Dick James, NEMS employee Peter Brown, John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s Liverpool friend Ivan Vaughan, engineer Norman Smith and the Pink Floyd, and journalist and writer Hunter Davies, who had recently been commissioned to write The Beatles’ authorized biography. The biography, released in 1968, provides a lot of detail about this session but omits the fact that John mistakenly took LSD in the recording studio.

Getting Better” was recorded on March 9 and 10. The purpose of this session was to record vocals for the track. Ringo Starr did not attend as he was not needed. The session began with a playback of the progress made so far. Paul discussed with the technical team to engineer the reduction mix that was necessary to free up some tracks. Two tape reductions were created from Take 12 and named Takes 13 and 14, freeing up two tracks to record the vocals.

After evaluating Takes 13 and 14, Take 14 was chosen as the best one. Paul then added double-tracked lead vocals, and John and George Harrison added their double-tracked backing vocals to the track.

John and George assembled at Paul’s house. Ringo wasn’t there. They were just going to do the singing track for ‘It’s Getting Better’ and he wouldn’t be needed. Ivan Vaughan, the schoolfriend of John and Paul, was also at Paul’s house. At 7.30 they all moved round to EMI, where George Martin, like a very understanding housemaster, was ready and waiting for them.

The backing for ‘It’s Getting Better’ […] was played over and over again for them to listen to. George Harrison and Ivan went off to chat in a corner, but Paul and John listened carefully. Paul instructed the technician on which levers to press, telling him what he wanted, how it should be done, which bits he liked best. George Martin looked on, giving advice where necessary. John stared into space. […]

They played the backing track of ‘It’s Getting Better’ [sic] for what seemed like the hundredth time, but Paul said he wasn’t happy about it. They’d better get Ringo in and they would do it all again. Someone went to ring for Ringo.

Peter Brown arrived. […] They played him the backing track of ‘It’s Getting Better’. As it was being played, Paul talked to one of the technicians and told him to try yet a different sound mix. He did so and Paul said that was much better. It would do. They didn’t need to bring Ringo in now after all.

‘And we’ve just ordered Ringo on toast,’ said John. But Ringo was cancelled in time and the studio was got ready to record the sound track, the voices. […]

They were ready at last. The three of them held their heads round one microphone and sang ‘It’s Getting Better’ while up in the control box, George Martin and his two assistants got it all down on track. The three Beatles were singing, not playing, but through the headphones strapped to their ears they could hear the recording of the backing track. They were simply singing to their already recorded accompaniment.

In the studio itself, all that could be heard were the unaccompanied, un-electrified voices of the Beatles singing, without any backing. It all sounded flat and out of key.

Hunter Davis – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman, 2008

They could hear the backing through their headphones while they were singing but all I could hear was their voices: flat, grainy, hoarse and awfully disembodied [as voices nearly always sound without accompaniment]. I remember thinking ‘Why am I such a big fan of theirs, why do I think they’re good singers? They’re completely out of tune!’

Hunter Davis – From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn, 1988

However, while recording his vocals, John started feeling unwell. He had with him a pill box that contained various stimulants. It turned out that he accidentally ingested some LSD, and the effects of the drug began to take hold.

That same evening, I was witness to a bizarre scenario that seemed quite funny at the time, but could have ended tragically. For some reason, Ringo wasn’t at that particular session, though Beatles biographer Hunter Davies was there, sitting unobtrusively in the back with Neil and Mal, quietly observing. John was dressed outlandishly as usual, in a festive striped blazer, but I thought he seemed unusually quiet when he first arrived. Soon afterward, he, Paul, and George Harrison were gathered around a microphone singing backing vocals when Lennon suddenly announced that he wasn’t feeling well. George Martin got on the talkback. “What’s the matter, John? Is it something you ate?”

The others sniggered but John remained perfectly solemn. “No, it’s not that,” he replied. “I’m just having trouble focusing.”

Up in the control room, Richard and I exchanged glances. Uh-huh, we thought. That would be the drugs kicking in. But George Martin didn’t seem to have an inkling of what was going on.

“Do you want to be driven home?” he asked. “No,” Lennon said in a tiny, faraway voice. “Well then, perhaps you’d like to get a little fresh air?” George suggested helpfully.“Okay,” came the meek reply. […]

Geoff Emerick – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006

They ran through the song about four times and John said he didn’t feel well. He could do with some fresh air. Someone went to open the back door of the studio. There was the sound of loud banging and cheering on the other side. The door began to move slightly inwards, under the strain of a gang of fans who’d somehow managed to get inside the building.

George Martin came down from his box and told John he would be better to go up on the roof and get some air, rather than go outside.

