A Day In The Life
For 'She Said She Said', John had combined two of his unfinished songs but here, for the first time, he put together an unfinished song of his own with one of Paul's to create 'A Day In The Life', the track that many regard as the most outstanding on Sgt Pepper.
John's part of the finished song was drawn from his interminable newspaper reading. The reference to the 4000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire, came from the Far And Near column in the Daily Mail dated January 17, 1967. This reported that a Blackburn City Council survey of road holes had revealed the mindboggling fact that there was one twenty-sixth of a hole in the road for each Blackburn resident. When John was stuck for an ending to the line 'Now they know how many holes it takes to fill', needing something that rhymed with 'small', Terry Doran (his friend from the motor trade) suggested the Albert Hall.
The film about the English army winning the war referred to in the lyric was How I Won The War, which John had himself acted in. Although the subject of several articles, the film wasn't premiered until October 1967.
The man who 'blew his mind out in a car' was Tara Browne, an Irish friend of the Beatles and a well-known socialite, who met his death in a car accident on December 18, 1966. The coroner's report was issued in January 1967. 'I didn't copy the accident,' John told Hunter Davies. 'Tara didn't blow his mind out. But it was in my mind when I was writing that verse. 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.
In real life, Browne was driving down Redcliffe Gardens in Earls Court during the early hours, when a Volkswagen pulled out of a side street into his path. In swerving to avoid it, his Lotus Elan ploughed into a stationary van and he was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital. The autopsy revealed that his death was the result of 'brain lacerations due to fractures of the skull.' His passenger, model Suki Potier, escaped with bruises and shock.
Tara Browne, great grandson of the brewer Edward Cecil Guinness and son of Lord Oranmore and Browne, was part of the new young aristocracy who loved to mingle with pop stars. Although only 21 at the time of his death, he would have inherited a 1,000,000 pounds fortune at the age of 25 and was described on his death certificate as a man 'of independent means' with a London home in Eaton Row, Belgravia. After schooling at Eton, Browne married at 18 and fathered two boys before separating from his wife and taking up with Suki Potier. He frequented London nightspots such as Sibylla's and the Bag O'Nails and had become particularly friendly with Paul and Mike McCartney and Rolling Stone Brian Jones. For his 21st birthday, he had the Lovin' Spoonful flown to his ancestral home in County Wicklow, Ireland. Mick Jagger, Mike McCartney, Brian Jones and John Paul Getty were amongst the guests.
Paul's unfinished song, a bright and breezy piece about getting out of bed and setting off for school, was spliced between the second and third verses of John's song. 'It was another song altogether but it happened to fit,' Paul said. 'It was just me remembering what it was like to run up the road to catch a bus to school, having a smoke and going into class... It was a reflection of my schooldays. I would have a Woodbine (a cheap unfiltered British cigarette) and somebody would speak and I would go into a dream.'
The references to having a smoke, dreams and 'turn-ons' meant that the track was banned from the airwaves in many countries. There were even some who were convinced that the holes in Blackburn, like the holes Paul had been keen to fix, were heroin addicts' track marks.
In 1968 Paul admitted that 'A Day In The Life' was what he called 'a turn-on song'. 'This was the only one on the album written as a deliberate provocation,' he said. 'But what we want to do is to turn you on to the truth rather than on to pot.' George Martin comments: 'The woke up, got out of bed bit was definitely a reference to marijuana but 'Fixing A Hole' wasn't about heroin and 'Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds' wasn't about LSD. At the time I had a strong suspicion that 'went upstairs and had a smoke' was a drug reference. They always used to disappear and have a little puff but they never did it in front of me. They always used to go down to the canteen and Mal Evans used to guard it.'