Birthday

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the The Beatles (Mono) LP.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1968

Master album


Related sessions

This song has been recorded during the following studio sessions




Related interviews


The "Driving Rain" interview

November 2001 • From paulmccartney.com


The Club Sandwich Interview

Winter 1994 • From Club Sandwich


The Long And Winding Down

Dec 01, 1990 • From Club Sandwich


Interview with Radio Luxembourg

Nov 21, 1968 • From Radio Luxembourg

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

“Birthday” is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1968 double album The Beatles (also known as “the White Album”). Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, it is the opening track on the third side of the LP (or the second disc in CD versions of the record). Surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr performed it for Starr’s 70th birthday at Radio City Music Hall on 7 July 2010.

Writing

The song was largely written during a recording session at EMI Studios on 18 September 1968 by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. McCartney: “We thought, ‘Why not make something up?’ So we got a riff going and arranged it around this riff. So that is 50–50 John and me, made up on the spot and recorded all in the same evening.” During the session, the Beatles and the recording crew made a short trip around the corner to McCartney’s house to watch the 1956 rock & roll movie The Girl Can’t Help It which was being shown for the first time on British television. After the movie they returned to record “Birthday”.

George Martin was away so his assistant Chris Thomas produced the session. His memory is that the song was mostly McCartney’s: “Paul was the first one in, and he was playing the ‘Birthday’ riff. Eventually the others arrived, by which time Paul had literally written the song, right there in the studio.” Everyone in the studio sang in the chorus and it was 5 am by the time the final mono mix was completed.

Lennon said in his Playboy interview in 1980: “‘Birthday’ was written in the studio. Just made up on the spot. I think Paul wanted to write a song like ‘Happy Birthday Baby’, the old fifties hit. But it was sort of made up in the studio. It was a piece of garbage.”

“Birthday” begins with an intro drum fill, then moves directly into a blues progression in A (in the form of a guitar riff doubled by the bass) with McCartney singing at the top of his chest voice with Lennon on a lower harmony. After this section, a drum break lasting eight measures brings the song into the middle section, which rests entirely on the dominant. A repeat of the blues progression/guitar riff instrumental section, augmented by piano brings the song into a bridge before returning to a repeat of the first vocal section, this time with the piano accompaniment. […]

Paul McCartney version

Paul McCartney released a live version on 8 October 1990 in the UK, with a US release albeit only as a cassette on 16 October. Originally appearing on Tripping the Live Fantastic, the single reached number 29 on the UK Singles Chart and number 3 in Italy. The B-side was a live version of “Good Day Sunshine“. McCartney also released a 12” single and CD single with those songs and two more live tracks, “P.S. Love Me Do” and “Let ‘Em In“. “P.S. Love Me Do” is a combination of “P.S. I Love You” and “Love Me Do“. […]

Paul McCartney in "Many Years From Now", by Barry Miles:

We thought, ‘Why not make something up?’ So we got a riff going and arranged it around this riff. We said, ‘We’ll go to there for a few bars, then we’ll do this for a few bars.’ We added some lyrics, then we got the friends who were there to join in on the chorus. So that is 50-50 John and me, made up on the spot and recorded all on the same evening. I don’t recall it being anybody’s birthday in particular but it might have been, but the other reason for doing it is that, if you have a song that refers to Christmas or a birthday, it adds to the life of the song, if it’s a good song, because people will pull it out on birthday shows, so I think there was a little bit of that at the back of our minds.

There’s a story about that. What happened was ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ was on television. That’s an old rock film with Little Richard and Fats Domino and Eddie Cochran and a few others… Gene Vincent. And we wanted to see it, so we started recording at five o’clock. And we said, ‘We’ll do something, just do a backing track. We’ll make up a backing track.’ So we kept it very simple– twelve-bar blues kind of thing. And we stuck in a few bits here and there in it, with no idea what the song was or what was gonna go on top of it. We just said, ‘Okay. Twelve bars in A, and we’ll change to D, and I’m gonna do a few beats in C.’ And we really just did it like that… random thing. We didn’t have time for anything else, and so we just recorded this backing. And we came back here to my house and watched ‘The Girl Can’t Help It.’ Then we went back to the studio again and made up some words to go with it all. So this song was just made up in an evening. Umm, you know. We hadn’t ever thought of it before then. And it’s one of my favorites because of that. I think it works, you know, ‘cuz it’s just… It’s a good one to dance to. Like the big long drum break, just ‘cuz, instead of… well, normally we might have four bars of drums, but with this we just keep it going, you know. We all like to hear drums plodding on.

