The Beatles | Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band | A 50th Anniversary Retrospective

The Beatles | Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band | A 50th Anniversary Retrospective

In Memory Of; 

John Lennon – October 9, 1940 – December 8, 1980
George Harrison – February 25, 1943 – November 29, 2001
George Martin – January, 3, 1926 – March, 8 , 2016

Label – Original Release: EMI Studios and Regent Sound Studio, London
Release Year: 1967
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock/Psychedelic Rock/Art Rock/Proto-Progressive Rock

 

Band Members – The Players

John Lennon – Vocals/Electric Guitar/Acoustic Guitar/Piano/Hammond organ/Cowbell
Paul McCartney – Vocals/Electric Guitar/Bass/Piano/Lowery Organ
George Harrison – Vocals/Electric Guitar/Acoustic Guitar/Harmonica/Tambura/Sitar/Maracas
Ringo Starr – Vocals/Drums/Harmonica/Tambourine/Maracas/Congas/Bongos/Chimes
George Martin – Hammond organ/Lowery organ/Piano/Pianette/Harpsichord/Harmonium/
Glockenspiel
Mal Evans – Harmonica/Hammond organ/Piano/Alarm Clock
Neil Aspinall – Harmonica/Tambura
Erich Gruenberg, Derek Jacobs, Trevor Williams, José 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 – Violin’s
John Underwood, Stephen Shingles, Gwynne Edwards, Bernard Davis, John Meek – Viola’a
Dennis Vigay, Alan Dalziel, Reginald Kilbey, Allen Ford, Peter Beavan, Francisco Gabarro, Alex Nifosi – Cello’s
Cyril MacArthur, Gordon Pearce – Double Bass
Sheila Bromberg, John Marston – Harp
Robert Burns, Henry MacKenzie, Frank Reidy, Basil Tschaikov, Jack Brymer – Clarinet’s
Roger Lord – Oboe
N Fawcett, Alfred Waters – Bassoon’s
Clifford Seville, David Sanderman – Flute’s
Barrie Cameron, David Glyde, Alan Holmes – Saxophone’s
David Mason, Monty Montgomery, Harold Jackson – Trumpet’s
Raymond Brown, Raymond Premru, T Moore, John Lee – Trombone’s
Alan Civil, Neil Sanders, James W Buck, Tony Randall, John Burden, Tom (surname unknown) – French Horn’s
Michael Barnes – Tuba
Tristan Fry – Timpani/Percussion’s
Marijke Koger: – Tambourine’s
Unknown Musicians – Dilruba/Svarmandal/Tabla/Tambura

Producer – George Martin
Engineers – Geoff Emerick, Adrian Ibbetson, Malcolm Addey, Ken Townsend, Peter Vince

 

Track Listing – Original Soundtrack

Side 1
1. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
Paul McCartney
2. “With a Little Help from My Friends”
Ringo Starr
3. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”
John Lennon
4. “Getting Better”
Paul McCartney
5. “Fixing a Hole”
Paul McCartney
6. “She’s Leaving Home”
Paul McCartney with John Lennon
7. “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”
John Lennon

Side 2

1. “Within You Without You”
George Harrison
2. “When I’m Sixty-Four”
Paul McCartney
3. “Lovely Rita”
Paul McCartney
4. “Good Morning Good Morning”
John Lennon
5. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)”
John Lennon/Paul McCartney and George Harrison
6. “A Day in the Life”
John Lennon and Paul McCartney

 

Contact Links

The Beatles Official Website

The Beatles Official Facebook Page

The Beatles Official Twitter

The Beatles Official Instagram Profile

The Beatles Official YouTube Channel

The Beatles On iTunes

 

George Harrison – ✞ February/25th/1943 -November/29th/2001 ✞

George Harrison Official Website

George Harrison Official Facebook Page

George Harrison Official Twitter

George Harrison Official YouTube Channel

 

John Lennon – ☮ October/9th/1940 – December/8th/1980

John Lennon Official Website

John Lennon Official Facebook Page

John Lennon Official Twitter

John Lennon Official YouTube Channel

 

It was 50 years ago this month that what many believe to be the very first concept record was released to the world , depending who you ask. .Some consider this a loose conceptual album while others consider it as a concrete master of concept albums. It is definitely the first proto progressive concept album that would go on to inspire and be ‘The Blueprint’ album in which progressive rock and progressive metal bands would use in creating their own respective concept albums. This would also be The Beatles first album made after they retired from touring, thus allowing the band much more studio time and a longer creative process. This retrospective is broken down into three major categories of discussion, the first section is, The Genesis To The Genius – Method To The Madness – Influencing Facts and Factors Of Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, A Journey Through The Trip – A Track To Track Analysis Of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.

 

The Genesis To The Genius – Method To The Madness

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the eighth studio album by English rock band The Beatles. Released on 26th May 1967 in the United Kingdom and 2nd June 1967 in the United States, it was an immediate commercial and critical success, spending 27 weeks at the top of the UK albums chart and 15 weeks at number one in the US. On release, the album was lauded by the vast majority of critics for its innovations in music production, songwriting and graphic design, for bridging a cultural divide between popular music and legitimate art, and for providing a musical representation of its generation and the contemporary counterculture. It won four Grammy Awards in 1968, including Album of the Year 1967 , the first rock LP to receive this honour.

In August 1966 , The Beatles permanently retired from touring and began a three-month holiday from recording. During a return flight to London in November, Paul McCartney had an idea for a song involving an Edwardian era military band that would eventually form the impetus of the Sgt. Pepper concept. Sessions for the album began on 24 November in Abbey Road Studio Two with two compositions inspired by their youth, “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane”, but after pressure from EMI, the songs were released as a double A-side single and were not included on the album.

In February 1967, after recording the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” song, Paul McCartney suggested that The Beatles should release an entire album that would represent a performance by the fictional Sgt. Pepper band. This alter ego group would give them the freedom to experiment musically. During the recording sessions, the band furthered the technological progression they had made with their 1966 album Revolver. Knowing they would not have to perform the tracks live, they adopted an experimental approach to composition and recording on songs such as “With a Little Help from My Friends”, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “A Day in the Life”. Producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick’s innovative recording of the album included the liberal application of sound shaping signal processing and the use of a 40-piece orchestra performing aleatoric crescendos. Recording was completed on 21st, April 1967. The cover, depicting The Beatles posing in front of a tableau of celebrities and historical figures, was designed by the British pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth.

It’s an analog heirloom that’s still resisting oblivion — perhaps because, even in its moment, it was already contemplating a broader sweep of time. The music on “Sgt. Pepper” reached back far before rock as well as out into an unmapped cosmos, while its words — seesawing between Paul McCartney’s affability and John Lennon’s tartness — offered compassion for multiple generations.

