US picture sleeve
|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, written by Paul McCartney and 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 number 1 for the two weeks beginning 27 March, and Capitol Records in the United States, where it debuted at number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending 23 March and reached number 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 rendition of "Bad Penny Blues"  which had been recorded by George Martin in the 1950s. According to Ringo Starr in Recording the Beatles, "We asked George how they got the sound on 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 of Saturday 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 obscured 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. In Revolution In The Head, author Ian MacDonald claims that Scott's "audibly exasperated tenor solo" was prompted by McCartney's "unprofessional" failure to provide the brass players with a proper horn arrangement.
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.
Release and reception
In Britain, Parlophone issued "Lady Madonna" backed by "The Inner Light" on 15 March 1968, with the catalogue number R 5675. The single was released three days later in the United States, as Capitol 2138. Among contemporary reviews, Billboard magazine described "Lady Madonna" as a "powerful blues rocker". Chris Welch of Melody Maker expressed doubts about the song, writing: "Best bit is the piano intro, then you can have fun wondering why Paul['s singing] sounds like Ringo … then go out and buy another record." Welch concluded: "I can't really see this being a hit, not when there's competition from the likes of Four Jacks and a Jill and Kay Starr."
The song topped the UK Singles Chart for two weeks, although on the national chart compiled by Melody Maker it peaked at number 2. In America, "Lady Madonna" reached number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the first Beatles single not to top the chart there since "Eleanor Rigby" in 1966. Author Ian MacDonald considers this relative lack of success to be significant, describing the song as "a moderately entertaining let-down after the psychedelic heights of early 1967". Writing in 1988, Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn described "Lady Madonna" as a "terrific" single that was "curiously overlooked today by those analysing the group's output".
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 has also performed "Lady Madonna" during various concert tours. 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).
The Beatles' version of "Lady Madonna" has appeared on the following compilation albums, released by Apple Records: Hey Jude (1970), 1967–1970 (1973), 20 Greatest Hits (1982), Past Masters, Volume Two (1988), Anthology 2 (1996; takes 3 and 4 of the song), 1 (2000) and 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Barry Gibb recorded the song in February or March 1980 but wasn't released. Gibb's version was recorded during the sessions for Barbra Streisand's Guilty on which he contributed by appearing on the album cover, co-producing it, singing two songs with Streisand as well as co-writing songs.
- Richie Havens covered the song in 1969 on his album Richard P. Havens, 1983.
- Paul Mauriat performed an instrumental version of the song on his 1968 album Rain and Tears.
- Buck Owens covered the song in his 1976 album Buck 'Em.
- Gary Puckett & 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.
- 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.
- Rajaton released an a cappella cover version in their 2001 album Boundless and later also in Out of Bounds.
- Cal Tjader performed this song on the album Cal Tjader Plugs In (1969) with a cool jazz approach.
- 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.
According to Ian MacDonald:
- The Beatles
- 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
- Additional musicians and production
- Ronnie Scott – tenor saxophone
- Bill Povey – tenor saxophone
- Harry Klein – baritone saxophone
- Bill Jackman – baritone saxophone
- George Martin – production
- Ken Scott – engineering
- Geoff Emerick – engineering
Charts and certifications
- Everett 1999, p. 149.
- 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.
- Ryan, Kevin (2006). Recording the Beatles.
- Miles 1997, pp. 449–50.
- 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.
- Miles 2001, p. 295.
- Castleman & Podrazik 1976, p. 67.
- Billboard staff (16 March 1968). "Spotlight Singles". Billboard. p. 78. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
- Welch, Chris (9 March 1968). "Beatles Recall All Our Yesterdays". Melody Maker. p. 17.
- Sutherland, Steve (ed.) (2003). NME Originals: Lennon. London: IPC Ignite!. p. 50.
- "The Beatles". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
- Castleman & Podrazik 1976, p. 338.
- "The Beatles: Awards" > "Billboard Singles". AllMusic. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
- MacDonald 1998, p. 242.
- Lewisohn 2005, p. 134.
- "Lady Madonna by The Beatles". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
- Soundtrack for Grace Under Fire Retrieved 28 September 2011
- Brennan, Joseph. "Gibb Songs: 1980". Retrieved 17 January 2015.
- "Vremuri, EP, Electrecord, 1968". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
- Nicolae Covaci, Phoenix, însă eu ... ("Phoenix, yet I ..."), Editura Nemira, Bucureşti, 1994, OCLC 895583770
- Yanow, Scott. "Plugs In - Cal Tjader". AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
- Miles 1997, pp. 450–451.
- Qualquer Coisa at Amazon.com
- MacDonald 1998, p. 241.
- "Go-Set Australian charts – 8 May 1968". poparchives.com.au. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- "The Beatles – Lady Madonna". austriancharts.at. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- "The Beatles – Lady Madonna". ultratop.be. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- "RPM Top Singles – May 1968". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- "The Beatles – Lady Madonna". dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- "Search: 'Lady Madonna'". irishcharts.ie. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- "Search NZ Listener > 'The Beatles'". Flavour of New Zealand/Steve Kohler. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- "The Beatles – Lady Madonna". norwegiancharts.com. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- "The Beatles – Lady Madonna". hitparade.ch. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- "The Beatles Single-Chartverfolgung (in German)". musicline.de. Archived from the original on 13 December 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
- "Go-Set Australian charts – Top Records for the Year of 1968". poparchives.com.au. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- "Jahreshitparade 1968" (in German). austriancharts.at. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- "Jaaroverzichten 1968" (in Dutch). ultratop.be. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- "The RPM 100 Top Singles of 1968". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- "Top 100-Jaaroverzicht van 1968" (in Dutch). top40.nl. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- "Top 100 Hits of 1968/Top 100 Songs of 1968". musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
- "American single certifications – The Beatles – Lady Madonna". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 14 May 2016. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
- Castleman, Harry; Podrazik, Walter J. (1976). All Together Now: The First Complete Beatles Discography 1961–1975. New York, NY: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-25680-8.
- 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 (1999). The Beatles As Musicians: Revolver through the Anthology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-988093-X.
- Lewisohn, Mark (2005) . The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Story of the Abbey Road Years 1962–1970. London: Bounty Books. ISBN 978-0-7537-2545-0.
- MacDonald, Ian (1998). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (1st rev. ed.). London: Pimlico. ISBN 0-7126-6697-4.
- Miles, Barry (1997). Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. New York: Henry Holt & Company. ISBN 0-8050-5249-6.
- Miles, Barry (2001). The Beatles Diary Volume 1: The Beatles Years. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-8308-9.
- 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.
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