"We could be Sgt. Pepper's band, and for the whole of the album we'd pretend to be someone else. So, when John walked up to the microphone to sing, it wouldn't be the new John Lennon vocal, it would be whoever he was in this new group, his fantasy character. It liberated you - you could do anything when you got to the mike on your guitar, because it wasn't you."- Paul McCartney
On 6 December The Beatles had returned to EMI studios to record their eight studio album with the named "Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band", an alter-ego name created by Paul McCartney.
Producer: George Martin
Malcolm Addey, Ken Townsend, Peter Vince
Recording: 6 December, 1966- 21 April, 1967
Released: 1 June, 1967 (UK)
2 June, 1967 (US
John Lennon: Vocals, electric guitar, acoustin guitar, Hammond organ, piano, cowbell
Paul McCartney: Vocals, electric guitar, bass, piano, Lowery organ
George Harrison: Vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, sitar, harmonica, tambura, maracas
Ringo Starr: Vocals, drums, harmonica, tambourine, maracas, bongos, chimes, congas
George Martin: Hammond organ, Lowery organ, piano, painette, harmonium, glockenspiel, harpsichord
Neil Aspinall: harmonica, tambura
Mal Evans: harmonica, Hammond organ, piano, alarm clock
Sgt Peppers became an album of new changes for the group, they had recently stopped touring in August of 1966;
"At the moment we haven't an act to suit the ordinary type of tour that goes on. If we can think of a way of getting four flying saucers landing on the top of the Albert Hall, it would be possible. But at the moment there isn't much happening in that direction."- Paul McCartney, 1967
"How can we tour when we're making stuff like we're doing on the new album? We can only do what we're doing. We've toured - that was then."- John Lennon, 1967The name Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band came after Paul visiting America seeing names like Laughing Joe and His Medicine Band or even Fred and His Incredible Shrinking Grateful Airplanes instead of the simple names like The Crickets or even their own, The Beatles. For this album they were no longer The Beatles, they were Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The album was some of the bands best work consisting of songs with Indian influences like George's "Within You Without You", stories like "She's Leaving Home", pscydelic sounds in "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", and upbeat melodies such as "Lovely Rita". As an alter-ego band they were aloud to do whatever they wanted, it gave them a range to expand and experience;
"Sgt Pepper was our grandest endeavor. It gave everybody - including me - a lot of leeway to come up with ideas and to try different material."- Ringo Starr, The Beatles AnthologyThe album included the following pieces;
- Sgt. Pepper's Lonley Hearts Club Band (Lennon-McCartney)
- With A Little Help From My Friends (Lennon-McCartney)
- Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (Lennon-McCartney)
- Getting Better (Lennon- McCartney)
- Fixing A Hole (Lennon - McCartney)
- She's Leaving Home (Lennon - McCartney)
- Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite (Lennon - McCartney)
- Within You Without You (Harrison)
- When I'm Sixty- Four (Lennon - McCartney)
- Lovely Rita (Lennon - McCartney)
- Good Morning Good Morning (Lennon- McCartney)
- Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band [Reprise] (Lennon- McCartney)
- A Day in the Life (Lennon - McCartney)
"The album was always going to have 'Sgt Pepper' at the beginning; and if you listen to the first two tracks you can hear it was going to be a show album. It was Sgt. Pepper and his Lonely Hearts Club Band with all these other acts, and it was going to run like a rock opera."- Ringo Starr, The Beatles Anthology
With A Little Help From My Friends
"The song 'With A Little Help From My Friends' was written specifically for me..."- Ringo Starr, The Beatles AnthologyThe song was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney that was an immeditae transition from the first track. The song is introduced by Paul McCartney introducing "The one and only Billy Shears" in the previous track, followed by a harmony of the group singing "Billy Shears". Ringo takes the lead vocals but refused to sing one line; "What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and throw tomatoes at me?". He claims that the reason he wouldn't sing that line was due to flashback and memories of being pelted with jelly beans and gifts on stage.
"I was not going to be bombarded with tomatoes"- Ringo Starr"Paul had the line about 'little help from my friends'. He had some kind of structure for it - and we wrote pretty well fifty/fifty based on his original idea."- John Lennon
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
"I liked 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' a lot. John always had a way of having an edge to his songs. I particularly liked the sounds on it where I managed to superimpose some Indian instruments onto the western music."- George HarrisonOne of the Indian influences on the track was George's take on an Indian instrument called a sarangi, which sounded like a human voice. George not knowing how to play the sarangi played it on his guitar, matching his guitar to John's vocals.
