What was the "four thousand holes in Blackburn Lancashire" referred to in the Beatles song "A Day in the Life"? | Notes and Inquiries (2023)

What was the "four thousand holes in Blackburn Lancashire" referred to in the Beatles song "A Day in the Life"? | Notes and Inquiries (1)
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What was the "four thousand holes in Blackburn Lancashire" referred to in the Beatles song "A Day in the Life"?

Paul Elliott, Kendal Cumbria

  • I think the answer is pretty prosaic. John Lennon's inspiration for his lyrics in the song came in part from reading a newspaper. Someone who was rich is said to have committed suicide in his car (the "lucky man who made it"). Another column mentioned the state of road repairs in Blackburn, where there were 4,000 holes to the shock and horror of readers. Much of John Lennon's lyrics were Pythonesque, even before the Beatles' famous LSD experiences, so please don't assume this is either some kind of drug-induced insight or eternal truth.

    Simon Gilmann, London

  • It all relates to the line "I read the news today, oh boy". In the same newspaper with the details of the car accident, Lennon saw, on an adjacent page, an article detailing the results of a Blackburn's Council survey which concluded that there were over 4,000 potholes in the roads.

    Neil McLoram, UK

  • A newspaper article that John Lennon came across by accident.

    Robert del Valle, Detroit USA

  • It was John Lennon's idea to write this song by combining ideas from the newspapers. He and Paul scanned the Dail Mail for January 17th. 1967 and her eye fell on the following short article: “There are 4000 holes in the road in Blackburn, Lancashire, one twenty-sixth of a hole per person, according to a council survey. If Blackburn is typical then there are over two million holes in Britain's streets and 300,000 in London.' There was no connection between this and any other piece about the Albert Hall; it was just her imagination making the connection.

    Terence Hollingworth, Blagnac, France

  • The line was inspired by a newspaper report that John Lennon read claiming that there were 4000 potholes in the streets of Blackburn.

    Philip Howell, Birmingham, UK

  • I heard this line came from a newspaper. It was part of a story describing how Blackburn City Council sent someone out to identify all the potholes in the city's streets. They did, but the report cost so much that they couldn't afford to fix any of them after identifying all the potholes.

    John, Maidenhead UK

  • The best opening paragraph of a sports report I have ever read was written by Randall Butt, football writer for the Cambridge Evening News, more than 20 years ago. Cambridge United were beaten by Blackburn Rovers in a second division game. Butt's world-weary intro read: "Four thousand holes at Blackburn, Lancashire and most of it was in the Cambridge United defense..."

    HowardRose, Dublin

  • The folk tale as a youth was that "4000 holes" was 4000 drug smokers.

    Nigel, London

  • Although the answers above offer an explanation for the origin of the 4,000 holes, none explain how this relates to the Albert Hall. I believe this is the crucial missing piece of this mystery in Lennon's train of thought. Another common cult belief is that a "hole" refers to an entity of decaying flesh, as described in the "Tibetan Book of the Dead." At this time Lennon was influenced by Eastern Misticism and The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The reference, according to cult belief, is that Lennon made fun of the wealthy folk who attended concerts at the Albert Hall (calling them "rotting flesh").

    M. Weinberg, Kissimmee US

  • Continuing on to the previous correspondent's reply, A Day In The Life was actually the first song recorded for Sgt Pepper five months before the album release. John Lennon only began following the Maharishi's teachings this summer. I propose that the Albert Hall reference is a fairly simple and deliberate conceptual paradox; Anyone who has ever been to the Albert Hall will have been amazed at the sheer vastness of the space within. The question of how many holes would fill that space is inherently absurd and therefore interesting in its own right. In the context of the Blackburn road problem, it puts an interesting twist on an otherwise mundane and mundane news item in the newspaper. This kind of inspired wordplay was typical of Lennon, who loved the absurd. Unfortunately, all too often listeners have tried to give some meaning to what was never intended to be more than a wry pun (you might as well ask why John was the walrus when every Beatles fan knows that "the walrus was Paul"). Oh, and the person who 'blow his mind out in a car' was Tara Browne, heiress to the Guinness estate, who was a close friend of the Beatles and died in a car accident in 1966.

