Jimi Hendrix and “A Day in the Life” – FAQ

Back in 2017, we posted our original article and video on how Jimi Hendrix may have influenced the composition of “A Day in the Life.” The video has taken on a new life, thanks to TikTok, as you can see below. We’ve gotten lots of questions and comments, so here’s a FAQ…

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 known in the UK in 1967?

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)

Scott Freiman

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.

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13 comments on “Jimi Hendrix and “A Day in the Life” – FAQ

  1. Randal Berry

    McCartney says in “Paul McCartney, The Life” by Phillip Norman, that the middle eight was an unused song fragment from his bottom drawer about oversleeping and running for a bus.

    • Absolutely right. FWIW, we are discussing the transition from that section (“Woke up, got out of bed…), reconnecting to John’s.

  2. Fred Green

    Also, Michael Nesmith from the Monkees was actually there at the recording session…and he’s in the music video.

    • MR P C Denmark

      Fred Green – The Monkees to me are much more listenable than The Beatles.

  3. Listen to Hush by Deep Purple (1968). They use the same chord progression in the na na na na part. It’s really evident when they sing that part in 1/2 time at the end. Hendrix–>Beatles–>Deep Purple?

  4. How do you know Paul McCartney did this and not George Martin? George would have been involved in the re-connecting.

    • In fact, we really don’t know at all. We weren’t there, and don’t know Sir Paul. The timing does seem to line up, though, in a way that would make our speculation at least plausible.

  5. Also, McCartney said he was listening to Stockhausen when he wrote that song. I think that’s responsible for the ascension chromatically at the end.

  6. Hey Joe was written by Billy Roberts. The Leaves recorded it first and tried to infer they wrote. Jimi gave Billy the proper credit on his version.

  7. I think it’s a very interesting view. By the way, Who did sing this part, John or Paul? I can’t judge either.

  8. Good observations and good answers to the questions.

  9. 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.

  10. “…other than The Mothers Of Invention’s “Flower Punk” (released March 1968), which you could argue was a parody of “Hey Joe,….” This is no mere parody of a Hendrix cover song. The lyrics of “Flower Punk” were a parody of “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”. The parody in the music wasn’t “Hey Joe” itself, it was “Hey Joe” as if produced by Motown Records, thus a parody of current teen dance music. Flower Punk is so layered with social commentary, musical mash-ups, and industry in-jokes I’d be stunned to find that no PHD candidate has written 50 pages on it for their dissertation.

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