We simply can’t hear “Sgt. Pepper” now the way it affected listeners on arrival in 1967. Its innovations and quirks have been too widely emulated, its oddities long since absorbed. Sounds that were initially startling — the Indian instruments and phrasing of George Harrison’s “Within You Without You,” the tape-spliced steam-organ collage of “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” the orchestral vastnesses of “A Day in the Life” — have taken on a patina of nostalgia. George Harrison was also under the ‘Spiritual Tutelage’ of Ravi Shankar. “Sgt. Pepper” and its many musical progeny have blurred into a broader memory of “psychedelia,” a sonic vocabulary (available to current music-makers via sampling) that provides instant, predigested allusions to the 1960s. Meanwhile, the grand lesson of “Sgt. Pepper” — that anything goes in the studio — has long since been taken for granted. Psychedelia is also the organic improvised creation of music that is not really pre written nor preconceived.

Recorded in over 400 hours during a 129-day period, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band helped define the 1967 Summer of Love, and was instantly recognised as a major leap forward for modern music.

The mood of the album was in the spirit of the age, because we ourselves were fitting into the mood of the time. The idea wasn’t to do anything to cater for that mood – we happened to be in that mood anyway. And it wasn’t just the general mood of the time that influenced us; I was searching for references that were more on the fringe of things. The actual mood of the time was more likely to be The Move, or Status Quo or whatever – whereas outside all of that there was this avant-garde mode, which I think was coming into Pepper.
There was definitely a movement of people. All I am saying is: we weren’t really trying to cater for that movement – we were just being part of it, as we always had been. I maintain The Beatles weren’t the leaders of the generation, but the spokesmen. We were only doing what the kids in the art schools were all doing. It was a wild time, and it feels to me like a time warp – there we were in a magical wizard-land with velvet patchwork clothes and burning joss sticks, and here we are now soberly dressed.

Paul Mc Cartney : The Beatles Anthology

Even more so than its predecessor, Revolver, Sgt Pepper saw The Beatles pushing boundaries within the studio, creating sounds which had never before been heard. They made extensive use of orchestras and other hired musicians, and combined a variety of musical styles including rock, music hall, psychedelia, traditional Indian and Western classical.

From the fairground swirls of Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite! to the animal stampede that closes Good Morning Good Morning, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band signaled to the world that The Beatles were no longer the lovable moptops of old, unwilling to sing simple love songs and perform for crowds who were more interested in screaming than listening.

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. It had started out with a feeling that it was going to be something totally different, but we only got as far as Sgt Pepper and Billy Shears (singing With A Little Help From My Friends), and then we thought: ‘Sod it! it’s just two tracks.’ It still kept the title and the feel that it’s all connected, although in the end we didn’t actually connect all the songs up.

Ringo Starr : The Beatles Anthology

During The Beatles’ final US tour in August 1966, Paul McCartney noticed the inventive names adopted by many new bands. This was making word play off some of the titles of bands that were primarily coming out of San Francisco, California.

Sgt Pepper is Paul, after a trip to America and the whole West Coast, long-named group thing was coming in. You know, when people were no longer The Beatles or The Crickets – they were suddenly Fred and His Incredible Shrinking Grateful Airplanes, right? So I think he got influenced by that and came up with this idea for The Beatles.

John Lennon, 1980 – All We Are Saying, David Sheff

The title came from a conversation between Paul McCartney and Evans about the sachets marked S and P which came with their in-flight meals.

Me and Mal often bantered words about which led to the rumour that he thought of the name Sergeant Pepper, but I think it would be much more likely that it was me saying, ‘Think of names.’ We were having our meal and they had those little packets marked ‘S’ and ‘P’. Mal said, ‘What’s that mean? Oh, salt and pepper.’ We had a joke about that. So I said, ‘Sergeant Pepper,’ just to vary it, ‘Sergeant Pepper, salt and pepper,’ an aural pun, not mishearing him but just playing with the words.

Then, ‘Lonely Hearts Club’, that’s a good one. There’s lot of those about, the equivalent of a dating agency now. I just strung those together rather in the way that you might string together Dr Hook and the Medicine Show. All that culture of the sixties going back to those travelling medicine men, Gypsies, it echoed back to the previous century really. I just fantasised, well, ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. That’d be crazy enough because why would a Lonely Hearts Club have a band? If it had been Sergeant Pepper’s British Legion Band, that’s more understandable. The idea was to be a little more funky, that’s what everybody was doing. That was the fashion. The idea was just take any words that would flow. I wanted a string of those things because I thought that would be a natty idea instead of a catchy title. People would have to say, ‘What?’ We’d had quite a few pun titles – Rubber Soul, Revolver – so this was to get away from all that.

Paul McCartney – Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

Although the idea was well received by the other Beatles, it wasn’t intended as a concept album; indeed, an early working title was One Down, Six To Go, a reference to their contract with EMI.

As I read the other day, he said in one of his ‘fanzine’ interviews that he was trying to put some distance between The Beatles and the public – and so there was this identity of Sgt Pepper. Intellectually, that’s the same thing he did by writing ‘He loves you’ instead of ‘I love you’. That’s just his way of working. Sgt Pepper is called the first concept album, but it doesn’t go anywhere. All my contributions to the album have absolutely nothing to do with this idea of Sgt Pepper and his band; but it works ’cause we said it worked, and that’s how the album appeared. But it was not as put together as it sounds, except for Sgt Pepper introducing Billy Shears and the so-called reprise. Every other song could have been on any other album.

John Lennon, 1980 – All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Having finished touring in August 1966, The Beatles were free to spend time in the studio working on their next masterpiece. As EMI owned the studio at Abbey Road time and costs were of little consequence, and The Beatles knew that the songs recorded wouldn’t have to be performed live.

The first songs to be recorded were When I’m Sixty-Four, Strawberry Fields Forever & Penny Lane. When I’m Sixty-Four actually had its origins in The Beatles’ Hamburg days, though it was recorded in December 1966.
Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever, meanwhile, were taken for the group’s first single of 1967, a decision which George Martin later described as “a dreadful mistake”.

The album’s monumental closer, A Day In The Life, was recorded from January 1967; the second Sgt Pepper song to be taped. The third was the title track, which was first recorded on 1 February 1967.

I used to share a flat in Sloane Street with Mal [Evans]. One day in February Paul called, saying that he was writing a song and asking if he and Mal could come over. The song was the start of Sgt Pepper.

