John Lennon’s handwritten lyrics to the epic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band closer “A Day in the Life” sold today for an impressive $1.2 million, a bid that far exceeded its initial $500,000 to $700,000 pre-auction estimate. According to Bloomberg , three buyers were vying for the piece of Beatles memorabilia at Sotheby’s of New York, and the winner was an unidentified American who phoned in the $1.2 million bid. Despite breaking the million-dollar threshold, the handwritten lyrics narrowly missed becoming the highest-priced Beatles lyric sheet to sell at auction: In 2005, the hand-penned lyrics to “All You Need is Love” went for $1.25 million.
As Rolling Stone previously reported, the handwritten lyrics to “A Day in the Life” were once the property of Beatles road manager Malcolm “Mal” Evans and represent the legendary song as a work in progress: There were spelling mistakes and words crossed out as Lennon developed the track, which Rolling Stone ranked as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. On the back side of the lyric sheet, however, is a more polished version of “A Day in the Life,” written in all capital letters, with a break in Lennon’s lyrics where he anticipated Paul McCartney would add his famous “Woke up, fell out of bed…” bridge. “A Day in the Life” is regarded as one of the final true collaborations between Lennon and McCartney and a song that Rolling Stone said “made rock’s possibilities seem infinite.”
The conclusion of the Sotheby’s auction ends an adventure of sorts for the prized lyric sheet. Sotheby’s of London first sold the sheet in 1992, then in 2006 it returned to the block when New York auction house Bonham’s hosted a “sealed bid” auction, at which point it failed to sell. At the time, Bonham’s estimated that Lennon likely penned both versions of the lyrics in the morning and afternoon of January 17th, 1967.