Why the BBC Wasn’t ‘Turned On’ by the Beatles’ ‘A Day in the Life’
The BBC wasn't exactly "turned on" by the Beatles' "A Day in the Life" back in the '60s. They later shared a letter, written to EMI president Joseph Lockwood, that explains why the song was banned from airplay.
"We have listened to it over and over again with great care," BBC director of sound broadcasting Frank Gillard wrote on May 23, 1967, "and we cannot avoid coming to the conclusion that the words 'I'd love to turn you on,' followed by that mounting montage of sound, could have a rather sinister meaning."
Of course, John Lennon insisted that "A Day in the Life" was actually inspired by a series of seemingly unrelated moments in his own life: socialite Tara Browne's death in a traffic accident, Lennon's acting turn in the film How I Won The War, and another newspaper account about potholes found scattered about roadways in Blackburn, Lancashire.
The BBC didn't specifically rebut claims like that, instead pointing to how the song's lyrics might be perceived – specifically a phrase that had recently moved into the vernacular with youths of that era.
"The recording may have been made in innocence and good faith," Gillard added. "But we must take account of the interpretation that many young people would inevitably put upon it. 'Turned on' is a phrase which can be used in many different circumstances, but it is currently much in vogue in the jargon of the drug addicts."
These new details arrived as the Beatles prepared an expanded 2017 reissue of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which includes "A Day in the Life" as its rousing finale. The new set included two early versions of this song, as well as a separate track focusing on its orchestral overdub. That thunderous final chord was also explored through several takes.