As the Beatles evolved as musicians, they gradually increased their experimentation in the studio and released some of their most iconic music. Here are just a few of the amazing tricks the Fab Four used to get their signature sounds.
1. “Eleanor Rigby”: As the story goes, the haunting string melody heard throughout “Eleanor Rigby” only came to be after John Lennon hired a classical ensemble and asked them to play “something that sounds like ‘The Flintstones’ song but sad.”
2. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”: To get the applause on the opening track of their seminal album, the band just recorded Ringo clapping with delight every one of the hundreds of times another band member lied to him about there being free ice cream, and then looped them all together.
3. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”: Craving to find a new sound, John Lennon famously suggested that the band swallow a bundle of grapes and hope that whatever air made it past their swollen windpipes would be their next big hit. Sure enough, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” was a smash success.
4. “She Loves You”: Because this hit was released in 1963, three years before the invention of the guitar, the Beatles had to create the “guitar sound” with plucked violins.
5. “Day Tripper”: According to legend, while George Harrison was sleeping one night, he began suddenly screaming the opening guitar riff over and over again. After hearing it, the band quickly rushed him to the studio, careful not to wake him up until they could get it on tape.
6. “Blackbird”: In many of their songs, and most notably in “Blackbird,” the Beatles used a recording technique called “Backwards Driving,” where they sang a song while driving a car backwards at 100 miles per hour and placed the microphone on a second car driving forwards. They eventually abandoned this method after crashing into an Italian restaurant.
7. “Yesterday”: The reason that Paul McCartney sounds so sad during his performance on this song is that, just before recording, John Lennon had taken him aside and told him that James Bond wasn’t a real person.
8. “Love Me Do”: Performing this song required each Beatles member to stand at one vertex of a pentagram. John faced north toward Polaris, Paul toward Easter Island, George toward Jerusalem, and Ringo stared straight down toward the chthonic depths of the Earth. When the ritual was complete, the Fifth Beatle appeared on the unoccupied point of the pentagram and played the harmonica riff.