Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Day in the Life - is that John or Paul?

Just after Paul's "middle bit" contribution to "A Day in the Life," there are a few bars of ethereal (by which I mean "smothered in echo") vocal, singing "aaaahhhh."

Everyone knows that's John singing that bit, right? It's got his signature thin and nasally sound in the higher register.

Geoff Emerick, recording engineer on Sgt. Pepper, even confirms that John sang that part:

"Paul’s vocal, for example, was being dropped into the same track that contained John’s lead vocal, and there was a very tight drop-out point between the two—between Paul’s singing “…and I went into a dream” and John’s “ahhh” that starts the next section." (Geoff Emerick, Here, There, and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles)

Of course, Emerick may be misremembering this particular detail. It was a long time ago, after all, and goodness knows that particular song had enough tinkering and tweaking to confuse anyone as to who did what, where, when, and on which track/take.

To the contrary, John C. Winn says it was Paul who did those vocals. In his entry for the studio session on February 3, 1967, he writes:

"During this session, Paul and Ringo erased their bass and drums on track 3 of “A Day in the Life” with a new performance, Ringo’s austere drumming being especially inventive. Paul then corrected his vocal blunder by taping a new vocal on track 2, also adding some soaring “aahs” over the circle-of-fifths segment that linked back to the final verse." (John C. Winn, That Magic Feeling: The Beatles' Recorded Legacy, Volume Two, 1966-1970)

Anyway, this is all just a set-up to get you to listen to some audio clips. Paul had (and probably still has, to some degree) an amazing chameleon voice. He could imitate Little Richard on songs like "Long Tall Sally," go for a more Elvis-like vibe on songs like "Lady Madonna," and it's hard to believe the same person is singing "Monkberry Moon Delight," "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five," and "Getting Closer."

One of the things he could do with his voice is make it very thin, nasally, and almost raspy - just like John's voice. He does this several times during the song "One of These Days" on the album McCartney II, so just for the fun of it, I've excerpted a clip from that song and stuck it side-by-side with the vocal track from "A Day in the Life."

Just something fun to chew on ...

Click here to listen to the track.

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