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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.
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.