The song was based on a drawing by John's son, Julian. Although it was an innocent child drawing the press and fans took it as Lucy Sky Diamonds, spelling out the initials LSD. It was nothing about the wonder drug at all,
"'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' and all the madness that went on around it was absolutely bonkers. I was actually with John when Julian came in with this little kids painting, a crazy little painting and John (as dad) said, 'Oh, what's that?' and Julian said, 'It's Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' and then John got busy."- Ringo StarrAlthough John, George, and Ringo had all had LSD before the song was not about the drug. Paul remembers going to John's house and seeing the painting with Julian's label "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" then John and him going up to John's music room and writing the song. It was Paul who came up with the line "cellophane flowers" and "Newspaper taxis".
"We never noticed the LSD initials until it was pointed out later - by which point people
didn't believe us."- Paul McCartney
The scenes in the song came from images and visuals of Lewis Carroll's, Alice in Wonderland. John was a fan of Carroll's work as a kid reading Alice Through the Looking Glass and all his works.
The saying "It's Getting Better" came from Jimmy Nicol, who drummed with The Beatles while Ringo was sick during The Beatles World Tour in 1964.
One of the lines in the song came from John admitting he was a hitter,
"I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved. Man, I was mean but I'm changing my scene and I'm doing the best that I can."
"I was a hitter, I couldn't express myself, and I hit."- John Lennon
Fixing A Hole
"About the hole in the road where the rain gets in, a good old analogy."- Paul McCartneyShe's Leaving Home
On 27 February, 1967 the Daily Mail printed a story about 17 year old, Melanie Coe running away from home. The paper headlined "A-level Girl Dumps Car and Vanishes".
"I cannot imagine why she should run away, she has everything here."- Melanie's father.
"We'd seen that story and it was my inspiration. There was a lot of these at the time and that was enough to give us the story. So I started to get the lyrics; She slips out and leaves a note and the parents wake up, it was rath poignant. I like it as a song and when I showed it to John, he added the Greek chorus and long sustained notes. One of the nice things about the structure of the song is that it stayed on those chords endlessly"- Paul McCartney, 1000 UK #1 HitsBeing for the Benefit of Mr. Kite
The Beatles were filming a TV video for their song "Strawberry Fields Forever" (which will appear on their ninth album) when John had found inspiration for "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite". During a break John had walked into an antique store where he found an old poster advertising Pablo Fanques Fair, a circus held in 1843. The poster advertised the Hendersons, hoops and horses, a hogs head of real fire, a band to preform from ten to six, and it would be at Bishops gate, all mentioned in the song.
"I wasn't very proud of that. There was no real work."- John Lennon
Within You Without You
"'Within You Without You' brilliant. I love it."- Ringo Starr, The Beatles AnthologyA favorite amongst the group John even saying it's one of George's best songs.
"He's clear on that song, his mind and his music are clear. there is his innate talent; he brought that sound together."- John Lennon
"'Within You Without You' came about after I had spent a bit of time in India and fallen under the spell of the country and it's music. I had brought back a lot of instruments.It was written at Klaus Voorman's house in Hampstead after Dinner one night. The song came to me when I was playing a pedal harmonium.When I'm Sixty- Four
"When I'm Sixty- Four" was one of Paul's first works in the Cavern days.
"It was one of those ones that he'd had, that we've all go, really; half a song. And this was just one that was quite a hit with us.We used to do them when the amps broke down, just sing it on the piano."- John LennonLovely Rita
"He makes them up like a novelist. You hear lots of McCartney -influenced songs on the radio - these stories about boring people doing boring things; being postman and secretaries and writing home. I'm not interest in writing third - party songs. I like to write about me, because I know me."- John LennonJust like "She's Leaving Home" this song was based off of a news story about Lovely Rita, a meter maid who had just retired after being a traffic warden.
""Maid' was always a little sexy thing; 'Meter maid. Hey, come and check my meter baby.'"- Paul McCartneyHe then realized that Rita looked like a military man.
"The song got played around with and pulled apart, and I remember wandering around Heswall (where my dad lived and my brother now lives). Trying to write the words to it. I pulled them all together and we recorded it."- Paul McCartneyGood Morning Good Morning
The song came from an advertisement for cornflakes that said, "Good morning, Good morning"
"It's a throw away, a piece of garbage"- John LennonSgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band [Reprise]
The idea for a reprise was from old friend and now Beatles manager, Neil Aspinall. It was used to introduce the last track of the album.
A Day In the Life
The song started with John sitting at the piano with the Daily Mail infront of him.
"I noticed two stories, one was about the Guinness heir who killed himself in a car. That was the main headline story. He died in London in a car crash."- John LennonOn the following page it was announced that their were 4000 pot holes in the streets of Blackburn, Lancashire.
