"'Birthday' was written in the studio. Just made up on the spot. I think Paul just wanted to write a song like "Happy Birthday Baby," the old 50's hit. But it was sort of made up in the studio."
-John Lennon, Playboy
According to McCartney, Birthday was written one afternoon while John and Paul were on break from the studio. Paul returned early to finish the song, and by early morning, the entire mix was created. Little known, the clapping during the bridge is Pattie Boyd, George Harrison's first wife, and Yoko Ono.
September 18, 1968, 5:00 pm-4:30 am- Mono mixing. Engineer Chris Thomas commented in The Beatles Recording Sessions about the track: "Paul was the first one in, and he was playing the 'Birthday' riff. Eventually the other arrived, by which time Paul had literally written the song, right there in the studio." The Beatles recorded 20 takes. During the evening, the group took a break and went to Paul's house to watch the British TV premiere of the movie The Girl Can't Help It, which aired from 9:05 to 10:40. They returned to the studio around 11:00 pm to complete the vocals. The song was recorded on a four-track, but transferred to an eight-track to accommodate all the overdubs and instruments.
October 14, 1968- Stereo mixing
November 22, 1968- First released on the UK LP The Beatles (aka The White Album).
- Paul McCartney – Lead Vocals,Lead Guitar (1964 Fender Esquire),Piano and Handclaps
- John Lennon– Lead and Harmony Vocals,Lead Guitar (1965 Epiphone 230TD Casino) and Handclaps
- George Harrison – Backing Vocals,Six-String Bass Guitar (1968 Fender Bass VI) and Handclaps
- Ringo Starr – Drums,Tambourine and Handclaps
- Patti Harrison – Backing Vocals and Handclaps
- Yoko Ono – Backing Vocals and Handclaps
- Mal Evans – Handclaps
Note: Some sources say that George played lead guitar; that only Ringo and Mal Evans provided handclaps; and that Linda Eastman also sang in chorus.
- Prior to writing "Birthday," Paul had been thinking about the song "Happy, Happy Birthday," a 1957 hit for the Tune Weavers.
- Some sources say the song was written for Patti Harrison, who celebrated her birthday while the Beatles were in Rishikesh. Another says that since Linda's 26th birthday would come in six days, it was probably written for her.
- George reportedly wore a glove during the recording of "Birthday" to prevent blisters.
- On October 8, 1990, in honor of John Lennon's birthday, Paul McCartney released in the United Kingdom a live single of "Birthday" backed with "Good Day Sunshine." This was the first time a new version of a Beatles song was released by a Beatle after the breakup.
- On June 14, 1991, Paul's promotional video for his live version of "Birthday" was released in Japan by EMI as the first-ever video single CD.
- "Birthday" is one of the two songs on The White Album on which Yoko sings. (the other is "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill.")
- In the 1984 film Sixteen Candles, uber-geek Anthony Michael Hall sings Molly Ringwald a few lines from the beginning of "Birthday." (He also serenades her with "Hey Jude.")
- The song has been covered by Dan Baird, Rob Mullins, Saprize, Blur, Underground Sunshine and John Smith.