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‘Lady Madonna’: The Story Behind The Beatles’ Song

For their first single release of 1968, The Beatles went back to their roots for Lady Madonna, a song inspired by Fats Domino.

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The Beatles Lady Madonna

Following a string of innovative singles, which were all so very different from one another, The Beatles changed direction yet again. For their first single release of 1968 they went back to their roots for ‘Lady Madonna’. In a 1994 interview Paul admitted, “‘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.”

Recorded on two separate days at the beginning of February 1968, the session had been somewhat hastily arranged. The Beatles were about to embark on their trip to Rishikesh in India to study with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at his ashram.

On Saturday 3 February, they put down the basic rhythm track and returned to Abbey Road three days later for vocal overdubs and some additional piano parts, at which point It was decided that the track would really benefit from some added brass. Late that Tuesday afternoon, frantic phone calls from Laurie Gold, a session ‘fixer’ employed by EMI, brought four saxophonists hot-foot to the studio. Among them was Ronnie Scott, whose famous Soho jazz club is still an institution, and Harry Klein, a veteran of the big-band scene.

Released in the UK on 15 March and three days later in the US, a little over a month after it was recorded, ‘Lady Madonna’ topped the UK charts for two weeks, but only made No.4 in America.

George and John were to leave for India on 15 February with Paul and Ringo following four days later, and the four would be out of the country for several months. Given these circumstances, the need for a promo film to promote their new single was pressing so the band found themselves back at Abbey Road on Sunday 11 February for a studio shoot, under the auspices of the newly formed Apple Films Ltd.

When the final footage was edited, a short section of Paul leaving Chappell Studios with Cilla Black – the two had been working on her single ‘Step Inside Love’ – was added, along with some inserts of Paul at the piano. Although this footage was originally thought to date from November 1967, newly discovered documentation suggests that it was filmed in February 1968, just prior to Paul flying to India.

While at Abbey Road filming their new promo, the band were actually recording another song, ‘Hey Bulldog’, that was to be used in the Yellow Submarine movie but in the end it featured only in the British version of the film.

Listen to the best of The Beatles on Apple Music and Spotify.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Jamie Buckingham

    March 16, 2017 at 12:15 am

    Only “Beatles” to appear on Lady Madonna was Paul and John. Brian Jones is play the saxophone on this song

    • Orgillian

      May 5, 2019 at 11:49 pm

      The overdubbing session for the four-piece horn section was held on 6 February.[24][32] The tenor saxophone solo on the track was played by British jazz musician and club owner Ronnie Scott. Harry Klein, who played baritone saxophone on the track, recalled that the session was organised at the last minute, while Bill Povey, the second tenor saxophonist, said that no music had been written out for the musicians to follow and McCartney offered them only vague instructions. In his book Revolution in the Head, MacDonald writes that Scott’s “audibly exasperated” solo was prompted by McCartney’s “unprofessional” failure to provide the players with a proper horn arrangement.

  2. lee

    March 18, 2019 at 6:19 pm

    was this song lifted from “bad penny blues”by humphrey lyttleton? ok-i just studied google/youtube. mcCartney admits it. george martin produced humphrey lyttleton too,so, that’s the link

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