The Paul McCartney Project

Birthday

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the The Beatles (Mono) Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1968
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

Birthday” is a song written by Lennon–McCartney and performed by the Beatles on their double album The Beatles (commonly known as The White Album). It is the opening track on the third side of the LP (or the second disc in CD versions of the record). The song is an example of the Beatles’ return to more traditional rock and roll form, although their music had increased in complexity and it had developed more of its own characteristic style by this point. Surviving Beatles 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 Abbey Road 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 Paul’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.

John 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’ [sic], 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.

Other versions

McCartney released a live version on 8 October 1990 in the UK, with a US release albeit only as a cassette on 16 October. The single reached number 29 on the UK singles chart. 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 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.

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 August 20, 2016

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)

Official album • Released in 1968

2:43 • Studio versionA • Mono

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

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)

Official album • Released in 1968

2:43 • Studio versionB • Stereo

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

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 "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 "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 "Silver Clef Award Winners Charity Concert" in Stevenage, United Kingdom on Jun 30, 1990


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

2:43 • Studio versionR2018 • Stereo

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

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

Outtake • Take 2 – Instrumental backing track

Live performances

“Birthday” has been played in 113 concerts and 16 soundchecks.

Latest concerts where “Birthday” has been played



Krakow • Tauron Arena

Dec 03, 2018 • Part of Freshen Up Tour



Nagoya • Nagoya Dome

Nov 08, 2018 • Part of Freshen Up Tour


Secret New York Concert

Sep 07, 2018 • USA • New York • Grand Central Terminal



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