Jimi Hendrix and “A Day in the Life” – Part Deux
Thanks to everyone who posted comments on our video about Jimi Hendrix’s possible influence on The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.”
I have gotten lots of questions, so I thought I would post some answers to the most common ones.
Q: I thought Jimi Hendrix didn’t write “Hey Joe?”
A: Very true. I say in the video that Jimi didn’t write the song, but he made it his own. And that’s true, too. The Beatles would have certainly heard Hendrix’s version. We don’t know whether they were already familiar with the song before hearing Jimi’s memorable version.
Q: The Beatles were songwriting geniuses. Why do you think they needed help writing their songs?
A: The Beatles freely admitted that they “nicked” ideas from everywhere. That’s one of the reasons they were such talented songwriters. They listened to everything and incorporated ideas into their writing, while always adding their own unique twist.
We can never know for sure that McCartney was influenced by “Hey Joe,” but here are the facts that we DO know:
1. McCartney was at Hendrix’s January 11, 1967 show at the Bag O’ Nails.
2. The Beatles began recording “A Day In The Life” on January 19, 1967 and Paul’s part was not recorded yet. That was first recorded on January 20, 1967.
3. Jimi Hendrix released “Hey Joe” on December 23, 1966, but it was performed on Top of the Pops on… wait for it… January 18, 1967 — the day before The Beatles began recording “A Day In The Life”.
Q: Was Jimi Hendrix even around when the Beatles were working on Sgt. Pepper?
A: Yes, he was. And The Beatles loved him. Jimi’s first single, “Hey Joe,” entered the British charts on January 4, 1967, right around the time that The Beatles were working on “A Day In The Life” (they started recording the song on January 19). I wasn’t there, of course, but the similarity between the bridge to “A Day In The Life” and the chord sequence in “Hey Joe” doesn’t seem a random coincidence — especially since this chord particular sequence had not been heard in a pop song before (at least as far as I can tell). In my opinion, “Hey Joe” played a role, even subconsciously, in Paul’s bridge to “A Day In The Life.”
P.S. Jimi loved The Beatles also and covered the title song to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in concert right after the album was released.
Q: Isn’t a ‘quadruple plagal cadence’ the same as a circle of fifths?
A: Yes, they are both the same. I use “quadruple plagal cadence” to refer to moving through the circle of fifths ‘backwards’ — descending fourths rather than ascending fifths. Not only was the plagal cadence in “A Day In The Life” un-transposed from the same sequence in “Hey Joe,” but there are no other occurrences of this sequence that I have been able to find around this time (and esteemed Beatles scholar Walter Everett agrees with me) other than The Mothers Of Invention’s “Flower Punk” (released March 1968), which you could argue was a parody of “Hey Joe,” or Joe South’s “Hush” which was first recorded by Billie Joe Royal and released in October, 1967.
More questions or comments? Just post them below or on our Facebook page. Just remember, please be kind. We’re all on the same team here!
(Photo: Getty Images)
PS. You may also enjoy Scott’s video in our post The Surprising Chord That Made “Penny Lane” a Masterpiece. Plus, check out our posts on other songwriters like Lou Reed, Jim Steinman, and Leonard Cohen.