‘How’s John?’ Paul asked into the microphone to George Martin up in the control box.

Hunter Davis – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman, 2008

George Martin turned on the talkback mic. “I left him up on the roof, looking at the stars.”

“Ah, you mean like Vince Hill?” Paul joked. Vince Hill was a schmaltzy singer who was currently topping the charts with a sappy version of the song “Edelweiss” (from The Sound of Music), which Paul and George Harrison immediately began singing boisterously.

A second or two later, it dawned on them: John was tripping on LSD and George Martin has left him up on the roof alone! As if they were actors in an old-fashioned silent movie, the two Beatles executed a perfectly timed double take and then bolted up the stairs together, full speed, in a frantic dash to retrieve their compatriot. They knew all too well that the rooftop had only a narrow parapet and that, in his lysergically altered state, John could easily step over the edge and plummet thirty feet to the pavement below.

Mal and Neil followed closely behind, and a few tense minutes later, everyone reappeared in the control room… thankfully with a bewildered Lennon in tow, still in one piece.

Geoff Emerick – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006

I was standing next to John, discussing some finer point of the arrangement to ‘Getting Better’ when he suddenly looked up at me. ‘George,’ he said slowly, ‘I’m not feeling too good. I’m not focusing on me.’

This was a pretty odd thing to say, even for John. I studied him. I’d been oblivious to it until then, but he did look pretty awful — not sick, but twitchy and strange. ‘Do you want someone to take you home?’ I asked. ‘No,’ he replied, ‘I don’t want to go home.’

‘Come on, John,’ I said. ‘What you need is a breath of fresh air. I know the way up on to the roof.’ When we had clambered out on to the flat roof of Studio No. 2, we found it was a beautiful clear night. John took a deep breath, and, with a bit of a lurch, took a couple of steps towards the edge of the building. I grabbed hold of his arm: it was a good fifty feet to the ground. We stood there for a minute or two, with John swaying gently against my arm. ‘I’m feeling better,’ he announced. Then he looked up at the stars. ‘Wow…’ he intoned. ‘Look at that! Isn’t that amazing?’

I followed his gaze. The stars did look good, and there seemed to be a great many of them — but they didn’t look that good. It was very unlike John to be over the top in that way. I stared at him. He was wired — pin-sharp and quivering, resonating away like a human tuning-fork.

No sooner had John uttered his immortal words about the stars than George and Paul came bursting out on to the roof. They had come tearing up from the studio as soon as they found out where we were.

They knew why John was feeling unwell. Maybe everyone else did, too — everyone except for father-figure George Martin here!

It was very simple. John was tripping on LSD. He had taken it by mistake, they said — he had meant to take an amphetamine tablet. That hardly made any difference, frankly; the fact was that John was only too likely to imagine he could fly, and launch himself off the low parapet that ran around the roof. They had been absolutely terrified that he might do so.

George Martin – From “With A Little Help From My Friends: The Making of Sgt. Pepper“, 1995

I never took it in the studio. Once I did accidentally. I thought I was taking some uppers, and I was not in a state of handling it. I can’t remember what album it was but I took it and then [whispers] I just noticed all of a sudden I got so scared on the mike. I said, ‘What was it?’ I thought I felt ill. I thought I was going cracked. Then I said, ‘I must get some air.’ They all took me upstairs on the roof, and George Martin was looking at me funny. And then it dawned on me, I must have taken acid. And I said, ‘Well, I can’t go on, I have to go.’ So I just said, ‘You’ll have to do it and I’ll just stay and watch.’ I just [became] very nervous and just watching all of a sudden. ‘Is it alright?’ And they were saying, ‘Yeah.’ They were all being very kind. They said, ‘Yes, it’s alright.’ And I said, ‘Are you sure it’s alright?’ They carried on making the record.

John Lennon – Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner

As it became clear that John was unable to continue working, they stopped working on “Getting Better“. The vocals were later re-recorded on March 23.

Shortly after, The Beatles were paid a visit by Norman Smith, who was the balance engineer on most of their recordings up to 1966. He was producing Pink Floyd’s debut album, “The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn“, elsewhere at EMI Studios, and Pink Floyd wanted to meet The Beatles.

A man in a purple shirt called Norman arrived. He used to be one of their recording engineers and now had a group of his own, The Pink Floyd. Very politely he asked George Martin if his boys could possibly pop in to see the Beatles at work. George smiled, unhelpfully. Norman said perhaps he should ask John personally, as a favour. George Martin said no, that wouldn’t work. But if by chance he and his boys popped in about eleven o’clock, he might just be able to see what he could do. They did pop in, around 11:00, and exchanged a few half-hearted hellos.

