‘Your Mother Should Know’ was written by Paul McCartney at his home in London. The music harked back to Busby Berkeley showtunes and the golden age of music hall.
I wrote it in Cavendish Avenue on the harmonium I have in the dining room there. My Aunty Jin and Uncle Harry and a couple of relatives were staying and they were in the living room just across the hall, so I just went to the dining room and spent a few hours with the door open with them listening. And I suppose because of the family atmosphere ‘Your Mother Should Know’ came in. It’s a very music-hall kind of thing, probably influenced by the fact that my Aunty Jin was in the house.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
The song’s title appeared in A Taste Of Honey, the 1958 play by Shelagh Delaney which was adapted as a film in 1961. The Beatles covered the film’s theme song on their debut album Please Please Me in 1963.
Geoffrey: You can get rid of babies before they’re born you know.
Jo: Yes I know, but I think that’s terrible.
Geoffrey: When’s it due?
Jo: About November.
Geoffrey: Your mother should know.
It’s likely that ‘Your Mother Should Know’ was briefly considered for the Our World satellite broadcast of 25 June 1967. The Beatles went instead with ‘All You Need Is Love’, a simpler message and one more readily understood by a worldwide audience. But the idea of a big old-fashioned singalong clearly stayed with McCartney when planning the Magical Mystery Tour film.
The big prop was that great big staircase that we danced down, that was where all the money went: in that particular shot on that big staircase. I said, ‘Sod it, you’ve got to have the Busby Berkeley ending,’ and it is a good sequence. Just the fact of John dancing, which he did readily. You can see by the fun expression on his face that he wasn’t forced into anything.
In the studio
‘Your Mother Should Know’ was begun in Chappell Recording Studios in Maddox Street, London, as Abbey Road was booked for other artists.
On the first day, 22 August 1967, they recorded eight takes of the rhythm track. The following day – their last session at Chappell – they recorded overdubs for the song. This was also Brian Epstein’s last-ever visit to a Beatles recording session; he died on 27 August.
On 16 September they began a remake of ‘Your Mother Should Know’, recording 11 more takes. The arrangement was harmonium, piano, vocals and drums, with a military-style snare rhythm. The eighth of these can be heard on Anthology 2.