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Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band

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After five years of constant touring, recording, and massive media attention, the Beatles decided focus their attention on the studio and expanding their music. With that, they entered the Abbey Road Studios in November of 1966 and spent the next 129 days making arguably the most creative album in rock history. The kind of work put into Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was unheard of. One tally of the total time spent surpassed 700 hours. By contrast, the group's first album, Please Please Me, was recorded in 585 minutes.

Considered one of the greatest albums in rock history, and one that changed the world, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band showed the band's flair for writing and imagination. Paul came up with the title and concept: an old-fashioned band playing a concert in "the summer of love." Most songs were also written by Paul, since John had become so lazy at this point that he hardly left his house. The incredibly varied sound effects and recording techniques left a mark on pop/rock music that is even still felt today. The US version was almost identical as the UK version - except that the "inner groove" track was not included and the disc was banded were as the British version was not. The album won Grammys for Album Of The Year, Best Contemporary Album, Best Album Cover, and Best Engineered (Non-Classical) Recording. Re-released as a picture disc in 1978 in the US in conjunction with the "Sgt. Pepper's" movie starring the Bee Gees.

The 8 track variation

The 8 track edition of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band features a longer edit of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise), created to fill more of the tape and "even out" the recording sides. At about 1:15, where Paul's "Woo!" is heard, the previous 15 seconds are replayed and that "Woo!" is heard again before the song completes. This only appears on the 8 track edition.

Censorship in South Korea

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band didn't see release in South Korea until 1977, ten years after its original release. The album was heavily censored, with the entire audience photo collage behind the band and the surrounding souvenirs and other objects all removed and replaced with a black background. Two songs were removed for their perceived drug themes: Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and A Day In The Life.

Track list

Side A

  1. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
  2. With A Little Help From My Friends
  3. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
  4. Getting Better
  5. Fixing A Hole
  6. She's Leaving Home
  7. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!

Side B

  1. Within You, Without You
  2. When I'm Sixty-Four
  3. Lovely Rita
  4. Good Morning, Good Morning
  5. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
  6. A Day In The Life

Release history

  • Parlophone PMC 7027 (mono), released June 1, 1967 (traditional date; actually rush released May 26, 1967)
  • Parlophone PCS 7027 (stereo), released June 1, 1967 (traditional date; actually rush released May 26, 1967)
  • Capitol MAS 2653, released June 2, 1967
  • Capitol SMAS 2653, released June 2, 1967
  • Capitol SEAX 11840 (picture disc), released August 1978
  • Parlophone PHO 7027 (picture disc), released August 1978
  • Mobile Fidelity UHQR 1-100, released September 1982
  • Mobile Fidelity MFSL 1-100, released June 1983
  • Parlophone CDP 7 46442 2 (stereo CD), released June 1, 1987
  • Apple 0946 3 82419 2 8 (remastered stereo CD), released September 9, 2009
  • Parlophone PMC 7027 (remastered mono CD), released September 9, 2009 in The Beatles In Mono box set

Brian Epstein's bag idea

Brian Epstein, already stressed out because of an increasing distance growing between him and the Beatles, became even more anxious about the numerous drug references throughout the album. He had already faced criticism for John's 1966 "bigger than Jesus" remark and was worried what an album like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band would do to further tarnish the band's clean-cut image he had worked so hard to establish. At one point, he had written himself a note about the possibility of the album in a brown paper bag.

The recording process

The songs for the album were recorded in the following order:

  1. When I'm Sixty-Four (12/6/66)
  2. A Day In The Life (1/19/67)
  3. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2/1/67)
  4. Good Morning, Good Morning (2/8/67)
  5. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! (2/17/67)
  6. Fixing A Hole (2/21/67)
  7. Lovely Rita (2/23/67)
  8. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (3/1/67)
  9. Getting Better (3/9/67)
  10. She's Leaving Home (3/17/67)
  11. Within You, Without You (3/22/67)
  12. With A Little Help From My Friends (3/29/67)
  13. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) (4/1/67)

Also, the songs Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane were recorded during the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band sessions and were released as a single in December of 1966. The song Only A Northern Song from the Yellow Submarine soundtrack was also recorded at this time.

The Pete Best connection

John Lennon approached former drummer Pete Best's mother Mona asking if he could borrow her father's war medals to wear in the cover photos. Although still upset over Pete's firing from the band, she still agreed and also provided the Cash Box trophy which appeared next to the letter "L" in the floral arrangement that spells out "THE BEATLES" (see #79 below).

The making of the cover as told by Peter Blake

The Beatles already had a cover designed by a Dutch group called the Fool, but my gallery dealer, Robert Fraser, said to Paul, "Why don't you use a 'fine artist', a professional, to do the cover instead?" Paul rather liked the idea and I was asked to do it. The concept of the album had already evolved: it would be as though the Beatles were another band, performing a concert, perhaps in a park. I then thought that we could have a crowd standing behind them, and this developed into the collage idea.

I asked them to make lists of people they'd most like to have in the audience at this imaginary concert. John's was interesting because it included Jesus and Ghandi and, more cynically, Hitler. But this was just a few months after the US furor about his 'Jesus' statement, so they were all left out. George's list was all gurus. Ringo said, "Whatever the others say is fine by me", because he didn't really want to be bothered. Robert Fraser and I also made lists. We then got all the photographs together and had life-size cut-outs made onto hardboard.