Hunter Davis – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman, 2008

A short time later, as everyone was packing up and getting ready to leave, Norman Smith made an appearance, with the members of Pink Floyd. On this night he was dressed in a florid purple shirt instead of his usual suit and tie. Sadly, he and his protégés were given a very cool reception by Paul and George Harrison — uninvited visitors were simply not made welcome, even if they included a former workmate. After a few minutes of awkward chat, Norman headed out the door. It was the last time he popped in on any Beatles session that I was present at. Clearly, as far as they were concerned, that was a chapter that was over.

Geoff Emerick – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006

Lovely Rita” was recorded over the course of three days: February 23, February 24, and March 7. The song was almost complete, but it was lacking a solo, which was added on this day in the form of a piano played by George Martin.

After the solo was recorded, The Beatles left the studio. Paul and Mal Evans drove John to 7 Cavendish Avenue, Paul’s home, which was located near EMI Studios. Upon their arrival, Paul decided to join John in taking LSD, his second trip but first with Lennon. Mal remained sober to look after the two Beatles.

Meanwhile, the engineering team began working on the mono mix of the song. They made fifteen attempts, labelled Remix Mono 1-15, all using frequency control to raise the pitch of the song by just under a semitone. They also used ADT (artificial double tracking) on Paul’s lead vocals.

Remix Mono 11 and 14 were considered the best and were edited together to create the mono version of “Lovely Rita” released on the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album.

The stereo version of “Lovely Rita” was created on April 17, 1967.

We still weren’t finished with the lovely lady: she had a big hole in the middle of her where a solo ought to be. ‘Big’ George (that’s me) was elected to play said solo, which we did on 21 March. I wanted a rippling honky-tonk piano sound, and got this by slowing the tape speed down to forty-one-and-a-quarter cycles, thereby reducing the pitch by three semitones. That way I was able to play the notes I wanted at a reasonable speed. When we brought the solo back up to normal speed again it sounded quite fast, and pretty good. Even better, it still sounded like a piano and not like a harpsichord, as double-speed piano tends to do.

I also altered the sound of my piano on that solo by putting a spot of ‘wow’ on it. A very bad recording of a piano has a wobbly, wowing quality on the notes, which is a sound often produced by old tape-recorders. All the tape machines at EMI were top-line, however. How to destroy them? I put a tiny piece of editing tape on the capstan, which lifted the tape about a millimetre clear as it went over the roller. This put a bit of strain on the tape, making it oscillate and stretch just that little bit as it went round past the head. The effect was to give the piano the old-fashioned honky-tonk sound I was looking for.

This little trick saved the day for us. Although the Beatles had not themselves come up with anything for the middle eight of the song, they were less than thrilled by my piano solo idea. Paul had asked me to play through the solo when I first made the suggestion, but I was too embarrassed to do it live. He did like the finished product, though!

George Martin – From “With A Little Help From My Friends: The Making of Sgt. Pepper“, 1995

They were stuck for the solo. And in fact I suggested the piano solo, believe it or not, because they were really in a tizwaz about what solo to put on it. So then Paul shouted up because I was at the top of the stairs and Paul said, ‘oh, you play it’. So I’m so nervous, you know, in those days. So I said no I can’t do it. I wanted a shimmer behind the piano, because to get a sound of a piano that no one had heard again. So what I did, I used an echo, the echo chamber on it which was at the back of (studio) number two, and we could send the signal of the piano via a tape machine into the echo chamber, which would give some sort of delay. I stuck sticky tape on all the guide rollers of the tape machine. So when the tape went through it was wobbling all over the place, right? Again if the manager had come in, I probably would have got fired or got into terrible trouble. So I wobbled the tape going through the heads right, of the tape machine, and wobbled the echo, or the piano into the sound into the chamber. And that was like the sound behind the piano, but now you can actually get that sound as a plug in, cos most plug-ins now are based on the things we used to do.

Geoff Emerick – From ABC News, May 25, 2017

The opportunity arose for me to make my recording debut on a Beatles album with “Lovely Rita,” but my shy nature let me down. After hours of attempting a Harrison guitar solo that never quite worked, they were stuck for an idea, and the frustration was starting to show. I distinctly remember standing at the top of the stairs in Studio Two and Paul’s shouting up at me, “Geoff, you tell us what the solo should be.”

My suggestion was that they try something on piano. To my surprise, Paul asked, “Why don’t you play it?”

