In My Life

In My Life was composed at Kenwood, John Lennon's house in Weybridge, England.

John Lennon's handwritten lyrics for In My Life

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I used to write upstairs where I had about ten Brunell tape recorders all linked up, I still have them. I'd mastered them over the period of a year or two - I could never make a rock 'n' roll record but I could make some far out stuff on it. I wrote it upstairs, that was one where I wrote the lyrics first and then sang it. That was usually the case with things like In My Life and [Across The] Universe and some of the ones that stand out a bit...

I think on Norwegian Wood and In My Life Paul helped with the middle eight, to give credit where it's due.

John Lennon
Rolling Stone, 1970

McCartney's recollection of the song is somewhat different. Although he and Lennon said much over the years about the backgrounds to their songs, only when discussing In My Life and Eleanor Rigby did their memories substantially differ.

I arrived at John's house for a writing session and he had the very nice opening stanzas of the song. As many of our songs were, it was the first pangs of nostalgia for Liverpool...

As I recall, he didn't have a tune to it, and my recollection, I think, is at variance with John's. I said, 'Well, you haven't got a tune, let me just go and work on it.' And I went down to the half-landing, where John had a Mellotron, and I sat there and put together a tune based in my mind on Smokey Robinson and the Miracles...

I recall writing the whole melody. And it actually does sound very like me, if you analyse it. I was obviously working to lyrics. The melody's structure is very me. So my recollection is saying to John, 'Just go and have a cup of tea or something. Let me be with this for ten minutes on my own and I'll do it'...

I tried to keep it melodic but a bit bluesy, with the minors and little harmonies, and then my recollection is going back up into the room and saying, 'Got it, great! Good tune, I think. What d'you think?' John said, 'Nice,' and we continued working with it from then, using that melody and filling out the rest of the verses...

So it was John's original inspiration, I think my melody, I think my guitar riff. I don't want to be categorical about this, but that's my recollection... I find it very gratifying that out of everything we wrote, we only appear to disagree over two songs.

Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

In the studio

One of the first songs to be recorded for Rubber Soul, The Beatles recorded the rhythm track of In My Life on 18 October 1965. This they did in three takes, after a period of rehearsal.

The instrumental break was left without a solo, as the group was undecided as to how it should sound. This dilemma was solved on 22 October by George Martin.

In My Life is one of my favourite songs because it is so much John. A super track and such a simple song. There's a bit where John couldn't decide what to do in the middle and, while they were having their tea break, I put down a baroque piano solo which John didn't hear until he came back. What I wanted was too intricate for me to do live, so I did it with a half-speed piano, then sped it up, and he liked it.
George Martin
Anthology

Martin originally tried the solo on a Hammond organ, which didn't give the desired sound. He then switched to a piano, performing the celebrated solo slower and an octave lower than it sounds on the final version, so that it gave the desired harpsichord effect when sped up.

I did it with what I call a 'wound up' piano, which was at double speed - partly because you get a harpsichord sound by shortening the attack of everything, but also because I couldn't play it at real speed anyway. So I played it on piano at exactly half normal speed, and down an octave. When you bring the tape back to normal speed again, it sounds pretty brilliant. It's a means of tricking everybody into thinking you can do something really well.
George Martin
Sounds Of The Sixties, BBC Radio 2

91 responses on “In My Life

    1. aris

      Well, Paul said he didn’t want to be categorical about his having written the song’s melody, but he was nothing but.. I sort of believe him: he was so detailed in his recollection of how he wrote the song’s music. I have no doubt John wrote the lyrics though. It was all he was able to be specific about..

      1. Janet

        I’m not sure I would trust “Rolling Stone,” to get every little detail entirely right. I find many of their writings to be hugely biased and not completely reliable. If this claim is not supported by any existing quotes then I don’t think I would find much validity in the article.

  1. AlbertCunning

    “The middle eight was left without a solo, as the group was undecided as to how it should sound. This dilemma was solved on 22 October by George Martin.”

    There is obviously some confusion to what John referred to when talking about the “middle eight” for this song; or indeed middle eights in general.

    ‘In My Life’, in strict musical terms, really has no middle eight, and the section over which George Martin wrote and played a piano solo is really just the main verse of the song; or the first half of the verse, depending on how you view the sections to which Paul certainly contributed the music: “All these places have their moments…”/”Though I know I’ll never lose affection…”

    I’ve heard some refer to Paul’s sections* as extended choruses.

    I’ll go for that.

    The solo is perhaps the BRIDGE?
    Or perhaps George Martin just gave us all a BREAK?

    * [The ones John admitted Paul provided. Paul claims to have written the entire tune(melody), but that's the only real dispute between them when it comes to this song.]

    1. James

      You have to remember john and paul were very influenced by tin pan alley. Which used the aaba style of songwriting. I believe john is just using ‘middle eight’ as ANY what we would call today ‘break’ or ‘bridge.’

      I think songwriters would know what he means. The middle eight was where you’d have a key change and i can see why people began to call it a bridge(between two identical parts of the song, he’s a break, or a bridge to get you to the other side). On the flip side, I often hear musicians nowadays just use bridge to describe any instrumental break.

      It’s merely semantics, which anyone with a knowledge of song, especially the Great American Songbook would know, and understate regardless of the songs actual structure.

