A Day in the Life is a song by the English rock band The Beatles written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, based on an original idea by Lennon. It is the final track on the group’s 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Since its original album release, “A Day in the Life” has been released as a B-side, and also on various compilation albums. It has been covered by other artists including The Fall, Bobby Darin, Sting, Neil Young, Jeff Beck, The Bee Gees, Mae and since 2008, by Paul McCartney in his live performances. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it the 26th greatest song of all time.
There is some dispute about the inspiration for the first verse. Many believe that it was written with regard to the death of Tara Browne, the 21-year-old heir to the Guinness fortune and close friend of Lennon and McCartney, who had crashed his Lotus Elan on 18 December 1966 when a Volkswagen pulled out of a side street into his path in Redcliffe Gardens, Earls Court. In numerous interviews, Lennon claimed this was the verse’s prime inspiration. However, George Martin adamantly claims that it is a drug reference (as is the line “I’d love to turn you on” and other passages from the song) and while writing the lyrics John and Paul were imagining a stoned politician who had stopped at a set of traffic lights.
The description of the accident in “A Day in the Life” was not a literal description of Browne’s fatal accident. Lennon said, “I didn’t copy the accident. 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.”
The final verse was inspired by an article in the Daily Mail in January 1967 regarding a substantial number of potholes in Blackburn, a town in Lancashire. However, he had a problem with the words of the final verse, not being able to think of how to connect “Now they know how many holes it takes to” and “the Albert Hall”. His friend Terry Doran suggested that they would “fill” the Albert Hall.
McCartney provided the middle section of the song, a short piano piece he had been working on independently, with lyrics about a commuter whose uneventful morning routine leads him to drift off into a reverie. He had written the piece as a wistful recollection of his younger years, which included riding the bus to school, smoking and going to class. The line “I’d love to turn you on”, which concludes both verse sections, was, according to Lennon, also contributed by McCartney; Lennon said “I had the bulk of the song and the words, but he contributed this little lick floating around in his head that he couldn’t use for anything.”