At my place he carried on writing and the song developed. At the end of every Beatles show, Paul used to say, ‘It’s time to go. We’re going to go to bed, and this is our last number.’ Then they’d play the last number and leave. Just then Mal went to the bathroom, and I said to Paul, ‘Why don’t you have Sgt Pepper as the compère of the album? He comes on at the beginning of the show and introduces the band, and at the end he closes it. A bit later, Paul told John about it in the studio, and John came up to me and said, ‘Nobody likes a smart-arse, Neil.’

Soon after The Beatles began recording the song Sgt Pepper, they realised that it could introduce a fictitious concert.

The idea came about gradually. Basically it was Paul’s idea: he came in and said he had the song ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and that he was identifying it with the band, with The Beatles themselves. We recorded the song first, and then the thought came to make it into an idea for the album. It was at a time when they wanted to concentrate on the studio, and that probably fomented the idea of the alter-ego group: ‘Let Sgt Pepper do the touring.’

George Martin – The Beatles Anthology

George Harrison, meanwhile, was less enamored by the album and The Beatles in general, having lost his heart to India. His main contribution to the album was Within You Without You, although his first offering – Only A Northern Song – was first recorded in February 1967.

I felt we were just in the studio to make the next record, and Paul was going on about this idea of some fictitious band. That side of it didn’t really interest me, other that the title song and the album cover.
It was becoming difficult for me, because I wasn’t really that into it. Up to that time, we had recorded more like a band; we would learn the songs and then play them (although we were starting to do overdubs, and had done a lot on Revolver). Sgt Pepper was the one album where things were done slightly differently. A lot of the time it ended up with just Paul playing the piano and Ringo keeping the tempo, and we weren’t allowed to play as a band so much. It became an assembly process – just little parts and then overdubbing – and for me it became a bit tiring and a bit boring. I had a few moments in there that I enjoyed, but generally I didn’t really like making the album much.

I’d just got back from India, and my heart was still out there. After what had happened in 1966, everything else seemed like hard work. It was a job, like doing something I didn’t really want to do, and I was losing interest in being ‘fab’ at that point.

Before then everything I’d known had been in the West, and so the trips to India had really opened me up. I was into the whole thing; the music, the culture, the smells. There were good and bad smells, lots of colours, many different things – and that’s what I’d become used to. I’d been let out of the confines of the group, and it was difficult for me to come back into the sessions. In a way, it felt like going backwards. Everybody else thought that Sgt Pepper was a revolutionary record – but for me it was not as enjoyable as Rubber Soul or Revolver, purely because I had gone through so many trips of my own and I was growing out of that kind of thing.

George Harrison – The Beatles Anthology

During the Sgt Pepper sessions Ringo Starr was aware that The Beatles were doing their best work to date, although he learned to live with the sporadic nature of the recording sessions.

Sgt Pepper was our grandest endeavour. It gave everybody – including me – a lot of leeway to come up with ideas and to try different material. John and Paul would write songs at home, usually – or wherever they were – and bring them in and say, ‘I’ve got this.’ The actual writing process was getting to be separate by now, but they’d come in with bits and help each other, and we’d all help. The great thing about the band was that whoever had the best idea (it didn’t matter who), that would be the one we’d use. No one was standing on their ego, saying, ‘Well, it’s mine,’ and getting possessive. Always, the best was used. That’s why the standard of the songs always remained high. Anything could happen, and that was an exciting process. I got to hang out and listen to it unfolding, although I wasn’t there every day.

As we got up to Sgt Pepper, George Martin had really become an integral part of it all. We were putting in strings, brass, pianos, etc, and George was the only one who could write it all down. He was also brilliant. One of them would mention: ‘Oh, I’d like the violin to go “de de diddle”,’ or whatever, and George would catch it and put it down. He became part of the band.

John, Paul and George – the writers – were putting whatever they wanted on the tracks, and we were spending a long time in the studio. We were still recording the basic tracks as we always did, but it would take weeks to do the overdubs for the strings or whatever, and then the percussion would be overdubbed later and later. Sgt Pepper was great for me, because it’s a fine album – but I did learn to play chess while we were recording it.

Ringo Starr – The Beatles Anthology

 

Influencing Facts and Factors Of Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band

Within this part we will mention many of the facts and factors that influenced Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. These facts and factors have been long agreed upon by The Beatles, those who worked with them on the album and the general pop culture and industry consensus.

The Beatles’ status as the Biggest Music Group in the World was in danger of being taken away from them during the first few months of 1967. The band had announced they were no longer going to perform live because of the growing physical dangers that came with touring, largely thanks to John Lennon’s seemingly blasphemous comments on Christianity, which stoked religious fervor in the United States. Guaranteed sellout audiences—crowds so loud that nobody, not even the band, could hear a note of the music—were replaced by half-empty stadiums by the time the Fab Four performed in San Francisco on August 29, 1966 for what would be their final concert (not counting that rooftop performance in 1969).

When they reconvened in November of 1966, they found themselves with as much time as ever to get their next album as perfect as they could. What John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, producer George Martin, and engineer Geoff Emerick came up with was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, a loosely conceptual album that was both a celebration and a piss-take on the psychedelic bands that had been popping up at the time.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released to the public on June 1, 1967—50 years ago today—and served as a confirmation that The Beatles were not only alive and well, but still at the forefront of pop music innovation; “The Summer of Love” came shortly after. These will be the Top 5 facts or factors that happened leading up to and during the recording sessions , although there are much more.

1. The Title Came From Airplane Salt And Pepper Packets.

By the time The Beatles took a three-month vacation in the latter part of 1966, they were all tired of being The Beatles. Paul McCartney and tour manager/assistant Mal Evans ruminated on this problem as the two traveled together, ending their international adventures in Kenya. On their flight back to London, McCartney was developing an alter ego for the band for their next record.

“Me and Mal often bantered words about, which led to the rumor that he thought of the name Sergeant Pepper,” McCartney explained to author Barry Miles about how he came up with the name. “But I think it would be much more likely that it was me saying, ‘Think of names.’ We were having our meal and they had those little packets marked ‘S’ and ‘P.’ Mal said, ‘What’s that mean? Oh, salt and pepper.’ We had a joke about that. So I said, ‘Sergeant Pepper,’ just to vary it, ‘Sergeant Pepper, salt and pepper,’ an aural pun, not mishearing him but just playing with the words.” McCartney then added “Lonely Hearts Club” to “Sergeant Pepper,” and figured it would be a “crazy enough” band name, “because why would a Lonely Hearts Club have a band?”

2. The Band Was Under a lot Of Pressure.

Because of the perceived fading popularity of the group, The Beatles manager Brian Epstein and their label EMI put pressure on George Martin and the band to release a “can’t-miss” hit single. Caving in to the pressure, two of the first three songs from the Sgt. Pepper sessions were released as a double A-side single: “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane.” As was the practice at the time with singles, those two classic songs weren’t included on the album. George Martin later said that listening to Brian Epstein and EMI in this instance was “the biggest mistake” of his professional life.

