Getting Better

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"Getting Better"
Song by the Beatles from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Released 1 June 1967
Recorded 9 March 1967
Genre Rock, pop rock,[1] jazz fusion[2]
Length 2:47
Label Parlophone, Capitol, EMI
Writer Lennon–McCartney
Producer George Martin
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band track listing

"Getting Better" is a song written mainly by Paul McCartney, with lyrical contributions from John Lennon (credited to Lennon–McCartney).[3] It was recorded by the Beatles for the 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Composition[edit]

The song, musically reminiscent of the hit single "Penny Lane,"[4] moves forward by way of regular chords, produced by Lennon's guitar, McCartney's electric piano, and George Martin, who struck the strings of a pianette with a mallet. These heavily accented and repetitive lines cause the song to sound as if it is based on a drone. Lead guitarist George Harrison adds an Indian tambura part to the final verse, which further accentuates this impact.

McCartney's bass, in counterpoint to this droning, provides the harmonic and rhythmic motion within the rhythm section and offers up a truly unique arrangement as far as choruses in pop songs are concerned. Starting out in the verse with a pedal on the root note (G) that leaps two octaves, he moves to a marching quarter-note (walking) bass line for the first (and only the first) chorus. In stark contrast, all subsequent choruses are played using a fluid, swing feel, full of anticipated notes that propel the song forward despite the quarter-note droning of the guitar and keyboard.

The song's title and music suggest optimism, but some of the song's lyrics have a more negative tone. In this sense, it reflects the contrasting personas of the two songwriters. In response to McCartney's line, "It's getting better all the time", Lennon replies, "Can't get no worse!"[5] Referring to the lyric "I used to be cruel to my woman/I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved/Man I was mean but I'm changing my scene/And I'm doing the best that I can", Lennon admitted that he had done things in relationships in the past that he was not proud of.[6]

According to Hunter Davies, the initial idea for the song's title came from a phrase often spoken by Jimmie Nicol, the group's stand-in drummer for the Australian leg of a 1964 tour.[3]

Lennon on the roof[edit]

One of the recording sessions for "Getting Better" is famous for an incident involving Lennon. During the 21 March 1967 session in which producer George Martin added a piano solo to Lovely Rita, Lennon complained that he did not feel well and could not focus.[7][8] He had accidentally taken LSD when he meant to take an upper.[9] Unaware of the mistake, Martin took him up to the roof of Abbey Road Studios for some fresh air, and returned to Studio Two where McCartney and Harrison were waiting. They knew why Lennon was not well, and upon hearing where Lennon was, rushed to the roof to retrieve him and prevent a possible accident.[8][10][11]

Personnel[edit]

Personnel per Ian MacDonald[4]

Cover versions[edit]

  • In 1976, Status Quo covered the song for the musical documentary All This and World War II.
  • Steve Hillage released a version on his 1979 album Open
  • Public Enemy sampled the song for the track "Who Stole the Soul?" on their 1990 album Fear of a Black Planet.
  • The CCM group Allies sampled part of the chorus in their song, "Jacque Remembers".
  • In 1988, The Wedding Present covered the song on the multi-artist compilation Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father.
  • From 1995 to 2005, the song was recorded as a cover for the Australian television lifestyle garden show Better Homes and Gardens.
  • In 2000, it was covered by Gomez on their album Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline; this version was used as a theme song for the Philips' television ad campaigns in 2001.
  • The song was performed live for the first time by McCartney during his 2002 and 2003 US and World Tours.
  • In the 2003 film adaptation of Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat, a version of this song recorded by the band Smash Mouth, with a horn interlude replacing the third verse, was used in the sequence of the cat and the two things cleaning up the wreckage of the house.
  • In 2007, Kaiser Chiefs re-recorded the song for It Was 40 Years Ago Today, a BBC television film with contemporary acts recording the album's songs using the same studio, technicians and recording techniques as the original.
  • In 2007, Fionn Regan did a cover for the album Sgt. Pepper...With A Little Help From His Friends presented by Mojo magazine.
  • Les Fradkin has an instrumental version on his 2007 release Pepper Front To Back.
  • Cheap Trick released Sgt. Pepper Live in 2009, which includes the song.
  • Elio e le Storie Tese sampled the song for the track "Il Congresso delle Parti Molli" on their 2008 album Studentessi.
  • In 2009, Northern Irish band Kowalski covered the song at the BBC Across The Line Headroom gig at Oh Yeah Music Centre in Belfast.

Notes[edit]

References[edit]