Suggest a Songfact / Artistfact
Album: Rubber SoulReleased: 1965
This is an autobiographical song about John Lennon's life. He wrote most of the lyrics after being asked why a book he wrote, In His Own Write, revealed more about him than his songs did.
The lyrics about friends refer to Stu Sutcliffe, an early Beatle and great friend of John's who died in 1962, and another friend named Pete Shotton. Lennon also thought of his Aunt Mimi and wife Cynthia, as well as other friends. One of the most beautiful Beatles songs, John called it "A little piece of art work."
The Beatles left a hole for the instrumental break when they recorded this. Producer George Martin filled it in the next morning by playing a piano solo and speeding up the tape to make it sound like a harpsichord. Lennon had asked him to fill it with something "baroque."
This was one of George Harrison's favorites. The other Beatles were not pleased when he played it with different lyrics at one of his concerts in 1974.
Both Lennon and McCartney thought this was one of the best Beatles songs.
There is controversy over how involved McCartney was in writing this song. Lennon claimed in later interviews that he wrote the whole thing, while McCartney claimed it was an equal collaboration.
This was voted the best song of all time by a panel of songwriters in a 2000 Mojo magazine poll. The panelists included McCartney, Brian Wilson, Lamont Dozier, and Carole King.
Dave Matthews played this at the 2001 special Come Together: A Night For John Lennon's Words And Music. The song took on new meaning, as the show aired three weeks after the terrorist attacks on America.
Judy Collins, Ozzy Osbourne and Johnny Cash have all covered this.
According to John Lennon: The Life and Legend
(The Sunday Times: A Special Tribute 1980), Lennon began writing this in 1964. He forgot about the song for a while and he wrote it again one year later, with lyrics talking about people from his childhood and younger years. In John's original handwritten lyrics he made reference to several places in Liverpool:Penny Lane is one I'm missing
Up Church Rd to the clocktower
In the circle of the abbey
I have seen some happy hours
Past the tramsheds with no trams
On the 5 bus into town
Past the Dutch and St. Columbus
To the Dockers Umbrella that they pilled down
The Dockers Umbrella was the world's first overhead railway (opened 1893). St. Columbus could refer to a school the bus passes.
This song was played at Kurt Cobain's funeral. The Beatles were an early and important music influence on him. Cobain even cited Lennon as his "idol" in the various journals he kept throughout his career with Nirvana.
In an interview in the January 1971 edition of Rolling Stone
, John Lennon recalled the writing of this song: "I wrote that in Kenwood (his home at the time). I used to write upstairs where I had about ten Brunell tape recorders all linked up, I still have them, I'd mastered them over the period of a year or two - I could never make a rock and roll record but I could make some far out stuff on it. I wrote it upstairs, that was one where I wrote the lyrics first and then sang it." He added that was usually the case with songs such as this one and "Across the Universe
" and "some of the ones that stand out a bit."
In a sign that Sarah McLachlan's "I Will Remember You" is not somehow mandated as the background music for any death montage, James Taylor performed "In My Life" at the 2010 Oscars when they showed who died in the past year. Rests in the music were filled with dialogue from film clips.
Frequent Beatles photographer Robert Freeman took the album's cover shot of the unsmiling band in front of a garden hedge at Lennon's estate in Weybridge (Surrey, England). The off-kilter effect came by accident when one of the slides slipped and fell backward, but the guys, particularly McCartney, loved it.
The distinctive bubble font on the cover of Rubber Soul
was created by graphic designer Charles Front.