Beatles By Day

Long time ago when we was fab

Song facts: Getting Better

Getting Better is a song written mainly by Paul McCartney for The Beatles' Sgt Pepper album. Although the song was primarily of Paul's creation, John Lennon did help out with some of the darker lyrics.

Origins

McCartney is reported to have hatched the idea for the song in 1967, while out walking with his sheep dog Martha in Hampstead. 

George Martin and Paul McCartney working on Sgt Pepper, 1967.

George Martin and Paul McCartney working on Sgt Pepper, 1967.

"Getting Better I wrote on my magic Binder, Edwards and Vaughan piano in my music room. It had a lovely tone, that piano, you'd just open the lid and there was such a magic tone, almost out of tune, and of course the way it was painted added to the fun of it all.
It's an optimistic song. I often try and get on to optimistic subjects in an effort to cheer myself up and also, realising that other people are going to hear this, to cheer them up too. And this was one of those. The 'angry young man' and all that was John and I filling in the verses about schoolteachers. We shared a lot of feelings against teachers who had punished you too much or who hadn't understood you or who had just been bastard generally." - Paul McCartney

John Lennon had been physically abusive to women in his younger years, and the lyrics I used be cruel to my woman, I beat her... is a withering self-portrait of the young, angry Liverpudlian. 

"It is a diary form of writing. All that "I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved" was me. I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically -- any woman. I was a hitter. I couldn't express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women. That is why I am always on about peace, you see. It is the most violent people who go for love and peace. Everything's the opposite. But I sincerely believe in love and peace. I am a violent man who has learned not to be violent and regrets his violence. I will have to be a lot older before I can face in public how I treated women as a youngster." - John Lennon
Alternate cover for Sgt Pepper, 1967.

Alternate cover for Sgt Pepper, 1967.

Recording

Recording for the song began on March 9th at Abbey Road. On this day 7 takes of the rhythm track were recorded, with producer George Martin contributing piano. The following day bass, tambura and drums were added.

Personnel

  • Paul McCartney – double-tracked vocal, bass guitar, electric piano, handclapping
  • John Lennon – backing vocal, rhythm guitar, handclapping
  • George Harrison – backing vocal, lead guitar, tambura, handclapping
  • Ringo Starr – drums, congas, hand clapping
  • George Martin – piano, pianet, virginal

On March 21st The Beatles added their vocals to the song. It was at this session that John Lennon unknowingly took some LSD. Shortly after feeling the effects of the drug he began to tell the others that he didn't feel very well. George Martin took him up to the roof to get some fresh air, hoping this would sober him up.

"He was in the studio and I was in the control room, and he said he wasn't feeling too good. So I said, 'Come up here,' and asked George and Paul to go on overdubbing the voice. 'I'll take John out for a breath of fresh air,' I said, but of course I couldn't take him out the front because there were 500 screaming kids who'd have torn him apart,. So the only place I could take him to get fresh air was the roof. It was a wonderful starry night, and John went to the edge, which was a parapet about 18 inches high, and looked up at the stars and said, 'Aren't they fantastic?' Of course, to him I suppose they would have been especially fantastic. At the time they just looked like stars to me." - George Martin
John Lennon recording Sgt Pepper, 1967.

John Lennon recording Sgt Pepper, 1967.

"I never took LSD in the studio. Once I did, actually. I thought I was taking some uppers and I was not in the state of handling it. I took it and I suddenly got so scared on the mike. I said, 'What is it? I feel ill.' I thought I felt ill and I thought I was going cracked. I said I must go and get some air. They all took me upstairs on the roof, and George Martin was looking at me funny, and then it dawned on me that I must have taken some acid.

I said, 'Well, I can't go on. You'll have to do it and I'll just stay and watch.' I got very nervous just watching them all , and I kept saying, 'Is this all right?' They had all been very kind and they said, 'Yes, it's all right.' I said, 'Are you sure it's all right?' They carried on making the record." - John Lennon