LONDON—John Lennon’s handwritten lyrics to “A Day in the Life”, considered one of the Beatles’ greatest songs and the final track on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, will go on sale in New York in June.
Sotheby’s auctioneer, which described it as “the revolutionary song that marked the Beatles’ transformation from pop icons to artists”, expects the manuscript to fetch $500-700,000 when it goes under the hammer on June 18.
The single sheet of paper features a rough draft of the lyrics, including crossings out and a spelling error where “film” is written as “flim”.
On the reverse side is a neater version written in capital letters and with fewer corrections.
Apparently added later is the line: “I love to turn you on”, for which the song was banned by the BBC when it first came out in 1967 because the words were deemed to be a reference to taking drugs.
That did little to prevent the album on which the song appeared from becoming one of the Beatles’ most successful.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band topped the U.S. and British charts, won four Grammy awards in 1968 and is ranked number 26 in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
The lyrics once belonged to Mal Evans, the Beatles’ road manager.
The lyrics provide a glimpse into the band’s methods, with Lennon noting where Paul McCartney would insert his more upbeat verse. Lennon’s words appear to be inspired by newspaper headlines and articles.
The song includes the words “He blew his mind out in a car/He didn’t notice that the lights had changed”, widely accepted to be a reference to the accidental death in a car crash of Lennon and McCartney’s friend Tara Browne.
On a lighter note, the final verse about “four thousand holes in Blackburn Lancashire” was taken from a report on the high number of potholes on the roads.
McCartney’s contribution, an upbeat middle passage about falling out of bed and dashing to catch the bus, does not appear on the manuscript to be sold.
“With its languorous cry of ‘I’d love to turn you on,’ the song was generally interpreted as a hymn to drug use,” said Norman Philip, a leading Beatles biographer and author of John Lennon: The Life.
“Actually, it is a cry of despair from John, trapped as he then was in the Beatles’ smiley collective image and an atrophied first marriage, yet still lacking the resolution to break out, join forces with Yoko Ono and become the ‘real’ artist he had always pined to be.”