      I’ve just read the term ‘bridge’ came into the English musical language in the 30s when German composers brought the term with them after fleeing the Nazis. So it’s entirely possible that the term wasn’t in the lexicon when John and Paul started writing, and they stated with the terminology they knew when they learned to write.

      1. John

        I’ve never thought of the Beatles, in their formative years, as being influenced by tin pan alley at all … and don’t imagine they ever hung out listening to Gershwin or Berlin (whom they’d surpass in no time flat). The only Great American Songbook they ever read had characters with names like Berry, Richard and Holly in it. And the then-current ‘Brill Bld.’ would have been a presence they’d have been aware of.

        1. robert

          There’s no doubt the Beatles were influenced by Tin Pan Alley since that is the music the heard in their homes growing up.

          In the same way I have been influenced by the music my parents listened to even though it wasn’t the music I specifically listened to myself.

          Proof of this is When I’m 64 which Paul wrote as a teenager and is Tin Pan Alley all the way. Showing his influences when he was younger.

          A middle eight is eight bars of music (and lyric) that is neither the verse nor the chorus. It usually comes somewhat in “the middle” of the song and is used to “bridge” two ideas of the song together.

          In We Can Work It Out – the “Life is very short and there’s no time” is a perfect example of a Beatle middle eight – used to bridge the ideas expressed in the verse (Try to see it my way) and the chorus (We can work it out).

          Essentially a bridge and middle eight are the same thing and John used the terms interchangeably.

        2. Michael

          Sorry, but anyone who thinks Lennon and McCartney surpassed George Gershwin is overlooking some serious compositions. For example, just listen to “Rhapsody in Blue” and find me ANYTHING the Beatles wrote that comes close. The Beatles were the best of the pop genre, but they never crossed over into more serious musical areas.

          1. Joseph Brush

            Sorry, but the above comment is an example of the pseudo intellectual nonsense that existed and still exists after rock and roll burst upon the scene.
            As for ANYTHING serious, well how about Day In The Life, Revolution, All You Need Is Love, For No One, and Eleanor Rigby for a start.
            George Gershwin never had to function in the global fishbowl existence that the Beatles lived in. As if only great music comes from New York and Tin Pan Alley.
            By the way, let’s hear George Gershwin sing.

          2. robert

            Well I’d say your statement is somewhat contradicted by the fact that in 2010 Paul McCartney was the 3rd recipient of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song (and I now quote) “The prize commemorates George and Ira Gershwin, the legendary American songwriting team … The prize is awarded to musicians whose lifetime contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the Gershwins.”

            So I guess SOMEONE puts them at that level or at least thinks they came close.

  2. Simon

    Who wrote the music?: Why does Paul say “As I recall …” and “I don’t want t be categorical about it”? Either he remembers or he doesn’t right?

    The opening of the melody sounds like the solo to Hard Day’s NIght. The rest of the phrase sounds like I’ll be Back, a bit. The release bit has chords like the verse to Every Little Thing; in fact the opening melody sounds a bit like Every Little Thing too. These are all Lennon songs.

    But the melody is neat like McCartney’s, so maybe it was Paul “writing John”.

    1. AlbertCunning

      ‘Every Little Thing’ is a song written mainly by Paul. John only took half-credit for it in his interview with Hit Parader in 1972. In the Playboy interview in 1980, he basically attributed it directly to Paul.

      Paul claims to have been in on the writing of ‘I’ll Be Back’ as well, but ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ is pretty much 100% John.

      John admitted Paul was in on the writing of ‘In My Life’.
      Paul claims to have written the entire tune — again, meaning melody.

      The truth probably lies somewhere in-between.

      1. 2much4mymirror

        Paul cites music theorist Ian MacDonald, author of a book of Beatles anlysis called “Revolution in the Head,” in defense of his claim to the melody. It seems it shares the “angular verticality” he claims is a hallmark of Paul’s melodies, a phrase which reminds me of the “aeolian cadence” phrase some music theorist famously applied to “All I Want To Do.” The music theorists always liked Paul better. Fans of soul, and passionate intensity side with John.

          1. 2much4mymirror

            Wow. That’s surprising since I got the impression he was biased a bit towards Paul. The second edition was published in 1997, the same year as McCartney’s biography with his 100% claim about the “In My Life” melody. And the third edition came out posthumously in 2005? Did MacDonald say what led him to revise his original opinion? I had been inclined to accept Paul’s version simply because John often changed his story.

            1. Lou

              On the other hand, the chromatic descent, via the minor subdominant, in the second half of the verse suggests Lennon. Perhaps McCartney did the first half of the verse, Lennon the second?” Therefore, maybe John did have a hand in the melody as he always insisted.

              1. 2much4mymirror

                Thanks for the interesting quote, Lou. But I’m trying to think what he means by the “second half of the verse.” Didn’t MacDonald take issue with Lennon’s termiology by saying, “There is no middle eight. It’s just one long extended verse”? So is he referring to melody for “All these places had their moments with lovers and friend…” section? That would be ironic since this is the part John credited Paul with. Or is he suggesting that Paul wrote the melody for “There are places I’ll remember…” and for that whole “middle section” and John only wrote that short descending bit “all my life though some have changed”? If so, that ain’t much of a concession.

              2. Lou

                He doesn’t say anything more about that song so I don’t know.He just added that comment.