    Max Wurr, Stanmore Middlesex

  • This line is a fantastic example of John Lennon's songwriting and sense of humor. However, I would like to note that "When I'm Sixty-Four" was actually the first song recorded on the album. On December 6, 1966, recording of the Sgt. Pepper's album began with this song. The recording sessions for "A Day in the Life" did not begin until January 19, 1967, but as you claim, the Beatles' interest in Eastern religion is on the wane.

    Andrew, Peterborough, Kanada

  • In fact, it was a direct quote from a recently discovered obscure Scottish bard: "For thou's a old sin, black bairn, lankish hier."

    Jim, London, UK

  • I suspect John would laugh if he could somehow read that argument today. Nevertheless, he said during his lifetime: "I wrote the song with the Daily Mail leaning on the piano in front of me, I had it open at their News In Brief or Far and Near, whatever they call it. There was a paragraph about the discovery of 4,000 holes at Blackburn, Lancaster, and when we got to the record there was a word missing from that verse. I knew the line had to be, "Now you know how many holes it takes, to fill the Albert Hall.' It was really a nonsensical verse, but for some reason I couldn't think of the verb. What did the holes do to the Albert Hall? It was Terry (Doran) who said, 'Fill' the Albert Hall.” John Lennon

    Jeff Benjamin, Los Angeles, USA

  • I believe this text was used in the production of "Sgt. Pepper" intentionally misspelled. "Holes" is actually "whole," a 1960's psycho-babble term for emotionally intact individuals who have reached full maturity in their social and spiritual development. Such people would, of course, flock to the Royal Albert Hall for entertainment befitting their particular completeness. Surveys at the time indicated that Blackburn was home to 4000 self-actualized people - the ideal demographic for RAH fares.

    Steve MacDonald, Kansas City, USA

  • I think you're right in referring to the silly newspaper stories where councilors find useless information (when is someone going to write a song about the cost of replacing the M6 ​​- I remember the council asking someone who a few years ago!). The link to the Albert Hall could be linked to both the Beatles' hometown and Lancashire, both of which have an Albert Hall - there is an Albert Hall in Liverpool opposite the railway station on Lime Street, and there is an Albert Hall in Liverpool Bolton , Lancashire (above Town Hall) - also BOLTON and BLACKBURN are very similar names.

    Darren Forster, Warrington, UK

  • The 4000 holes refer to the children who were killed and buried at Blackburn.

    John, Coventry England

  • Blackburn is just a BIG hole anyway.

    Bob, Liverpool, Merseyside

  • I think the 4,000 holes was the pothole story in the newspaper. But - I always remember hearing the phrase "now you know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall" was a smack at critics who claimed the Stones were more popular than the Beatles because they sold more tickets at their Albert Hall concert. It's cool to think this is a smack at the critics. It's like saying, "Who cares how many tickets we've sold compared to them or anyone? We're the Beatles!"

    Shacky, Rochester USA

  • Wikipedia says that the line "Now you know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall" can be explained by the fact that there was one hole for every 26 people in Blackburn, Lancashire. While the Royal Albert Hall holds about 8,000 people, it would have taken you about 308 holes to fill it. Because of course there are 26 people for each hole... And I always thought it was about assholes! This whole hole story is so funny IMO, especially with the addition of info from John in Maidenhead, UK! The Beatles rule and Paul lives! ... I think ...

    Sebastian, Germany

  • There is no connection to the Albert Hall reference in this song. That's the point Lennon is trying to get across. The whole theme of the song makes fun of the news and how irrelevant it is. So does the line about Albert Hall. He tries to ask why the hell did someone have to count all the holes and what did that accomplish. He just tells us that there was no point.

    Nick, Lubbock, USA

  • "Bums in Seats" is the British version of the American promoters' goal of filling concert halls; it would be humorous in a Lennonesque way to equate the insignificance of counted potholes with the number of seats occupied - albeit rather small - at the 1963 Stones/Beatles concert at the Albert Hall, where the attendance was similar to that of the counted by Lancashire Road Officials.

    Ken, Cleveland, USA

  • Everyone looks so far into the strange obscura. Lennon was a pervert. 4000 holes refers to vaginas and how many of the teenage variety could fit in an Albert Hall venue, like a Beatles gig maybe? This thread is absurd. Lennon would have liked it.

    Jeremy Meserve, Watertown, Massachusetts, USA

  • The English Army just won the war...that was the day before he read and now he says I read the news today...4000 holes in Blackburn Lancashire the holes were pretty small they had to they all count... these holes are graves for the soldiers who die in the english war... now you know how many graves it takes to fill the albert hall...

