The Story Behind “In My Life” by The Beatles and the Bus Ride that Inspired It

The songwriting team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney is one of the most successful collaborations in musical history. The partnership created more than 180 songs, mostly recorded by The Beatles. Other artists, including The Rolling Stones, Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas, The Fourmost, Cilla Black, Peter & Gordon, P.J. Proby, and Mary Hopkin, had success with the songs written by the Liverpool duo. Most songs were developed by one or the other, but some were true collaborations.

Videos by American Songwriter

By the time The Beatles recorded their sixth album Rubber Soul, they were pivoting more to the folk sounds of Bob Dylan, and Lennon wanted to write a song about his life and where he came from, though the memories of the two songwriters differ a bit. Let’s look at the story behind “In My Life” by The Beatles.

There are places I’ll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone, and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead, and some are living
In my life, I’ve loved them all

Inspired by a Broadcaster

The British broadcaster and author Kenneth Allsop pressed The Beatles about adding elements of their childhood into their songs. McCartney would do this in “Penny Lane.” In 1980, Lennon told author David Sheff, “For ‘In My Life,’ I had a complete set of lyrics after struggling with a journalistic vision of a trip from home to downtown on a bus naming every sight. It became ‘In My Life,’ which is a remembrance of friends and lovers of the past. Paul helped with the middle eight musically. But all lyrics written, signed, sealed, and delivered. And it was, I think, my first real major piece of work. Up till then, it had all been sort of glib and throwaway. And that was the first time I consciously put my literary part of myself into the lyric. Inspired by Kenneth Allsop, the British journalist, and Bob Dylan.”

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new


Lennon was living in St George’s Hill in Weybridge, Surrey, England, at the time in a mansion known as Kenwood. In 1971, Lennon told Rolling Stone magazine, “I used to write upstairs, where I had about 10 Brunell tape recorders all linked up; I still have them. I’d mastered them over a period of a year or two. I could never make a rock ‘n’ roll record, but I could make some far-out stuff about it. I wrote it upstairs, that was one where I wrote the lyrics first and then sang it. That was usually the case with things like ‘In My Life.'”

Though I know, I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life, I love you more

McCartney Helped with the Middle-Eight

Continued Lennon, “‘In My Life’ started out as a bus journey from my house on Menlove Avenue to town, mentioning every place I could remember. And it was ridiculous. This is before even ‘Penny Lane’ was written, and I had Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, Tram Sheds—Tram Sheds are the depot just outside of Penny Lane—and it was the most boring sort of ‘What I Did on My Holidays Bus Trip’ song, and it wasn’t working at all. I cannot do this! I cannot do this! But then I laid back, and these lyrics started coming to me about the places I remember. Now, Paul helped write the middle-eight melody. The whole lyrics were already written before Paul had even heard it. In ‘In My Life,’ his contribution melodically was the harmony and the middle-eight itself.”

Though I know, I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life, I love you more

Did He Contribute More?

In 1980, Lennon told David Sheff, “There was a period when I thought I didn’t write melodies, that Paul wrote those and I just wrote straight, shouting rock ‘n’ roll. But of course, when I think of some of my own songs—’In My Life,’ or some of the early stuff, ‘This Boy’—I was writing melody with the best of them.”

McCartney contradicts Lennon’s story. Although most of their recollections match, their memories differ on “In My Life” and “Eleanor Rigby.” In 1997, McCartney told author Barry Miles, “I arrived at John’s house for a writing session, and he had the very nice opening stanzas of the song. As many of our songs were, it was the first pangs of nostalgia for Liverpool. … As I recall, he didn’t have a tune to it, and my recollection, I think, is at variance with John’s. I said, ‘Well, you haven’t got a tune. Let me just go and work on it.’ And I went down to the half-landing, where John had a Mellotron, and I sat there and put together a tune based in my mind on Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.

“… I recall writing the whole melody. And it actually does sound very like me if you analyze it. I was obviously working to lyrics. The melody’s structure is very me. So my recollection is saying to John, ‘Just go and have a cup of tea or something. Let me be with this for 10 minutes on my own, and I’ll do it.’

“… I tried to keep it melodic but a bit bluesy, with the minors and little harmonies, and then my recollection is going back up into the room and saying, ‘Got it, great! Good tune, I think. What d’you think?’ John said, ‘Nice,’ and we continued working with it from then, using that melody and filling out the rest of the verses. … So it was John’s original inspiration, I think my melody, I think my guitar riff. I don’t want to be categorical about this, but that’s my recollection. … I find it very gratifying that out of everything we wrote, we only appear to disagree over two songs.

In my life, I love you more

When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Photo by David Redfern/Redferns

Leave a Reply

'American Idol' Top 14 Finalist Emmy Russell Spent a Lot of Time Among 'Memaw' Loretta Lynn's Dresses

Abi Carter Claps Back at Emmy Russell Critics; ‘American Idol’ Fans React to “Hate Comments”