                But I do know that Lennon compared this song with If I Fell, and even on his demo that great melody has something alike.

  3. SD

    Basic track:
    1) Ringo’s drums, Pauls’s bass, Georges’ lead and Lennon’s soft Casino guitars plus tambourine (by Martin?)

    Overdubs:
    2) John’s lead vocal and Paul’s harmony
    3) Lennon’s double-tracked vocal with backing by Paul and George
    4) Martin’s “wind-up” piano

    1. Joe Post author

      Thanks. I’ve attributed the tambourine to George M, though if anyone has a definite answer I’d appreciate the info.

      The stereo version, where the basic backing can be isolated in the left speaker, shows how masterfully understated The Beatles’ performance was. It really is a perfect arrangement.

  4. Norman Therun

    John was humble when he said he was just shouting rock & roll. John is actually the greatest composer of love songs all time. Who could beat songs like In My Life, Julia, Oh My Love, Jealous Guy and Woman. And he wrote great anthems like Imagine and Give Peace A Chance.

  5. scott

    Does it REALLY matter who wrote what, who added what line, word, syllable, letter, sound, who laughed, breathed, blinked or clapped? It’s a Beatles song and it’s great!

  6. brian

    My guess is that Paul probably did write most of the tune to this truly excellent song as he has stated in his recollection in the book “Many Years From Now”. In recalling it he remarks ” I don’t want to be categorical about this…” probably because to state unequivicably that he wrote the tune would, in effect, be calling John a liar – something he was averse to doing.
    John for his part wrote the lyrics, probably had some smaller contribution to the music. It’s truly a Lennon/McCartney song!

  7. Maxwell

    In My Life is an important song in the turning point of the Beatle’s music.
    So it is important to establish the authorship of the melody.

    To me, the rule of thumb in Beatles songs is whoever sings the song is also the song writer. Since Lennon was the one who sang it, there is little doubt that the song was largely written by Lennon.

    If Paul McCartney wrote the tune to it, then why didn’t he stake his claim to it first.

    Why believe in Paul’s recollection and not Lennon? Just because Paul is known for his romantic and love ballads….

    Lennon said that he wrote the lyrics and sang it first. This means he had also wrote the melody to it.
    As musician, do you think it is possible for Lennon to write a song with just its lyrics without any accompanying melody—I find it hard to believe that Lennon just wrote lyrics and leave it at that.
    Hey you are talking about the maestro of music…..

    Why is it so hard to believe in Lennon?

    Is it just because Paul said when you analyses In My Life, you can find alot of ‘him’ in it….

    To me In My Life is the product of Lennon’s genius, who to me is always the more superior song writer.

    1. Deadman

      “… the rule of thumb in Beatles songs is whoever sings the song is also the song writer.”
      In the majority of cases, true, but not always. Notice, for instance that John would have sung lead on Love Me Do except for George Martin’s suggestion that John play harmonica.

      “Lennon said that he wrote the lyrics and sang it first. This means he had also wrote the melody to it.”
      That does not necessarily follow. For all we know, Paul might have hummed the tune to John just as he had hummed the tune of Yesterday to anybody who’d listen long before he wrote the lyrics.

      “As [a] musician, do you think it is possible for Lennon to write a song with just its lyrics without any accompanying melody…”
      Yes, easily. He wrote other verses without setting them to music.

      “… I find it hard to believe that Lennon just wrote lyrics and leave it at that.”
      Nonetheless, songwriters do sometimes write lyrics first, melody second, then melody first and lyrics second, or simultaneously. Sometimes songwriters will even write a verse, set it to music, then write additional verses to fit; in effect, writing lyrics first and third and melody second.

      “Why is it so hard to believe in Lennon?”
      Perhaps because sometimes his iconoclastic and revisionist pronouncements can be completely self-contradictory.

      Few claim that Paul wrote all the melody, and many claim that the song is John’s with significant melodic input from Paul. John admits that Paul helped; Paul considers the melody mainly his.
      My take, which accepts that both John and Paul are for the most part recalling things honestly, is that John had the basics of the tune, where it naturally rose and fell to the words and chords, which Paul then made more melodic with the addition also of new melody and chord changes; and, therefore, because the finished tune was mainly his redaction, he remembers it as his work.

      1. Joe Post author

        John Lennon often wrote lyrics first then set them to music. I think it might even have been his usual way of working in the mid 1960s. It often led to interesting meters in his songs – for example Good Morning Good Morning, which was certainly a set of lyrics written before the music.

        1. 2much4mymirror

          There must be more examples of one of them singing lead on the other’s song, but I can only think of “Every Little Thing,” which John sang lead on though Paul wrote it, and the middle of “A Hard Day’s Night” which John said Paul only sang because he couldn’t hit the notes.
          Did anyone see the PBS “American Masters” Documentary “John Lennon NYC” about the nine years Lennon spent mainly in New York? There’s some fascinating stuff in there about how Lennon often made crucial revisions to both melody and lyrics at the last minute in the studio. One of the most interesting examples was “Mind Games.” I think he often did this with Beatles songs as well. One of John’s finest moments as a vocalist almost didn’t happen. On “This Boy,” John added that knockout middle at the last minute. It was originally supposed to be a guitar solo!
          The PBS documentary is must-see for Lennon fans.

