Cover of the Northern Songs sheet music
|Song by the Beatles|
|from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band|
|Released||26 May 1967|
|Recorded||9–10, 21, 23 March 1967|
|Studio||EMI Studios, London|
"Getting Better" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was written mainly by Paul McCartney, with some of the lyrics written by John Lennon, and credited to Lennon–McCartney.
The song has been said to be musically reminiscent of the Beatles' hit single "Penny Lane". It moves forward by way of regular chords, produced by Lennon and George Harrison's electric guitar. George Martin plays Pianet and piano, on the latter bypassing the keyboard and directly striking the strings . These heavily accented and repetitive lines cause the song to sound as if it is based on a drone. Harrison added an Indian tambura part to the final verse, which further accentuates this impact. The sound of the percussion introduced in this section combines with the tambura to create an Indian mood.
McCartney's bassline, in counterpoint to this droning, was described by music critic Ian MacDonald as "dreamy" and "well thought out as a part of the production by McCartney". It was recorded after the main track was completed, as were many of the bass lines on Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Starting out in the verse with a pedal on the root note (G) that leaps two octaves, McCartney 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!" In a December 1983 interview, McCartney praised this contribution as an example of things he "couldn't ever have done [him]self".
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.
In a 1980 interview in Playboy with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Lennon, when asked about the song, said that the song's lyrics came personally from his own experience abusing women in relationships in the past. He states: "It is a diary form of writing. All that 'I used to be cruel to my woman / I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved' was me. I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically – any woman. I was a hitter. I couldn't express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women. That is why I am always on about peace, you see. It is the most violent people who go for love and peace. Everything's the opposite. But I sincerely believe in love and peace. I am a violent man who has learned not to be violent and regrets his violence. I will have to be a lot older before I can face in public how I treated women as a youngster."
According to Beatles biographer Hunter Davies and MacDonald, 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.
One of the recording sessions for "Getting Better" is infamous 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. He had accidentally taken LSD when he meant to take an upper. Unaware of the mistake, Martin took him up to the roof of EMI 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.
- Paul McCartney – double-tracked vocals, bass guitar, handclapping
- John Lennon – backing vocals, rhythm guitar, handclapping
- George Harrison – backing vocals, lead guitar, tambura, handclapping
- Ringo Starr – drums, congas, handclapping
- George Martin – piano, pianet
- Davy Graham included a version of the song on his 1969 album, Hat.
- In 1976, Status Quo covered the song for the musical documentary, All This and World War II.
- The 1978 film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band features a version of "Getting Better" by Peter Frampton and The Bee Gees.
- 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.
- In the 2003 film adaptation of Dr. Seuss' 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, Thing One and Thing Two 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.
- On their 2014 tour, The Afghan Whigs appended an earnest, downtempo version of the song to their set-closer, "Lost In The Woods."
- Everett 1999, p. 123. "In the United Kingdom Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band ... was rush-released six days ahead of its official date, June 1."
- Unterberger 2009.
- Miles 1997, pp. 312–313.
- MacDonald 2005, p. 241.
- Macdonald, 1997 & pp213.
- Echard 2017, p. 174.
- MacDonald 2005, p. 200.
- MacDonald 2005.
- Miles 1997, p. 314.
- "December 1983 interview". Retrieved 13 July 2016.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 August 2004. Retrieved 20 September 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Spitz 2005, pp. 670–671.
- Lewisohn 1988, p. 104.
- Miles 1997, p. 382.
- The Beatles 2000, p. 242.
- Emerick & Massey 2006, p. 172–173.
- Pollack, Alan W. (31 December 1995). "Notes on "Getting Better"". "Notes on" Series.
- The Beatles (2000). The Beatles Anthology. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-8118-2684-8.
- Echard, William (2017). Psychedelic Popular Music: A History Through Musical Topic Theory. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-02659-0.
- Emerick, Geoff; Massey, Howard (2006). Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 1-59240-179-1.
- Everett, Walter (1999). The Beatles as Musicians: Revolver Through the Anthology. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-512941-0.
- Lewisohn, Mark (1988). The Beatles Recording Sessions. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-517-57066-1.
- MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (Second Revised ed.). London: Pimlico (Rand). ISBN 1-84413-828-3.
- Miles, Barry (1997). Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. New York: Henry Holt & Company. ISBN 0-8050-5249-6.
- Pollack, Alan W. (31 December 1995). "Notes on "Getting Better"". "Notes on" Series.
- 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.
- Spitz, Bob (2005). The Beatles: The Biography. Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-80352-9.
- Unterberger, Richie (2009). "Review of "Getting Better"". Retrieved 9 December 2009.
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