    Jorge Rodriguez, Monterrey Mexico

  • Wasn't it the number of holes: drinking holes? i.e. pubs? At the time, Blackburn was a large industrial town and most workers ended their days in the pub. There's a pub on every street corner so 4000 pubs in Blackburn is VERY possible.

    Andrew Donelan, Blackburn, Lancashire

  • As Paul, George and Ringo explained in the special airing this week on VH1 Classic's "Beatles Anthology," the holes referred to a newspaper story that John and Paul read at the time of the recording of "St. Pepper” had seen. The potholes in Blackburn, Lancashire. The Albert Hall reference was also a story they read in the same newspaper. It's very likely that the whole song was probably written out of that newspaper, esp since it says "I read the news today, o-boy"... The rest of the song is history and has made history.

    RA McGhin, Lakeland, USA

  • More of a question. Was it suicide or an accident? "He went insane in a car" sounds like suicide, but "he hadn't realized the lights had switched" sounds like an accident.

    Tony Chamberlain, Naperville, USA

  • I really enjoyed reading all the answers. I now believe in the pothole theory. But I always thought it was a reference for an IV drug user, ie; The holes to fill the Albert Hall, I have always and still believed it to be a love/hate term for others... "asshole", good or bad. As George Carlin pointed out, your possessions and things are "your stuff" while others' possessions are just "their shit." If that makes any sense... if not, blame it on the holes... just kidding. Maybe, just maybe, we're missing the obvious: Hey Hey Hey... It's Fat Albert!

    Jeff Solomon/Downz, Spokane, USA

  • These lyrics have a special meaning to me, I used to sing them to my late father to upset him as they were from Blackburn!

    Sally Brotherton, Crewe, Cheshire

  • Many years ago, while turning on my car radio on the way home from work in Toledo, Ohio, I was surprised to hear what sounded like a mention of the town of Lancashire, which I had left in 1956 to seek greener pastures. I recognized the Beatles but had never heard that particular song before. And the 4,000 hole reference confused me even more. A visit to the local record store confirmed the clue, but I've waited and wondered until now (April 2010) to discover the probable explanation for these wonderfully surrealistic lines. I'll sleep better tonight thanks to your ever so smart contributors!

    Frank Ward, Toledo, USA

  • I've been listening to this song for over forty years and I always thought it was just a way of saying, "Now you know how many 'assholes' it takes to fill the Albert Hall". Normal max capacity is 3929 so it makes sense to me. A dispatch for any reason.

    TS-Deal, Moorestown, USA

  • So many bizarre and idiotic assumptions. Lennon was jealous of the Stones - of course he would never admit it! The Stones filled Albert Hall and the "holes" were obviously assholes. And the "lucky guy" killed himself because he was mad about getting a red light, another example of his black humor.

    Gordon, Medford, USA

  • I always thought the line also referred to the search for the missing children.

    Cydarion, New York, USA

  • In England, the Albert Hall is used to denote a large room, as in "You couldn't fit this guy's stomach in the Albert Hall". John Lennon was just joking. A hole is empty space, so how do you know how many it will take to fill the Albert Hall? He was just joking about bureaucracy.

    Beatle Lovers, London, UK

  • LOL...I can't believe your answers! It's easy. Paul McCartney explained what the holes are. They were referring to 4000 screaming girls who filled the Albert Hall for a concert. Paul said there were only two dirty references in her songs... one and the other by Penny Lane, "full of fish and finger pies". The secret is over.

    Anna, Hollywood, USA

  • Just two "dirty lines" in the entire Beatles' work? My goodness no! "Back in the USSR" is full of sexual innuendos: "...show me the snowy mountains far down south // take me to your father's farm // let me tinkle your balalaikas // come keep your comrade warm/ / I'm back in the USSR... Oh, let me tell you honey" is a thinly veiled and deliciously hilarious description of violent intercourse.

    Robret Stuart, Wilbraham, Massachusetts, USA

  • "He went insane in a car..." I doubt this is even a suicide. If it were, John would have used "brain" or "head" instead. A spirit describes a person's intellect or consciousness and not the physical. Ergo, the line in the song refers more to "Wow, that blew my mind..."