    1. Joe Post author

      Me too. Unfortunately the tape of the Candlestick Park concert (Brian Epstein asked Tony Barrow to record it) cuts out during Long Tall Sally, the final song, so unless an audience member happened to be recording it, we’ll never hear it!

      The Beatles’ final concert is easily available on file sharing networks, and is well worth a listen. There’s some info on the concert here.

  8. Maxwell

    Dear Deadman,

    Thanks for the interesting input.

    I am a big fan of the Beatles but I have not read as much as you have on the genesis of their songs.
    I read the Hunter Davies biography many many many years ago.
    But the book was good on their early days and not so much as a source on the origins of their compositions.
    I read parts of the interview John gave to Playboy before he was assasinated.
    That was helpful.

    The controversy over ‘In My Life’ brings up a seldom discuss issue which Barry has earlier brought up.

    Barry says: ‘The issue regarding who wrote the music (melody) brings up a concept that doesn’t seem to ever have been addressed:
    are there any songs where the music was mainly written by a Beatle who didn’t write the lyrics? (for example a song where Paul wrote the lyrics and John wrote the music). Seems as if the main lyricist wrote all the music. Anybody who could shed some light on this matter?’.

    I don’t think in the case of Lennon/McCartney compositions, there are regular cases where Lennon wrote the lyrics and Paul just the music.
    Not like say in the case of Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

    As you said: John could have written the lyrics first and set the basic tune, while Paul fine tuned the melody and add chords to it.

    This seems to be the more likely scenario.

    But it is different from the one that Paul wanted us to believe–which is that John wrote the lyrics and he the music.

    Did John ever revise his statements on his role in writing In My Life?

    To me, because he had a big role in writing the song, that is why he could remember it as the song signifying the turn of his musical career.

    According to John:
    ‘There was a period when I thought I didn’t write melodies, that Paul wrote those and I just wrote straight, shouting rock ‘n’ roll. But of course, when I think of some of my own songs – In My Life, or some of the early stuff, This Boy – I was writing melody with the best of them.

    John continues:

    ‘It was, I think, my first real major piece of work. Up till then it had all been sort of glib and throw-away. And that was the first time I consciously put my literary part of myself into the lyric’.

    These word are enough to convince me that John has a major part in writing In My Life (word and basic melody) –though he receive help from Paul, who as you said fine tuned the song by making it more melodic.

    1. Emily

      I trust John here. He wasn’t crazy. He was actually quite honest about his songs, and a song as special as “In My Life” would definitely be in his memory and he wouldn’t try to rip Paul’s credit from him. I get annoyed because, in Paul’s book, he tries to make it seem he did everything and he was responsible for this and that. I think he felt defensive because of John’s position after his death, and “In My Life” was named one of the greatest songs ever so Paul was like, “Ahh yes, I had a part in that!”

      In any case, John was very vocal about that song. He mentioned it many times. There was a radio interview and he mentioned it. I tend to think that if Paul was really THAT responsible for the song, he would have sung lead. I mean, he had actually said he wrote most of the lyrics and whatnot, so why didn’t he sing lead? Obviously because it was mainly John’s song.

      In this case, it’s easy for people to side with Paul. They think, “Paul was the melodic genius” and he was this and that and John wasn’t really melodic…but love them both as I do, I think it’s unfair the way people belittle John’s abilities. This song is a shining example of him shining as a songwriter. When George Martin discusses the song, he refers to John not knowing what to do in the middle part…so obviously he is saying it was mainly JOHN’S song.

      No one is perfect. Even the ever-so-perfect-to-most’s-eyes Paul is allowed to forget and exaggerate and over-credit himself.

      I mean, look on youtube for the George interview where he claims that he wrote lyrics for “Eleanor Rigby,” Didn’t paul claim their were all his? It’s easy to do…

      1. paulsbass

        “I mean, he had actually said he wrote most of the lyrics and whatnot”

        Sorry Emily, Paul NEVER said that. Or where’s your quote? It’s ok to be biased towards one Beatle or another (I’m a Paul), but telling li…, being inaccurate to make one of them look bad isn’t nice.

        I will never understand how some people find “Many years from now” to be Paul’s ego-trip.
        If you read it with an open mind (maybe NOT being a Lennonista helps) you’ll find that he’s in fact quite humble and correct in describing who wrote what.
        And it nice how he says that it’s “gratifying” that John and he disagree over two songs only, out of more than 150.

        1. mr. Sun king coming together

          Not everyone who isn’t a Macca fan is a Lennonista. As a fan of all 4 (no preferences), I think Paul comes off as arrogant.

      2. Ray

        I’ve been trying to look into Emily’s claim of McCartney once saying he wrote “most of the lyrics,” which certainly wasn’t in “Many Years From Now.” I wondered if maybe she had read it somewhere else, because I do remember coming across the claim somewhere on the forum here. I haven’t been here for a while so I can’t remember where in the forum I read it but I can recall that the source was not definitively proven which made me question the reliability of the person who posted (nothing personal).

        I never found anything else coming close to supporting Emily’s claim. I personally do not believe it to be accurate but I am open to any claims to the contrary here if there is anyone out there who can verify any source claiming that McCartney actually did make that claim at any point. Maybe Joe?

