This Date in Music History: Feb. 22

The Beatles' most famous chords and Sublime's sudden end

click to enlarge "We're going to need more pianos!"
"We're going to need more pianos!"

On this day in 1967, The Beatles continued work on arguably their best song, "A Day in the Life." After a debate over how to end the track following the huge orchestral build-up (sustained choral vocals were considered, but scrapped), the group decided to simultaneously strike a massive E chord on three pianos and sustain the notes for as long as possible. Adding overdubs (and a contribution from producer George Martin on harmonium), the final resonating notes hang in the air for over 40 seconds on the recording. As the held chords faded on the pianos in the studio, the engineer had to crank the recording level, which picked up some incidental sounds (like a creaking chair and, certainly, something about Paul being dead) from the studio.

That E-major chord that closes the song — and the whole Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, considered one of the best ever — is widely considered one of the most famous chords in Rock/Pop history. Which means that The Beatles are responsible for the most popular opening chord in modern music — the mysterious G7sus4-ish that kicks off "A Hard Day's Night" — and the most notable final chord with the "A Day in the Life" finale.

Below is audio of BTO guitarist Randy Bachman explaining the "Hard Day's" chord mystery (frustrated guitarists should feel better about their inability to figure it out), followed by today's biggest Pop superstar performing that famed final note from Sgt. Peppers.

Click the jump for "Born This Day" featuring live footage from one of the final Sublime concerts with Bradley Nowell.—-

Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a Feb. 22 birthday include the singer behind the one-hit-wonder "Mother-In-Law," Ernie K-Doe (1936); R&B singer and member of The Drifters, Bobby Hendricks (1938); director of one of the best concert movies ever, Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense, Jonathan Demme (1944); actor (and alleged Reggae bassist) Kyle MacLachlan (1959); wispy British Soft Pop sensation ("You're Beautiful") James Blunt (1974) and frontman for Punk/Ska/Pop band Sublime, Bradley Nowell (1968).

Sublime became one of the bigger, more influential bands of the ’90s, though Nowell wasn't around to see it. The band's success grew immensely after Nowell died from a heroin overdose while touring in 1996. The band had yet to even release its landmark major-label debut, self-titled after everyone decided the original title, Killin' It, might be seen as a bit insensitive. The album came out three months after Nowell died; the following year, singles from the album were all over radio and MTV and it made it to No. 13 on the charts. By 2010, according to Soundscan, the album had sold over six million copies in the U.S. alone.

Nowell died when he was 28; today, he would have been 44. Here's a clip from one of Sublime's final shows.

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