3. It Was Influenced By The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, And Frank Zappa.

George Martin was quoted as saying that if Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys had not created and recorded their classic album Pet Sounds,

“Sgt. Pepper never would have happened.”

Paul McCartney repeatedly played the album at Abbey Road during recording sessions. Unbeknownst to The Beatles, they were fulfilling their part in a pop group ouroboros, because Wilson was inspired to write Pet Sounds after hearing The Beatles’ Rubber Soul.

In June 1966, Frank Zappa’s The Mothers of Invention came out with the double-record Freak Out!, a satirical album that also happened to contain classical music-influenced movements instead of individual tracks; some consider it to be the first rock concept album. “This is our Freak Out!” Paul McCartney supposedly said during the Sgt. Pepper sessions.

 

4. Dogs Might Go Nuts If You Play Them “A Day In The Life” All The Way Through.

A 15-kilohertz high-frequency tone/whistling noise can be heard—if you have the remastered CD version and not the vinyl repressing anyway—after the iconic final piano chord finishes resonating and before the backwards talking that closes the album. It was John Lennon’s idea to add the equivalent of a police dog whistle after he had an hours-long conversation with Paul McCartney about frequencies. Paul McCartney later admitted to it all in 2013. Some believe the inclusion of the dog whistle was a subtle nod to the influence Pet Sounds had on the album.

5. The BBC BANNED “A DAY IN THE LIFE.”

Sgt. Pepper made its public debut on May 20, 1967 at 4 p.m. on the BBC’s Where It’s At. Excerpts from every song except “A Day In The Life” were played, as the tune had been officially banned the day before for promoting “a permissive attitude toward drug-taking.” BBC believed that Paul McCartney’s singing “found my way upstairs and had a smoke” was a drug reference, and that John Lennon’s line about “Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire” might be a reference to a heroin junkie’s arm.

Because of that ban—and the belief that “With a Little Help from My Friends” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” also referenced drugs—the three suspicious songs were omitted from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band when it was released in South Asia, Malaysia, and Hong Kong.

 

A Journey Through The Trip – A Track To Track Analysis Of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.

 

Here we revisit The Beatles Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band track by track. Within the analysis there will be some factoids that you may or may not have heard concerning the origin’s, recording, production and mastering of each and every track. To those of us old enough to remember they only had a 4-Track process they had to get creative with instead of the multi tracked systems of computer programs such as Pro Tool’s affords both artist and producer today. To those progressive rock fans that credit this as a proto prog album, they only had 3 chords they made useful to their maximum. Food for thought to keep in mind here.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Written by – John Lennon-Paul McCartney
Producer – George Martin
Engineer – Geoff Emerick

Paul McCartney – Vocals/Lead Guitar/Bass
John Lennon – Vocals
George Harrison – Vocals/Guitar
Ringo Starr – Drums
James W Buck, Neil Sanders, Tony Randall, John Burden – French Horn

The song itself is just a show intro where the lyrics mimic an MC talking to the audience before introducing the lead singer – Billy Shears.
Just imagine the words – no music – being spoken before a concert starts:
Crowd anxiously waiting for their show to start, then a hush when the lights go all the way down. You begin to hear a voice start with .

“It was twenty year ago today…) and from there the excitement and tension builds until the star is announced with “So let me introduce to you the one and only Billy Shears…”

If you’re asking who the band is supposed to be, the Lonely Hearts Club Band is the alter ego of John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr; Paul McCartney pulls double duty as the Master of Ceremonies doing the introduction and his alter ego Billy Shears.

If you’re asking WHO Sgt Pepper is, it’s been speculated about for years. None of The Beatles have ever said, but some of the speculations are John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Brian Epstein, various singers that influenced them, etc… and also speculated there is no specific person because the Beatles would have been in early childhood 20 years earlier – but that only works if you think SPLHCB is actually The Beatles and not their alter egos.

 

With A Little Help From My Friends

Written by -John Lennon-Paul McCartney
Producer – George Martin
Engineer – Geoff Emerick

Ringo Starr – Vocals/Drums/Tambourine
John Lennon – Backing Vocals/Cowbell
Paul McCartney – Backing Vocals/Piano/Bass
George Harrison – Lead Guitar
George Martin – Hammond organ

The album was recorded as if Sgt. Pepper was a real band. It opens with the title track, then segues into “With A Little Help From My Friends.” Beatles drummer Ringo Starr sang lead, introduced as “Billy Shears,” a name chosen because it sounded good and played up the idea that the group was in character.

The song was never released as a single, but became one of the group’s most enduring tracks. Since it there is no break on the album between the fade of the title track (and “Billy Shears” introduction) and the beginning of this song, radio stations were forced to either play the tracks together or play the awkward open.

This was one of the very last songs John Lennon and Paul McCartney sat down and wrote together in a true collaboration.

They were at Paul’s house messing around on the piano.

The original title was “Badfinger Boogie.” The Beatles got some use out of the name when they signed a group to their label, Apple Records, and named them Badfinger.

The cheering at the beginning was taken from a Beatles concert at the Hollywood Bowl. The Beatles had stopped touring by the time this was recorded.

This hit #1 on the UK chart three times: first by Joe Cocker in 1968, again by Wet Wet Wet in 1988 and finally by Sam and Mark in 2004. >>

John Lennon claimed this was not about drugs, but many people didn’t believe him, including US vice president Spiro Agnew, who once told a crowd that this song was a “Tribute to the power of illegal drugs.” He said the lines, “I get by with a little help from my friends, I get high with a little help from my friends,” “Is a catchy tune, but until it was pointed out to me, I never realized that the ‘friends’ were assorted drugs!”

The first line was originally “What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and throw tomatoes at me?” Ringo did not want to sing it, fearing that if they ever did it live he would be pelted with tomatoes.

The Beatles finished recording this the night they shot the cover for the Sgt. Pepper album. This continued the “Concept” of the album, but until the reprise of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” at the end, the theme of the fictional band ends with this.

When Ringo Starr was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015, he performed this song with many of the evening’s participants, including Joan Jett, Miley Cyrus, Dave Grohl, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney.

 

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

Written by – John Lennon-Paul McCartney
Producer – George Martin
Engineer – Geoff Emerick

John Lennon – Vocals/Lead Guitar
Paul McCartney – Backing Vocals/Lowrey Organ/Bass
George Harrison – Backing Vocals/Lead Guitar/Acoustic Guitar/Tambura
Ringo Starr – Drums/Maracas

The “Lucy” who inspired this song was Lucy O’Donnell (later Lucy Vodden), who was a classmate of John’s son Julian Lennon when he was enrolled at the private Heath House School, in Weybridge, Surrey. It was in a 1975 interview that Lennon said, “Julian came in one day with a picture about a school friend of his named Lucy. He had sketched in some stars in the sky and called it Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.

