Friday, March 2, 2012

Lady Madonna

Lady Madonna single the Beatles
The Beatles' sleeve for "Lady Madonna."

"Lady Madonna" was a single backed by "The Inner Light" that the Beatles released on 15 March 1968. Recorded on 3 and 6 February 1968, the song reached No. 1 in the United Kingdom for two weeks and peaked at No. 4 in the United States for two weeks. The song also went to No. 1 in several other countries, including Australia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, and Switzerland. It has been certified Platinum by the RIAA for sales over 1 million in the United States. Released on Capitol Records in the United States and Parlophone in the United Kingdom, "Lady Madonna is notable as the last Beatles record that was released on a label other than their own Apple Records (with EMI distribution) while the group was together.

Lady Madonna single the Beatles

"Lady Madonna" apparently was easy to record. Unlike some other Beatles songs that took many takes, the Beatles polished "Lady Madonna" off in only five takes. Paul McCartney, the composer, plays the piano, while Ringo plays the drums with brushes.

Lady Madonna single the Beatles
A fuller version of this "Mountain Madonna" photo apparently was the inspiration for "Lady Madonna."

Paul explained:
Lady Madonna' started off as the Virgin Mary, then it was a working-class woman, of which obviously there's millions in Liverpool. There are a lot of Catholics in Liverpool because of the Irish connection.
McCartney claims that the inspiration for "Lady Madonna" came from a National Geographic magazine article which contained a photo of a woman breastfeeding entitled, "Mountain Madonna." However, as with many of Paul's versions of how songs came about, he apparently once told producer Richard Perry that it was "based on Fats [Domino]".

Lady Madonna single the Beatles

The Beatles filmed two promotional films for "Lady Madonna." At this point, unlike any other band in the world except the Monkees, the Beatles were filming such films - music videos - for all of their singles. The films were shot on 11 February 1968, about a week after the song was recorded, at Abbey Road Studios. It was a performance video, and the song they actually were recording in the footage was "Hey Bulldog."

Lady Madonna single the Beatles

As an upbeat, bluesy number featuring a jaunty tenor sax solo, "Lady Madonna" has attracted a wide variety of uses and covers over the years. A version by Aretha Franklin was used as the original theme song for "Grace Under Fire" (though not in syndication, probably because of rights issues). Artists as varied as Buck Owens, Barry Gibbs, Fats Domino, and Elvis Presley, who apparently just liked the tune and recorded it on the spur of the moment in 1970.

Lady Madonna single the Beatles
Lady Madonna (1988 UK limited edition 20th Anniversary 7" picture disc single, also including The Inner Light).


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