Fixing A Hole

Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 9, 21 February 1967
Producer: George Martin
Engineers: Geoff Emerick, Adrian Ibbetson

Released: 1 June 1967 (UK), 2 June 1967 (US)

Paul McCartney: lead and backing vocals, bass
John Lennon: backing vocals
George Harrison: backing vocals, lead guitar
Ringo Starr: drums, maracas
George Martin: harpsichord

Available on:
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Condemned upon its release for perceived references to heroin injection, Fixing A Hole was in fact a tribute to marijuana written by Paul McCartney.

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That’s Paul, again writing a good lyric.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

It has also been claimed that the song is about repairs undertaken by Paul McCartney on High Park, his farmhouse on the west coast of Scotland, although this is untrue.

It was much later that I ever got round to fixing the roof on the Scottish farm; I never did any of that until I met Linda. People just make it up! They know I’ve got a farm, they know it has a roof, they know I might be given to handyman tendencies so it’s a very small leap for mankind… to make up the rest of the story.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

In truth the song, like Got To Get You Into My Life, was “another ode to pot”; it explored the joys of allowing one’s mind to wander, and the freedom from being told what to do.

It was the idea of me being on my own now, able to do what I want. If I want I’ll paint the room in a colourful way… I was living now pretty much on my own in Cavendish Avenue, and enjoying my freedom and my new house and the salon-ness of it all. It’s pretty much my song, as I recall. I like the double meaning of ‘If I’m wrong I’m right where I belong’.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

In the studio

The recording of Fixing A Hole began on 9 February 1967. The Beatles used Regent Sound Studio in London as Abbey Road was unavailable. It was the first time the group used another studio to record for EMI.

According to McCartney, an unusual guest was brought to the session.

A guy arrived at my front gate and I said, ‘Yes? Hello,’ because I always used to answer it to everyone. If they were boring I would say, ‘Sorry, no,’ and they generally went away. This guy said, ‘I’m Jesus Christ.’ I said, ‘Oop,’ slightly shocked. I said, ‘Well, you’d better come in then.’ I thought, Well, it probably isn’t. But if he is, I’m not going to be the one to turn him away. So I gave him a cup of tea and we just chatted and I asked, ‘Why do you think you are Jesus?’ There were a lot of casualties about then. We used to get a lot of people who were maybe insecure or going through emotional breakdowns or whatever. So I said, ‘I’ve got to go to a session but if you promise to be very quiet and just sit in a corner, you can come.’ So he did, he came to the session and he did sit very quietly and I never saw him after that. In introduced him to the guys. They said, ‘Who’s this?’ I said, ‘He’s Jesus Christ.’ We had a bit of a giggle over that.

Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

The Beatles rehearsed Fixing A Hole a number of times before recording three takes. They then recorded three takes, the last of which was incomplete. The second take became the basis for the final version.

The backing track featured Paul McCartney on bass guitar, Ringo Starr on drums and George Martin on harpsichord on track one, and McCartney’s guide vocals and John Lennon’s rhythm guitar simultaneously taped onto track three. There was some bleed between the instruments which meant the guide vocal can be heard on track one.

Backing vocals were then overdubbed onto track four, and George Harrison added an eight-bar guitar solo onto track two.

On 21 February, back at Abbey Road, they recorded a fourth take, before deciding the Regent Sound take two was the best. They created a reduction mix to free up space, which combined the guitar and backing vocals on one track. The new mix became known, confusingly, as take three.

They then overdubbed backing vocals, guitar and maracas to complete the song.

McCartney then recorded over his guide vocals and John Lennon’s rhythm guitar, adding in their place a new lead vocal performance. On the fourth track he double-tracked his vocals in places. Maracas were also added by Starr.

Towards the end of the session five mono mixes of Fixing A Hole were made. These were numbered 2-6, even though there had been no previous mix numbered one. The final version was an edit of mixes three and six; the edit can be heard at the 2’06 mark on the album.

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40 Responses to “Fixing A Hole”

  1. bruce

    this song is superb
    that chord progression
    that jazzy drumming, such an original and outstanding song from sgt peppers LP
    those choirs!!!!!

    Reply
  2. Tory

    I am confounded with this chord progression. All I know is that the guitar is tuned down 1/2 step and it starts in F#. Any help appreciated.
    And, Joe, you have one awesome site here!

    Reply
  3. Colonel Salt

    This song has always seemed like a throwaway to me. Extremely well written and superbly performed but it just does nothing for me. Gives me a weird feeling.

    Reply
    • Deadman

      However, Richard Lush could not be present at the Regent Sound Studio for the recording of the basic tracks, because he was an EMI employee.

