Monday, February 06, 2006

Getting Better

AUTHORSHIP McCartney (.65) and Lennon (.35)

McCartney was walking his dog, Martha, during the early spring of 1967 when the sun came out and he thought, "It's getting better," which reminded him that Jimmy Nicol used to say that same phrase frequently. (Nicol was the drummer who had taken Ringo's place for five days in Denmark and Australia in 1964 when Ringo was ill.) When Lennon came over that day to continue writing material for Sgt. Pepper, McCartney suggested they write a song called "Getting Better." They worked on it for twelve hours, stopping once for a quick meal. They introduced the song to George and Ringo and recorded some of the instrumentation the next night. The Beatles: Illustrated and Updated Edition

Written at Cavendish Avenue, on the top floor, in Paul's music room. Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now

McCARTNEY: "Wrote that at my house in St. John's Wood. All I remember is that I said, 'It's getting better all the time,' and John contributed the legendary line, 'It couldn't get much worse,' which I thought was very good. Against the spirit of that song, which was all super-optimistic - then there's that lovely little sardonic. Typical John." Playboy (December 1984)

McCARTNEY: "I just remember writing it. Ideas are ideas, you don't always remember where you had them, but what you do remember is writing them. Where I start remembering it is where I actually hit chords and discover the music, that's where my memory starts to kick in because that's the important bit; the casual thought that set it off isn't too important to me.
" '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 bastards generally. So there are references to them.
"It's funny, I used to think of the bad grammar coming from Chuck Berry but it's actually more Jamaican, like writing in slang. It just appeared in one of the verses, it felt nice, it scanned nicely, rather than 'I used to be an angry young man', 'me used . . .' We'd always grab at those things, lots of precedents with Elvis, 'ain't never done no wrong'. At school the teachers would have said, 'Isn't it terrible grammar?' and you'd say, 'Yeah, isn't it great?'" Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now

John and Paul finished off the words to 'Getting Better' at Cavendish Avenue.

McCARTNEY: "I was sitting there doing 'Getting better all the time' and John just said in his laconic way, 'It couldn't get no worse,' and I thought, 'Oh, brilliant! This is exactly why I love writing with John'. He'd done it on a number of other occasions, he does a Greek chorus thing on 'She's Leaving Home', he just answers. It was one of the ways we'd write. I'd have the song quite mapped out and he'd come in with a counter-melody, so it was a simple ordinary story." Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now

Lennon said he wrote the lines about being cruel and beating the woman.

LENNON: "I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically - any woman. I was a hitter. I couldn't express myself, and I hit." September 1980, All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono

March 9, 1967, at Abbey Road, with overdubbing March 10, 21, and 23


While overdubbing vocals for this song on March 21, Lennon felt ill. The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Story of the Abbey Road Years 1962-1970

LENNON: "I never took it 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 suddenly got so scared on the mike. I said, 'What is it? I feel ill ...'" Lennon Remembers: The Full Rolling Stone Interviews from 1970

MARTIN: "He suddenly looked up at me. 'George,' he said slowly, 'I'm not feeling too good. I'm not focusing on me.' 'Come on, John,' I said. 'What you need is a breath of fresh air. I know the way up to the roof.'" Summer of Love
Just as John was explaining how amazing the stars were looking, Paul and George came rushing out on the flat roof. They knew that John was tripping and when they found out where George had taken him they ran anxiously to restrain him in case he thought he could fly off the unguarded parapet. Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now

MARTIN: "The problem was where to go; there were the usual five hundred or so kids waiting for us at the front, keeping vigil like guard-dogs, and if we had dared to appear at the entrance there would have been uproar and they would probably have broken the gates down. So I took him up to the roof, above No. 2 studio. I remember it was a lovely night, with very bright stars. Then I suddenly realized that the only protection around the edge of the roof was a parapet about six inches high, with a sheer drop of some ninety feet to the ground below, and I had to tell him, 'Don't go too near the edge, there's no rail there, John.' " All You Need Is Ears : The inside personal story of the genius who created The Beatles

The session was cancelled. For some reason John did not have his car there, and in any case did not want to travel while having a bad trip, so Paul took him back to Cavendish Avenue.
McCARTNEY: "I thought, Maybe this is the moment where I should take a trip with him. It's been coming for a long time. It's often the best way, without thinking about it too much, just slip into it. John's on it already, so I'll sort of catch up. It was my first trip with John, or with any of the guys. We stayed up all night, sat around and hallucinated a lot." Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now

LENNON: "They all took me upstairs on the roof, and George Martin was looking at me funny, and then it dawned on me I must have taken acid. I said, 'Well, I can't go on, you'll have to do it, and I'll just stay and watch.' You know I got very nervous just watching them all. I was saying, 'Is it all right?' And they were saying, 'Yeah.' They had all been very kind, and they carried on making the record." Beatles in Their Own Words
McCartney offered to take John home, and when they got there Paul took LSD, too, to keep him company. McCartney said that was his first LSD experience. RS (September 11, 1986)

Paul took his second trip with John. On March 21, 1967, during the Sgt. Pepper sessions, John, Paul and George were overdubbing vocals on to a track of "Getting Better" in Studio Two at Abbey Road. John took out the little silver art nouveau pill box that he had bought from Liberty's and rummaged among his pep pills.
McCARTNEY: "He would open it up and choose very precisely: 'Hmm, hmmm, hmmm. What shall I have now?' Well, by mistake this night he had acid, and he was on a trip." Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now

McCARTNEY: bass, lead and backing vocal
LENNON: lead guitar, backing vocal
HARRISON: lead guitar, tamboura, backing vocal
STARR: drums, bongos
GEORGE MARTIN: piano (striking the strings instead of the keys)

The tamboura is an unfretted lute, a huge Indian instrument with four strings that produce a droning resonant note. The Long and Winding Road: An Intimate Guide to the Beatles

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