How Jimi Hendrix (May Have) Influenced The Beatles’ “A Day In The Life”

Editor’s Note: We’ve gotten LOTS of feedback about this video — and Scott’s playful conjecture about Jimi’s possible influence on Sgt Pepper — so Scott just posted a follow-up where he responds to the most frequent questions and comments.  Anyway, here’s the original article. We hope you enjoy it.

In late 1966, as The Beatles began the sessions that would produce Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the band recorded the memorable track that would close the album — “A Day In The Life.” It features John Lennon’s haunted vocal, Ringo Starr’s dramatic drum fills, and the emotional orchestral build-up that author Jonathan Gould describes as “the sound of the high-wire artist as the ground rushes up from below.” It is certainly one of The Beatles’ finest recordings.

“A Day In The Life” began as a Lennon song. It contained verses inspired by the death of a friend, Tara Browne, as well as an article describing the number of holes in Blackburn, Lancashire. But John never managed to write a chorus or bridge for the song. Instead, he turned to his songwriting partner, Paul McCartney.

Paul had a song that he had begun about waking up and beginning the day. John thought it would make a good bridge for “A Day in the Life.” Paul also suggested the vocal trills that end Lennon’s sections of the song — “I’d love to turn you on.”

The pieces of the song were in place. What was missing was the connective tissue. In this video, I’ll show you why I think Jimi Hendrix had a big influence on how Paul joined his section of “A Day in the Life” to John’s.

Scott Freiman

PS. You may also enjoy Scott’s video in our post The Surprising Chord That Made “Penny Lane” a Masterpiece. Plus, ever wondered how Sgt. Pepper got its cover? Read more about it here.

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12 comments on “How Jimi Hendrix (May Have) Influenced The Beatles’ “A Day In The Life”

  1. “A Day In The Life” was recorded in January and February of 1967. “Are You Experienced” was released in May of 1967.

    How does this work, again?

    • Thanks for writing, Tom. “Hey Joe” was released as a single in 1966, before the album, and entered the UK charts during the time Sgt Pepper was being recorded. Plus, the Beatles and Hendrix were friends and mutual admirers. This is all playful conjecture, but it does seem plausible that — given the timing and Hendrix’s searing version of Hey Joe — it might have played a role, even sub-consciously, in the composition of that “Day in the Life” transitional passage.

      • Hendrix had been playing ‘Hey Joe’ in NY for a while in 1966 and brought it over to the UK. Paul say Jimi play it early on in NY.

        • Paul saw Jimi play when Chas Chandler brought him from the U.S. to the UK. I don’t believe they met when Jimi was still in the U.S.


    • Ellis Baumel

      I noticed that myself, because the “na na na na” section of that song seems a much closer match to what’s going on in Day in the Life”. I looked up the history. Hush was written by Joe South and first recorded by Billy Joe Royal in 1967 (not sure of the month). And South derived the song from a spiritual that declared “Hush, I thought I heard Jesus calling my name”. So 1967 was an incredible year for cross-pollination of genres and styles. I loved the ’60s and early ’70s for all that mixing and matching. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it since.

  3. That’s all very good, and your conjecture maybe true. However, why do you say a man “called” Jimi Hendrix? When in fact he was a man “whose name was” Jmmy Hendrix.

  4. The initial change sounds to me kind like the transition/intro to the guitar solo in Hey Jude. In my nonmusician opinion. Also kinda like part of Crystal Ship by the Doors.

  5. I’m sure that in terms of music theory you’re correct, but I beg to differ regarding the influence of Hey Joe. I grew up listening to this song and I and all of my peers agreed it was a nod to Deep Purple’s first his song, Hush. “Na nana na, nana na, nana naaaaaa”. And furthermore, that this was yet another of many thinly veiled “clues” intentionally deposited in Beatles songs to further the fun rumor they were going along with that Beatle Paul was “dead”.

  6. I always thought that the bridge sounded like it was lifted from The Andrew Sisters version of Alexander’s Ragtime Band. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPTbgvzgMZU

  7. I’d suspect something entirely different, aside from the fact that it sounds and grooves nothing like The Leaves’ or Hendrix’ Hey Joe. Take piano out if it and clue into the bass line. It’s a warped boogie pattern that shifts keys. I’d bet he sat down with his bass and patterned his way through it.

  8. John Johnson

    What is similar, and that is where ends, is the series of Plagal Cadences. Very similar to the Circle of Fifths, this progression moves in Fourths: C – G – D – A – E. As Old-as-the-Hills. Move Along, Nothing to See Here. The article’s author likely thinks that music started in 1965. Ah-men.

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