In a kneejerk reaction — and to my everlasting regret — I demurred; I was simply too embarrassed to demonstrate my musical skills. Paul shrugged his shoulders and took a stab at it, but he still wasn’t a hundred percent certain that it was a good idea, so he had George Martin play something instead. While Paul listened up in the control room, George reeled off a honky-tonkstyle solo that was deemed acceptable, although, frankly, I wasn’t too crazy about it. But in the true Pepper spirit of experimentation, Paul asked me to screw things up so the solo didn’t sound like it was coming from a piano. By that stage, I had already adopted a policy that no piano was ever recorded the same way twice. As a result, I was miking pianos from underneath, taping mics to the soundboard — anything to get it sounding different each time. This time around, I decided to place some sticky editing tape on the guide rollers of a tape machine that was sending signal to the echo chamber, causing the tape to wow and flutter. The end result was an audible, and quite interesting, “wobble” in the piano sound. It was yet another contravention of the rules that, with any band other than the Beatles, would have easily gotten me fired.

Geoff Emerick – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006

I thought, Maybe this is the moment where I should take a trip with him. It’s been coming for a long time. It’s often the best way, without thinking about it too much, just slip into it. John’s on it already, so I’ll sort of catch up. It was my first trip with John, or with any of the guys. We stayed up all night, sat around and hallucinated a lot.

Me and John, we’d known each other for a long time. Along with George and Ringo, we were best mates. And we looked into each other’s eyes, the eye contact thing we used to do, which is fairly mind-boggling. You dissolve into each other. But that’s what we did, round about that time, that’s what we did a lot. And it was amazing. You’re looking into each other’s eyes and you would want to look away, but you wouldn’t, and you could see yourself in the other person. It was a very freaky experience and I was totally blown away.

There’s something disturbing about it. You ask yourself, ‘How do you come back from it? How do you then lead a normal life after that?’ And the answer is, you don’t. After that you’ve got to get trepanned or you’ve got to meditate for the rest of your life. You’ve got to make a decision which way you’re going to go

I would walk out into the garden – ‘Oh no, I’ve got to go back in.’ It was very tiring, walking made me very tired, wasted me, always wasted me. But ‘I’ve got to do it, for my well-being.’ In the meantime John had been sitting around very enigmatically and I had a big vision of him as a king, the absolute Emperor of Eternity. It was a good trip. It was great but I wanted to go to bed after a while.

I’d just had enough after about four or five hours. John was quite amazed that it had struck me in that way. John said, ‘Go to bed? You won’t sleep!’ ‘I know that, I’ve still got to go to bed.’ I thought, now that’s enough fun and partying, now … It’s like with drink. That’s enough. That was a lot of fun, now I gotta go and sleep this off. But of course you don’t just sleep off an acid trip so I went to bed and hallucinated a lot in bed. I remember Mal coming up and checking that I was all right. ‘Yeah, I think so.’ I mean, I could feel every inch of the house, and John seemed like some sort of emperor in control of it all. It was quite strange. Of course he was just sitting there, very inscrutably.

Paul McCartney – From “Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now” by Barry Miles, 1997

From Gissela ( McCartney photographed by fan Lizzie Bravo outside the EMI Studios, on march 21, 1967

Last updated on February 19, 2024

Songs recorded


Getting Better

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Tape copying • Tape reduction take 12 into take 13


Getting Better

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Tape copying • Tape reduction take 12 into take 14


Getting Better

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • SI onto take 14


Lovely Rita

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • SI onto take 11


Lovely Rita

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 1 from take 11


Lovely Rita

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 2 from take 11


Lovely Rita

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 3 from take 11


Lovely Rita

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 4 from take 11


Lovely Rita

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 5 from take 11


Lovely Rita

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 6 from take 11


Lovely Rita

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 7 from take 11


Lovely Rita

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 8 from take 11


Lovely Rita

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 9 from take 11


Lovely Rita

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 10 from take 11


Lovely Rita

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 11 from take 11


Lovely Rita

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 12 from take 11


Lovely Rita

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 13 from take 11


Lovely Rita

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 14 from take 11


Lovely Rita

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 15 from take 11


Lovely Rita

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Editing • Editing of mono remix 11 and mono remix 14

Album Officially released on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (UK Mono)


Musicians on "Getting Better"

Paul McCartney:
Lead vocals
John Lennon:
Backing vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals

Musicians on "Lovely Rita"

Production staff

George Martin:
Geoff Emerick:
Richard Lush:
Second Engineer


Going further

The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions • Mark Lewisohn

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!

Shop on Amazon

The Beatles Recording Reference Manual: Volume 3: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band through Magical Mystery Tour (late 1966-1967)

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.

Shop on Amazon

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.

Read more on The Beatles Bible


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