If, like me, you grew up listening to the Beatles you may have wondered about the strange-sounding “piano-or-is-it-a-harpsichord” solo on the song “In My Life,” on the Rubber Soul album. It goes like this:
This was the work of the “Fifth Beatle,” George Martin, so called because of his work playing, producing and arranging many of the Beatles’ finest recordings. Both classically-trained and open-minded, Martin engineered subtle soundscapes which complemented and enhanced the band’s work, especially Paul McCartney’s melodies – including “In My Life”. Hunter Davies reveals the secret to that puzzling keyboard sound in his book The Beatles Lyrics (which I recommend as a fascinating insight into both song-writing generally and the Beatles canon in particular):
The music is greatly helped by what sounds like a harpsichord, tinkling away like a Bach minuet, giving it a classical timeless quality. This was George Martin, on a piano with the sound speeded up.
Here is the solo, slowed down by 25% (very nearly the same as playing a 45rpm record at 33⅓), the speed at which it was originally played.
(Full disclosure: this processed segment was taken from a different, stereo release. This meant I could separate the piano from the other sounds, such as the drum track.)
Nice enough. Dignified. But it has nothing of the magic which the speeded-up version drops into the finished song. And here is the whole song – as released. The record has been bashed about a bit, but that is okay. It shows that someone once loved this LP, and played it over and over. Just listen.
- Artist: The Beatles
- Album: Rubber Soul
- Track: B4 In My Life
- Format: 12”, 33⅓ rpm, vinyl, mono
- Label: Capitol-EMI
- Made in: USA
- Catalogue: T 2442
- Year: 1965