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Ringo Starr’s Temporary Replacement Inspired a ‘Sgt. Pepper’ Song



Ringo Starr’s replacement gave Paul McCartney the idea for a song from The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Paul said he wrote the Sgt. Pepper song on his “magic” piano. In addition, John Lennon said the tune was inspired by his horrible actions.

Ringo Starr’s replacement said a phrase that was added to a ‘Sgt. Pepper’ song

According to the 1997 book Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, Jimmie Nicol was a drummer who replaced Ringo for five days when The Beatles toured Australia and Denmark in 1964. Ringo was ill at the time. Nicol regularly used the phrase “It’s getting better,” which inspired The Beatles’ “Getting Better” from Sgt. Pepper.

Paul’s other memories of “Getting Better” are hazy. “I just remember writing it,” he said. “Ideas are ideas, you don’t always remember where you had them, but what you do remember is writing them. Where I start remembering it is where I actually hit chords and discover the music, that’s where my memory starts to kick in because that’s the important bit; the casual thought that set it off isn’t too important to me.”

Paul McCartney explained why he added the ‘optimistic’ song to ‘Sgt. Pepper’

Paul composed “Getting Better” on an instrument that he loved. “‘Getting Better’ I wrote on my magic Binder, Edwards and Vaughan piano in my music room,” he recalled. “It had a lovely tone, that piano, you’d just open the lid and there was such a magic tone, almost out of tune, and of course the way it was painted added to the fun of it all.”

Paul explained why he likes writing “optimistic” songs like “Getting Better.” “I often try and get on to optimistic subjects in an effort to cheer myself up and also, realizing that other people are going to hear this, to cheer them up too,” he said. “And this was one of those.” Unlike other “optimistic” Beatles tracks such as “Hey Jude” and “Let It Be,” “Getting Better” never became a standard. That probably has something to do with its references to domestic violence.


John Lennon said ‘Getting Better’ was about him learning not to be violent

The book All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono includes an interview from 1980. In it, John was asked about “Getting Better.” He didn’t connect the song to Nicol at all.

Instead, he said the lines of “Getting Better” about a man who used to beat the woman in his life were autobiographical. He saw himself as a violent man who reformed. John said he believed in peace because he had seen the opposite. In his mind, “the most violent people” embrace peace and love.

Nicol inspired “Getting Better” and so did John’s violent past.

How to get help: In the U.S., call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or text START to 88788.

Source: Cheat Sheet


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