      Reply
      • Gustavo

        You`re right, altough Lewishon book list the second engineer as unknown (p. 95). Then, on p. 99, another session, reductions, overdubs and mixes: a little bit confusing.

        Reply
        • Zmash

          Lush doesn’t say he SAW John play bass on the song, he just says that he knows John played the bass. His knowledge could have come from the boys themselves.

          Reply
    • Jonathan

      No way it’s Lennon playing bass, the part is way too accomplished for his somewhat “sloppy” playing (even though there actually is a slight mistake like a minute into the son ). No, this is certainly Paul, and a grand example of that melodic playing style he began dabbling with late ’65 and which by this time had reached it’s zenith

      Reply
  4. Leo-Howler-Sitar

    I think this song is supremely underrated, and although the lyrics don’t mean too much, the actual sound of it is just so completely unique and interesting that I can’t help but perk my ears up when I hear it.

    Reply
    • Thunderbuck

      I agree. It’s a brilliant melody and a brilliant vocal. There’s a few places in the song where Paul sings up a measure or so (notably, the first syllable of “fixing” in the opening line). It’s unexpected but it works beautifully.

      Drug references? I suppose you take veiled ones for granted in anything they did at the time, but this song certainly doesn’t bring heroin to mind. I think the lyrics could be interpreted as taking stock of one’s self and taking care of one’s own well-being.

      Reply
    • George

      George Harrison plays one of his better solos on this one. There is a five note/ chord sequence intermittenly throughout the song especially towards the end where paul sings the opening lyrics in a more melodic way that to me sounds like dim sunlight breaking through and warming the song a bit.
      Is that Paul or George playing that guitar phrase?

      Reply
  5. luca

    I was carefully listening to the recording and I think that the maracas are on the basic track and were not overdubbed later, probably played by John. It’s the first time that I write so I’d like to thank Joe for his beautiful job. This is the best Beatles site

    Reply
  6. kedame

    Has anyone ever heard that Mal contributed to the writing of this song and was compensated with a one time payment?

    Reply
    • eddy

      I’ve read that Mal went on radio interviews and said he wrote this song, and that the concept of Sgt. Pepper was his. He wrote about it in his diary.

      Reply
      • Sam J

        But Mac , I read, has stated he was on an airplane, because he gets about, and got the title from someone saying “please pass the Salt and Pepper. Immediately he played on the words to come u with Sgt. Pepper.

        Reply
        • Sam J

          This bit is from Paul taken right from this site on the Album Section:
          Me and Mal often bantered words about which led to the rumour that he thought of the name Sergeant Pepper, but I think it would be much more likely that it was me saying, ‘Think of names.’ We were having our meal and they had those little packets marked ‘S’ and ‘P’. Mal said, ‘What’s that mean? Oh, salt and pepper.’ We had a joke about that. So I said, ‘Sergeant Pepper,’ just to vary it, ‘Sergeant Pepper, salt and pepper,’ an aural pun, not mishearing him but just playing with the words.

          Reply
  7. GabrielAntonio

    Funny thing,for me it was always clear that this lyric it’s about freedom of thinking and speech

    “I’m fixing a hole where the rain gets in.And stops my mind from wandering
    Where it will go.”

    Maybe a reference to the act of thinking about the problems of the world that surrounds us
    (not only emotional individual problems that music lyrics usually talk about)

    “And it really doesn’t matter if I’m wrong I’m right
    Where I belong I’m right
    Where I belong.
    See the people standing there who Disagree and never win.And wonder why
    they don’t get in my door.”

    Here it is said that don’t matter what my point of view is and don’t matter how many people disagree me, at least I made a reflection and showed a new point.
    “I wonder why they don’t get in my door”
    Probably a defiance to the people who contradict but don’t face a rational process and think about solutions.

    Fixing a Hole maybe represents youth engaged with political and social matters of the 60′s society.
    I know it sounds a bit vague . But that’s my interpretation…

    Reply
  8. chuck

    my interpretation has always been a zen interpretation,,,im fixing a hole where the rain gets in & (via fixing this hole)..it> stops my mind from wandering,,,so i can concentrate on the task im engaging in & not thinking bout distracting things,,,quite a zen statement

    Reply
  9. Carl

    I think this is a response (and slowed down minor version) to Elvis ‘s Were Gonna Move …”There’s a hole in the roof where the rain pours in”;…haha love it!

    Reply
  10. FrankDialogue

    Whoever played the guitar solo, it is very tasteful and one of the handful of electric guitar solos on the Beatles most ‘non-guitar’ albums.