Paul McCartney – from interview with Radio Luxembourg, 1968

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

[a] mono 18 Sep 1968.
UK: Apple PMC 7068 white album 1968.

[b] stereo 14 Oct 1968.
UK: Apple PCS 7068 white album 1968.
US: Apple SWBO 101 white album 1968.
CD: EMI CDP 7 46443 2 white album 1987.

The last “daaaance” starts twice, maybe a double-track error or a leak from a guide vocal, as heard on stereo [b], but covered up by other sound in [a].

Last updated on May 24, 2021

Lyrics

They say it's your birthday
Well, it's my birthday too yeah
They say it's your birthday
We're gonna have a good time
I'm glad it's your birthday
Happy birthday to you

Yes, we're going to a party party
Yes, we're going to a party party
Yes, we're going to a party party

I would like you to dance
(Birthday)
Take a cha-cha-cha-chance
(Birthday)
I would like you to dance
(Birthday)
Dance!

I would like you to dance
(Birthday)
Take a cha-cha-cha-chance
(Birthday)
I would like you to dance
(Birthday)
Dance!

Officially appears on


The Beatles (Mono)

LP • Released in 1968

2:43 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney :
Bass guitar, Piano, Vocals
Ringo Starr :
Drums, Handclaps
John Lennon :
Lead guitar, Vocals
George Harrison :
Lead guitar, Tambourine
Mal Evans :
Handclaps
Yoko Ono :
Backing vocals
Chris Thomas :
Producer
Ken Scott :
Recording engineer
Pattie Harrison :
Backing vocals

Session Recording:
Sep 18, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Sep 18, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Sep 18, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (Stereo)

LP • Released in 1968

2:43 • Studio versionB • Stereo

Paul McCartney :
Bass guitar, Piano, Vocals
Ringo Starr :
Drums, Handclaps
John Lennon :
Lead guitar, Vocals
George Harrison :
Lead guitar, Tambourine
Mal Evans :
Handclaps
Yoko Ono :
Backing vocals
Chris Thomas :
Producer
Ken Scott :
Recording engineer
Pattie Harrison :
Backing vocals

Session Recording:
Sep 18, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Sep 18, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Sep 18, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Tripping The Live Fantastic

Official live • Released in 1990

2:43 • LiveL1

Performed by :
Paul McCartneyLinda McCartneyRobbie McIntoshHamish StuartPaul WickensChris Whitten
Paul McCartney :
Producer
Eddie Klein :
Assistant engineer
Matt Butler :
Assistant engineer
Peter Henderson :
Producer
Bob Clearmountain :
Mixing engineer, Producer
Jeff Cohen :
Recording engineer
Geoff Foster :
Assistant engineer
Scott Hull :
Assistant engineer
George Cowan :
Assistant engineer
Paul Rushbrook :
Assistant engineer

Concert From "The Knebworth Festival - Silver Clef Award Winners Charity Concert" in Stevenage, United Kingdom on Jun 30, 1990


Birthday

CD Single • Released in 1990

2:52 • LiveL1

Performed by :
Paul McCartneyLinda McCartneyRobbie McIntoshHamish StuartPaul WickensChris Whitten
Paul McCartney :
Producer
Eddie Klein :
Assistant engineer
Matt Butler :
Assistant engineer
Peter Henderson :
Producer
Bob Clearmountain :
Mixing engineer, Producer
Jeff Cohen :
Recording engineer
Geoff Foster :
Assistant engineer
Scott Hull :
Assistant engineer
George Cowan :
Assistant engineer
Paul Rushbrook :
Assistant engineer

Concert From "The Knebworth Festival - Silver Clef Award Winners Charity Concert" in Stevenage, United Kingdom on Jun 30, 1990


Tripping the Live Fantastic: Highlights!

