Cover of the US single,
released on Capitol Records
|Single by The Beatles|
|B-side||"The Inner Light"|
|Released||15 March 1968|
|Recorded||3 and 6 February 1968,
EMI Studios, London
|Genre||Rock and roll|
|The Beatles singles chronology|
"Lady Madonna" is a song by the Beatles, primarily written by Paul McCartney (credited to Lennon–McCartney). In March 1968, it was released as a single, backed with "The Inner Light." The song was recorded on 3 and 6 February 1968 before the Beatles left for India. This single was the last release by the band on Parlophone in the United Kingdom, where it reached No 1 for the two weeks beginning 27 March, and Capitol Records in the United States, where it debuted at No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending 23 March and reached No 4 from the week ending 20 April through the week ending 4 May. All subsequent releases, starting with "Hey Jude" in August 1968, were released on their own label, Apple Records, under EMI distribution, until the late 1970s, when Capitol and Parlophone re-released old material.
The song, which was recorded in five takes, made its first album appearance on the 1970 collection Hey Jude. The recording began with three takes of the basic rhythm track, with McCartney on piano and Starr playing the drums with brushes.
According to musicologist Walter Everett, "Lady Madonna" is a raucous rock and roll song. Paul McCartney based his piano part for the song on Humphrey Lyttelton's 1956 trad jazz recording "Bad Penny Blues". McCartney said of writing the song in a 1994 interview, "'Lady Madonna' was me sitting down at the piano trying to write a bluesy boogie-woogie thing ... It reminded me of Fats Domino for some reason, so I started singing a Fats Domino impression. It took my other voice to a very odd place." Domino himself covered the song later in 1968. The Fats Domino hit "Blue Monday" from 1956 tracks the feelings of a hard working man over each day of the week, "Lady Madonna" imagines the situation from a woman's perspective.
John Lennon helped write the lyrics, which give an account of an overworked, exhausted (possibly single) mother, facing a new problem each day of the week. McCartney explained the song by saying: "'Lady Madonna' started off as the Virgin Mary, then it was a working-class woman, of which obviously there's millions in Liverpool. There are a lot of Catholics in Liverpool because of the Irish connection."  The lyrics include each day of the week except Saturday. In a 1992 interview, McCartney, who only realised the omission many years later, half-jokingly suggested that, given the difficulties of the other six days, the woman in the song likely went out and had a good time that day.
The tenor saxophone solo was played by British jazz musician and club owner Ronnie Scott. The mix used in the single had removed much of Scott's saxophone, but the versions on Anthology 2 and Love feature a more prominent use of his solo, at the end of the song. In a BBC documentary, Timewatch, McCartney explained the decision behind this. At the time Scott had not been impressed that his music had been hidden behind the "imitation brass vocals" by McCartney, Lennon and Harrison, so McCartney had decided to fix it with the most recent mix.
A variation of this song can be heard on McCartney's Chaos and Creation at Abbey Road DVD. McCartney calls it "An Old Lady in New Clothes". McCartney also performed it during various concert tours. As a result, live versions appear on Wings over America, Paul Is Live, and the two 2002 tour albums, Back in the U.S. (released in North America) and Back in the World (released in other countries).
- Hey Jude, 1970
- 1967–1970, 1973
- 20 Greatest Hits, 1982
- Past Masters, Volume Two, 1988
- Anthology 2, 1996 (takes 3 and 4)
- 1, 2000
- Love, 2006
A remixed version of this song was featured in the Cirque du Soleil show Love. In this form, the saxophone solo is played almost un-accompanied at the very beginning of the song. The drum intro to "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" can be heard at the beginning and vocal percussion from "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" can be heard during the song. After the first two verses, it changes to the riff from "Hey Bulldog" in A minor, with a remixed version of Billy Preston's Hammond organ solo from "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" and parts of Eric Clapton's guitar solo from "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." It then returns to the original form of the song, and at the very end the final Ronnie Scott saxophone solo (not heard on the final master) is played.
Two promotional films were made for "Lady Madonna", which were syndicated to television broadcasting companies. The material was shot on 11 February 1968 in Abbey Road Studios and was distributed by NEMS Enterprises to US and UK TV stations. The films were directed by Tony Bramwell.
The footage consisted of the Beatles recording in the studio. The song they were working on at the time was "Hey Bulldog." In 1999, the material was re-edited by Apple to create a new promo for "Hey Bulldog."
