Papers newly discovered deep under the Royal Albert Hall have revealed that the iconic London venue wrote to the Beatles in 1967 to object “in the strongest conceivable terms” to being named in the Fab Four’s song A Day in the Life.
The discovery came when correspondence was unearthed whilst clearing an old archive room as part of the Hall’s ongoing steam heating refurbishment project.
The verse of the famous 1967 song which mentions the Hall reads:
‘I read the news today oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall
I’d love to turn you on’
In a letter to Beatles manager Brian Epstein, the Hall’s then chief executive, Mr Ernest O’Follipar told the band that the “wrong-headed assumption that there are four thousand holes in our auditorium” threatened to destroy its business overnight.
Writing back cheekily to “Prince Albert and friends”, John Lennon refused to apologise for the lyric, an action which resulted in a ban on the song ever being performed at the Hall.
Officials at the Hall apparently heard a demo tape of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album shortly before its release on 1 June 1967, and moved quickly to try to protect the venue’s image, as this letter shows:
Beatles singer John Lennon chose to reply in typically bullish fashion, sending the following cheeky missive to the venue.
His response was noted disapprovingly in the Hall’s council minutes, which were uncovered by the venue’s archives team after further research.
Dated 24 June 1967, they note:
“Despite firm correspondence sent to the management of The Beatles and the directors of Capitol Records over the factually incorrect lyrics about the Royal Albert Hall in their popular song ‘A Day In The Life’ (as minuted in Council meeting ref. 120567/F2), the band have refused to acknowledge our concerns or apologise for the offence caused, let alone change the lyrics of the song. As a result, Council have voted unanimously to ban indefinitely the performance of the song by any artist performing at the Royal Albert Hall.”
Liz Harper, the current Archives manager at the Royal Albert Hall, said: “These documents cast new light on a key moment of rock history, even if we would acknowledge now that Mr O’Follipar and his fellow council members had got the wrong end of the stick.”
This ban was unwittingly broken by Milli Vanilli in their sell-out 1989 show, where they performed the song with guests Jeff Lynne and a young PJ Harvey. Fortunately for the German R&B stars the ban was long forgotten by venue authorities so no retrospective action was taken.