In the studio

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The Beatles began recording A Day In The Life on 19 January 1967, initially with the working title In The Life Of... Four takes were attempted of the rhythm track - bongos, maracas, piano and guitar. Onto the fourth take were added three vocal overdubs by John Lennon, along with high levels of tape echo.

There was so much echo on A Day In The Life. We'd send a feed from John's vocal mike into a mono tape machine and then tape the output - because they had separate record and replay heads- and then feed that back in again. Then we'd turn up the record level until it started to feed back on itself and give a twittery sort of vocal sound. John was hearing that echo in his cans as he was singing. It wasn't put on after. He used his own echo as a rhythmic feel for many of the songs he sang, phrasing his voice around the echo.
Geoff Emerick
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

On this first day Mal Evans counted out the bars in the instrumental sections, and sounded the alarm clock. Paul McCartney had yet to write the words for the middle passage, so it was left as an instrumental at this point.

The next day A Day In The Life, as it was now known, received more overdubs: another Lennon vocal, plus bass from McCartney and drums from Ringo Starr. McCartney also added a vocal for the middle section. This was re-recorded on 3 February, but can be heard on the Anthology 2 collection.

Along with McCartney's new vocals, 3 February also saw the re-recording of the drum and bass parts, all originally taped on 20 January. It was at this point that Starr's distinctive tom-tom fills were added.

We persuaded Ringo to play tom-toms. It's sensational. He normally didn't like to play lead drums, as it were, but we coached him through it. We said, 'Come on, you're fantastic, this will be really beautiful,' and indeed it was.
Paul McCartney

10 February was the day the orchestra recorded the climactic instrumental passages. The day's recording was filmed, but the resulting footage remained unseen until a short passage appeared in the Anthology series.

The musicians wore evening dress, along with fancy dress items including red noses, bald wigs and novelty glasses. Erich Guenberg, leader of the violins, wore a gorilla paw on his bow hand. Friends of The Beatles, including Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, Keith Richards, Mike Nesmith and Donovan, were also present for what was intended as an event.

The song was finally completed on 22 February, when the final crashing piano chord was recorded. This took nine attempts to get right, and was overdubbed three times with more pianos and a harmonium played by George Martin.

Geoff Emerick was in charge of recording the instruments. To capture every last droplet of sound - including the rustling of paper and a squeaking chair - he used heavy compression and careful manipulation of the faders.

By the end the attenuation was enormous. You could have heard a pin drop.
George Martin
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

John Lennon's handwritten lyrics for A Day In The Life