When was it recorded? Feb. 9 & 21, 1967
When was it first released, and on which album? Jun. 1, 1967, on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
Who wrote it? McCartney (probably with noteworthy contribution from Mal Evans)
Have I heard this song before? No
What my research dug up:
Paul’s explanation of what this song is about varies from year to year. In the immediate wake of the song’s release, many speculated it was about heroin (I tried to spell out how that analogy works and it came across as really gauche, so I’ll let you figure it out on your own). In a 1967 interview, Paul said, “If you’re a junky sitting in a room and fixing a hole then that’s what it will mean to you, but when I wrote it I meant if there’s a crack, or the room in un-colorful, then I’ll paint it.” He also said, “It’s about the hole in the road where the rain gets in, a good old analogy—the hole in your make-up which lets the rain in and stops your mind from going where it will.” I’m not sure I see that analogy in the finished product, but it made me think of the potholes that needed filling in the lyrics of “A Day in the Life,” and if there’s one thing I appreciate it’s a good narrative callback.
Come 1997, Barry Miles had this to say in Paul’s ‘tell-all’ book Many Years From Now:
“Another inaccurate but frequently told story is that ‘Fixing A Hole’ was about heroin. This track is actually about marijuana. Like ‘Got To Get You Into My Life,’ it is described by Paul as ‘another ode to pot,’ the drug that got him out of the rut of everyday consciousness and gave him the freedom to explore.” – Barry Miles
Another track about pot should surprise absolutely no one here. Paul himself elaborated on the connection.
“‘Fixing A Hole’ was about all those pissy people who told you, ‘Don’t daydream, don’t do this, don’t do that.’ It seemed to me that that was all wrong and that it was now time to fix all of that. Mending was my meaning. Wanting to be free enough to let my mind wander, let myself be artistic, let myself not sneer at avant-garde things. It was the idea of me being on my own now, able to do what I want. If I want I’ll paint the room in a colorful way. I’m fixing the hole, I’m fixing the crack in the door, I won’t allow that to happen anymore, I’ll take hold of my life a bit more. It’s all okay, I can do what I want and I’m going to set about fixing things.” – Paul McCartney (Barry Miles, Many Years From Now)
But wait, there’s more! I briefly mentioned Mal Evans on Day 44: “A Day in the Life” (also noted above). According to his Wikipedia, Evans “was best known as the road manager, assistant, and a friend of the Beatles.” Having met them at the Cavern club in the early ‘60s, he assisted the Beatles to their bitter end in 1970. Evans also has a cameo appearance in four of the five Beatles films.
Evans also kept a diary and had this to say on Jan. 27, 1967 – “Started writing song with Paul upstairs in his room, he on piano… Did a lot more of ‘when the rain comes in.’” He also had this to say in an interview shortly before his tragic death in 1976:
“I stayed with (Paul) for four months and he had a music room at the top of his house with his multi-colored piano and we were up there a lot of the time. We wrote ‘Sgt. Pepper’ and also another song on the album, ‘Fixing A Hole.’ When the album came out, I remember it very clearly, we were driving somewhere late at night… Paul turned round to me and said, ‘Look Mal, do you mind if we don’t put your name on the songs? You’ll get your royalties and all that, because Lennon and McCartney are the biggest thing in our lives. We are really a hot item and we don’t want to make it ‘Lennon/McCartney/Evans. So, would you mind?’ I didn’t mind, because I was so in love with the group that it didn’t matter to me. I knew myself what had happened.”
Given how much Evans contributed to other songs, I’ll buy it. Also worth noting that my sources say he never received those royalties, which is a bummer.
The lyrics “silly people who run around, they worry me, and never ask why they don’t get in my door” are indisputably about the fans that camped out outside Paul’s home. So there’s one constant interpretation to be found.
“Fixing a Hole” is interesting lyrically, especially in its context within the “Sgt. Pepper’s” album. Alan Pollack noted, “In the previous song [‘Getting Better’], something has already happened to the protagonist that makes him prospectively certain that from here on in, it’s going to be better. In our current song, though, the protagonist speaks from the very midst of proactively effecting a change in his circumstances.”
The first recording session for “Fixing a Hole” occurred at the Regent Sound Studio, “the first time… the Beatles used a British studio other than Abbey Road for an EMI recording” (Wiki). George Martin wrote in Summer of Love, “Paul knew exactly where he was going with ‘Fixing A Hole.’ As a result, it was one of the fastest tracks we recorded, in an album of 13 songs that took some five months to complete.” There was a lot of confusion amongst my sources on who was playing what instrument on which take since the band’s regular EMI-contracted producers weren’t allowed in Regent for the recording, but what it shook out to was
- Paul = Bass
- John = Maracas
- Ringo = Drums
- George = Double-tracked lead guitar
- George Martin = Harpsichord
The second recording session occurred at Abbey Road, but ultimately the final version of “Fixing a Hole” was produced from a Regent Sound Studio take. Someone messed up labeling the tapes, so we won’t get into which take it was exactly.
… I feel bad because everyone else is talking about how amazing this song is, and it’s not really doing anything for me. It’s kind of plodding, not that every Beatles song has to be uptemo and fun, but it’s ponderous enough to distract me from what could be great lyrics. Maybe the tempo is another thing that works better in the context of the entire album.
Alan Aldridge, “Paul McCartney’s Guide to the Beatles’ Songbook” (Los Angeles Times 1968)
Barry Miles, Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now (1997)