    Reginald, Bird-in-Hand, PA USA

  • Lucky man who made it... that's a politically high ranking or high ranking person. No joke, I had to laugh; I saw the photo: he was insane in a car; He didn't realize the lights had changed: end of joke... a crowd stared at him, unsure of his position as lord... That just adds a layer of humor, anyone see the visual shock effect here? What's so funny about a dead man's face spattered around his car? The fact that he can't see the lights? His eyes are on the roof. People honk their horns and wonder why this asshole won't go. I'm imagining the image John saw showing the gory scene displayed under a green light on the intersection: inspiration was the first thought that went through his mind light has changed go oh wait , he's dead, his mind will never decide anything again, oddly he said mind because maybe that "mind" should make a decision that would allow further corruption to invade government rule... maybe he had no other choice , than to pass a certain law or be blacked out, or his family was heavily armed, whatever the case, I imagine the man found his happy way out and expressed his unwillingness to yield to authority by he publicly falsely invalidated his ability to vote while disarming manipulation. Now the attack on his wife and children is unnecessary, pointless, a sacrifice of class and honor. John wanted to highlight the last laugh. One, big, for you. He was probably smiling as he pulled the trigger. Apparently John knew this man now, think about it!! If my hunch is even remotely true, that's so damn funny, but sad, and also shows the depth of thought he was capable of without effort.

    Eddie, Atlanta, ga us

  • I always thought they were hoes.

    Blackburnian, London, Sweden

  • john wrote the song taking bits and pieces from the news when he mentioned "he blew his head in a car", he was referring to a man who committed suicide in his car, "he hadn't noticed that the lights had changed". Referring to an accident, the same page where the police operator said he hadn't noticed the light changed, he turns the page and reads that Blackburn, Lankashire has 4000 potholes, so the text '4000 holes in Blackburn, Lankashire" and the workers who complained that no matter how small the holes were, they were told to count every single pothole, so "although the holes were quite small they had to count them all" on the next page he sees where the Rolling Stones sold out the Royal Albert Hall and thought to himself "must be an a***hole to listen to the rolling stones...and there are your lyrics" now you know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall"...this information was given during a private interview with John Lennon during the Beatles' tour In the United States I stopped in Nashville where a stenographer was present nd. The tape of the interview cannot be found...but I have the stenographer's copy and yes...it's signed by John Lennon. will i sell it... no... i will give it away... to a museum... if they take it from my cold dead hands... i will show it to someone.... well, until then you don't touch it...it's plastic and in my safe...to see it means you come here...and it costs about a thousand dollars to open my safe.

    Leo, Nashville, USA

  • I was reading the news today and I was like, oh man!! people are crazy!! All the wars, the killing, the hate... It reminded me of the song. I thought the Albert Hall holes were probably ass... knowing John's kind of joke. I created a blog page this morning, the first was "John Was Right" from his song "Imagine". Some world peace really needs “no religion”. Eliminates "Religious Wars". He had a leader mentality and a follower mentality was alien to him. So this simple answer cannot happen.

    Tina, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA

  • Maybe it was potholes in the roads, but I was wondering if it had anything to do with mine shafts. Maybe it was an ambiguity.

    Kit Hill, Bump City, Kalifornien USA

  • Blackburn Council still has a dedicated 'pothole' phone line and many would say there are still 4000 potholes in the city. Council recently secured an additional £1m in funding to repair the roads.

    Blackburn Life, Blackburn United Kingdom

  • George Harrison told Dick Cavett on his show in the early '70s (was that a joke?) that while they waited in an Albert Hall practice studio, they (John?) counted the holes in an acoustic tile and then counted the number of tiles and came up with the number 4000. After spending many hours in practice studios, I also counted holes, so the story ringed true when I saw the show.

    David Petty, Coral Springs, Florida, USA

  • Songwriters have the same limitation as poets of using very few words. Poets already find it difficult to make much sense; at best they help to set the mood. But songwriters must also wrap the cadence of the lyrics around the structure of the music, constraining it even further. As a result, unless you have terribly blunt, awkward lyrics, which the Beatles didn't have, it's almost impossible to write any truly meaningful lyrics. So very often songwriters throw in phrases that really don't mean anything at all, because they know people assume they mean something. It's best not to find out, because unless the meaning is obvious, it usually meant nothing at all, at least nothing except a vague idea that the author felt was sufficient to complete the sentence. If you want poetic lyrics that actually have meaning, even tell a story, there's Dylan; Otherwise, go with the feeling and don't analyze too much.