EMI realized that because many of the people we were depicting were still alive, we might be sued for not seeking their permission. So the Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, who was very wary of all the complications in the first place, had his assistant write to everyone. Mae West replied, "No, I won't be in it. What would I be doing in a lonely hearts club?" So the Beatles wrote her a personal letter and she changed her mind.

Robert Fraser was a business partner of Micheal Cooper, an excellent photographer, so he was commissioned to do the shoot. I worked in his studio for a fortnight constructing the collage, fixing the top row to the back wall and putting the next about six inches in front and so on, so that we got a tiered effect. Then we put in the palm tree and the other little objects. I wanted to have the waxworks of the Beatles because I thought they might be looking at Sgt. Pepper's band too. The boy who delivered the floral display asked if he could contribute by making a guitar out of hyacinths, and the little girl wearing the 'Welcome the Rolling Stones, Good Guys' sweatshirt was a cloth figure of Shirley Temple, the shirt coming from Michael Cooper's young son Adam. The Beatles arrived during the evening of March 30. We had a drink, they got dressed and we did the session. It took about three hours in all, including the shots for the center fold and back cover. I'm not sure how much it all cost. One reads exaggerated figures. I think Robert Fraser was paid 1500 pounds by EMI, and I got about 200 pounds. People say to me, "You must have made a lot of money on it" but I didn't because Robert signed away the copyright. But it has never mattered too much because it was such a wonderful thing to have done.

Complete list of people and objects appearing on the cover

  1. Sri Yukteswar Gigi (guru)
  2. Aleister Crowley (dabbler in sex, drugs and magic)
  3. Mae West (actress)
  4. Lenny Bruce (comic)
  5. Karlheinz Stockhausen (composer)
  6. W.C. Fields (comic)
  7. Carl Gustav Jung (psychologist)
  8. Edgar Allen Poe (writer)
  9. Fred Astaire (actor)
  10. Richard Merkin (artist)
  11. The Varga Girl (by artist Alberto Vargas)
  12. Leo Gorcey (Painted out because he requested a fee)
  13. Huntz Hall (actor one of the Bowery Boys)
  14. Simon Rodia (creator of Watts Towers)
  15. Bob Dylan (musician)
  16. Aubrey Beardsley (illustrator)
  17. Sir Robert Peel (politician)
  18. Aldous Huxley (writer)
  19. Dylan Thomas (poet)
  20. Terry Southern (writer)
  21. Dion (di Mucci)(singer)
  22. Tony Curtiss (actor)
  23. Wallace Berman (artist)
  24. Tommy Handley (comic)
  25. Marilyn Monroe (actress)
  26. William Burroughs (writer)
  27. Sri Mahavatara Babaji(guru)
  28. Stan Laurel (comic)
  29. Richard Lindner (artist)
  30. Oliver Hardy (comic)
  31. Karl Marx (philosopher/socialist)
  32. H.G. Wells (writer)
  33. Sri Paramahansa Yogananda (guru)
  34. Anonymous (wax hairdresser's dummy)
  35. Stuart Sutcliffe (artist/former Beatle)
  36. Anonymous (wax hairdresser's dummy)
  37. Max Miller (comic)
  38. The Pretty Girl (by artist George Petty)
  39. Marlon Brando (actor)
  40. Tom Mix (actor)
  41. Oscar Wilde (writer)
  42. Tyrone Power (actor)
  43. Larry Bell (artist)
  44. Dr. David Livingston (missionary/explorer)
  45. Johnny Weissmuller (swimmer/actor)
  46. Stephen Crane (writer)
  47. Issy Bonn (comic)
  48. George Bernard Shaw (writer)
  49. H.C. Westermann (sculptor)
  50. Albert Stubbins (soccer player)
  51. Sri lahiri Mahasaya (guru)
  52. Lewis Carrol (writer)
  53. T.E. Lawrence (soldier, aka Lawrence of Arabia)
  54. Sonny Liston (boxer)
  55. The Pretty Girl (by artist George Petty)
  56. Wax model of George Harrison
  57. Wax model of John Lennon
  58. Shirley Temple (child actress)
  59. Wax model of Ringo Starr
  60. Wax model of Paul McCartney
  61. Albert Einstein (physicist)
  62. John Lennnon, holding a french horn
  63. Ringo Starr, holding a trumpet
  64. Paul McCartney, holding a cor anglais
  65. George Harrison, holding a flute
  66. Bobby Breen (singer)
  67. Marlene Dietrich (actress)
  68. Mohandas Ghandi (painted out at the request of EMI)
  69. Legionaire from the order of the Buffalos
  70. Diana Dors (actress)
  71. Shirley Temple (child actress)
  72. Cloth grandmother-figure by Jann Haworth
  73. Cloth figure of Shirley Temple by Haworth
  74. Mexican candlestick
  75. Television set
  76. Stone figure of girl
  77. Stone figure
  78. Statue from John Lennon's house
  79. Trophy
  80. Four-armed Indian Doll
  81. Drum skin, designed by Joe Ephgrave
  82. Hookah (water tobacco-pipe)
  83. Velvet snake
  84. Japanese stone figure
  85. Stone figure of Snow White
  86. Garden gnome
  87. Tuba

Vinyl back cover

Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, vinyl back cover

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