The Paul McCartney Project

Lady Madonna

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the Lady Madonna / The Inner Light 7" Single.
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:

Lady Madonna” is a song by the Beatles, written by Paul McCartney and credited to Lennon–McCartney. In March 1968, it was released as a single, backed with “The Inner Light“. The song was recorded on 3 and 6 February 1968 before the Beatles left for India. This single was the last release by the band on Parlophone in the United Kingdom, where it reached number 1 for the two weeks beginning 27 March, and Capitol Records in the United States, where it debuted at number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending 23 March and reached number 4 from the week ending 20 April through the week ending 4 May. All subsequent releases, starting with “Hey Jude” in August 1968, were released on their own label, Apple Records, under EMI distribution, until the late 1970s, when Capitol and Parlophone re-released old material.

The song, which was recorded in five takes, made its first album appearance on the 1970 collection Hey Jude. The recording began with three takes of the basic rhythm track, with McCartney on piano and Starr playing the drums with brushes.

Inspiration

According to musicologist Walter Everett, “Lady Madonna” is a raucous rock and roll song. Paul McCartney based his piano part for the song on Humphrey Lyttelton’s 1956 trad jazz rendition of “Bad Penny Blues” which had been recorded by George Martin in the 1950s. According to Ringo Starr in Recording the Beatles, “We asked George how they got the sound on Bad Penny Blues.” McCartney said of writing the song in a 1994 interview, “‘Lady Madonna’ was me sitting down at the piano trying to write a bluesy boogie-woogie thing … It reminded me of Fats Domino for some reason, so I started singing a Fats Domino impression. It took my other voice to a very odd place.” Domino himself covered the song later in 1968. The Fats Domino hit “Blue Monday” from 1956 tracks the feelings of a hard working man over each day of the week. “Lady Madonna” imagines the situation from a woman’s perspective.

John Lennon helped write the lyrics, which give an account of an overworked, exhausted (possibly single) mother, facing a new problem each day of the week. McCartney explained the song by saying: “‘Lady Madonna’ started off as the Virgin Mary, then it was a working-class woman, of which obviously there’s millions in Liverpool. There are a lot of Catholics in Liverpool because of the Irish connection.” The lyrics include each day of the week except Saturday. In a 1992 interview, McCartney, who only realised the omission of Saturday many years later, half-jokingly suggested that, given the difficulties of the other six days, the woman in the song likely went out and had a good time that day.

Speaking later about the lyrics, Lennon said: “Maybe I helped him on some of the lyrics, but I’m not proud of them either way.

Saxophone solo

The tenor saxophone solo was played by British jazz musician and club owner Ronnie Scott. The mix used in the single had obscured much of Scott’s saxophone, but the versions on Anthology 2 and Love feature a more prominent use of his solo, at the end of the song. In a BBC documentary, Timewatch, McCartney explained the decision behind this. At the time Scott had not been impressed that his music had been hidden behind the “imitation brass vocals” by McCartney, Lennon and Harrison, so McCartney had decided to fix it with the most recent mix. In Revolution in the Head, author Ian MacDonald claims that Scott’s “audibly exasperated tenor solo” was prompted by McCartney’s “unprofessional” failure to provide the brass players with a proper horn arrangement.

Promotional films

Two promotional films were made for “Lady Madonna“, which were syndicated to television broadcasting companies. The material was shot on 11 February 1968 in Abbey Road Studios and was distributed by NEMS Enterprises to US and UK TV stations. The films were directed by Tony Bramwell.

The footage consisted of the Beatles recording in the studio. The song they were working on at the time was “Hey Bulldog“. In 1999, the material was re-edited by Apple to create a new promo for “Hey Bulldog“.

A cut of the film on The Beatles Anthology includes not only footage of the “Hey Bulldog” session but also a session from roughly five months later where the band rehearsed “Hey Jude” during the White Album sessions. Visible differences in lighting, clothing and hair (both head and facial) indicate the difference in time between the shoots. Some footage of McCartney’s session with Cilla Black for the song “Step Inside Love” is also included.

Release and reception

In Britain, Parlophone issued “Lady Madonna” backed by “The Inner Light” on 15 March 1968, with the catalogue number R 5675. The single was released three days later in the United States, as Capitol 2138. Among contemporary reviews, Billboard magazine described “Lady Madonna” as a “powerful blues rocker“. Chris Welch of Melody Maker expressed doubts about the song, writing: “Best bit is the piano intro, then you can have fun wondering why Paul[‘s singing] sounds like Ringo … then go out and buy another record.” Welch concluded: “I can’t really see this being a hit, not when there’s competition from the likes of Four Jacks and a Jill and Kay Starr.

