Birthday (Beatles song)

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"Birthday"
Beatles Birthday sheet music cover.jpg
Cover of the song's sheet music
Song by the Beatles
from the album The Beatles
Released22 November 1968
Recorded18 September 1968
StudioEMI Studios, London
GenreHard rock,[1] rock and roll[2]
Length2:42
LabelApple Records
Songwriter(s)Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s)Chris Thomas

"Birthday" is a song written by Lennon–McCartney and performed by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1968 double album The Beatles (also known as "the White Album"). It is the opening track on the third side of the LP (or the second disc in CD versions of the record). The song is an example of the Beatles' return to more traditional rock and roll form, although their music had increased in complexity and it had developed more of its own characteristic style by this point. Surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr performed it for Starr's 70th birthday at Radio City Music Hall on 7 July 2010.[3]

Writing[edit]

The song was largely written during a recording session at EMI Studios on 18 September 1968 by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. McCartney: "We thought, 'Why not make something up?' So we got a riff going and arranged it around this riff. So that is 50–50 John and me, made up on the spot and recorded all in the same evening."[4] During the session, the Beatles and the recording crew made a short trip around the corner to McCartney's house to watch the 1956 rock & roll movie The Girl Can't Help It which was being shown for the first time on British television.[5] After the movie they returned to record "Birthday".

George Martin was away so his assistant Chris Thomas produced the session. His memory is that the song was mostly McCartney's: "Paul was the first one in, and he was playing the 'Birthday' riff. Eventually the others arrived, by which time Paul had literally written the song, right there in the studio." Everyone in the studio sang in the chorus and it was 5 am by the time the final mono mix was completed.[6]

Lennon said in his Playboy interview in 1980: "'Birthday' was written in the studio. Just made up on the spot. I think Paul wanted to write a song like 'Happy Birthday Baby', the old fifties hit. But it was sort of made up in the studio. It was a piece of garbage."[7]

"Birthday" begins with an intro drum fill, then moves directly into a blues progression in A (in the form of a guitar riff doubled by the bass) with McCartney singing at the top of his chest voice with Lennon on a lower harmony. After this section, a drum break lasting eight measures brings the song into the middle section, which rests entirely on the dominant. A repeat of the blues progression/guitar riff instrumental section, augmented by piano brings the song into a bridge before returning to a repeat of the first vocal section, this time with the piano accompaniment.

Legacy[edit]

Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of its release, Jacob Stolworthy of The Independent listed "Birthday" at number 17 in his ranking of the White Album's 30 tracks. He wrote of the song: "The opening to the second-half [of the album] treads familiar Beatles ground with an improvised riff that could be the record's biggest earworm. Hilariously, Lennon would go on to call [the song] 'garbage'."[8]

Personnel[edit]

According to Ian MacDonald:[9]

The Beatles

Additional participants

However, according to the book accompanying the 2018 box set The Beatles: Super Deluxe Version, the annotation on the tape box from the session offers an alternative line-up that "explodes some myths of who played what":[10]

  • Paul McCartney – lead vocal, bass, piano
  • John Lennon – vocals, guitar
  • George Harrison – guitar, tambourine
  • Ringo Starr – drums, handclaps
  • Pattie Harrison – backing vocal
  • Yoko Ono – backing vocal
  • Mal Evans – handclaps

Other versions[edit]

"Birthday"
Birthday uk7.jpg
Single by Paul McCartney
B-side"Good Day Sunshine"
Released8 October 1990 (UK)
16 October 1990 (US)
GenreRock
LabelParlophone (UK)
Capitol (US)
Songwriter(s)Lennon–McCartney
Paul McCartney singles chronology
"Put It There"
(1990)
"Birthday"
(1990)
"All My Trials"
(1990)

McCartney released a live version on 8 October 1990 in the UK, with a US release albeit only as a cassette on 16 October.[11] The single reached number 29 on the UK singles chart.[12] The B-side was a live version of "Good Day Sunshine". McCartney also released a 12" single and CD single with those songs and two more tracks, "P.S. Love Me Do" and "Let 'Em In".[13][14] "P.S. Love Me Do" is a combination of "P.S. I Love You" and "Love Me Do".

Chart (1990) Peak
position
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[15] 68
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[16] 29
US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)[17] 35

Underground Sunshine recorded the song as a single in 1969. Their version was a minor hit in the US, reaching #19 on the Cash Box chart and #26 on the Billboard Hot 100.[18] [19]

Paul Weller covered the song for McCartney's 70th birthday. This version was available for download on 18 June 2012 for one day only.[20] Even with this limited mode of distribution, the track reached #64 on the UK charts.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sound & Vision, Volume 67, Issues 2–5. Michigan: Hachette Filipacchi Magazines. 2001. Go forward to 1968 and The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album) and you get a veritable hard-rock clinic on what used to be, in the days of vinyl. Side 3: "Birthday," "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey," "Helter Skelter"
  2. ^ Gibron, Bill (21 December 1968). "An in-depth Look at the Songs on Side-Three". Rolling Stone. The White Album Project. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  3. ^ Fields, Gaylord (8 July 2010). "Paul McCartney Gives Ringo Starr 'Birthday' Present Onstage in New York". spinner.com. Retrieved 14 October 2010.
  4. ^ "Beatles Songwriting & Recording Database: The White Album". Beatlesinterviews.org. 22 November 1968. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  5. ^ "BBC2 Schedule Wednesday 18th September 1968". Genome BETA Radio Times 1923 – 2009.
  6. ^ Miles, Barry (1997). Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. New York: Henry Holt & Company. ISBN 0-8050-5249-6.
  7. ^ Sheff, David, p. 190.All We Are Saying. St Martin's Griffin. 2000. ISBN 0-312-25464-4.
  8. ^ Stolworthy, Jacob (22 November 2018). "The Beatles' White Album tracks, ranked – from Blackbird to While My Guitar Gently Weeps". The Independent. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  9. ^ MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (Second Revised ed.). London: Pimlico (Rand). p. 316. ISBN 1-84413-828-3.
  10. ^ Howlett, Kevin (2018). The Beatles (50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Version) (book). The Beatles. Apple Records.
  11. ^ Miles, Barry; Badman, Keith, eds. (2001). The Beatles Diary After the Break-Up: 1970–2001 (reprint ed.). London: Music Sales Group. ISBN 978-0-7119-8307-6.
  12. ^ "Official Charts: Paul McCartney". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
  13. ^ Paul McCartney – Birthday (Vinyl) at Discogs
  14. ^ Paul McCartney – Birthday (CD) at Discogs
  15. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Paul McCartney – {{{song}}}" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  16. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  17. ^ "Paul McCartney Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard.
  18. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles.
  19. ^ Billboard chart history. Underground Sunshine.
  20. ^ "Song Premiere: Paul Weller, 'Birthday'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 22 June 2012.

External links[edit]