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Birthday by The Beatles

Album: The White AlbumReleased: 1968
  • According to Q magazine May 2008, the Beatles were in a rush to get to Paul McCartney's house in time to catch the rock 'n' roll movie The Girl Can't Help It. Consequently they played around with a simple Blues track rather than record anything too involved. Duly inspired after watching the movie, they completed the song back in studio that night.
  • Paul McCartney told Mojo magazine October 2008 the story of this song: "With 'Birthday' we had a few friends around and it was one of our party's birthday, can't remember who. Pattie Boyd was there, Terry Dolan, just a few mates. Normally we didn't have friends around to sessions so it was very unusual. We didn't know what song to do so we decided to make one up. We did what Roy Orbison had done with 'Pretty Woman' and Little Richard had started with 'Lucille,' do-do do-do do-do do-do; Roy Orbison goes, do-do do-do DO-DO DO-DO- he just changes the end a little bit. We changed basically the same riff of Lucille and Pretty Woman into Birthday- do-do do-do do-do do-do…'You say it's your birthday.'"
  • This was one of the last songs John Lennon and Paul McCartney collaborated on. Even though all of their songs were credited to Lennon/McCartney, many of their later songs were written separately.
  • The unique sound of this song was not supplied by an organ or any kind of keyboard. It came from running a guitar through a Leslie speaker. Such speakers are commonly found in keyboard instruments. The speaker rotates, which is what provides the different sound. (thanks, don - rapid city, SD)
  • There is a rumor that McCartney owns the rights to the song "Happy Birthday." McCartney does own publishing rights to a lot of songs, but not that one.
  • McCartney played an upright piano that was rigged to sound like a harpsichord.
  • Pattie Harrison and Yoko Ono sang in the chorus.
  • Paul Weller covered the song to celebrate McCartney turning 70. His version was made available for download on Sir Paul's actual birthday (June 18th, 2012) for one day only and it entered the UK Singles chart at #64. Proceeds from the cover went to the War Child charity.
  • Paul played the lead guitar on this with John, as well as the piano, which was cleverly miked and fed into a Vox Defiant, a solid state amp, which featured a unique mid-range booster. You can hear the settings change throughout. (thanks, Eli - Melrose Park, PA)
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Comments: 45

On July 13th 1969, "Birthday" by Underground Sunshine entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #100; and on August 31st, 1969 it peaked at #26 (for 1 week) and spent 10 weeks on the Top 100...
And on August 2nd, 2014 they performed the song on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand', at the time it was at #56 on the Top 100...
It was the group's only Top 100 record.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
@Sara, Nashville, TN: The song is not "Happy birthday to you,etc." It's an original composition.Pam - New York, Ny
@Shari, Roswell, NM: The song IS Birthday!Pam - New York, Ny
It was my understanding there were only two Beatles perfoming on this recording, John and Paul. The song mostly written by Paul.
Needless to say in 1968 Yoko was in the studio, It was the White Album, this compliation was mostly a solo effort by the Beatles
at this time in their history. This studio recording featured John playing Lead guitar. Paul Playing Bass and Drums, keyboards
Only one background singer (sounds like Yoko). If you listen very carefully that all that can be identified. Don't know how Patty Boyd
fits into this or even George for that matter. The only way to tell for sure is by the actual studio sheet....