    Reply
  11. Jacques Pariseau

    I’ve always thought the guitar solo in Fixing a Hole is one of the most musical guitar solos ever, right down to that final low note.
    P.S. I love this site and visit every day!

    Reply
  12. Michael

    Well, for all those who claim that George played the excellent guitar solo on this song, you folks better correct Mr. McCartney, who has claimed several times in interviews that he himself played the solo.

    Reply
    • Joe

      As I asked when you made this claim this back in February 2011, could you please provide a source for this? Or, even better, several. Thanks.

      Reply
  13. Riffking

    According to “The Beatles Gear” by Babiuk, Richard Lush says that Lennon’s bass part was added during a later overdub session at Abbey Road. That would seem to lend creedance to his claim that John played the bass.

    Reply
  14. Valvicus

    @Jonathan re: Paul’s bass playing (post # 9 ;) ,Tuesday 26 February 2013) — I agree. As a matter of fact, I rather doubt John had much of anything to do with “Fixing A Hole” at all, what with it’s being entirely Paul’s composition, etc..

    As for the guitar playing, it is clearly George’s work: listen to the two precisely “pre-bent” downward slurs from E to D, quite characteristic of sitar playing, that follow “… past my door.” The second one is spot-on chromatic, with E falling to E-flat to D. Just listen to George’s sitar lines in “Love You To”, and you’ll hear what I ‘m referring to, regarding his style vs. Paul’s superbly played, but slightly more “rough-’n’-ready” aggressiveness, sans any of the limpid sitar inflections George’s post-’65 work showed to an ever-increasing degree.

    Reply
  15. Valvicus

    I neglected to say that the guitar is tuned down a whole step to the key of B-flat, making the aforementioned notes D, D-flat, and C… :P

    Reply
  16. RingoStarr39

    Joe, you should change the bit that says Paul recorded the lead vocals at the same time as the backing track. If you listen to the backing track, you can clearly hear a guide vocal bleeding through on the harpsichord track that is sung differently than the main vocal track. So, the vocals had to have been an overdub. The vocals are also double tracked, which must have been overdubbed.

    Reply
    • RingoStarr39

      Also, George Martin didn’t play the harpsichord. That was also Paul. The only way there would be vocal bleed through on the harpsichord track would be if Paul was singing while he was playing.

      Reply
      • Joe

        Thanks. I’ve amended the article drawing on better session info. It seems that the bass, drums and harpsichord were all recorded at the same time (McCartney on bass), with a guide vocal recorded on a different track. But the vocal bled through so can be heard along with the harpsichord etc.

        Reply
        • Richard Boene

          Hey Joe,

          I have to bring another issue to your attention. While the “In the Studio” section of this article claims Lennon played rhythm guitar, the personnel at the top of the page omits this only indicating that he sang backing vocals.

          Reply
          • Joe

            You missed this bit: “McCartney then recorded over his guide vocals and John Lennon’s rhythm guitar, adding in their place a new lead vocal performance”

            Reply
            • Richard Boene

              Actually I did read that sentence. Obviously however, I misunderstood the usage of the words “recorded over.” I’m no expert on recording or engineering and I didn’t realize that it meant the guide vocals and rhythm guitar were buried or wiped from the mix. Apologies.

              Reply
  17. johnq11

    When I was a kid I always interpreted this song as “Fixin a Hole” instead of “Fixing a Hole.” “Fixin” is a Southern U.S. slang for something your about to do or something in the process of being done. So I actually thought McCartney meant he was putting a hole in the roof on purpose to let the rain come inside his house. So in my youthful imagination I imagined that he had to put a hole in his roof to let the water fall on his head to “stop his mind from wandering.” So I guess I used to think that he was just sitting around daydreaming and he needed the water to come down and wake him up sort of like a shower.

    I also used to think that Sgt. Peppers was kind of like Rock & Roll music with carnival/circus music mixed in so everything kind of feels like your at a carnival listening to this imaginary band.

    Reply
  18. Dreww

    I was talking about this with a friend the other day, and after much consideration this seems to us to be McCartney’s ONLY psychedelic song!

    Paul is a master of style and he certainly stretched in many directions around this time. But when I look at Paul’s contributions 1966-68 I don’t see anything else that fits the label “psychedelic”. Penny Lane is the closest and to me that is just an incredible pop song. Almost everything I think of as psychedelic – Lucy, Walrus, Kite, Tomorrow, She said, Because, Rain, Universe- is from John, which I never realized before.

    I love the imagery, the languidness. Really, I’m not a fan of most of the songs Paul sang on Pepper. This one and When I’m 64 are the only ones I really like!

    Reply

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