I think it it hard to do this song justice with a painting. My efforts are a bit ‘trippy’ but then again, so is the song.
The supposed drug reference in the line “I’d love to turn you on” resulted in the song initially being banned from broadcast by the BBC. Since its original album release, “A Day in the Life” has been released as a B-side, and also on various compilation albums. It has been covered by other artists including Sting, Bobby Darin, Jose Feliciano, Wes Montgomery, the Fall, Neil Young, Tori Amos, Jeff Beck, the Bee Gees, Robyn Hitchcock, Chris Cornell, Phish and since 2008, by McCartney in his live performances. It was ranked the 28th greatest song of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. The magazine also ranked it as the greatest Beatles song.
According to Lennon, the inspiration for the first two verses was the death of Tara Browne, the 21-year-old heir to the Guinness fortune who had crashed his Lotus Elan on 18 December 1966 in Redcliffe Gardens, Earls Court. Browne had been a friend of Lennon and McCartney. Lennon’s verses were adapted from a story in the 17 January 1967 edition of the Daily Mail, which reported the coroner’s verdict into Browne’s death.
“I didn’t copy the accident,” Lennon said. “Tara didn’t blow his mind out, but it was in my mind when I was writing that verse. The details of the accident in the song—not noticing traffic lights and a crowd forming at the scene—were similarly part of the fiction.”
The second verse contains the line “The English Army had just won the war”; Lennon was making reference to his role in the movie How I Won the War, released on 18 October 1967. In Many Years from Now, McCartney said about the line “I’d love to turn you on”, which concludes both verse sections: “This was the time of Tim Leary’s ‘Turn on, tune in, drop out’ and we wrote, ’I’d love to turn you on.’ John and I gave each other a knowing look: ‘Uh-huh, it’s a drug song. You know that, don’t you?’.” John said: “Paul’s contribution was the beautiful little lick in the song ’I’d love to turn you on.’ I had the bulk of the song and the words, but he contributed this little lick floating around in his head that he couldn’t use for anything.”
McCartney provided the middle section of the song, a short piano piece he had been working on independently, with lyrics about a commuter whose uneventful morning routine leads him to drift off into a dream. McCartney had written the piece as a wistful recollection of his younger years, which included riding the bus to school, smoking, and going to class. This theme matched with the original concept of the album which was going to be about their youth. In fact “Penny Lane” (a street in Liverpool) and “Strawberry Fields Forever” (an orphanage behind Lennon’s house) were songs first written for the album but were released as an A and B side single as the Beatles were due for 45RPM release. The orchestral crescendos that link the verses and this section were conducted by McCartney and producer George Martin.
The final verse was inspired by an article in the Daily Mail in January 1967 regarding a substantial number of potholes in Blackburn, a town in Lancashire. However, Lennon had a problem with the words of the final verse, not being able to think of how to connect “Now they know how many holes it takes to” and “the Albert Hall”. His friend Terry Doran, Managing Director of Apple, suggested that they would “fill” the Albert Hall.
John Lennon on composing the song with McCartney: “Paul and I were definitely working together, especially on “A Day In The Life” that was a real… The way we wrote a lot of the time: you’d write the good bit, the part that was easy, like “I read the news today” or whatever it was, then when you got stuck or whenever it got hard, instead of carrying on, you just drop it; then we would meet each other, and I would sing half, and he would be inspired to write the next bit and vice versa. He was a bit shy about it because I think he thought it’s already a good song. Sometimes we wouldn’t let each other interfere with a song either, because you tend to be a bit lax with someone else’s stuff, you experiment a bit. So we were doing it in his room with the piano. He said “Should we do this?” “Yeah, let’s do that.””