  9. Stacie

    I tend to believe that Paul did write the tune for this song. First, John’s own recollection doesn’t make much sense. He says Paul wrote the “middle-eight,” but there isn’t any separate middle eight melody – it’s the same basic melody throughout. So if Paul wrote the melody of the bridge, that means he wrote the entire melody of the song.

    Second, musicologist Ian MacDonald analyzed the song & concluded that the melody follows the typical McCartney style rather than the Lennon style.

    Finally, when Paul thinks it’s “off the record,” he’s much more insistent that this was his melody, & even seems hurt that John took the credit. In The Beatles bio, Paul said John “also forgot completely that I wrote the tune for ‘In My Life’. That was my tune. But perhaps he just made a mistake on that. Forgot.”

    Overall, the evidence seems to support that Paul wrote the melody to John’s lyrics.

    1. frank

      “recollection doesn’t make much sense. He says Paul wrote the “middle-eight,” but there isn’t any separate middle eight melody – it’s the same basic melody throughout. So if Paul wrote the melody of the bridge, that means he wrote the entire melody of the song.”

      I’m guessing the middle-eight or chorus part Lennon is referring to is likely the, ” I know I’ll never lose affection for people and things that went before, I know I’ll often stop and think about them, in my life i loved you more” the “I know I’ll often stop and think about them” sounds like something Paul might write, and very Motown as Paul himself stated.

    2. appmanga

      What John calls a “middle eight” is apparently the bridge (“All these places have their moments…”), which is a separate melody from the main verses. And a think Paul is mistaken in his recollections, it’s not like John had never written a comparable melody to this.

  10. Dan

    Paul first claimed to have written the music to In My Life in a 1975 interview. John was still very much alive and Paul cited it as an example of a co-written song of theirs. Paul has consistently said he wrote the melody and opening riff and I, for one, believe him.

    1. Emily

      I don’t. I think that he exaggerated his input to that song, in my opinion. John was fiercely proud of “In My Life,” as it is imo a better song than many of their hits such as “Hey Jude” or “Let It Be.” It’s very special and gorgeous in a way those two aren’t quite so. So Paul probably felt that he deserved more credit for that song and exaggerated his input, but it’s mainly John’s song.

      1. Richard Boene

        Okay, but just because you believe that McCartney consciously exaggerated his input to this song doesn’t automatically mean that it’s actually true. And those who disagree with you are probably not going to be convinced that your opinion is supported by much else that your obvious admiration for Lennon (not that there’s anything morally wrong with that). The simple truth of the matter is that none of us were there to witness the writing of the song for ourselves so we can never truly “know” who wrote what. We can only form our own personal conclusions. Or we can just sit back, relax and enjoy the song for what it is.

        I agree with you on “Hey Jude” (though I do like the song) but I disagree on “Let It Be.”

  11. Beatless

    I think the mystery of the songwriting credits as well as the mystery of who played what is part of what’s interesting about the Beatles’ legacy.

    Part of what made the Beatles great was their versatility, and I think their willingness to collaborate and experiment was a part of this.

    In most other groups each member’s role was fairly well-defined (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

    Anyway, I’m not into this whole Team John versus Team Paul thing: I’m Team Beatles. Both John and Paul were humans, albeit very talented ones, who faced the same challenges many of us face in our friendships and working partnerships.

    1. julio

      This is John’s song with a little fine tuning by Paul in the middle eight (Which is “but of all these friends and lovers, there is no one who compares with you” verse. I believe Paul worked hard on this one by himself and because of that began to feel the entire tune was his. This is funny because in the Paul vs. John thing, Paul seems to want to take credit for everything and John usually puts himself down or call his own work garbage.

  12. mr. Sun king coming together

    Is it possible that Lennon meant the middle eight as a way to say McCartney’s contribution was limited? Not that I believe Lennon’s story entirely
    Any Theories?

  13. robert

    One thing I‘ve learned – there are three sides to every story: what one person says happened, what the other person says happened and what REALLY happened. We can be sure the story on this song lies somewhere in between John and Paul’s separate versions.

    The bigger question, to me at least, is what constitutes a “contribution”? As a songwriter myself who worked steadily for years with a partner (and no, I am in NO WAY comparing myself to the amazing Beatles) I can suggest this – just having a co-writer in the room changes how one composes a song.

    You become much more critical and even competitive (in a good way – something both John and Paul acknowledge). Also, in the free flow of ideas it becomes almost impossible to pinpoint the true genesis of a phrase or melody or even a beat – the addition of which could have taken the song to areas it never would have gone otherwise.

    One idea spurs on another – so where did the original idea even begin?

    I think what matters most now, is that by 1980 both John and Paul were beginning to realize that they did their best work together.

    Read the following excerpt from an interview with Playboy:

    PLAYBOY: “But wasn’t it clear that John wanted only to work with Yoko?”

    LINDA: “No. I know that Paul was desperate to write with John again. And I know John was desperate to write. Desperate. People thought, Well, he’s taking care of Sean, he’s a househusband and all that, but he wasn’t happy. He couldn’t write and it drove him crazy. And Paul could have helped him… easily.”

    When you combine recent interviews with Jack Douglas about John’s intention to begin working again with Paul, it is clear ‘who wrote what’ matters more to us than to them.