Jim Ravagno - Boston, Ma
John Lennon called this song "a piece of garbage". - He was right. The song is a piece of crap and isn't worthy of inclusion on any of their albums.Janice - Hollywood, Ca
I went and saw the show Love in Vegas and it was for my birthday and before the show, they play Beatles songs and this was the first song I heard.Breanna - Henderson, Nv
I love this song! It'll soon be My 36th birtday and my brother's 31st birthday.John Lennon Would've been gone 29 years December 8th. I was 7years old.Jennifer Harris - Grand Blanc, Mi
Incredible how they go from seriously deep composed songs to going wild and having fun, truly amazing and why i love them.Freddy - Miami, Fl
I'd like to add some clarity to Don's explanation of what a Leslie speaker is. It is named for its inventor, Don Leslie. The speaker is not commonly found in any instrument, but there are a few console organs that have a version of this device built in. The form it usually takes is a wood cabinet with three chambers: top, middle and bottom. The middle chamber contains a fairly ordinary two-way speaker configuration of a woofer and a tweeter, with the tweeter pointing into the upper chamber and the woofer pointing into the lower chamber. The upper and lower chambers contain rotating waveguides that direct the sound horizontally in a constantly-changing direction within these chambers, which have slots on all sides for the sound waves to exit from. Most users that I'm aware of have removed the covers from the back of these upper and lower chambers, and set the cabinet backwards so that the rotating waveguides, or rotors, are clearly seen (and more clearly heard). The rotors have two speeds of rotation, which produce correspondingly fast or slow tremolo effects. When the switch is made from fast to slow or vice-versa, not just the difference in speed, but the transition in speed is very noticeable. The high-frequency and low frequency rotors are not synchronized and because of the difference in their mass, they don't rotate at exactly the same speed at all times. All this changing in direction and speed and reflection off the insides of these chambers creates a modulation of the sound waves that is very pleasing to the ear. The device was created to improve the sound of Hammond organs, and does it ever! If you hear a song with Hammond organ, you are hearing the Leslie speaker at work (with a few exceptions such as Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water"). "Time is Tight" by Booker T. and the M.G.'s is a stellar example of the Leslie at work. The Beatles, of course, were not bashful about using something in a new and different way; and may not have been the first to play a guitar through a Leslie, but did so to great effect (they did so extensively on "Abbey Road" - most noticeably on the beginning of "Sun King"). Others who did so include Eric Clapton, such as on the middle section of "Badge". It has also been used as a way to alter ordinary sound -- such as a flute on Jethro Tull's "Teacher" - and Ozzy's voice on "Planet Caravan".M - Topeka, Ks
this IS that song, shaiK - Nowhere, On
He can't anymore Linc from Beaumont, he's dead.Brad - Lexington, Ky
oh i'm confused! okay if this song is called birthday what is the Beatles song that goes " they say it's your birthday, well it's my birthday to, yeah. and i would like you to dance (birthday) take a cha-cha-cha-chance " if anybody knows please, please tell me!Shai - Roswell, Nm
If I had to guess - I would say Michael Jackson owns the publishing rights to this song.Linc - Beaumont, Tx
i would learn to play the guitar just to rock this songOlivia - Chicago, Il
peter griffin: the white album says birthdayOlivia - Chicago, Il
If you play this song reversed they are celebrating Paul's death.Dakota - Mansfield, Oh
Another one of the best Beatles songs off the White Album. This beats that junk they sing for your birthday every year.Peter Griffin - Quahog, Ri
My 10th grade Global Studies teacher played this song on people's birthdays and my mom played it on my 17th birthday. I love that it's a birthday song, but also a hard rock song! Very cool!Meredith - Wauwatosa, Wi
I've got at least one source that says this song's name is "Happy Birthday."Peter Griffin - Quahog, Ri
Ben Dirks: The show you're thinking about was called Moonlighting. Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepard (sp) starred. the premise was a super model who's millions were purloined and squandered away except for a private investigator (willis). She becomes partners with him. It wasn't a bad show for the 80s. Bruce willis mafe it great. Great song to play air guitar.Lalah - Wasilla, Ak
About 25 years ago [?] there was a TV series with Bruce Willis as a detective with a blonde female colleague who were always quarreling with each other. I forgot the title of that series; it was their two names I think. BUT ... in one episode the song BIRTHDAY is sung a capella in their office to one colleague by all others who sing that guitar riff and the melody. Anybody remembers that?!?Ben Dirks - Nijmegen
hey the fist time i heard this was when i got the white album for my b-day. i luv this songOzzy - Fresno, Ca
Im a big flyers fan and when I go to flyers games they always play this song as they run birthday names... this is just one awesome song off an album that seems to go every way possible. No rapping though... lol that would be weird.Poop - Poopville, Mo
This is a really good rock song.Krissy - Boston, Ma
The riff and song was made on the spot and the siren sounding sounds in the end of the song is actually a piano through Leslie speaker a technique they used on practically every instrument they recorded and even with vocals.The piano also seems to be mimicking vocal lines during the song.Joe - Montvale, Nj
In "Sixteen Candles" a 1984 film, Anthony Michael Hall, playing "the geek" as usual, sings this to a humiliated sixteen-year-old. Poor Molly Ringwald.Josie - Funkytown, Nc
Does anybody know why or for who the Beatle's Birthday song was written?Maggie - Davison, United States
Sean, Toronto, Canada:

It's called public domain. Public domain is when an object's copyright "runs out". We went over public domain in my journalism class. I think that it actually takes 70 years, not 50, for a work (an object) to fall into public domain. But I could be wrong...