The song topped the UK Singles Chart for two weeks, although on the national chart compiled by Melody Maker it peaked at number 2. In America, “Lady Madonna” reached number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the first Beatles single not to top the chart there since “Eleanor Rigby” in 1966. Author Ian MacDonald considers this relative lack of success to be significant, describing the song as “a moderately entertaining let-down after the psychedelic heights of early 1967“. Writing in 1988, Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn described “Lady Madonna” as a “terrific” single that was “curiously overlooked today by those analysing the group’s output“.

Other releases

A variation of this song can be heard on McCartney’s Chaos and Creation at Abbey Road DVD. McCartney calls it “An Old Lady in New Clothes“. McCartney has also performed “Lady Madonna” during various concert tours. Live versions appear on Wings over America, Paul Is Live and the two 2002 tour albums, Back in the U.S. (released in North America) and Back in the World (released in other countries).

The Beatles’ version of “Lady Madonna” has appeared on the following compilation albums, released by Apple Records: Hey Jude (1970), 1967–1970 (1973), 20 Greatest Hits (1982), Past Masters, Volume Two (1988), Anthology 2 (1996; takes 3 and 4 of the song), 1 (2000) and Love (2006).

Love version

A remixed version of this song was featured in the Cirque du Soleil show Love. In this form, the saxophone solo is played almost un-accompanied at the very beginning of the song. The drum intro to “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” can be heard at the beginning and vocal percussion from “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” can be heard during the song. After the first two verses, it changes to the riff from “Hey Bulldog” in A minor, with a remixed version of Billy Preston’s Hammond organ solo from “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and parts of Eric Clapton’s guitar solo from “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” It then returns to the original form of the song, and at the very end the final Ronnie Scott saxophone solo (not heard on the final master) is played. […]

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

The original concept was the Virgin Mary but it quickly became symbolic of every woman; the Madonna image but as applied to ordinary working class woman. It’s really a tribute to the mother figure, it’s a tribute to women. Your Mother Should Know is another. I think women are very strong, they put up with a lot of shit, they put up with the pain of having a child, of raising it, cooking for it, they are basically skivvies a lot of their lives, so I always want to pay a tribute to them. […]

I was writing the words out to learn it for an American TV show and I realised I missed out Saturday; I did every other day of the week, but I missed out Saturday. So I figured it must have been a real night out. […]

Lady Madonna was me sitting down at the piano trying to write a bluesy boogie-woogie thing. I got my left hand doing an arpeggio thing with the chord, an ascending boogie-woogie left hand, then a descending right hand. I always liked that, the juxtaposition of a line going down meeting a line going up. That was basically what it was. It reminded me of Fats Domino for some reason, so I started singing a Fats Domino impression. It took my voice to a very odd place.

From the January 1965 issue of National Geographic magazine: “Mountain Madonna, with one child at her breast and another laughing into her face, sees her way of life threatened. Her people, of Malayo-Polynesian origin, took refuge in the hills centuries ago. Now they live among thousands of newly settled Vietnamese, who clear tribal areas for themselves, while Viet Cong guerrillas make the highlands a battleground.” Photograph by Howard Sochurek, National Geographic

From National Geographic, November 1, 2017:

In the interview, McCartney also told Goldberg about his inspiration for writing the Beatles’ song “Lady Madonna”—a National Geographic magazine photograph of a Malayo-Polynesian woman surrounded by three small children, one of them nursing. The image, taken by photographer Howard Sochurek, was published in an article titled “American Special Forces in Action in Viet Nam” in the January 1965 issue of the magazine.

“One particular issue [of the magazine] I saw in the ’60s had a woman, and she looked very proud and she had a baby,” McCartney said. “I saw that as a kind of Madonna thing, mother and child … You know, sometimes you see pictures of mothers and you go, ‘She’s a good mother.’ You could just tell there’s a bond and it just affected me, that photo. So I was inspired to write ‘Lady Madonna,’ my song, from that photo.”

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] mono 15 Feb 1968.UK: Parlophone R5675 single 1968. US: Capitol 2138 single 1968.CD: EMI single 1989.
  • [b] stereo 2 Dec 1969.UK: Apple PCSP 718 The Beatles 1967-70 1973. US: Apple SW-385 Hey Jude 1970, Apple SKBO-3404 The Beatles 1967-1970 1973.CD: EMI CDP 7 90044 2 Past Masters 2 1988, EMI CDP 7 97039 2 The Beatles 1967-1970 1993.
  • [c] stereo 1995.CD: Apple CDP 8 34448 2 Anthology 2 1996.

The decay on the last piano note is cut off on both mixes but lasts longer in mono [a].

The Anthology mix [c] is deliberately different. All the basic tracks of 3 tape generations are synchronized and remixed with drums, bass and sax mixed down or out. There is a sound in the decay of the last note that, if it is in the piano track, explains why that’s cut short in [a][b].

Last updated on March 25, 2018

Lyrics

Lady Madonna, children at your feet
Wonder how you manage to make ends meet
Who finds the money when you pay the rent?
Did you think that money was heaven sent?

