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I've been wondering this for a while. Why is "A Day in the Life" so acclaimed, by both critics and polltakers? I consider myself a relatively casual fan of the Beatles, as they are undeniably overrated, but they do have some absolute epic songs such as Hey Jude, Yesterday, Let it Be, Stawberry Fields Forever, etc. I would never group A Day in the Life in that category. Much of it is little more than a bunch of noise, and the John Lennon-written section is downright depressing. The Paul McCartney part is basically a completely different song, and that is far from his best. At least, this is what I hear with my ears, but perhaps someone can enlighten me.
So Radiohead 'sucks', The Beatles were 'undeniably overrated' and one of their best songs is 'noise'
Would love to know what music you have dared to ordain as good.
Sheesh, it's just my opinion. I'm actually very into classic rock (The Who are the greatest band ever!), some 90's stuff (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Bush, R.E.M., Green Day, The Offspring), and some older metal (Metallica, Guns and Roses, Motorhead, Iron Maiden). Would you mind telling me how A Day in the Life is one of the Beatles' best songs?
I couldn't tell you, because I'm not a fan either. I think it's OK but to me a lot of Beatles songs are superior, like Eleanor Rigby, for example, or even Rocky Racoon or Black Bird
I guess it's acclaimed because it's arty. Some people like to say they dig arty stuff cause it makes them feel smart I really prefer the Beatles when they are more spontaneous : Penny Lane, the final Abbey Road medley, Can't buy me love, I am the walrus...
So Creep, Hey Jude, and Let it Be are great songs, but OK Computer and A Day in the Life are lacking?
It's probably just a matter of taste maturation. I realize how obnoxious this sounds, but if you like Green Day and Metallica you might want to hold off on Radiohead and The Beatles more artistic work untill later.
I don't really agree with you SR. I don't think you can separate what's "artistic" from the rest , especially in rock music. This music started from very un-artistic roots, like Chuck Berry, Robert Johnson or Hank Williams. And when you cut the roots of a tree, it dies.. or it becomes a fake plastic tree
Nicholas, I'm certainly not suggesting that only "artsy" music has artistic value. Chuck Berry, Robert Johnson, and Hank Williams were all extraordinary songwriters capable of remarkable emotional depth. I'm a very big fan of roots music, particularly blues and early rock, but also a small amount of early country.
I simply don't think Green Day and Metallica are at all comparable to Chuck Berry, Robert Johnson, and Hank Williams. Green Day writes emotionally vacant pop-rock, and Metallica is noisy for the sake of making noise.
Edit: As for why A Day in the Life is so amazing, I think it's probably because of the thrilling aloneness and sobriety in John Lennon's singing and story-telling. I really like the orchestration, and I certainly wouldn't refer to the work of any orchestra has just "noise". McCartney's bridge eases the transition from the loud orchestra back to John's surrealist singing.
It also works remarkably well in the context of the album. After the hallucinatory trip that is Sgt. Peppers, I couldn't imagine a better finale.
I have a hard time understanding why any Beatles song is acclaimed.
The purpose of music is to be pleasing to the ear, not "artistic". A song may have great lyrics, but that does not make it a good song. While A Day in the Life and Ok Computer are definately "artsy", they do not please my ear. Green Day can write some emotionally powerful songs, like Wake Me Up When September Ends, but that is not what makes them a great band. I don't see how you can call Metallica a bunch of noise in comparison to A Day in the Life, because Metallica spins out some amazing riffs. Newer metal bands such as Disturbed and Limp Bizkit can be called little more than noise, but Metallica is the king.
It's just a very good song. one should not try to explain art too much. what one can do is to admit that music is loved in so many ways and by different people.
but...verse part is good, lennon part after 2.20 damn fine, cool lyrics, good singing. maybe the end should have come earlier.
i can't understand iron maiden so I assume it's a genre thing, too.
Y’know, I really appreciate these threads when they come up, especially from relatively new posters (hi, kit!), wondering why Radiohead or “A Day in the Life” or Pet Sounds or whatever is so highly acclaimed.
(For the record, I think Radiohead is, if anything, slightly underrated—I think they’re not just a top 10 artist, but top 5, maybe top 3—and that “A Day in the Life” is pretty clearly the best thing the Beatles ever did. On the other hand, I think Pet Sounds is seriously overrated. It’s certainly a top 100 album, probably in the top 50, but #1? No way.)
It seems to me that kit is genuinely interested in why something he thinks is second-rate gets more acclaim than he understands. He’s skeptical, but willing to be persuaded. Alex said something similar about Radiohead. These guys are being true to their own taste, but curious about music which other people like more than they do. Bravo; that attitude should be admired and encouraged, not attacked.
It’s fine to dispute somebody on a point of taste—to explain why you like something someone else doesn’t (or vice versa). It’s not cool to insult someone—even with caveats, even if you think their taste isn’t as “evolved” as it might be. A couple of years ago, there was a rash of really nasty, bitchy pointless sniping which sometimes seemed to affect every single topic, and if you weren’t here for it, believe me, it was unpleasant (I’m not exempting myself, either).