The identity of the real Lucy was confirmed by Julian in 2009 when she died of complications from Lupus. Lennon re-connected with her after she appeared on a BBC broadcast where she stated: “I remember Julian and I both doing pictures on a double-sided easel, throwing paint at each other, much to the horror of the classroom attendant… Julian had painted a picture and on that particular day his father turned up with the chauffeur to pick him up from school.”

Confusion over who was the real Lucy was fueled by a June 15, 2005 Daily Mail article that claimed the “Lucy” was Lucy Richardson, who grew up to become a successful movie art director on films such as 2000’s Chocolat and 2004’s The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers. Richardson died in June 2005 at the age of 47 of breast cancer.

Many people thought this was about drugs, since the letters “LSD” are prominent in the title, and John Lennon, who wrote it, was known to drop acid. In 1971 Lennon told Rolling Stone that he swore that he had no idea that the song’s initials spelt L.S.D. He added: “I didn’t even see it on the label. I didn’t look at the initials. I don’t look – I mean I never play things backwards. I listened to it as I made it. It’s like there will be things on this one, if you fiddle about with it. I don’t know what they are. Every time after that though I would look at the titles to see what it said, and usually they never said anything.”

John Lennon affirmed this on the Dick Cavett Show, telling the host,

“My son came home with a drawing of a strange-looking woman flying around. He said, ‘It’s Lucy in the sky with diamonds.’ I thought, ‘That’s beautiful.’ I immediately wrote the song about it.”

It’s not just fans that didn’t believe him: Paul McCartney said it was “pretty obvious” that this song was inspired by LSD.

 

Getting Better

Written by – John Lennon-Paul McCartney
Producer – George Martin
Engineers – Malcolm Addey, Geoff Emerick

The Players

Paul McCartney – Vocals/Rhythm Guitar/Bass Guitar/Piano
John Lennon – Backing Vocals/Handclaps
George Harrison – Backing Vocals/Lead Guitar/Tambura
Ringo Starr – Drums/Congas
George Martin – Piano/Pianette

The idea of “Getting Better” came to Paul McCartney while he was walking his dog, Martha. The sun started to rise on the walk and he thought “it’s getting better.” It also reminded him of something that Jimmy Nichol used to say quite often during the short period when he was The Beatles drummer. This song was a true collaborative effort for John Lennon and Paul McCartney, with John Lennon adding that legendary part about being bad to his woman. He later admitted to being a “hitter” when it came to women. He said “I was a hitter. I couldn’t express myself, and I hit.”

John Lennon had a bad acid trip during the recording. While doing the overdubs, John began to get very sick. He said, “I suddenly got so scared on the mike. I thought I felt ill and I thought I was going to crack. I said I must get some air.” George Martin took him up on the roof of the studios for air and John started walking towards the edge. Martin panicked, thinking that John would fall or leap off and that would be it. On the roof, when John saw Martin looking at him “funny,” he realized he was on acid. John decided he couldn’t do any more that night, so he sat in the booth and watched the others record. Paul eventually took him home and stayed to keep him company, and he decided to drop some acid with John. It was Paul’s first LSD experience.

George Harrison played the tamboura, a large Indian string instrument. It is the droning noise about 2/3rds of the way through.

The string sound at the end was The Beatles producer George Martin hitting the strings inside a piano.

 

Fixing A Hole

Written by – John Lennon-Paul McCartney
Producer – George Martin
Engineers – Geoff Emerick, Adrian Ibbetson

The Players

Paul McCartney – Lead & Backing Vocals/Bass
John Lennon – Backing Vocals
George Harrison – Backing Vocals/Lead Guitar
Ringo Starr – Drums/Maracas
George Martin – Harpsichord

Paul McCartney wrote this after fixing the roof on his farm in Scotland. McCartney said the song was “about the hole in the road where the rain gets in, a good old analogy.”

This was the first time The Beatles used a studio other than one owned and operated by their record label EMI. The takes in this new studio – Regent Sound Studio, located in Tottenham Court Road, London – were numbered 1-3. They returned to Abbey Road the next day however, recording “A Day In The Life.”

It was rumored that this was about heroin, as in “getting a fix.” There is no truth to this rumor.

 

She’s Leaving Home

Written by – John Lennon-Paul McCartney
Producer – George Martin
Engineer – Geoff Emerick

The Players

Paul McCartney – Lead Vocals/Backing Vocals
John Lennon – Vocals/Backing Vocals
Erich Gruenberg, Derek Jacobs, Trevor Williams, José Luis Garcia – Violin
John Underwood, Stephen Shingles – Viola
Dennis Vigay, Alan Dalziel – Cello
Gordon Pearce – Double Bass
Sheila Bromberg – Harp

This was based on a newspaper story Paul McCartney read about a runaway girl. On February 27th, 1967 the London Daily Mail’s headline read: “A-level girl dumps car and vanishes.” That girl was 17-year-old Melanie Coe, who had ran away from home leaving everything behind. Her father was quoted as saying, “I cannot imagine why she should run away, she has everything here.” McCartney said in 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh,

“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 storyline. So I started to get the lyrics: she slips out and leaves a note and the parents wake up, it was rather 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 stays on those chords endlessly.”

Melanie Coe, who became an estate agency director, told Dave Simpson her story in a 2008 interview for The Guardian. Said Coe: “London was a very different place in the ’60s. I went to a club called the Bag O’ Nails [Soho] and I met everybody. You sat on the next table to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Hollies, because there weren’t many clubs in London. I got in coz I was a cute little girl and I dressed in the latest fashions. I’d go to Mary Quant and Biba, sketch the dress and get my aunt to make my clothes. Ready Steady Go! loved that. They held open auditions. I was 13. It went on what you were wearing and how you danced. I was asked to come every week. I met the Beatles at Ready Steady Go! George was great to meet – I looked a lot like Pattie Boyd, who later became his wife, of course.

I was always going out. I danced the night away and was a face in London. In those days, to be trendy everything had to be French. I bought the T-shirt of the moment, which was my star sign in French. I loved that T-shirt. One day I got home and my mother had cut it to ribbons. She wanted me to look like Princess Anne, not my idol, Marianne Faithfull. When my parents found out I had the pill they grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and made me flush them down the toilet.

