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John Lennon and Paul McCartney worked closely together on “A Day in the Life.” They each wrote portions of the song and married the parts together to create the finished product. Lennon was often hard on McCartney’s writing, but he complimented the work his bandmate put into the song. He believed that one line McCartney wrote was particularly beautiful.

John Lennon admired one of Paul McCartney’s contributions to ‘A Day in the Life’

While Lennon and McCartney wrote closely together in the early years of The Beatles, they drifted apart as the 1960s progressed. Still, some songs were the product of their close collaboration in later years. “A Day in the Life” was one of them.

“Paul and I were definitely working together, especially on ‘A Day In The Life,’” Lennon said in The Beatles Anthology. “The way we wrote a lot of the time: you’d write the good bit, the part that was easy, like ‘l read the news today’ or whatever it was. Then when you got stuck or whenever it got hard, instead of carrying on, you just drop it. Then we would meet each other, and I would sing half and he would be inspired to write the next bit, and vice versa.”

Lennon particularly liked a line McCartney wrote for the song.

“Paul’s contribution was the beautiful little lick in the song: ‘I’d love to turn you on,’ that he’d had floating around in his head and couldn’t use,” Lennon said. “I thought it was a damn good piece of work.”

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One of McCartney’s contributions to the song was also the orchestral accompaniment. 

“There was also the big orchestral build-up,” he said. “I just sat down and thought, ‘Oh, this is a great opportunity. This is the song, man!’ It was a crazy song, anyway, with ‘I’d love to turn you on’ and lots of psychedelic references. We could go anywhere with this song; it was definitely going to go big places. I started to try to sell an idea to John: ‘We take fifteen bars, just an arbitrary amount, and then we’ll try something new. We’ll tell the orchestra to start on whatever the lowest note on their instrument is, and to arrive at the highest note on their instrument. But to do it in their own time.’”

Lennon may not have included an orchestra if it had been solely his song, but he liked the way it sounded.

“It just sort of happened beautifully,” he said, per the book Paul McCartney: A Life by Peter Ames Carlin.

They used the news to write the song

When Lennon first began working on “A Day in the Life,” he used a copy of the Daily Mail for inspiration.

“I was writing ‘A Day In The Life’ with the Daily Mail propped in front of me on the piano,” Lennon said, adding, “I had it open at their News in Brief, or Far and Near, whatever they call it. I noticed two stories. One was about the Guinness heir who killed himself in a car. That was the main headline story. He died in London in a car crash.”

A black and white picture of Paul McCartney talking while John Lennon watches him.
Paul McCartney and John Lennon | Val Wilmer/Redferns

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According to McCartney, they often referenced the news while writing the song.

“John and I sat down, and he had the opening verse and the tune,” he said. “He got the idea of how it would continue from the Daily Mail, where there was the mad article about the holes in Blackburn. Then the next article would be that Dame So-and-so had played the Albert Hall. So they all got mixed together in a little poetic jumble that sounded nice.”