A cut of the film on The Beatles Anthology includes not only footage of the "Hey Bulldog" session but also a session from roughly five months later where the band rehearsed "Hey Jude" during the White Album sessions. Visible differences in lighting, clothing and hair (both head and facial) indicate the difference in time between the shoots. Some footage of McCartney's session with Cilla Black for the song "Step Inside Love" is also included.
- Paul McCartney – lead vocal, piano, bass, handclaps
- John Lennon – backing vocal, rhythm guitar, handclaps
- George Harrison – backing vocal, lead guitar, handclaps
- Ringo Starr – drums, drums (with brushes), handclaps
- Ronnie Scott – tenor saxophone
- Bill Povey – tenor saxophone
- Harry Klein – baritone saxophone
- Bill Jackman – baritone saxophone
- George Martin – Producer
- Ken Scott – Engineer
- Geoff Emerick – Engineer
- Personnel per Geoff Emerick's "Here, There and Everywhere." (2006)
- Fats Domino covered the song in 1968. McCartney says he may have told record producer Richard Perry that it was "based on Fats," leading to Domino's version.
- Gary Puckett and the Union Gap did a cover version of the song on their 1968 album, Young Girl.
- Romanian band Phoenix performed this song on their first EP, Vremuri ("Old times", 1968), because the Electrecord studios did not trust the sales success of the band's own songs ("Vremuri" and "Canarul"). This was a common practice in communist countries and the predominant way western music was reaching there officially.
- Paul Mauriat performed an instrumental version of the song on his 1968 album Rain and Tears.
- Cal Tjader performed this song on the album Cal Tjader Plugs In (1969) with a cool jazz approach.
- Richie Havens covered the song in 1969 on his album Richard P. Havens, 1983.
- Elvis Presley covered the song in 1971. Presley's version was an impromptu studio jam that was not released commercially until the 1990s.
- Caetano Veloso covered the song in his 1975 album Qualquer Coisa.
- Buck Owens covered the song in his 1976 album Buck 'Em.
- Øystein Sunde's song "Onkel'n til Per-Erik" on his 1976 album På sangens vinger uses the melody of Lady Madonna with Norwegian lyrics unrelated to the original song.
- A cover version of the song performed by Aretha Franklin was used as the theme song for the ABC sitcom Grace Under Fire from 1993 until 1996. The syndicated run of the series used the 1996–98 opening as its theme song.
- Rajaton released an a cappella cover version in their 2001 album Boundless and later also in Out of Bounds.
- Assembly of Dust perform the song on their 2011 live album Found Sound.
- The arcade game Bomb Jack, which was released in 1984 by Tehkan (known today as Tecmo), features the song during round 2 of game play.
- Everett 1999, p. 149.
- RIAA 2009.
- Fontenot, Robert. "Lady Madonna: The history of this classic Beatles song". About.com. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- "Billboard Hot 100 Chart 1968-03-23". Retrieved 12 June 2014.
- Everett 1999, p. 153.
- Miles 1997, pp. 449–450.
- Gilliland 1969, show 54, track 2.
- David Rowley, All Together Now, 2013
- Sheff 2000, p. 201.
- "86 - 'Lady Madonna'". 100 Greatest Beatles Songs. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 16 June 2012.
- Sheff 2000.
- "Vremuri, EP, Electrecord, 1968". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
- Nicolae Covaci, Phoenix, însă eu ... ("Phoenix, yet I ..."), Editura Nemira, Bucureşti, 1994, ISBN 973-36-9009-8
- Yanow, Scott. "Plugs In - Cal Tjader". AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
- Miles 1997, pp. 450–451.
- Qualquer Coisa at Amazon.com
- "Lady Madonna by The Beatles". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
- Soundtrack for Grace Under Fire Retrieved September 28, 2011
- Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 54 - Hail, Hail, Rock 'n' Roll: Getting back to rock's funky, essential essence. (Part 3)" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu.
- Everett, Walter (31 March 1999). The Beatles As Musicians: Revolver through the Anthology. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-988093-X.
- Miles, Barry (1997). Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. New York: Henry Holt & Company. ISBN 0-8050-5249-6.
- "RIAA Gold & Platinum Searchable Database - The Beatles Platinum Singles". RIAA. 2009. Retrieved 9 July 2009.
- Sheff, David (2000). All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-25464-4.
"The Legend of Xanadu"
by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich
|UK number-one single
27 March 1968
"Congratulations" by Cliff Richard