The Meaning Behind the Beatles’ Off-Kilter “A Day In The Life”

The Beatles have several experimental songs. Their latter years were characterized by rampant drug use and weird, warbly musicianship. We have to think the first thing informed the second thing. While the list is long, we have to give “A Day In The Life” props for being one of the strangest. But, when you get into the meaning, is it really all that strange? Find out, below.

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The Meaning Behind the Beatles’ “A Day In The Life”

Lennon’s Section

I read the news today, oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well, I just had to laugh

Like many great songwriters, John Lennon looked outside himself for inspiration for “A Day In The Life.” In his sections of this song, Lennon reads off headlines that range from the death of a close friend to other, less consequential stories.

The tragedy in the opening lines is mirrored after the death of Tara Browne, the heir to the Guinness Family fortune. Lennon took some liberties, but the foundation of Browne’s story is in the song.

“Tara didn’t blow his mind out, but it was in my mind when I was writing that verse,” Lennon once said. “The details of the accident in the song—not noticing traffic lights and a crowd forming at the scene—were similarly part of the fiction.”

Orchestral Bridge

Many people consider “A Day In The Life” to be one of the Beatles’ best songs. A contributing factor to that opinion is the orchestral bridge separating Lennon and McCartney’s verses.

It’s the sonic equivalent to losing one’s mind. The discordant strings are the exact opposite of what most people would want from an orchestra. Instead of stunning melodies, the Beatles wanted chaos. They got it.

McCartney’s Section

Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up I noticed I was late

McCartney’s verse stands in stark contrast with Lennon’s. Instead of heady news stories, McCartney sings about a mundane day in life. The inspiration for McCartney’s morning routine came from a childhood memory.

“We get to the middle bit and I start to get a little bit autobiographical then,” McCartney once said. “I’ve got a story in my head which is about when I used to go to school in Liverpool. I used to have to get up early, used to have to take a half-hour bus journey into the city where the school was.”

With both sections of this song considered, “A Day In The Life” is really lightning in a bottle. It’s hard to imagine any other songwriting duo being able to replicate the odd, off-kilter songwriting Lennon and McCartney managed here.

(Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)

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