beatles-alarm-clock (1)

A lot can happen in a day.

“One mid-January evening,” says Geoff Emerick in his memoir Here, There and Everywhere,

the four Beatles rolled up, a little bit stoned, as had become usual, but with a tinge of excitement. They had a new song they’d been working on – one of Lennon’s – and they were anxious to play it for George Martin and me. They had gotten in the habit of meeting at Paul’s house in nearby St. John’s Wood before sessions, where they’d have a cup of tea, perhaps puff a joint, and John and Paul would finish up any songs that were still in progress. Once a song was complete, the four of them would start routining it right there and then, working out parts, learning the chords and time changes, all before they got to the studio. They would then get in their respective cars and be driven over to Abbey Road – although it was walking distance, they couldn’t take a stroll because of all the fans – which explained why they always showed up together despite living considerable distances from one another.

The song unveiled that evening was tentatively called “In The Life Of….”

By the time they were done for the night, The Beatles had worked out the structure of the song (we know it as “A Day in the Life”), rehearsed it a few times, recorded four takes, and started adding overdubs. It’s amazing, really, how quickly it came together, although at this point some of the sections were just placeholders.

24 bars were left blank in the middle, with roadie Mal Evans assigned to count them off. Adds Emerick,

There also happened to be a windup alarm clock set on top of the piano – Lennon had brought it in as a gag one day, saying that it would come in handy for waking up Ringo when he was needed for an overdub. In a fit of silliness, Mal decided to set it off at the start of the 24th bar; that, too, made it onto the finished recording…for no other reason than that I couldn’t get rid of it.

That alarm clock has now been heard about a gazillion times over the last 50 years. It was the right clock in the right place at the right time. “A Day in the Life” seems to have benefitted from kismet at every step along the way, including how the alarm clock fits with the lyrics Paul chose for the bridge…but that hasn’t happened yet, so that’s it for now.