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The Beatles Songs: In My Life

The history of this classic Beatles song

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The Beatles Songs: In My Life

The original UK sheet music for "In My Life"

rarebeatles.com

In My Life

Written by: John Lennon (60%), Paul McCartney (40%)
(credited to Lennon-McCartney)
Recorded: October 18 and 22, 1965 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England)
Mixed: October 25 and 26, 1965
Length: 2:22
Takes: 3

Musicians:

John Lennon: lead vocals (double-tracked), rhythm guitar (1961 Sonic Blue Fender Stratocaster)
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, bass guitar (1963 Hofner 500/1)
George Harrison: harmony vocals, lead and rhythm guitar (1961 Sonic Blue Fender Stratocaster)
Ringo Starr: drums (Ludwig), tambourine
George Martin: piano (1905 Steinway Vertegrand "Mrs. Mills")

Available on: (CDs in bold)
Rubber Soul (UK: Parlophone PMC 1267; US: Capitol PCS 3075; Parlophone CDP 7 46440 2) The Beatles 1962-1966 (UK: Apple PCSP 717; US: Apple SKBO 3403; Apple CDP 7 97036 2) Love Songs (UK: Parlophone PCSP 721; US: Capitol SKBL 11711)

History:

  • "In My Life" had its genesis in a remark made by English journalist Kenneth Allsop, who pointedly asked Lennon why the personal childhood reminiscences present in Lennon's 1964 book In His Own Write never showed up in his Beatles lyrics. John attempted a song that would read like an imaginary bus trip from his boyhood home to the center of Liverpool, describing all his childhood haunts and lamenting the changes time had brought on. An draft from that early attempt read as follows:

    "Penny Lane is one I'm missing
    Up Church Rd to the clocktower
    In the circle of the abbey
    I have seen some happy hours.

    Past the tramsheds with no trams
    On the 5 bus into town
    Past the Dutch and St. Columbus
    To the Dockers Umbrella that they pulled down."

  • Perhaps understandably, John was less than thrilled with the outcome, later referring to it as "the most boring sort of 'What I Did On My Holidays Bus Trip' song." A year later, however, in need of material for Rubber Soul, Lennon revisited the idea and found that by being less specific he could write about his real emotions. This time, John was pleased with the result, so much so that he later referred to the very personal "In My Life" as "my first real major piece of work."
  • However, Paul's recount of the song's birth is quite different -- along with "Eleanor Rigby," it is one of only two Beatles songs on which Lennon and McCartney differ on authorship. While Paul admits that John wrote the lyrics at his home in Weybridge, McCartney claims he visited him there, and, after John had a bit of writer's block, went away for a few minutes and came up with the song's melody on Lennon's mellotron, inspired by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. (Paul has also claimed authorship of the song's signature guitar riff.) What is certain is that Paul came up with the high harmony that is sung along with the original melody, as well as the tune to the bridge section ("Though I know I'll never lose affection").
  • "In My Life" was laid down in three takes on October 18th. On the 22nd, producer George Martin attempted to come up with something intriguing for the third verse, left blank for s solo. After a few attempts on Hammond organ, Martin hit upon the unique idea of recording a very baroque piece on the studio piano, at half-speed and one octave down, then speeding it up to match the track. The effect was very like a harpsichord, and indeed is often mistaken for one!

Trivia:

  • According to John's longtime friend Pete Shotton, Lennon once remarked that the line "some are dead and some are living" referred to Pete and the deceased ex-Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe.
  • Several effects were added to the original CD mix of "In My Life" that were not present on vinyl, including heavy reverb on the vocals; this was corrected in the 2009 remaster.
  • George Harrison, oddly enough, performed this song often on his ill-fated 1974 "Dark Horse" tour, changing the lyrics here and there. This did not sit well with John.
  • "In My Life" was played at the funeral for Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain, who loved the song. It was also used in the 2010 Oscars, during the montage of famous deaths during the past year.

Covered by: Judy Collins, Jose Feliciano, James Taylor, Nana Mouskouri, Twiggy, Catherine McKinnon, Oliver, Keith Moon, Ofra Harnoy, Rod Stewart, Ramsey Lewis, Stephen Stills, Bette Midler, Marian McPartland, Tuck and Patti, Helen Merrill, Lena Horne, Stephanie Grappelli, Richie Havens, Gil Goldstein, Don Williams, Leon Bibb, Linda Corr, Astrud Gilberto, Joel Grey, The Music Company

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