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On an album filled with adventure, technology, and almost overwhelming ambition, "Getting Better" serves as a strong counterpoint, with back-to-the-basics songwriting and engagingly simple production that reminds you that The Beatles really could do it all. While not as complex or revolutionary as most of the tracks on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the song more than holds its own as a pop song light years ahead of its time.

Musically, the song evokes a good number of other Beatles songs (the most prominent being "Got To Get You Into My Life" from Revolver, as well as "Paperback Writer" and "Penny Lane") in its simple jazz-rock aesthetic. Beginning with those immortally chiming major fifth chords (the song is in the key of C major), the song relies on tension during the verses through alternating fourth and fifth chords and then release on the choruses through the simple but effective use of a I-ii-iii-IV progression that accentuates the rising harmonies ("better, better, beeeee-tter"). Notice how similar Paul's basslines here are to "Penny Lane" and how talented the man really was at his instrument - besides George's knack for slow hand riffing, The Beatles were never particularly noted for their technical abilities, but Paul is more than capable here. The song's infectious joy comes out of the simple nature of the song, but its complexities are subtle, and thus the song often suffers in comparison to the lavish and mind-blowing arrangements that surround it.

Lyrically, Paul has noted, the song title comes from Jimmy Nichol, a drummer who substituted for Ringo during part of a world tour. After a few rocky days getting used to the band's idiosyncracies, Nichol cracked a small joke: "Well, at least it's getting better." Paul took this to his music room on Cavendish Avenue, and with John at his side, began writing the melody. After Paul finished up his line, John coolly leaned over and added, "Can't get much worse." The words stuck, and the rest of the song came along simply. The lyrics are entirely fictional, the result of Paul's hatred for overbearing teachers (notice his defiant grammatical malapropisms in the second verse, using "me" instead of "I") and the need to fit the thematic overtures of Sgt. Pepper's. The line "I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her/and kept her apart from the things that she loved" was written by John, and though nothing has ever come of it, people suspect that this line isn't as fictional as Paul makes it out to be in interviews.

The song took an unwieldy 15 takes to record, spread out over four different days during the marathon 1967 session, and the final version is rife with minor editing miscues, from the odd whistle at 43 seconds in to the impossible double-tracked vocal in the first verse at "teachers." Still, the key to the song's longevity is its freshness and utter lack of any real production tricks.

For you Paul is dead fanatics, there's little meat on the bone here, other than the title itself, suggesting that after Paul's death, things are getting better - they couldn't get much worse!

The song has been covered by such luminaries as The Bee Gees, Gomez, The Wedding Present, and Smash Mouth.

Getting Better
(Lennon/McCartney)

I used to get mad at my school
The teachers that taught me weren't cool
You're holding me down
Burning me round
filling me up with the rules

I've got to admit it's getting better
a little better all the time
I have to admit it's getting better
it's getting better since you've been mine

Me used to be angry young man
Me hiding me head in the sand
You gave me the word
and I finally heard
now I'm doing the best that I can

I've got to admit it's getting better
a little better all the time
I have to admit it's getting better
it's getting better since you've been mine
getting so much better all the time

It's getting better all the time
better, better, better
It's getting better all the time
better, better, better

I used to be cruel to my woman I beat her
and kept her apart from the things that she loved
Man, I was mean but I'm changing my scene
and I'm doing the best that I can

I've got to admit it's getting better
a little better all the time
Yes, admit it's getting better
it's getting better since you've been mine
getting so much better all the time

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds | Fixing A Hole

CST Approved

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