A day in the life, working together


I carry in my mind this story about how the Beatles’ song ‘A Day in the Life’ was written – a collaboration between John, Paul and their producer George Martin.

Paul and John had written almost completely different song fragments. John sang mournfully ‘I heard the news today oh boy …’, while Paul brought a jaunty sound to ‘woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head’.

At first, they didn’t know how to fill the gap between them, but they had some ideas. They took them to Martin.

John suggested the disparate entities be linked with an orchestral bridge. They asked him to create ‘a tremendous build-up, from nothing, up to something absolutely like the end of the world’.

I like to imagine what Martin thought. Surely, he was used to this kind of directive from the boys, but how would he translate a feeling into written notes?

Martin created a loose score. At one end was the lowest possible note and at the other was the highest, with a giant squiggly connecting line with reference points that indicated roughly what note they should have reached by when. Instructions: interpret as you want and play simultaneously.

The story goes that the players looked at him as if he was completely mad. But have you heard the song?

One attendee at the recording session said, “Man, I was a dish-rag. I was floored. It took me several minutes to talk after that.” Another producer said, with their head in their hands, “I just can’t believe it … I give up.” Martin himself reported, “Part of me said ‘we’re being a bit self-indulgent here.' The other part of me said ‘this is bloody marvellous!'”

This story came up for me as I thought about what we do at A story to tell... for writers, emerging writers, families and business people wanting to communicate their passion.

If you find yourself stuck, collaborating can break down your barriers.

The manuscript you’ve slaved over that is sitting on the shelf of shame. Is it any good? Do the characters work? What does and doesn’t work, do you know? Can you face it?

Collaboration can help – calling in someone who not only knows how to do what you can’t quite crack, but also has an emotional distance to it that you don’t.

The outside perspective of experts with a different weird mix of skills to yours brings ideas and knowledge you would not have accessed by yourself, and greater things are possible. Imagine, it might even be bloody marvellous.

May your words pour onto the page, 

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