John Lennon’s Handwritten lyrics to A Day in the Life by the Beatles
John Lennon’s Handwritten lyrics to A Day in the Life by the Beatles is a notable item of music memorabilia. Composed in 1967, the item sold for $1,202,500 in June 2010.
The Beatles were an English rock and pop band active between 1960 and 1970. Formed in Liverpool, UK, from 1962 the band consisted of its most famous members: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.
The Beatles are regularly cited as the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed popular music act of all time.
Their popularity remained constant throughout and beyond their career, but was particularly acute during the early 1960s, a phenomenon dubbed ‘Beatlemania’.
John Lennon (1940-1980) was a guitarist, singer and songwriter in the band.
“A Day in the Life” is the last track on The Beatles’ eighth album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.
Jointly credited to Lennon and McCartney, the track is in fact an amalgamation of two separate tracks written by each musician.
Lennon composed the ‘verse’ segments of the song, inspired by newspaper articles about the death of Guinness heiress, Tara Browne, and potholes in Blackburn, UK.
McCartney wrote the ‘bridge’ segment using a piano piece which “he couldn’t use for anything”.
The lyrics detail a commuter’s uneventful morning leading to a daydream.
It is a famous song in The Beatles’ canon, primarily for its unorthodox structure, alleged drug references, use of orchestral passages and the final piano chord, which stretches to over 40 seconds.
The lyrics, amounting to two pages, are written on each side of a “single sheet of unruled writing paper”, measuring 267 by 194mm.
The lyrics, written “in black felt marker and blue ballpoint pen”, were composed by Lennon on 17th January 1967, London, UK.
Sotheby’s describes the recto as bearing “Lennon's original first draft, written in a hurried but fully legible cursive script”, with some corrections in “red ballpoint pen”.
The “verso bears an autograph fair copy written almost entirely in capital letters and evidently prepared for use in the recording studio”. This ‘final’ copy incorporates “the emendations from the first draft and add[s] three further ones, numbering the verses 1-4, and indicat[es] the insertion of the phrase ‘I love to turn you on’ after the third verse.”
The sheet also has “[a] short mended tear at [the] centre top margin and [a] tiny hole in [the] centre lower margin, neither affecting text” with “some light marginal stains.”
The item is matted, framed, and double-glazed.
Items relating to The Beatles are by far the most sought after music memorabilia]. However, John Lennon’s premature death and high critical stock render items connected to him particularly attractive to collectors.
This item represents a personal and unique example of Lennon’s song writing, which would not have originally been intended for the public domain.
Furthermore, “A Day in the Life” is one of The Beatles’ (and Lennon’s) most influential compositions. Paul Grushkin described it as "one of the most ambitious, influential, and groundbreaking works in pop music history".
In 1992, it was sold by the estate of Mal Evans for $100,000. It was also auctioned by sealed bid in 2006 by Bonhams, New York.
It was once again put up for auction on 18th June 2010, by Sotheby’s, London.
It was sold for $1,202,500 to an anonymous American bidder, surpassing the estimated price of $500-800,000.