Also present in the studio was George Harrison’s wife Pattie, along with a number of friends including Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, Keith Richards, Donovan, Michael Nesmith of The Monkees, and Simon and Marijke of design company The Fool.
After one of the rehearsals I went into the control room to consult Geoff Emerick. When I went back into the studio the sight was unbelievable. The orchestra leader, David McCallum, who used to be the leader of the Royal Philharmonic, was sitting there in a bright red false nose. He looked up at me through paper glasses. Eric Gruenberg, now a soloist and once leader of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, was playing happily away, his left hand perfectly normal on the strings of his violin, but his bow held in a giant gorilla’s paw. Every member of the orchestra had a funny had on above the evening dress, and the total effect was completely weird.
All You Need Is Ears
Those present in the studio knew they were witnessing a special occasion. Among them were various members of staff at EMI Studios, some of whom attended purely as spectators.
I was speechless. the tempo changes – everything in that song – was just so dramatic and complete. I felt so privileged to be there… I walked out of the Abbey Road that night thinking ‘What am I going to do now?’ It really did affect me.
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn
The entire session was filmed. The Beatles’ intention was to make a television special about the making of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, beginning with this evening’s recording, although the idea was later abandoned. On this evening, however, silent footage was captured by a team led by NEMS’s Tony Bramwell.
Before we filmed we handed out loaded 16mm cameras to invited guests including, among others, Mick and Marianne, and Mike Nesmith of The Monkees. They were shown what to press and told to film whatever they wanted. The BBC then banned the subsequent video. Not because of the content of the footage, but because the song itself had drug references.
Magical Mystery Tours
The 10 February 1967 session lasted for five hours, from 8pm to 1am the following morning. After the session musicians had completed their work and gone home, The Beatles considered how to end the song. The orchestral climax was felt to be too abrupt, so the group and the studio guests gathered around a microphone and recorded themselves humming a note lasting for eight beats.
The humming takes were numbered 8-11. The first three broke down as people were unable to stop themselves from laughing, but the final one was complete. Three more overdubs of humming were then added. This remained the ending for ‘A Day In The Life’ until the famous piano chord was recorded on 22 February.
Also on this day...
- 2013: Paul McCartney wins Grammy Award for Kisses On The Bottom
- 2012: Paul McCartney honoured at MusiCares Person Of The Year gala
- 1972: Wings live: York University
- 1970: Recording, mixing: Dream by Ringo Starr
- 1970: Mixing: Instant Karma! by Plastic Ono Band
- 1964: Interviews: Associated Press and CBS News
- 1962: Live: St Paul’s Presbyterian Church Hall, Birkenhead
- 1961: Live: Lathom Hall, Liverpool
- 1961: Live: Aintree Institute, Liverpool
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.