We have to be able to disagree while still recognizing that we’re on this forum because we share a common passion.
I disagree with Moonbeam on…well…a variety of issues (sorry to keep singling you out as my example, ‘beam, but as you know, you’re a very singular guy!). We have close to polar opposite views on so many things, from the Beatles to Grace Jones. But (I think) we’ve never actually attacked each other. For one thing, he and I agree about some stuff (I also think Eurythmics deserve more love), but more importantly, Moonbeam has painstakingly explained, intelligently and at length, his positions on the music he loves and the music he doesn’t.
We’re all—or we all should be—on an exploration of music. Almost everyone who’s spent time posting on this forum and digging into the Acclaimed Music site has had their musical horizons broadened—yours truly definitely included. Getting nasty with people who are genuinely interested in learning about music is just putting up unnecessary barriers to that exploration. Putting people on the defensive is no way to encourage open-mindedness.
Alex may love Radiohead one day, and kit, you may change your mind about “A Day in the Life” (and I may change mine about Pet Sounds). If not, that’s OK too.
P.S. I guess if I’m going to ramble at such length, I should probably throw my two cents in about “A Day in the Life”…kit, I gather that you’re not liking the orchestra crescendos because they’re cacophonous, which goes against your sense that music should be “pleasing to the ear.” I agree that it’s nice when music is pleasant, but that’s only one thing it can be, and, in my opinion, not the most important thing.
Discussing these subjects feels like falling in a bottomless well...
You've got so many things to say and the moment you tell them you realize they're so frail and fragile and subjective...
But then you say to yourself, I have to try to put words on these feelings, because otherwise what's the use of language ? and so you speak your mind and then... (back to the beginning)
Do you find that there is any artistry to Dylan's music beyond how pleasant it is to your ear?
The statement is pithy and over-generalized. If it doesn't work for you, so be it.
As I've grown older, I've found that I like pretty much every kind of food there is -- it doesn't matter what its origin is, be it ingredients or country.
What matters is how it's prepared.
And I don't eat the most "unusual" foods just to say I eat them, or put them on a list of foods I like. I eat them because I enjoy them.
That's not to say I don't like simple pleasures, like candy or a nice cheeseburger. But, same as the most exotic foods, you can't eat candy and cheeseburgers every day. It'll make you sick over time.
I think A Day In The Life is a good song but I don't think it stands out among their catalog. I guess it's just something I don't get, because I see Day In The Life as something more that sets the tone of an album than something that stands out individually.
Ten reasons why kit hodges must learn to love “A Day in the Life”, became another pretentious music geek and join our sect:
1) The summer of love factor: during the mid 60s manufacturing ear-pleasing melodies was not longer enough. Musicians simply needed to go further. The expansion of the minds that came with the hippies needed an apt music background. I’m aware how uncool is to praise the hippies now but we must thank them for many things that we enjoy today (in my case I’m afraid that I should better say “enjoyed”) like sexual freedom or drug-induced partying.
2) Silly drug songs: why singing again about love when you can sing about drugs? “I’d love to turn you on”, “I had a smoke and I went into a dream”. The Beatles were then deeply into LSD and consciously tried to reflect the psychedelic experience in many songs from the period like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” or “Strawberry Fields Forever” (the latter song is the perfect evocation of a trip, evolving from a pastoral beginning to a disjointed sonic end).
3) Nothing you can sing it can’t be sung: Lennon took almost the complete lyrics from fragments of real news from a newspaper, quoting the death in a car crash of a member of the nobility, the première of the Richard Lester movie “How I Won the War” (starring Lennon itself) and a bizarre fragment about 10,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire. The news of today would not be only the movies of tomorrow but even the songs of forever.
4) The Frankestein factor: how’s that? Do you really think that the Lennon and McCartney pieces don’t hold together well? It’s not my opinion at all, the solemnity of Lennon’s part contrasts beautifully with the faux simplicity of Macca’s part, with interesting tricks like maintaining the doubling of the tempo when the Lennon part returns. And, oh my, what a transition!!
5) Merry melodies: with all my respects, kit, and what if that melody sounds depressing? I find amazing that such a sad melody is written using mainly major chords (G, C, F) and particularly the ending the melody on the line “about a lucky man who made the grade” in B is really inspiring. Do you really think that a happier melody could have made a better song?
6) Drumming is my madness: it’s hard to find a better drum part in the whole Ringo career that the one in “A Day in the Life” (well, maybe “Rain” too). Knowing that the rhythm was tightly maintained by the bass and the shakers Ringo could play a loose drum beat relying mainly on the toms and with the exact amount of ornaments.
