It's been a harp day's night

Sheila Bromberg

Sheila Bromberg

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by

WORKING with Beatles legend Paul McCartney may be a dream come true for most musicians.

But a harpist from Chipping Norton said working on Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band had truly been a hard day’s night.

Sheila Bromberg, of Rock Hill, played on She’s Leaving Home, but said working with Sir Paul had been a nightmare.

February 9 marked the 50th anniversary of the band’s first gig, in the now world famous Cavern club, Liverpool.

At that time, Mrs Bromberg worked as a session musician in London and was regarded as one of the best harpists in the country.

During the 50s, 60s and early 70s she worked with stars from Frank Sinatra and Dusty Springfield, to Morecambe and Wise and Rolf Harris.

But in 1967 she received a call from a ‘fixer’ – a middleman between producers and session musicians – for a three-hour recording. She did not know who it was for.

The now 82-year-old said: “He asked if I was free from 9pm to midnight, but I had been working since 8am that morning and really didn’t want to go.

“Unfortunately, I did a lot of work for that particular person and didn’t want to say no because otherwise they would choose someone else next time, and you don’t want that.”

She arrived early and began tuning her harp, when she suddenly became aware of someone standing behind her.

It was Paul McCartney and Mrs Bromberg was about to become the first woman musician to play on a Beatles album.

He briefly asked about the music she was playing, before disappearing to the control booth. For the next three hours McCartney had Mrs Bromberg and the other session musicians play the same piece over and over.

Mrs Bromberg said: “After every take he would say: ‘No I don’t want that, I want something... err...’”

She said the musicians became more and more frustrated as the night wore on, until, at midnight, the orchestra’s leader stood up and said they were leaving.

McCartney responded: “Well, I suppose that’s that then.”

Mum-of-two Mrs Bromberg said: “Thinking back, I’m really proud to be part of it, but at the time I could have wrung his neck.

“He didn’t know what he wanted, which was very annoying, but when you listen to the album you realise what he really wanted – and that was the album.”

Sgt Pepper’s is widely regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time and spent 27 weeks at the top of the UK chart.

Mrs Bromberg, who now teaches the harp, said: “I feel very grateful to have been chosen to have been on it.

“And I feel very proud that that piece of work has given such a tremendous amount of pleasure to everyone.

“But what amazes me, of all the music I’ve performed in, I’m noted for four bars of music. I found that a little bit bizarre.”

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