Rock ‘n’ Roll Trivia

The story behind ‘A Day in the Life’ by the Beatles

by John Robinson

Q: Was the Beatles’ song “A Day In The Life” supposed to be written about Paul McCartney’s fake death?
A: First of all, the Beatles NEVER did a “Paul Is Dead” hoax; that was concocted by the media, who will do ANYTHING to get attention to themselves. In the song, (from the Sgt. Pepper album), John Lennon, who composed the majority of the song, was reading the “Far and Near” column in the Jan. 17, 1967, edition of the British newspaper The Daily Mail. The column read: “There are 4,000 holes in the road of Blackburn, Lancashire, or one twenty-sixth of a hole per person, according to a council survey.” He also sang about his role in the movie “How I Won The War” in the lyric “the English army had just won the war.” The line “he blew his mind out in a car” was based on an accident that killed one of his friends, Tara Browne. Browne was a Guinness heir and son of the fourth Lord Oranmore & Browne and Oonagh Guinness; he had befriended many rock stars, including the Rolling Stones. Browne had been speeding more than 110 mph, running red lights and finally smashed into a parked van. Rumor was he crashed while under the influence of LSD. The song is the final cut on the 1967 Beatle album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and before recording began, there were two different songs; John’s had no middle and Paul’s had no beginning so they fused the two together, under the original working title “In The Life Of…” If you listen closely to the middle section, the alarm clock heard just before McCartney’s vocal had been recorded to mark the end of the first 24-bar symphonic “orgasm”; and since it fit in nicely with his “woke up, got outta bed” lyric, it was kept in. The end of the song was originally intended to be hummed by all four Beatles but that idea was changed to an extensive, fading piano chord (on which the sound level was turned up so high you can hear the room’s air conditioner running and a chair squeaking). Also in the final chord, a 20,000-hertz tone was added, inaudible to humans. Some sources say Paul asked producer George Martin to sneak them in because the Beatles “never record anything for animals.” Others say John put them in just to drive dogs crazy (this tune has been given the title “And One For Martha,” named after Paul’s sheepdog). England’s BBC banned the song from radio airplay for the lines “I’d love to turn you on” and the McCartney line “went upstairs and had a smoke,” thinking they were marijuana references.
Q: I would like to know more about a Michigan group, The Rationals.
A: The Rationals, from Ann Arbor, formed in 1964, with Bill Figg (drums), Scott Morgan (lead vocals and guitar), Steve Correll (lead guitar) and Terry Trabandt (bass). They had several local hits, the best being “Respect” on the Cameo Records label (which actually made the Billboard chart in 1966 at No. 92). This led to a recording agreement with Capitol Records, who released the Rationals’ great ballad “I Need You.” During the late ’60s they tried experimenting with psychedelic music and soul songs but they couldn’t match the success of “Respect.” They finally began recording their first album, “The Rationals,” in 1969 but their heyday was over. By now they had no manager and no discipline within the group, which caused fights and arguments among the members. Finally, in 1970 the band broke up and Scott Morgan eventually became a member of Sonic’s Rendezvous Band.
Q: Is there any story as to how Quicksilver Messenger Service got its name?
A: Some of the members were born under the astrological House of Mercury. The liquid metal, mercury, is also known as “quicksilver.” Plus, the mythological Mercury was the Messenger of the Gods; so, combining the two, they came up with the band name Quicksilver Messenger Service. The band released some great underground rock and its biggest hit was “Fresh Air” in 1970.
Q: I would like to know the story about Sam Cooke’s death, please.
A: Sam Cooke (who originally went under the stage name Dale Cook) leaped to pop stardom in 1957 with “You Send Me” and continued into the mid ’60s with a total of 43 chart songs. He was only 29 years old when he was shot to death by the Hacienda Motel manager, Bertha Franklin, who claimed she killed him in self defense. Cooke had checked in earlier that evening with a lady identified as Elisa Boyer. Boyer had first met Cooke earlier that evening at a nightclub and had spent the evening in his company. She claimed that after they left, she asked him to take her home but he insisted on going to the Hacienda Motel. She went on to say that Cooke physically forced her onto the motel room bed and she was sure he was going to have his way with her. When Cooke went into the bathroom, she grabbed her clothes and ran out the door. She ran to the manager’s office and knocked on the door but nobody was answering. Realizing she had mistakenly grabbed most of Cooke’s clothing and afraid that Cooke would be coming after her, she left before the manager answered. As she dressed and found a phone booth to call police, Cooke (according to manager Franklin) broke into the manager’s office/apartment wearing just one shoe and an overcoat, angrily demanding to know where Elisa disappeared to. Franklin said the woman was not in the office but Cooke thought Franklin was protecting Elisa and grabbed her demanding again to know where she went. They struggled and fell to the floor. Franklin got up, found her gun and shot him. Cooke looked up at her with the words “Lady, you shot me,” and fell. Days afterward, Elisa Boyer was arrested for prostitution, leading people to question the events: They feel that Elisa went willingly to the motel and tried to rob Cooke of his money, stealing his clothes so he couldn’t come after her. That’s the tale. The bizarre epilogue to this story involves R&B vocalist Etta James. She says when she visited the funeral home to see Sam, she noticed the strange injuries. It looked as if he was beaten so severely that his head was practically decapitated and his hands and nose were mangled. Her story gave Cooke’s family reason to believe there was a murder conspiracy. The story has never been put to rest.
Q: What was Gladys Knight’s first hit?
A: That would be “Every Beat Of My Heart” from 1961. It was the only record to hold two spots in the Hot 100 chart at the same time by the same group! In May 1961, it was in the No. 6 position on VeeJay Records by the Pips and a re-recording on Fury Records that peaked at No. 45 by Gladys Knight & the Pips. The song was written by Johnny Otis and originally recorded by The Royals.

John Robinson grew up in Stockbridge and graduated from Stockbridge High School in 1969.
He’s been an author, TV host, columnist, actor, producer, emcee and radio broadcaster.  Robinson’s favorite music of all time includes surf, psychedelia, garage bands, Motown and just plain ol’ good-time rock ‘n’ roll. To read more rock ‘n’ roll trivia, “Paranormal Michigan” stories, and lots more, check out Robinson’s books on his author page at

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