      1. robert

        uhm .. it’s pretty common knowledge that Paul and Linda were frequent guests at the Dakato during John’s last years. John has said so, Yoko has said so, Bob Gruen (the photographer) was there when the McCartneys visited – so my guess is Linda’s “insider information” was probably her first hand observation.

        Having never visited with John and Yoko during that period, I tend to think that her assessment (and possibly conversations with Paul) probably has some merit.

        I could be wrong.

        1. vonbontee

          Hm, OK, fair enough – “common knowledge” to everybody but me I guess! I didn’t realize the McCartneys & Lennons socialized much in those years, particularly since they were on different continents, and the wives hated one another. (Didn’t they?)

          And yeah, “inside information” would include first- or second-hand direct observation, which is what I implied.

          1. robert

            Paul and John hung out together in LA. I believe at three times are documented. John was planning to visit the McCartney’s in New Orleans in the late ’70s. The plan was to begin working together again. Yoko sabotaged that visit.

            Before he died John was planning on working with Paul on Ringo’s new album (Jack Douglas interview).

            So I think John was ready.

  14. Emily

    I trust John’s explanation. I think Paul helped with the melody in the lines like “with lovers and friends I still can recall” but all the “there are places I remember, all my liiiffee” is so John to me. Plus, John claimed this song as his all the way back when the Beatles had just disbanded, and again in a radio interview in 1973. If Paul and him were at such odds, Paul coudl have called him out about it. I think John’s BFF Pete Shotten, in his book, write about John composing this song around him. In any case, I identify it as a John song. On the lyrics, his name is the only name on the lyric. All the people who were around when he wrote it- Pete and Cynthia- claim that HE wrote the lyrics, and then Paul stated something about him writing the lyrics.

    An interview with Paul in “Reader’s Digest” basically he says, “forget it.” So I will because this is a song I definitely think sounds WAY more like a John song than a Paul one.

    But in any case, they helped each other out. People have to be out of their minds if they don’t recognize how much John helped Paul, lyrically AND musically with some of his songs. It’s always said the other way around but there’s too many examples of John helping Paul if you actually read their descriptions.

    1. paulsbass

      Thank God it’s a free forum and everyone can believe what they want!
      So if you want to believe that Paul was the one who exaggerated stuff – so be it!

      But it would be nice if you’d recognize that Paul was talking about writing the MELODY, not the lyrics to “In my life”!

      So many words for such a small point seem such a waste to me, but again, this is a free forum (mostly!).

    2. Sebastian Mora

      In fact, Paul always has fight for the credit for the tune of In My life. McCartney said to The Hit Parader in 1972 and Rolling Stone in 1973 that In my Life was his tune and Lennon wrote the words. I’ts funny how people say that Paul is lying, only because they like Lennon better, you weren’t there, so Paul could be telling the true.. I usually find Lennon’s commments more egostic, inconsistent and less convincing than Paul´s, but I dont say John is cleary and undenaibly lying, I wasn’t there writing with them.

      1. Facundo

        I really see it as a joint effort. The first verse (“There are places I’ll remember”) uses a pentatonic melody over the A scale without using any half-tone interval, something very Lennon-ish (see, for example, Child of Nature/Jealous Guy) and the second verse (“All my life though some have changed”) uses a I – IVm harmony something kinda Lennon trademark (a beautiful transition used in many of his songs, ex: Nowhere Man).
        The second part, what John called “middle-eight” it’s kinda McCartney for me (although everybody says the opposite) with its angular verticality (like McDonald said) going from a high E to a low E (covering a complete scale)

  15. Tweeze

    So much dispute over who wrote what. I suppose when you’ve written a song with a partner and are then asked 20 years later to cite who wrote what you can sympathize with John and Paul’s predicament. I have done this and it is revealing what I remember versus what actually was.
    What we know from their own words is that he who wrote the bulk or who had the idea was the one who ended up singing it. No one really disputes that it was John’s idea. He doesn’t even say that Paul didn’t write on it but does tend to diminish his contribution to something he called ‘the middle eight’, which really doesn’t exist in this song. But do recall, our boys were NOT trained musicians. Using the term ‘middle eight’ could mean a broader term for explaining ones work in the middle part of the song rather than the strict definition brandished by musical scholars. Raise your hand if you’re a musical scholar who has written a popular hit song! Yeah, I thought so.
    Meanwhile by the sheer benefit of being alive Paul gets to second guess and ‘set the record straight’. It astounds me how Paul inflates his influence in the songs normally attributed to John. Is he wrong? I dunno. To hear Paul one would think John rarely wrote 100% of anything. I do find it a bit difficult to believe that Paul would have necessarily let John get away with singing ‘In My Life’ without at least having a version of his own lying around. But no. And all of those years since Paul hasn’t tried to resurrect this gem when he finally decided it was okay to do Beatle songs at his concerts.
    But, there are certain qualities to the melody which are NOT McCartney trademarks that are very much Lennon’s. Check it out : John has always made very frequent use of modulating syllable – that is, for example, ‘In My-i-hi-hi Life’ and ‘some are de-head a-hend su-hum ar-har living’. See ‘Not A Second Time’ for a good course 101 on this. Paul next to never does this.
    My lunch time is over but I thought I’d throw these two-cents in. In the wash, I very much believe it is more co-written than either of them remembered. And while Paul could occasionally come up with the good lyric, I side with John for the bulk of these because I’ve seen what both can do on their own.