    David Bradley, Chicago USA

  • The pothole answer is correct, and sometimes you just have to scrawl some lyrics to get the song right, even when it literally doesn't make sense. There is no one who doesn't cause you pain.

    Phil Dixon, Asheville NC, USA

  • Some say Paul died in 1964 and was replaced by a Canadian who won a look-alike contest earlier that year. His name was/is William Campbell. The song "A Day in the Life" refers to a car accident - that Paul was involved in? The driver was beheaded. There are many videos on YouTube about this.

    Colin Proctor, Roehampton UK

  • John suggested the answer to a riddle. How many holes does it take to fill something? You can't fill anything with a hole! Similar to the riddle "How much dirt is in a hole that is 1' x 1' x 1'? None! There is no dirt in a hole!

    Kreatur, Westbrook, CT USA

  • I think he was referring to an old pair of my underwear? Just say. D Blackburn

    David, Mount Holly USA

  • Let's ask Ringo Starr!

    Bretticus Max, Fredericton, Kanada

  • The "Holes in the Albert Hall" refers to the assholes of British high society who attended stuffy concerts long before the Albert Hall allowed rock and pop events to be held there.

    Ken, Wellesley USA

  • As a young resident of Blackburn town center having grown up there in the 1960's I feel I can help sort this matter out. Like many major cities in the 1960's, Blackburn underwent a massive program of redevelopment. We would now call them “Concrete Jungles”. Many old buildings around the town, relics of Blackburn's industrial past, have been demolished to make way for the new. This included the creation of a large central market and shopping district in the city center. This involved the creation of pedestrian underpasses under the busy Salford Road junction, where the River Blakewater (from which the town takes its name) happened to flow. The river had to be diverted to allow for this work on the subways and as a result a very large access hole, about 50 meters in diameter, was made during all this work. At first the townsfolk were excited at the prospect of a brand new city center, but after a while, possibly a year or two, this hole that was literally right in the city center became an eyesore, not to mention an obstacle, and people caught to ask questions about how long it would be there. Local newspaper The Lancashire Evening Telegraph (whose offices faced the loch!) followed suit and began campaigning for the street to be restored to normal. Part of this involved The Telegraph speaking to the local authority, from whose staff, possibly as an apology, uttered the immortal words "There are 4000 holes in Blackburn," likely referring to all the routine potholes and digging that waiting for attention. The Evening Telegraph ran that story one evening, in fact I can imagine your headline now. The National Press, always in search of a good provincial story, picked it up and it appeared in the same issue of the Daily Mirror that John Lennon had before him when he wrote A Day in the Life. So there you have it, I was there!

    David, Blackburn, Lancashire, UK

  • I think the holes in Albert Hall fill a desperate void caused by the need to rhyme with "they had to count them all".

    Stephen Samuel, Vancouver, BC, Kanada

  • It's fun to read these things, nothing can be made out of nothing.

    Tony Lovell, None UK

  • Thank you for all your interesting replies over the last 8 or 9 years.

    Paul Elliott, Kendal Cumbria

  • Fascinating responses, some more tongue-in-cheek than others... This is my favorite Beatles song so I just had to comment! I'm pretty sure there's little or no esotericism here - just a glorious musical celebration of the mundane and otherwise depressing nature of human existence, with plenty of irony, but then that just doesn't suit the boys." "We might have written the songs , but We didn't create them, they were out there and we were just the conduit they happened to find as a valve'? Not an exact quote, of course, but I'm sure it's well known in more or less that form. Can we have a further discussion on the exact nature and origin of the latter?! I'm sure the Beatles, like Genesis, often had melodies to which they added 'lead vocals' which then settled on as 'natural' lyrics. As one contributor correctly points out, if you want direct and with a message, go to Dylan (or Springsteen?)

    Colin, Totton UK

  • Typical of Bob from Liverpool… who gives Blackburn a dig. We have many problems, but gun crime and gang-related turf wars are not endemic to our "hole." People in the Bob of the Glass House!

    Mick, Blackburn, Lancashire

  • ... yes, I take offense at "Bob of Liverpool's" comment that Blackburn is a "hole". It may not be a "garden city," but there are worse places to live. BTW: the city has changed radically since my grandfather's time (early 20th century) but I've always enjoyed staying there with my aunt and cousins ​​during my holidays from Oxford University. Cheers!

    Bill, College Park, Md. USA

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