Friday night arrives without a suitcase
Sunday morning creeping like a nun
Monday's child has learned to tie his bootlace
See how they run

Lady Madonna, baby at your breast
Wonders how you manage to feed the rest

Pa, pa, pa
See how they run

Lady Madonna lying on the bed
Listen to the music playing in your head

Tuesday afternoon is never ending
Wednesday morning papers didn't come
Thursday night your stockings needed mending
See how they run

Lady Madonna, children at your feet
Wonder how you manage to make ends meet

Officially appears on


Lady Madonna / The Inner Light

7" Single • Released in 1968

2:19 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Handclaps, Piano, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Handclaps
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Handclaps, Lead guitar
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Handclaps, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
Ken Scott:
Engineer
Bill Povey:
Tenor saxophone
Harry Klein:
Baritone saxophone
Ronnie Scott:
Tenor saxophone
Bill Jackman:
Baritone saxophone

Session Recording:
Feb 03, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Feb 06, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Feb 15, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


Hey Jude

Official album • Released in 1970

2:20 • Studio version


Wings Over America

Official live • Released in 1976

2:37 • LiveL1

Paul McCartney:
Piano, Producer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Keyboard, Vocals
Denny Laine:
Electric guitar, Vocals
Jimmy McCulloch:
Bass, Vocals
Howie Casey:
Saxophone
Joe English:
Drums, Vocals
Thaddeus Richard:
Saxophone
Mark Vigars:
Assistant mixing engineer
Phil McDonald:
Mixing engineer, Overdubs recording
Jack Maxson:
Recording engineer
Tom Walsh:
Assistant recording engineer

Concert From the concert in Detroit, USA on May 07, 1976


Past Masters

Official album • Released in 1988

2:18 • Studio version


Paul Is Live

Official live • Released in 1993

2:31 • LiveL2

Performed by:
Paul McCartneyLinda McCartneyRobbie McIntoshHamish StuartPaul WickensBlair Cunningham
Paul McCartney:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineering, Mixing
Julian Mendelsohn:
Recording
Bob Kraushaar:
Recording

Concert From the concert in Atlanta, USA on May 01, 1993


Anthology 2

Official album • Released in 1996

2:22 • OuttakeC • Takes 3 and 4. This is a unique remix of some of the different takes and sounds that comprised the master, encompassing Take 3 (the basic track of piano and drums with overdubs of guitar, bass, vocals and more drums) from 3 February and a "reduction" of this called Take 4, also with overdubs (particularly saxes), from 6 February.

George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
Ken Scott:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Feb 03, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Feb 06, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road


1

Official album • Released in 2000

2:15 • Studio version


Back In The U.S.

Official live • Released in 2002

2:21 • LiveL3

Paul McCartney:
Executive producer
Performed by:
Paul McCartneyRusty AndersonAbe Laboriel Jr.Paul WickensBrian Ray
David Kahne:
Producer
Michael Brauer:
Engineer
Ricardo Chavarria:
Assistant engineer

Concert From the concert in New York, USA on Apr 26, 2002


Back In The World

Official live • Released in 2003

2:21 • LiveL3

Paul McCartney:
Executive producer
Performed by:
Paul McCartneyRusty AndersonAbe Laboriel Jr.Paul WickensBrian Ray
David Kahne:
Producer
Michael Brauer:
Engineer
Ricardo Chavarria:
Assistant engineer

Concert From the concert in New York, USA on Apr 26, 2002


Love

Official album • Released in 2006

2:56 • Studio version • The song includes the percussion intro from "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?", the piano from "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da", the guitar riff from "Hey Bulldog", Eric Clapton's guitar solo from "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and Billy Preston's organ solo from "I Want You (She's So Heavy)".

George Martin:
Producer
Giles Martin:
Producer
Paul Hicks:
Remix engineer
Sam Okell:
Remix engineer assistant
Chris Bolster:
Remix engineer assistant
Mirek Stiles:
Remix engineer assistant

Session Mixing:
Circa 2004-2006
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Bootlegs


Acoustic

Unofficial album

3:46 • Outtake


Celebration In Colorado

Unofficial live

2:37 • Soundcheck

Concert From the concert in Denver, USA on Nov 01, 2005


Magical Toronto Night

Unofficial live

3:19 • Live

Concert From the concert in Toronto, Canada on Jun 06, 1993


Rrrrooock Show

Unofficial live

3:22 • Live

Concert From the concert in Los Angeles, USA on Jun 23, 1976


Welcome To Washington

Unofficial live

3:17 • Live

Concert From the concert in Seattle, USA on Jun 10, 1976


Live performances

“Lady Madonna” has been played in 517 concerts and 98 soundchecks.

Latest concerts where “Lady Madonna” has been played




Krakow • Tauron Arena

Dec 03, 2018 • Part of Freshen Up Tour


Copenhagen • Royal Arena

Nov 30, 2018 • Part of Freshen Up Tour




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