“In My Life” is a song by the Beatles released on the 1965 album Rubber Soul, written mainly by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. The song originated with Lennon, and while Paul McCartney contributed to the final version, he and Lennon later disagreed over the extent of his contributions (specifically the melody). George Martin, who produced the recording, contributed the instrumental bridge. It is ranked 23rd on Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” as well as fifth on their list of the Beatles’ 100 Greatest Songs. The song placed second on CBC’s 50 Tracks. Mojo magazine named it the best song of all time in 2000.
According to Lennon, the song’s origins can be traced to when the English journalist Kenneth Allsop made a remark that Lennon should write songs about his childhood. Afterwards, Lennon wrote a song in the form of a long poem reminiscing on his childhood years. The original version of the lyrics was based on a bus route he used to take in Liverpool, naming various sites seen along the way, including Penny Lane and Strawberry Field. Those original lyrics are on display at The British Library.
However, Lennon found it to be “ridiculous“, calling it “the most boring sort of ‘What I Did On My Holidays Bus Trip’ song“; he reworked the words, replacing the specific memories with a generalized meditation on his past. “Very few lines” of the original version remained in the finished song. According to Lennon’s friend and biographer Peter Shotton, the lines “Some [friends] are dead and some are living/In my life I’ve loved them all” referred to Stuart Sutcliffe (who died in 1962) and to Shotton.
In a 1980 interview, Lennon referred to this song as his “first real major piece of work” because it was the first time he penned personal lyrics about his own life.
Regarding authorship of the melody, Lennon’s and McCartney’s recollections differ. Referring to McCartney, Lennon said “his contribution melodically was the harmony and the middle-eight itself.” McCartney claimed he set Lennon’s lyrics to music from beginning to end, taking inspiration for the melody from songs by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles. “I liked ‘In My Life’. Those were words that John wrote, and I wrote the tune to it. That was a great one.”
The piano solo was included in the Love remix of Strawberry Fields Forever.
The song was recorded on 18 October 1965, and was complete except for the instrumental bridge. At that time, Lennon had not decided what instrument to use, but he subsequently asked George Martin to play a piano solo, suggesting “something Baroque-sounding“. Martin wrote a Bach-influenced piece that he found he could not play at the song’s tempo. On 22 October, the solo was recorded with the tape running at half speed, so when played back at normal pace the piano was twice as fast and an octave higher, solving the performance challenge and also giving the solo a unique timbre, reminiscent of a harpsichord.
[…] Mark Glickman, senior lecturer in statistics at Harvard University, and Jason Brown, Professor of Mathematics at Dalhousie University, created a computer model which broke down Lennon and McCartney songs into 149 different components to determine the musical fingerprints of each songwriter.
And they discovered that, stylistically, there is less than one in 50 chance of Sir Paul having written the music to ‘In My Life.’
“We wondered whether you could use data analysis techniques to try to figure out what was going on in the song to distinguish whether it was by one or the other,” said Dr Glickman.
- [a] mono 25 Oct 1965.
UK: Parlophone PMC 1267 Rubber Soul 1965.
US: Capitol T 2442 Rubber Soul 1965.
- [b] stereo 26 Oct 1965.
UK: Parlophone PCS 3075 Rubber Soul 1965, Apple PCSP 717 The Beatles 1962-1966 1973.
US: Capitol ST 2442 Rubber Soul 1965, Apple SKBO-3403 The Beatles 1962-1966 1973.
- [c] stereo 1987.
CD: EMI CDP 7 46440 2 Rubber Soul 1987, EMI CDP 7 97036 2 The Beatles 1962-1966 1993.
The new CD mix [c] differs from [b] several ways. Both have the lead vocal mixed far right, but a heavy reverb added to [c] is mixed center, sounding almost like a double track vocal. A breath is heard before the vocal starts in [b], the drum is louder in the verses in [b], and a plink in the decay of the guitar, left, at the end of the song is not heard in [c]. The end of the piano solo is faded away slightly better in [c].