  16. apple_jam

    In 1970 (Rolling Stone interview) Lennon said that he wrote it – with a little help from McCartney in the middle eight. Being that it was only 5 years or so after the song was written and recorded, I tend to believe Lennon.

    1. brian

      The “middle eight” of In My Life is George Martin’s sped up keyboard solo and I imagine George pretty much pieced that together himself. My guess is that John wrote nearly all the lyrics and Paul contributed heavily to composing the music – it’s an awesome song.

  17. John

    Middle eight? There is no middle eight in this song, regardless of who said there was. George Martin played a wonderful solo, but aside from his creative input, that wouldn’t have required any additional “writing” as it was just a repeat of the verse chord progression. Lennon had the occasional lapse in memory.

  18. Me

    I think the melody has a, ‘Live and Let Die’ sound to it, so I’m going with Paul……….and there were mellotrons in ’65.  Check facts before speaking Unomyname

  19. apple_jam

    The melody of the line “There are places I remember…” remind me an awful lot of the melody of the chorus of “Strawberry fields forever…” I’m going to go with Lennon.

  20. Len Poggiali

    Shakes says:

    Whenever I’ve written a song, while I am writing the lyrics, I am singing them to a basic tune. Lennon showed that he was like this in the IMAGINE film when he hums the basic tune to the title song when he is introducing the song to his crew. I can imagine (no pun intended) him introducing “In My Life” the same way.
    Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim (“Send in the Clowns”) in his book, FINISHING THE HAT, refers to the process in which he as lyricist co-wrote one of the WEST SIDE STORY songs: “…”‘A Boy Like That’ is the only occasion when I wrote a lyric first and Lenny (Leonard Bernstein) set it exactly the way it was handed to him…” When the lyric is written first, the lyricist most likely will have a basic melody in mind. In addition the structure of the lyric will strongly influence the composer in setting down the finished music. In the case of “In My Life,” I would estimate 70% Lennon, 25% McCartney and 5% Martin.

  21. Michael B

    As has been noted, oh, a thousand and six times already, John and Paul agree that Paul helped with the melody. The lyrics are John’s. The unresolved question involves the extent of John’s and Paul’s respective contributions to the music. Here’s an admittedly imperfect clue for guiding our thinking. This was an intensely personal and meaningful song to John, and it would have been perfectly legitimate–and sensible–had he sung it purely as as solo had he written the song by himself. After all, he’s singing about *his* life. Such a decision would be consistent with other songs of the period such as “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” and “Girl,” in which Paul and George may have sung backing vocals but contributed little, if any, harmony. (And the same holds for John with Yesterday.) Contrast this with Norwegian Wood, in which John credits Paul as contributing to the middle eight–and, lo and behold, it’s on this section–and this section only–where we hear Paul singing harmony with John. So as a general guideline for John’s personal songs at this time, it seems true that Paul contributes to harmony when Paul has contributed to the song in a meaningful way. So my theory for In My Life is this: Paul sings harmony with John on those sections he contributed to melodically. Which is to say about (approximately) 60% of the song. This is consistent with John still thinking of it as *his* song. The lyrics are his, and he had an important contribution to the music. Paul also has strong reason to think of it as a Lennon-McCartney composition because without his contributions it would likely be a different and less outstanding song. (The reverse situation holds true in “With a Little Help from My Friends.” John’s contributions were significantly less than 50%, but there’s little doubt that it was genuinely a co-written song. Without John’s contribution and presence, the song would have still existed but would have been significantly different and less outstanding.)

    So:
    Lyrics: John
    Music: Paul and John (and Martin)

    In short: a Lennon-McCartney composition about John’s life.

    1. jimbo

      I don’t care who wrote what – though I do detect an awful lot of Paul. But George M’s piano solo is a bit of a distraction for me. The last phrase just sounds so rushed and ungainly. I’m sure it would sound lovely at half speed. But at this tempo? It’s like a harpsichord falling down the stairs.

      1. James Ferrell

        I agree completely. The famous baroque-ish solo starts out okay, but its bizarrely zippy ending slams into next section very awkwardly. Clever though it might have seemed to write something sort of classical and record it half speed, I think the result is bad. The solo doesn’t fit the song.

  22. Jay

    When I was a 4-year old boy, I always hear this song/record played by my aunt on a phonograph/record player. I’ve been always struck then by the piano solo. It was so remarkable, I almost memorized the tune on my head as years passed by & didn’t realized that it was George Martin who did it.

  23. Margot

    The following McCartney quote (referring to “I Saw Her Standing There”) supports the notion that Lennon, being the lyricist of “In My Life”, would have had the basic tune before bringing the song to McCartney for his help. McCartney says ” I Saw Her Standing There was my original, I’d started it and I had the first verse, which therefore gave me the tune, the tempo and the key. It gave you the subject matter, a lot of the information, and then you had to fill in… It was co-written, my idea, and we finished it that day.” McCartney often states that he and Lennon co-wrote many of Lennon’s and his songs; however, what he actually seems to mean is that each contributed to the other’s composition with some words, some musical ideas or whatnot. If we accept McCartney’s use of “co-written,” then perhaps George or Ringo (and certainly George Martin) could claim “co-authorship” of a few Lennon, McCartney or Lennon/McCartney songs as well. Conclusion: “In My Life” was written by Lennon with McCartney as “I Saw Her Standing There” was written by McCartney with Lennon. The Lennon/McCartney designation should only be used for joint compositions such as “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

  24. Mikey Price

    When I first heard In My Life (when I was 14) I loved how John sang “Of’n stop’n think about them” and I used to wait for that bit. I find I still do.

