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Watch Chris Cornell cover The Beatles' 'A Day In The Life'


Even the critics that slammed Sgt. Pepper’s on release conceded that the album’s closing track, ‘A Day In The Life’, held unignorable merit. While the opening chords of the Lennon-McCartney number are steeped in melancholy, the track as a whole boasts a joyous experimentalism bordering on the mystical.

The only issue is that it’s very difficult to perform live. The Beatles themselves, presumably scared off by the atonal string sections and complex production, never attempted it. Here, Chris Cornell achieves something quite remarkable: capturing the song in all its swirling, unhinged glory with little more than an acoustic guitar and a loop station.

The story behind the creation of this timeless piece of songwriting is well documented. The final track from The Beatles’ 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, ‘A Day In The Life’ is one of the most enigmatic songs in the group’s discography. Like ‘Eleanor Rigby’, it is both deeply personal – evoking John and Paul’s early lives in Liverpool – and incredibly panoramic. As Lennon once told Rolling Stone: “’A Day In The Life’ – that was something. I dug it. It was a good piece of work between Paul and me. I had the ‘I read the news today’ bit, and it turned Paul on. Now and then we really turn each other on with a bit of song, and he just said ‘yeah’ – bang, bang, like that. It just sort of happened beautifully.”

When John Lennon and Paul McCartney sat down to write ‘A Day In The Life’, Lennon had started experimenting with a couple of new songwriting techniques in an effort to expand his craft, one of which involved taking everyday textual material and using it as inspiration. It was this method that led Lennon in McCartney to sit down, pens in hand, with a copy of the Daily Mail. Eventually, they stumbled upon an article about the state of road repairs in Blackburn, giving the pair the immortal lyrics: “I read the news today oh boy/ 4000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire/and though the holes were rather small/ they had to count them all/now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.” However, the ‘Albert Hall’ line was actually added in during a sunbseqent studio session.

Around the same time, Paul McCartney had the idea of filling the gaps in the verses with an atonal orchestral buildup. 40 classical musicians were employed for four takes recorded via two synced tape machines. McCartney conducted the orchestral glissando alongside George Martin. Recalling the feat, Martin said: “Then I had to instruct them. ‘We’re going to start very very quietly and end up very very loud. We’re to start very low in pitch and end up very high. You’ve got to make your own way up there, as slidey as possible so that the clarinets slurp, trombones gliss, violins slide without fingering any notes. And whatever you do, don’t listen to the fellow next to you because I don’t want you to be doing the same thing.’ Of course they all looked at me as though I was mad.”

Here, Chris Cornell captures that madness expertly, furiously strumming his guitar as he soars up the fretboard. It really is a wonder to behold. Make sure you check it out if you haven’t already.