"Paul and I were definitely working together, especially on 'A Day in the Life", the way we wrote a lot of the time; You'd write the good bit, the part that was easy, like 'I read the news today' or whatever it was. Then when you got stuck or whenever it got hard, instead of carrying on, you just drop it. Then we would meet each other, and I would sing half and he would be inspired to write the next bit, and vice versa. He was a bit shy about it because I think he thought it was already a good song."- John LennonThe song was created in segments, the verses "I read the news today oh boy..." with the slow and orchestra approach. The verse would lead into Paul's little piano bit "Woke up, fell out of bed...." with Mal Evans, Beatles roadie and friend, counting from 'Three.. Four' all the way to twenty-five, then an alarm clock would ring and that was their cue to go into the next part. The song also included a 46 second dog whistle at the end for Paul McCartney's dog, Martha.
"Paul's contribution was the beautiful little lick in the song; 'I'd love to turn you on,' that he'd had floating around in his head and couldn't use. I thought it was a damn good piece of work."- John Lennon
"There was also the big orchestral build-up. I just sat down and thought, 'Oh, this is a great opportunity. This is the song, man!' It was a crazy song, anyway, with 'I'd love to turn you on' and lots of psychedelic references. We could go anywhere with this song, it was definitely going to go big places...."- Paul McCartneyThe Orchestra and Band included on the album;
Violin: Erich Gruenberg, Derek Jacobs, Trevor Williams, Jose Luis Garcia, Alan Loveday, Julien Gaillard, Paul Scherman, Ralph Elman, David Wolfsthal, Jack Rothstein, Jack Greene, Granville Jones, Bill Monro, Jurgen Hess, Hans Geiger, D Bradley, Lionel Bentley, David McCallum, Donald Weekes, Henry Datyner, Sidney Sax, Ernest Scott
Viola: Gwynne Edwards, Bernard Davis, John Meek, Stephen Shingles, John Underwood
Cello: Alex Nifosi
Saxophone: Barrie Cameron, David Glyde, Alan Holmes
Bassoon: N Fawcett, Alfred Waters
Obeo: Roger Lord
Flute: David Sanderman, Clifford Seville
Trumpet: Harold Jackson, David Mason, Monty montgomery
Trombone: Raymond Brown, John Lee, T Moore, Raymond Premru
French Horn: John Burden, James W Buck, Alan Civil, Neil Sanders, Tony Randall, Tom
Tuba: Michael Barnes
Timpani and Percussion: Tristan Fry
Tambourine: Marijke Koger
"We wanted the whole of Pepper to be so that you could look at the front cover for years, and study all those people and read all the words on the back...."-Paul McCartney, The Beatles Anthology
Sgt. Peppers is one, if not the most iconic album cover of all time. Featuring the band in bright colourful suits surrounded by cutouts of other musicians such as Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley. Celebrities like Marylin Monroe and Shirley Temple and many more. It also included John's early best friend and bassist of The Quarrymen, also creator of the name The Beatles, Stu Sutcliffe.
"John wanted a couple of far-out ones like Hitler and Jesus, which was john just wanting to be bold and brassy. He was into risk-taking, and I knew what he was doing I didn't agree with it, but he was just trying to be far out, really."- Paul McCartney, The Beatles Anthology
"I still have no idea who chose some of the people. I think Peter Blake put a lot of the more confusing people in there. It was just a broad spectrum of people. The ones I wanted were people I admired. I didn't put anybody on there because I didn't like them (unlike some people...)"- George Harrison , The Beatles AnthologyThe album cover would also take part in the Paul is Dead Rumor.
The album spent 148 weeks in the charts starting from 3 June, 1967. Then again it topped charts for 27 weeks from 10 June. It was back in charts from 25 November for a week and two weeks from 23 December. The final week of the album in charts was on 3 February, 1968.
When it was released in the US on 2 June it spent 88 consecutive weeks in Billboard 200 chart, during this time it went to number one for 15 weeks. The album would last a total of 175 week in the US charts.
The album sold 20 million copies worldwide; 11 million copies in the US alone. Sgt Pepper's went on to win four Grammy's in 1968; Album of the Year, Best Contemporary Album, Best Album Cover, Best Engineered Recording. It was nominated for; Best Group Vocal Performance, Best Contemporary Vocal Group, and Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s).
"I liked Sgt Pepper when it was finished. I knew it was different for the public, and I was very happy with the concept of the cover."- George Harrison
"Sgt Pepper seemed to capture the mood of that year, and it also allowed a lot of other people to kick off from there and to really go for it. When that album came out the public loved it. It was a monster. Everybody loved it, and they all admitted it was a really fine piece of work. It was."- Ringo Starr
"Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is one of the most important steps in our career. It had to be just right. we tried, and I think succeeded in achieving what we set out to do. If we hadn't then it wouldn't be out now."- John Lennon
"We were now in another phase of our career, and we were happy. We'd been through all the touring, and that was marvellous, but now were more into being artist."- Paul McCartney