I got a lot of flack for my low ranking of “Yesterday” on this list, and I’m not gonna lie, I had second thoughts. To say I quivered in my boots and experienced heart tremors would be an understatement. The feedback made me sweat more than Papa John after eating 40 pizzas in 30 days. Much like Papa John, I’ll backtrack a little bit and say that, if I were to do this list again, I would certainly reconsider and probably put “Yesterday” a lot higher.
“Yesterday, I was CEO, they called me boss / Now my bloodstream’s 60% sauce.”
All that to say, “A Day in the Life” is probably just as heralded as “Yesterday,” if not more so–it often tops Beatles song rankings–but this is one I’m going to stand behind. Objectively it is a stunning presentation on every front: compelling music, intriguing lyrics, hypnotizing vocals, majestic production. But I don’t think the song itself stands up nearly as impressively as so many other Beatles classics. Think about it: there are approximately 100 billion covers each of “Yesterday” and “Something,” but how many great “A Day in the Life” covers have you heard? Jeff Beck did a pretty cool version with some scorching guitar but otherwise, its bombastic, heavily orchestrated style isn’t dissimilar from the original. (That makes sense, since it too was produced by George Martin.)
The moments that really make this song are the tiniest ones–when the drums first briefly kick in after the line “He blew his mind out in a car” and the even quicker piano riff that follows the next lyric, the alarm clock that rings right before Paul’s portion begins, the way John speeds through “Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall” in order to fit the rhythm…but the swelling orchestral parts that descend into chaos and the culminating extended single piano chord are too excessive for my tastes.
The Beatles achieved everything they intended and then some with “A Day in the Life.” But I’m standing by this one. Seriously. No second-guessing here. I think.