  25. Ted de Best

    Just sing the first verse of ‘Let it be’ over the chordchanges … sounds very ‘Paul’ to me. Probably Lennon had melody ‘more or less’ and McCartney rearranged the song McCartneystyle. This all still early on… when they were still swapping ideas and working on each others songs.

  26. Jennifer

    This is at or near the very top on my list of favorite Beatles songs. I’ve always thought of it as a John song because John sings it. I believe that he wrote the lyrics and had a general sense of what the melody would sound like. I also believe, as others do, that Paul did quite a bit of fine-tuning to the melody. Perhaps neither lad was “lying” nor inflating his own contributions; rather, perhaps, John views having a general sense of the melody, in his mind, as having written the melody. Paul, perhaps, views his purported “reworking” (?) of the melody (we can’t know to what extent this was done) as having more or less written it. Who’s to say?

    With regard to the song itself, it’s a beauty. There is something so touching and sweet about the “angry” Beatle writing this lovely paean to the past (and to whomever the “you” he’s addressing in the song might happen to be). I’m not sure if I have the musical vocabulary to describe some of my favorite bits… but the way it finishes by visiting the opening riff, but then does that little climb up an octave toward the root note in the chord? I just love how round, full, and complete that makes the song feel.

    The whole John vs. Paul thing is quite exhausting. I suspect many of us who have a favorite do not base the distinction on who was “better” or who had more innate talent or anything like that – they were both absolutely fantastic or we wouldn’t be here. It seems to me more that it’s a case of Paul or John resonating with an individual for some reason or another. Paul has always resonated more with me because I tend to be an optimist and I tend to wax nostalgic, so I identify more with so many of his songs. That’s not to say that John wasn’t capable of writing or performing songs that I adore, because there are scores of them like that. This song is definitely one example. Oddly enough, in overall tone and feel (i.e., the gentle, nostalgic, “looking back” aspects) it’s more of a Paul song, whereas one of my favorite Paul songs (“Oh! Darling”) is more of a John song in tone and feel (i.e., the direct, soul baring, vocal cord shredding aspects). Perhaps they were at their best when they were most like the other – Paul’s sweetness and optimism tempered with John’s honesty and passion, and vice versa.

    Just some thoughts. Take them or leave them.

  27. Gary Hoopengardner Sr.

    Wow! Interesting discussion. This is John’s work. The middle eight actually is the instrumental part referring to music that was suggested to be played by George Martin. The bridge is just the bridge, Paul suggested many bridge ideas but in this case it was John’s second complete full work. (But, this is my opinion).

  28. SP25

    Agree, a fascinating discussion, thanks all.

    My personal opinion: In most of what I have read in John’s interviews, his memory is often pretty faulty, maybe due to whatever chemicals he was ingesting in the ’60s. Therefore, I tend to agree to what appears to be the consensus, that John wrote the lyrics and had the start to a melody, and Paul helped him finish it off and added harmonies (which are prominent in the recording). A lovely song, one of the few that I can play on my guitar!

  29. Rene

    I have always thought of this as a John song with Paul helping out – as it were. A very personal song John would not claim it as his song – no matter how many drugs he ingested in the 60s – without credence to his claim. A tender and nostalgic tune, some might feel that Paul had more of a hand in contributing to the tune than I tend to think that he actually did. A Lennon song with a little help from his friends…

  30. Martijn

    There’s no way we are ever gonna find out whether the melody was written by John or Paul, neither by analyzing what they said about it or by analyzing the song musically.
    John’s memory was notoriously flawed (in an interview with Rolling Stone he once asked: “Can you tell me whether that white album with the drawing by Voorman on it, was that before “Rubber Soul” or after?”). Paul’s memory in general seems more reliable. On the other hand, Paul has the slightly annoying habit of claiming songs that are generally seen as his as solo efforts, while he usually states that he made contributions to songs that are generally seen as John’s. I wasn’t there, so I can’t judge, but if Paul is really right about all this, at times you would begin to believe he more or less was The Beatles. Besides that, John’s recollections about his own songs are usually more similar to those of third parties like George Martin. To give one example out of many: Paul said he collaborated on Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite! Possible, but why does George Martin tegard it as John’s song then? If it was really co-written, wouldn’t they have entered the studio saying: “look, we wrote this song together”?

    Musically, there is also no real way to find out who wrote what. I understand Ian McDonald’s thoughts, yet he was just speculating. The way the opening melody ascends, with some side steps, sounds quite like Paul. But the same melody is also slightly reminiscent of the opening of John’s Revolution.

    In the end it’s quite funny that all this fuss is about just a few lines. The “middle eight” (and it’s obvious what John meant with this: the part starting with “all these places have their moments”) probably was Paul’s, they both seem to agree about that. It’s all about who wrote the enormous part of eighteen notes (melismas included) that are to be found in “There are places I remember/All my life though some have changed).

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