7) Aaaaaah: my favourite moment of the whole Beatles catalogue is that one at 2:51 when, just after McCartney went into a dream a voice from Lennon immersed in echo and reverb comes out of nowhere and slowly it goes away and away while the orchestral backing builds from the silence, ending with some epic brass notes. 30 seconds of pleasure.
8) Orchestral noises: Martin wrote probably the most bizarre score ever for a 41-member classical orchestra: only the lowest tone of the instrument at the beginning and the highest note at the end of the 24 bars, with a line joining the two notes. Lennon even requested for “a sound like the end of the world”. Actually sounded like a new beginning
9) Odds and ends: a triple ending of both the song and the album, first the famous final chord played by three of them simultaneously lasting for 45 seconds, secondly the whistle (supposedly only audible by dogs although I can listen to it) and finally the famous “inner groove” (I jumped in fright the first time I listened to Sgt. Pepper’s, previously I knew only the version from the “Blue Album”).
10) The context, the concept: SR summarized perfectly: “After the hallucinatory trip that is Sgt. Peppers, I couldn't imagine a better finale”. The Beatles were the most popular band during the 60s (no one can deny this, isn’t it?) but, most significantly, they felt the need to be also the best, they tried to write songs with deep and poetic lyrics like Dylan, with complex structures like The Beach Boys and with sheer power like The Rolling Stones. Listening to ADITL I can tell that they’re succeeded.
I endorse two YouTube videos. First of all the video with images of the famous Abbey Road session with the orchestra, you can see the classical musicians with strange glasses and phallic masks “conducted” by a Paul McCartney dressed with an apron. You can find entertaining trying to indentify the celebrities from the Swinging London. I’ve identified Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, Keith Richards, Donovan Leitch, Michael Nesmith or Patti Harrison. Enjoy…
And the bizarre “Sgt. Pepper’s Inner Groove” (or “Never Could Be Any One” if you like)
Well, kit, I don’t know if you’re still around but (with all my respects again) I must say that it is precisely the depressing tone of Lennon part, the orchestral noises and the ability of reproducing the “sounds as if someone is on drugs” that makes the song so great. Or at least to my eyes (and ears).
In fact if your arguments had been “the song is bland” or “too simple” or something like that I probably would have said nothing. But the fact that a youngster like you (well, I’m supposing that you are young, aren’t you?) could find the song bizarre, strange or depressing stimulates me a lot, to me it explains why the Beatles legacy is still relevant and consistent. If passion for music for you lasts on you (and not fades away with age like many of my friends) I’m sure you will connect with a much wider variety of sounds, even the weirdest ones. There’s much more to music than pushing the overdrive pedal.
With love and affection
A pretentious music geek
As I read through this thread I was disappointed with many of the responses and thought, with a lot of trepidation, that I'd have to pipe in to say what I think is so great about "A Day in the Life." But then I got to Honorio's and saw that nearly everything I'd wanted to say--and many things that I'd not thought of but agree with wholeheartedly--had been said, and said far better than I could have said them. I guess the only thing I'd want to add would be a greater emphasis on the brilliance of John's vocal performance, getting so much affect from apparent affectlessness. The way he sings "Oh boy"... There are very few vocal performances in all of recorded music--well, obviously, all of the recorded music that I've heard--that move me as much as John's singing in "A Day in the Life."
Fantastic write-up, you were able to synthesize many of the points I would have liked to have touched upon. What's even more remarkable is that you describe music so eloquently in a language that isn't even your first.
Many thanks for your kind words. Thanks, SR, but Wordreference.com helps a lot. And yes, Mike, Lennon was a terrific singer (although he didn’t think that at the time, he was always complaining to George Martin because of that). And I agree, Alex, this was one of the most emotive and Lennonian moments on Beatles output.
As someone who over the past few years has really grown to love The Beatles, I have been wondering the same thing and only gradually do I think I realize how great the song is. But the thing that's strange to me is that I recognize how it's great, but don't really feel it personally. I hope someday I feel what I think I'm hearing if that makes any sense.
And best Beatles song/moment of all time?
For me by far the best Beatles moment is the Abbey Road medley.
Other contenders for best Beatles song:
Tomorrow Never Knows
Happiness is a Warm Gun
joobalooba, I totally agree about Pepper. Apart from A Day in the Life, and possibly Lucy in the Sky after a few listens, the only thing that lives up to the standards set by the previous two LPs is She's Leaving Home. And what puts this song and A Day in the Life far above the rest of the album for me is how emotive each one is upon listening. Each one (in She's Leaving Home through McCartney uncanny portrayal of middle-aged suburban parents and in A Day in the Life through Lennon's cynical portrayal of a car crash) manages to evoke feelings more real than anything The Beatles did before or after, in my opinion; yet both appeared on probably The Beatles' wackiest and most ambitious project.
a day in the life is a pretty good song that's on a pretty weak album (at least as far as "greatest of all time" go...) it's not anywhere near my favorite songs of all time, but then again, i've never been a real song oriented guy.