Official live • Released in 1990

2:43 • LiveL1

Performed by :
Paul McCartneyLinda McCartneyRobbie McIntoshHamish StuartPaul WickensChris Whitten
Paul McCartney :
Producer
Eddie Klein :
Assistant engineer
Matt Butler :
Assistant engineer
Peter Henderson :
Producer
Bob Clearmountain :
Mixing engineer, Producer
Jeff Cohen :
Recording engineer
Geoff Foster :
Assistant engineer
Scott Hull :
Assistant engineer
George Cowan :
Assistant engineer
Paul Rushbrook :
Assistant engineer

Concert From "The Knebworth Festival - Silver Clef Award Winners Charity Concert" in Stevenage, United Kingdom on Jun 30, 1990


The Beatles (Mono - 2009 remaster)

Official album • Released in 2009

2:43 • Studio versionA2009 • Mono • 2009 mono remaster

Paul McCartney :
Bass guitar, Piano, Vocals
Ringo Starr :
Drums, Handclaps
John Lennon :
Lead guitar, Vocals
George Harrison :
Lead guitar, Tambourine
Mal Evans :
Handclaps
Yoko Ono :
Backing vocals
Chris Thomas :
Producer
Ken Scott :
Recording engineer
Pattie Harrison :
Backing vocals
Paul Hicks :
Remastering
Guy Massey :
Remastering
Sean Magee :
Remastering
Allan Rouse :
Project co-ordinator

Session Recording:
Sep 18, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Sep 18, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Sep 18, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (Stereo - 2009 remaster)

Official album • Released in 2009

2:43 • Studio versionB2009 • Stereo • 2009 stereo remaster

Paul McCartney :
Bass guitar, Piano, Vocals
Ringo Starr :
Drums, Handclaps
John Lennon :
Lead guitar, Vocals
George Harrison :
Lead guitar, Tambourine
Mal Evans :
Handclaps
Yoko Ono :
Backing vocals
Chris Thomas :
Producer
Ken Scott :
Recording engineer
Pattie Harrison :
Backing vocals
Guy Massey :
Remastering
Steve Rooke :
Remastering
Allan Rouse :
Project co-ordinator

Session Recording:
Sep 18, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Sep 18, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Sep 18, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (Mono - 2014 vinyl)

LP • Released in 2014

2:43 • Studio versionA2014 • Mono • 2014 remaster

Paul McCartney :
Bass guitar, Piano, Vocals
Ringo Starr :
Drums, Handclaps
John Lennon :
Lead guitar, Vocals
George Harrison :
Lead guitar, Tambourine
Mal Evans :
Handclaps
Yoko Ono :
Backing vocals
Chris Thomas :
Producer
Ken Scott :
Recording engineer
Pattie Harrison :
Backing vocals
Sean Magee :
Remastering
Steve Berkowitz :
Remastering

Session Recording:
Sep 18, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Sep 18, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Sep 18, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road



The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

2:43 • Studio versionC • Stereo • 2018 stereo mix

Paul McCartney :
Bass guitar, Piano, Vocals
Ringo Starr :
Drums, Handclaps
John Lennon :
Lead guitar, Vocals
George Harrison :
Lead guitar, Tambourine
Giles Martin :
Producer
Mal Evans :
Handclaps
Yoko Ono :
Backing vocals
Chris Thomas :
Producer
Ken Scott :
Recording engineer
Pattie Harrison :
Backing vocals
Sam Okell :
Mixing engineer

Session Recording:
Sep 18, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Sep 18, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Films


Birthday (version 1)

1990 • For Paul McCartney


Birthday (version 2)

1990 • For Paul McCartney • Directed by Neil Mackenzie Matthews

Live performances

“Birthday” has been played in 137 concerts and 27 soundchecks.

Latest concerts where Birthday has been played







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