I was 17 by then and ran away leaving a note, just like in the song. I went to a doctor and he said I was pregnant, but I didn’t know that before I left home. My best friend at the time was married to Ritchie Blackmore, so she hid me at their house in Holloway Road. It was the first place my parents came to look, so I ran off with my boyfriend, who was a croupier, although he had been ‘in the motor trade’ like it says in the song. I think my dad called up the newspapers – my picture was on the front pages. He made out that I must have been kidnapped, because why would I leave? They gave me everything – coats, cars. But not love. My parents found me after three weeks and I had an abortion.

I didn’t realize for a long time that the song was about me. Years later Paul was on a program talking about how he’d seen a newspaper article and been inspired by it. My mother pieced it all together and called me to say, ‘That song’s about you!’

I can’t listen to the song. It’s just too sad for me. My parents died a long time ago and we were never resolved. That line, ‘She’s leaving home after living alone for so many years’ is so weird to me because that’s why I left. I was so alone. How did Paul know that those were the feelings that drove me towards one-night stands with rock stars? I don’t think he can have possibly realized that he’d met me when I was 13 on Ready Steady Go!, but when he saw the picture, something just clicked.”

No Beatles played instruments on this. John and Paul contributed vocals, which were double-tracked to sound like a quartet, and session musicians played strings. The first female to play on a Beatles album, Sheila Bromberg, played harp.

Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!

Producer – George Martin
Engineer – Geoff Emerick

 

The Players

John Lennon – Vocals/Lowrey Organ
Paul McCartney – Acoustic Guitar/Bass Guitar
George Harrison – Harmonica
Ringo Starr – Drums/Harmonica/Shaker Bells
George Martin – Piano/Harmonium/Hammond Organ/Tape Loops
Mal Evans – Bass Harmonica
Neil Aspinall – Harmonica
Geoff Emerick – Tape Loops

On 31 January 1967, while The Beatles were in Sevenoaks, Kent, making a promotional film for Strawberry Fields Forever, John Lennon wandered in to an antique shop close to their hotel. There he bought a framed Victorian circus poster from 1843.

The poster announced Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal, coming to Town Meadows in Rochdale. It grandly announced that the circus would be for the benefit of Mr Kite, and would feature “Mr J Henderson the celebrated somerset thrower” and Zanthus the horse.

Mr Kite was William Kite, a performer and the son of circus owner James Kite. In 1810 he had founded Kite’s Pavilion Circus and later moved to Wells’ Circus. It is thought that he worked in Pablo Fanques’ fair between 1843 and 1845. Fanque, pictured below, was Britain’s first black circus owner. He was born William Darby in Norwich in 1796.

John Lennon hung the poster in his music room at his home in Weybridge, and began to use it as inspiration for a song. Some of the facts he changed – the circus was coming to Bishopsgate rather than Rochdale; the horse became Henry; the circus became a fair; Mr Kite was ‘late of Wells’s Circus’ rather that of Pablo Fanque (pictured below); and Mr Henderson, rather than Mr Kite, promised to challenge the world.

Minor changes aside, the words of the poster found their way almost unchanged into Lennon’s Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!, which closed the first half of the Sgt Pepper album. Lennon sat at his piano and sang phrases from the poster until he had the song, possibly with help from McCartney.

John Lennon was later dismissive of the song, as revealed in a range of interview snippets collated in the Anthology book,

.I wrote that as a pure poetic job, to write a song sitting there. I had to write because it was time to write. And I had to write it quick because otherwise I wouldn’t have been on the album. So I had to knock off a few songs. I knocked off A Day In The Life, or my section of it, and whatever we were talking about, Mr Kite, or something like that. I was very paranoid in those days, I could hardly move.

John Lennon, 1970 – Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner

 

Within You Without You

Written by – George Harrison
Producer – George Martin
Engineer – Geoff Emerick

The Players

George Harrison – Vocals/Sitar/Acoustic Guitar/Tambura
Anna Joshi – Amrit Gajjar/Dilruba
Buddhadev Kansara – Tamboura
Natwar Soni – Tabla
Unknown musician – Svarmandal
Erich Gruenberg, Alan Loveday, Julien Gaillard, Paul Scherman, Ralph Elman, David Wolfsthal, Jack Rothstein, Jack Greene – Violins
Reginald Kilbey, Allen Ford, Peter Beavan – Cellos
Neil Aspinall – Tambura

Within You Without You was composed on a harmonium following a dinner party at the London home of Klaus Voorman, the German artist and musician whom The Beatles first met in Hamburg. Written by George Harrison, it was the only non Lennon-McCartney song on the Sgt Pepper album.

The song was George Harrison’s second full-blown Indian recording, after Revolver’s Love You To. Although regarded by some as a dull interlude in the otherwise masterful Sgt Pepper, Within You Without You encapsulated the exploration of spiritual themes that had become popular in 1967’s Summer of Love.

Clear references to the counterculture (‘Are you one of them?’) and the LSD-related ego death (‘And to see you’re really only very small and life flows on within you and without you’) can be found amid the more other-worldly exploration of spiritual philosophy and religious teachings.

The laughter at the end of the track was Harrison’s idea. While some listeners initially thought it was the sound of the other Beatles mocking his songwriting effort, it was in fact meant to lighten the mood after five minutes of sad, almost mournful, music.

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 its music. I had brought back a lot of instruments. It was written at Klaus Voormann’s house in Hampstead after dinner one night. The song came to me when I was playing a pedal harmonium.

I’d also spent a lot of time with Ravi Shankar, trying to figure out how to sit and hold the sitar, and how to play it. Within You Without You was a song that I wrote based upon a piece of music of Ravi’s that he’d recorded for All-India Radio. It was a very long piece – maybe 30 or 40 minutes – and was written in different parts, with a progression in each. I wrote a mini version of it, using sounds similar to those I’d discovered in his piece. I recorded in three segments and spliced them together later.

 

When I’m Sixty-Four

Written by – John Lennon/Paul McCartney
Producer – George Martin
Engineer – Geoff Emerick

The Players

Paul McCartney – Vocals/Piano/Bass
John Lennon – Backing Vocals/Guitar
George Harrison – Backing Vocals
Ringo Starr – Drums/Chimes
Robert Burns, Henry MacKenzie, Frank Reidy – Clarinets

The first of the Sgt Pepper songs to be recorded, When I’m Sixty-Four was originally intended to be the b-side to Strawberry Fields Forever.

The song dates back to The Beatles’ earliest days. Paul McCartney had composed it on the family piano at 20 Forthlin Road, Liverpool “when I was about 15”.

Back then I wasn’t necessarily looking to be a rock ‘n’ roller. When I wrote When I’m Sixty-Four I thought I was writing a song for Sinatra. There were records other than rock ‘n’ roll that were important to me.

Paul McCartney used to perform a variation of the song in their Cavern Club era, on piano, when the group’s equipment used to stop working.