Brittany - Virginia
If the composer of a song has been dead for more than 50 years then their work becomes public I think.Sean - Toronto, Canada
I had never heard that Paul McCartney owned the rights to "Happy Birthday". A friend told me that it was Michael Jackson. Well, come to think of it, this is the same friend that believed me when I told her that gullible wasn't in the dictionary...Sara - Nashville, Tn
I read that John Lennon called this song "a piece of garbage". John was never a very good judge of his own great work. He had disparaging remarks for some of his real classics, e.g. "I Should Have Known Better".Jerry - Portland, Or
I read that the Beatles used this song to warm up before recording sessions for a time. Eventually they recorded it and put it on the White Album.Steve - Fenton, Mo
Mike's correct guys. I heard an in interview of Paul McCartney about this song and he said the piano was fed through a guitar speaker. Sounds pretty cool actually.Stefanie Magura - Rock Hill, Sc
It was actually a piano fed through a guitar amplifier to get that sound that McCartney discovered. Great guitar playing from John and George is pretty cool on bass.Mike - Emmaus, Pa
This was recorded in mono except for the vocals which are in stereo. If you listen to the vocals in headphones, the stereo effect is quite interesting on the ears.Barry - New York, Nc
I played and sang this song for years when it was somebodies birthday but that was cuz i liked it and it was a birthday song and it was by the Beatles who are my favorite. But this song became very special to me on Jan. 9, 1995. That was the day my youngest grandson was born. I was born on Jan. 9, 1952. It was my birthday too .. yeah ! Best birthday present I ever got !!!Mark - Middletown, Or
Hey, I think Moose Jaw's got a point.Joseph - Manteca, Ca
This song is good to listin to even though its not anyones birthday!Allen - Some Place, Ak
Anthony Michael Hall (as Farmer Ted) sings this song in Sixteen Candles.Katie - Charlotte, Nc
For the longest time, I thought that the lyrics "yes we're going to a party party" were "Yes we're going to-a party hearty"Matt - Saugus, Ma
Yeah, it doesn't sound remotely like that to me, and I'd be willing to say I'm speaking for the entire population of the world of the world except for you, Matt of Moose Jaw, Canada.Moonunit - Greensboro, Nc
maybe its just me, but the part where they say "yes we're going to a party party" sounds a lot like "come on baby finish what ya started" by van halenMatt - Moose Jaw, Canada
I think that's the reason they used this for car commercials, at least in L.A. You wouldn't have to pay huge rights for a Beatles song, but instead bypass it and pay the Happy Birthday GuyConrad - Los Angeles, Ca
I usually listen to this song about once a year.Jacko - Bedrock, United States
The song "Happy Birthday" is not a traditional song, as it happens. It was written in 1893, copyrighted in 1935 and still earns significant licensing fees. The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers selected it as one of its top 25 songs of the 20th century in 1999. (See http://www.ascap.com/press/songs-122799.html.)Joe - New York, Ny