- Published in 1968
- Author: Lennon/McCartney
- Track 12 on “The Beatles 1967-1970” (Blue Album)
- Track 5 on “Past Masters Volume 2“
Beatles quotes about “Lady Madonna”
RINGO 1968: “It sounds like Elvis, doesn’t it? No, it doesn’t sound like Elvis… it IS Elvis. Even those bits where he goes very high.”
JOHN 1980: “Paul. Good piano lick, but the song never really went anywhere. Maybe I helped him on some of the lyrics.”
PAUL 1986: “‘Lady Madonna’ is all women. How do they do it? –bless ’em. Baby at your breast, how do they get the time to feed them? Where do they get the money? How do you do this thing that women do?”
PAUL circa-1994: “The original concept was the Virgin Mary, but it quickly became symbolic of every woman– the Madonna image but as applied to ordinary working-class women. ‘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 voice to a very odd place.”
About “Lady Madonna”
“Lady Madonna” was written primarily by Paul McCartney and credited to Lennon–McCartney. A mono single of the song was released in March 1968, backed by “The Inner Light”. It was recorded on 3 and 6 February 1968 before the Beatles left for India, and its boogie-woogie style signalled a more conventional approach to writing and recording for the group after their psychedelic experiments two years prior.
In the United Kingdom, this single debuted at number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending 23 March, and reached number 4 for two weeks beginning on the following week ending on Capitol Records. It was the band’s last release on Parlophone. The single debuted at number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending 23 March, and reached number 4 from the week ending 20 April to the week ending 4 May. The Beatles’ subsequent releases, starting with “Hey Jude” in August 1968, were published on Apple Records under EMI distribution, until the late 1970s, when Capitol and Parlophone reissued old albums. The song’s first album appearance in stereo was on the 1970 collection Hey Jude.
“Lady Madonna” is described as a “raucous rock and roll” song by musicologist Walter Everett. The Beatles returned to more traditional songwriting after their recent psychedelic productions with this album, a back-to-basics approach that many other artists followed throughout 1968 as well. Paul McCartney previewed the song on a piano during a visit to his farm in Scotland in early December 1967, according to one of his neighbours. As Jonathan Gould points out, the timing was opportune, since in 1968 the British press began promoting the idea of a “rock-and-roll revival” as a cure for psychedelia’s excesses.
It was McCartney who adapted the piano part for Bad Penny Blues from Humphrey Lyttelton’s original, which was released in 1956 on the Parlophone record label by George Martin, the Beatles’ producer. In 1956, Domino’s hit song “Blue Monday” depicted the plight of a working man throughout the week, while “Lady Madonna” did the same from the female perspective. As part of his contribution to the lyrics, John Lennon describes the struggles faced by a mother who is overworked, exhausted (possibly single), or faces a new problem each day.
- Paul McCartney – lead vocal, piano, bass guitar, handclaps
- John Lennon – backing vocal, lead guitar, handclaps
- George Harrison – backing vocal, lead guitar, handclaps
- Ringo Starr – drums, drums (with brushes), handclaps
Additional musicians and production
- Ronnie Scott – tenor saxophone
- Bill Povey – tenor saxophone
- Harry Klein – baritone saxophone
- Bill Jackman – baritone saxophone
- George Martin – production
- Ken Scott – engineering
- Geoff Emerick – engineering
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