When I’m Sixty-Four was something Paul wrote in the Cavern days. We just stuck a few more words on it like ‘grandchildren on your knee’ and ‘Vera, Chuck and Dave’. It was just one of those ones that he’d had, that we’ve all got, 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 Lennon – The Beatles Anthology

The song was dusted down in 1966, the year Paul McCartney’s father Jim turned 64. When I’m Sixty-Four focuses on a young man anxiously looking towards old age; the vocals were sped up in the studio to make them sound more sprightly.

The music is suitably old-fashioned, with a music hall melody and an arrangement prominently featuring George Martin’s clarinet score.

I thought it was a good little tune but it was too vaudevillian, so I had to get some cod lines to take the sting out of it, and put the tongue very firmly in cheek.

It’s pretty much my song. I did it in a rooty-tooty variety style… George helped me on a clarinet arrangement. I would specify the sound and I love clarinets so ‘Could we have a clarinet quartet?’ ‘Absolutely.’ I’d give him a fairly good idea of what I wanted and George would score it because I couldn’t do that. He was very helpful to us. Of course, when George Martin was 64 I had to send him a bottle of wine.

Paul McCartney – Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

When I am 64 In Studio
On 6 December 1966 The Beatles recorded Christmas messages for the pirate stations Radio London and Radio Caroline. Afterwards they spent some time rehearsing When I’m Sixty-Four, before two takes of the rhythm track were recorded.

Two days later, without the other Beatles being present, McCartney added his lead vocals to take two. The song was then left until 20 December, when McCartney, Lennon and Harrison taped backing vocals and Starr played chimes.

When I’m Sixty-Four was completed the next day, with the overdub of the three clarinets. During the mixing stage, meanwhile, McCartney decided that the song needed speeding up. On 30 December they scrapped all previous mixes and created a new mono one, which raised the key from C to D flat major.

 

Lovely Rita

Written by – John Lennon- Paul McCartney
Producer – George Martin
Engineer – Geoff Emerick

The Players

Paul McCartney – Vocals/Piano/Bass/Comb and Paper
John Lennon – Backing Vocals/Acoustic Rhythm Guitar/Comb and Paper
George Harrison – Backing Vocals/Acoustic Rhythm Guitar/Comb and Paper
Ringo Starr – Drums/Comb and Paper
George Martin – Piano

Paul McCartney’s affectionate tale of a female traffic warden was originally written as an anti-authority satire. As Paul McCartney later explained,

“I was thinking it should be a hate song… but then I thought it would be better to love her.”

Traffic wardens were a relatively new feature of British life in 1967. In America they were colloquially known as meter maids, a term which caught the imagination of McCartney via a newspaper story.

There was a story in the paper about ‘Lovely Rita’, the meter maid. She’s just retired as a traffic warden. The phrase ‘meter maid’ was so American that it appealed, and to me a ‘maid’ was always a little sexy thing: ‘Meter maid. Hey, come and check my meter, baby.’ I saw a bit of that, and then I saw that she looked like a ‘military man’.

Paul McCartney – Anthology

Paul McCartney wrote the words for Lovely Rita in the Wirral near Liverpool, while walking near his brother Michael’s house in Gayton.

I remember one night just going for a walk and working on the words as I walked… It wasn’t based on a real person but, as often happened, it was claimed by a girl called Rita who was a traffic warden who apparently did give me a ticket, so that made the newspapers. I think it was more a question of coincidence: anyone called Rita who gave me a ticket would naturally think, ‘It’s me!’ I didn’t think, Wow, that woman gave me a ticket, I’ll write a song about her – never happened like that.

Paul McCartney – Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

Lovely Rita – In Studio

Recording began on 23 February 1967 in Abbey Road’s studio two. Eight takes of the rhythm track were recorded, with George Harrison and John Lennon on acoustic guitars, Ringo playing the drums and Paul on piano. Take eight was the best, and onto this McCartney added his bass part.

The next day his lead vocals were taped, following which Lovely Rita was left until 7 March. On that day the song’s distinctive backing vocals and sound effects were recorded. Led by John Lennon, The Beatles made various groaning, sighing and screaming noises, played paper and combs, and added some cha-cha-chas for good measure.

The paper and combs can best be heard immediately before the line “When it gets dark I tow your heart away”. The Beatles’ assistant Mal Evans was sent to collect paper from Abbey Road’s lavatory. Stamped with the words, “Property of EMI”, the paper was threaded into hair combs and blown, giving a kazoo-like effect.

On 21 March George Martin recorded the song’s piano solo. It was recorded with the tape machine running at 41¼ cycles per second, and was mixed at 48¾ cycles. This made the solo much faster and higher pitched than it had been during the recording.

Good Morning Good Morning

Written by – John Lennon-Paul McCartney
Producer – George Martin
Engineer – Geoff Emerick

The Players

John Lennon – Vocals/Rhythm Guitar
Paul McCartney – Backing Vocals/Lead Guitar/Bass
George Harrison – Backing Vocals/Lead Guitar
Ringo Starr – Drums/Tambourine
Barrie Cameron, David Glyde, Alan Holmes – Saxophone
John Lee, Unknown Talent – Trombone
Tom (Surname Unknown)– French Horn

Born of John Lennon’s post-touring retreat into suburban daydreaming, Good Morning Good Morning was inspired by a Kellogg’s commercial he heard while working with the television playing in the background.

Good Morning is mine. It’s a throwaway, a piece of garbage, I always thought. The ‘Good morning, good morning’ was from a Kellogg’s cereal commercial. I always had the TV on very low in the background when I Was writing and it came over and then I wrote the song.

John Lennon – All We Are Saying, David Sheff

The Kellogg’s jingle went

Good morning, good morning
The best to you each morning.
Sunshine breakfast, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes
Crisp and full of fun.

With time signatures varying almost from bar-to-bar, Good Morning Good Morning’s unruly meter was a result of Lennon’s tendency to write words first before fitting the music around them.

John was feeling trapped in suburbia and was going through some problems with Cynthia. It was about his boring life at the time – there’s a reference in the lyrics to ‘nothing to do’ and ‘meet the wife’; there was an afternoon TV soap called Meet The Wife that John watched, he was that bored, but I think he was also starting to get alarm bells. 

Paul McCartney – Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

 

 

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise)

Written by – John Lennon-Paul McCartney
Producer – George Martin
Engineer – Geoff Emerick

The Players

Paul McCartney – Vocals/Bass Guitar
John Lennon – Vocals/Rhythm Guitar
George Harrison – Vocals/Lead Guitar
Ringo Starr – Vocals/Drums/Tambourine/Maracas
George Martin – Organ

The idea for a reprise of Sgt Pepper’s title track was suggested by The Beatles’ assistant Neil Aspinall, who thought the album should be bookended with words from the imaginary compère.

