Recording "A Day In The Life" - Friday February 22, 1967
The Final Touch
Wednesday, 22 February, 1967
Studio Two: 7.00pm-3.45am. Recording 'A Day In The Life'(edit pieces 1-9). Mono mixing:'A Day In The Life'(remixes 6-9, from takes 6 and 7). Editing: 'A Day In The Life' (of remix mono 9 and edit piece take 9). Stereo mixing: 'A Day In The Life'(remixes 1-9, from takes 6 and 7). P: George Martin. E: Geoff Emerick. 2E: Richard Lush.
There remained the question of how to end 'A Day In The Life'; how to follow the staggering build up of orchestrated sound after the final Lennon lyrics. The 'choir' of voices (as it was so described) taped at the end of the eventful 10 February session was clearly along the right lines, but not powerful enough. Judging by the original tape of this session, Paul was in charge of the special overdub.
Mal [Evans]: "Which one's that?"
Paul: "The right hand one, far right. It keeps the echo going.
John: "Keep it down the whole time."
Paul: "Right. On four then. One, two, three..."
What followed was the sound of John, Paul, Ringo and Mal Evans sharing three pianos and simultaneously hitting E major. Bunnggggg.
It took nine takes to perfect because the four players were rarely able to hit the keys at precisely the same time. Take seven was a good attempt, lasting longer than any other at 59 seconds. But it was take nine which was considered 'best' so it was overdubbed three more times, with George Martin compounding the sound further on a harmonium, until all four tracks of the tape were full. The resulting wall of sound, which lasted for 53.5 seconds (it was faded a little early on the record), was the perfect ending.
Geoff Emerick, up in the control room, once again had to ensure that every last droplet of sound from the studio was captured onto tape. To do this he used heavy compression and all the while was manually lifting the volume faders, which started close to their lowest point and gradually made their way to the maximum setting. "By the end the attenuation was enormous," says George Martin. "You could have heard a pin drop." Pins dropping there are not, but one can hear a rustle of paper and a chair squeaking. Interviewed in 1987, after the compact disc release of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Geoff Emerick noted, "Actually the sound could have gone on a bit longer but in those days the speakers weren't able to reproduce it. So we thought there wasn't any more sound but there was - the compact disc proves it.
The Beatles were especially keen to sit in on the remixes of 'A Day In The Life', mono and stereo, and these were done next, utilising the two tape machines in sync, as invented by Ken Townsend on 10 February. But there was still some time left at the end of this session so the Beatles set about recording another of their experimental tapes. Ringo was to the fore in this one, the tape being 22 minutes and 10 seconds of drum beat, augmented by tambourine and congas. Quite what is was meant for is not clear. It was certainly never used, nor was it remixed.
It was customary by 1967 for friends of the Beatles to pop into their sessions at Abbey Road and spend some time chatting. A visitor on this evening was David Crosby of the American group the Byrds.
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