I said to Paul, ‘Why don’t you have Sgt Pepper as the compère of the album? He comes on at the beginning of the show and introduces the band, and at the end he closes it. A bit later, Paul told John about it in the studio, and John came up to me and said, ‘Nobody likes a smart-arse, Neil’… That was when I knew that John liked it and that it would happen. 

Neil Aspinall

Sgt Pepper (Reprise) was the final music recorded for the album, apart from the strings overdub for Within You Without You. Taped in a single day, it was the perfect rousing performance to introduce the grand finale, A Day In The Life.

The reprise was faster than the previously-recorded title track, and with different lyrics. Opening with Paul McCartney’s 1-2-3-4 count-in and John Lennon’s cheeky “bye”, it featured all four Beatles on vocals and was one of the more straightforward rock songs on the Sgt Pepper album.

Take five of the song, with a guide vocal by Paul McCartney, was released on Anthology 2. A remix of the more familiar version, meanwhile, was used between Hey Jude and All You Need Is Love on the Love album.

 

A Day in the Life

Written by – John Lennon-Paul McCartney
Producer – George Martin
Engineer – Geoff Emerick

The Players
John Lennon – Vocals/Acoustic Guitar/Piano
Paul McCartney – Vocals/Piano/Bass
George Harrison – Maracas
Ringo Starr – Drums/Bongos
George Martin – Harmonium
Mal Evans – Piano/Vocals/Alarm Clock
Erich Gruenberg, Granville Jones, Bill Monro, Jurgen Hess, Hans Geiger, D Bradley, Lionel Bentley, David McCallum, Donald Weekes, Henry Datyner, Sidney Sax, Ernest Scott – Violins
John Underwood, Gwynne Edwards, Bernard Davis, John Meek – Violas
Francisco Gabarro, Dennis Vigay, Alan Dalziel, Alex Nifosi – Cellos
Cyril MacArthur, Gordon Pearce – Double Basses
John Marston – Harp
Basil Tschaikov, Jack Brymer – Clarinets
Roger Lord – Oboe
N Fawcett, Alfred Waters – Bassoons
Clifford Seville, David Sanderman – Flutes
Alan Civil, Neil Sanders – French Horns
David Mason, Monty Montgomery, Harold Jackson – Trumpets
Raymond Brown, Raymond Premru, T Moore – Trombones
Michael Barnes – Tubas
Tristan Fry – Timpani/Percussion
Marijke Koger – Tambourine

The climax of their masterpiece Sgt Pepper, A Day In The Life found The Beatles at the peak of their creative powers, an astonishing artistic statement that saw them fearless, breaking boundaries and enthralling generations of listeners with the timeless quality of their music.

A Day In The Life – that was something. I dug it. It was a good piece of work between Paul and me. I had the ‘I read the news today’ bit, and it turned Paul on. Now and then we really turn each other on with a bit of song, and he just said ‘yeah’ – bang, bang, like that. It just sort of happened beautifully. 

John Lennon – Rolling Stone

A 41-piece orchestra played on this song. The musicians were told to attend the session dressed formally. When they got there, they were presented with party novelties (false noses, party hats, gorilla-paw glove) to wear, which made it clear this was not going to be a typical session. The orchestra was conducted by Paul McCartney, who told them to start with the lowest note of their instruments and gradually play to the highest.

This was recorded in three sessions: First the basic track, then the orchestra, then the last note was dubbed in.

The beginning of this song was based on two stories John Lennon read in the Daily Mail newspaper: Guinness heir Tara Browne dying when he smashed his lotus into a parked van, and an article in the UK Daily Express in early 1967 which told of how the Blackburn Roads Surveyor had counted 4000 holes in the roads of Blackburn and commented that the volume of material needed to fill them in was enough to fill the Albert Hall. Lennon took some liberties with the Tara Browne story – he changed it so he “Blew his mind out in the car.”

John Lennon stated this regarding the article about Tara Browne:

“I didn’t copy the accident. Tara didn’t blow his mind out. But it was in my mind when I was writing that verse.” At the time, Paul didn’t realize the reference was to Tara. He thought it was about a “stoned politician.” The article regarding the “4000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire” was taken from the UK Daily Express, January 17, 1967 in a column called “Far And Near.”

John’s friend Terry Doran was the one who completed John’s line “Now they know how many holes it takes to fill…” Terry told him “fill the Albert Hall, John.”

Paul McCartney contributed the line “I’d love to turn you on.” This was a drug reference, but the BBC banned it for the line about having a smoke and going into a dream, which they thought was about marijuana. The ban was finally lifted when author David Storey picked it as one of his Desert Island Discs.

The final chord was produced by all four Beatles and George Martin banging on three pianos simultaneously. As the sound diminished, the engineer boosted to faders. The resulting note lasts 42 seconds, and the studio air conditioners can be heard toward the end as the faders were pushed to the limit to record it.

This being the last song on the album, The Beatles found an interesting way to close it out. After the final note, John Lennon had producer George Martin dub in a high pitched tone, which most humans can’t hear, but drives dogs crazy. This was followed by a loop of incomprehensible studio noise, along with Paul McCartney saying “Never could see any other way,” spliced together. It was put there so vinyl copies would play this continuously in the run-out groove, sounding like something went horribly wrong with the record. Kids, ask your parents about vinyl.

David Crosby was at Abbey Road studios when The Beatles were recording this. In an interview with Filter magazine, he said:

“I was, as near as I know, the first human being besides them and George Martin and the engineers to hear ‘A Day In The Life.’ I was high as a kite – so high I was hunting geese with a rake. They sat me down; they had huge speakers like coffins with wheels on that they rolled up on either side of the stool. By the time it got the end of that piano chord, man my brains were on the floor.”

As you can see much of this masterpiece has been over analyzed and over commentated on. The entire goal to this retrospective is to open the eyes and hearts to newer generations to this album and to perhaps renew interest for those long time fans who are still seeking more information or tidbits on Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Concept albums such as Pink Floyd’s Darkside Of The Moon & The Wall, Yes’ Tales Of Topographic Oceans, Moody Blues Days Of Future Passed, The Who’s Tommy & Quadraphenia, Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention We’re Only In It For The Money, Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell Trilogy, RUSH’s 2112, etc.. may not otherwise exist without The Beatles Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Neither would all those albums respective influence on future bands and concept albums may not exist either.

The Beatles Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band will never stop being a topic of keen interest within the pantheon of rock. With every anniversary milestone and birthday you will always see articles and retrospectives like this one. This is a testament of the utter generational defying reach The Beatles have had as a band and that Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has had as a album for the last 50 years and will for the next 50 or so years. ‘It was 50 Years Ago This Month ……’

 

 

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