Saturday, September 05, 2009

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is the eighth studio album by the British rock band The Beatles. Recorded over a 129-day period beginning on 6 December 1966, the album was released on 1 June 1967 in the United Kingdom and the following day in the United States. Sgt. Pepper is often described as The Beatles' magnum opus and recognized as one of the most influential albums of all time by prominent critics and publications. It was ranked the greatest album of all time by Rolling Stone in 2003.


The album project had originally been titled Dr. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, but after it was discovered that Dr. Pepper was a trademarked name for an American soft drink, The Beatles changed the title to Sgt. Pepper's.

When Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was being recorded, "Beatlemania" was waning. The Beatles had grown tired of touring and had quit the road in August 1966. After one particular concert, while being driven away in the back of a small van, the four of them—even Paul McCartney, who was perhaps the most in favor of continuing to tour—decided that enough was enough. From that point on the Beatles became an entirely studio-based band. For the first time in their careers, the band had more than ample time with which to prepare their next record. As EMI's premier act and Britain's most successful pop group they had almost unlimited access to the state of the art technology of Abbey Road Studios. All four band members had already developed a preference for long, late night sessions, although they were still extremely efficient and highly disciplined in their studio habits.

George Harrison, the lead guitarist of the Beatles, went on a trip to India to learn to play the sitar, an Indian instrument, with Ravi Shankar, a renowned sitarist. Harrison brought back with him Indian culture and music.

Recording for the album began in late 1966 and early 1967 with two songs that were ultimately dropped from Sgt. Pepper, "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane." When Beatles manager Brian Epstein decided that a new single was needed, the two songs were issued as a double-A-sided single in February 1967. In keeping with the group's usual practice, the single tracks were not included on the LP (a decision George Martin maintains he regrets to this day). They were released only as a single in the UK at the time, but were included as part of the American LP version of Magical Mystery Tour (which was issued as a 6-track EP in Britain). The Harrison composition "Only a Northern Song" was also recorded during the Pepper sessions but did not see release until January 1969 when the soundtrack album for the animated feature Yellow Submarine was issued.


With Sgt. Pepper, the Beatles wanted to create a record that could, in effect, tour for them — an idea they had already explored with the promotional film-clips made over the previous years, intended to promote them in the United States when they were not touring there.

McCartney decided that he should create fictitious characters for each band member and record an album that would be a performance by that fictitious band. This "alter-ego group" gave the Beatles the freedom to experiment with songs.

The Beatles' fame motivated them to grow moustaches and beards and even longer hair, and was an inspiration for the disguise of their flamboyant Sgt. Pepper costumes. McCartney was well known for going out in public in disguise and all four had used aliases for travel bookings and hotel reservations.

Thus, the album starts with the title song, which introduces Sgt. Pepper's band itself; this song segues seamlessly into a sung introduction for bandleader "Billy Shears" (Starr), who performs "With a Little Help from My Friends". A reprise version of the title song was also recorded, and appears on side 2 of the original album (just prior to the climactic "A Day in the Life"), creating a "bookending" effect.

However, the Beatles effectively abandoned the concept after recording the first two songs and the reprise. Lennon was unequivocal in stating that the songs he wrote for the album had nothing to do with the Sgt. Pepper concept. Since the other songs on the album are actually unrelated, one might be tempted to conclude that the album does not express an overarching theme. However, the cohesive structure and careful sequencing of and transitioning between songs on the album, as well as the use of the Sgt. Pepper framing device, have led the album to be widely acknowledged as an early and ground-breaking example of the concept album.

Before beginning work on Sgt. Pepper, the Beatles had begun to work on a series of songs that were to form an album thematically linked to childhood and everyday life. The first fruits of this exercise - "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" were released as a double-A single after EMI and Epstein pressured George Martin for a released single. Once the singles were released the concept was abandoned in favor of 'Pepper.' However, traces of this initial idea survive in the lyrics to several songs on the album ("A Day in the Life", "Lovely Rita", "Good Morning, Good Morning", "She's Leaving Home", "Getting Better", and "When I'm Sixty-Four") and it could be argued provide more of a unifying theme for the album than that of the Pepper concept itself.


Since the introduction of magnetic recording tape in 1949, multitrack recording had been developed. By 1967 all of the Sgt. Pepper tracks could be recorded at Abbey Road using mono, stereo and 4-track recorders. Although 8-track tape recorders were already available in the U.S., the first 8-tracks were not operational in commercial studios in London until late 1967, shortly after Sgt. Pepper was released. In retrospect, the limitations of EMI's studio technology most likely pushed the Beatles and their production staff to be more inventive and resourceful than they otherwise would have been.

Like its predecessors, the recording made extensive use of the technique known as bouncing down (also called multing), in which a number of tracks were recorded across the four tracks of one recorder, which were then mixed and dubbed down onto one track of the master 4-track machine. This enabled the Abbey Road engineers to give the Beatles a virtual multi-track studio.

Magnetic tape had also led to innovative use of instruments and production effects, notably the tape-based keyboard sampler, the Mellotron, effects like flanging and phasing, as well as a greatly improved system for creating echo and reverberation.

The Beatles also used new modular effects units like the wah-wah pedal and fuzzbox, which they augmented with their own experimental ideas, such as running voices and instruments through a Leslie speaker. Another important sonic innovation was McCartney's discovery of the direct input (DI) technique, in which he could record his bass by plugging it directly into an amplifying circuit in the recording console. While the still often-used technique of recording through an amplifier with a microphone sounds more natural, this setup provided a radically different presence in bass guitar sound versus the old method. But the most frequently used method was to record the bass last, after all the other recording was done, by placing the amplifier in the centre of the studio and placing the microphone six feet from the source.

Several then-new production effects feature extensively on the recordings. One of the most important was automatic double tracking (ADT), a system that used tape recorders to create an instant and simultaneous doubling of a sound. Although it had long been recognised that using multitrack tape to record 'doubled' lead vocals produced a greatly enhanced sound (especially with weaker singers), it had always been necessary to record such vocal tracks twice, a task which was both tedious and exacting.

ADT was invented specially for the Beatles by EMI engineer Ken Townsend in 1966, mainly at the behest of Lennon, who hated tracking sessions and regularly expressed a desire for a technical solution to the problem. ADT quickly became a near-universal recording practice in popular music. Producer George Martin, having a bit of fun at John Lennon's expense, described the new technique to an inquisitive Lennon as a "double-bifurcated sploshing flange." The anecdote explains one variation of how the term "flanging" came to be for this recording effect.

Also important was varispeeding, the technique of recording various tracks on a multi-track tape at slightly different tape speeds. The Beatles use this effect extensively on their vocals in this period. The speeding up of vocals (also known as 'tweaking') also became a widespread technique in pop production. The Beatles also used the effect on portions of their backing tracks (as on "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds") to give them a 'thicker' and more diffuse sound.

In another innovation, non-US pressings of the album (in its original LP form that was later released on CD) end in an unusual way, beginning with a 15-kilohertz high-frequency tone (put on the album at Lennon's suggestion and said to be "especially intended to annoy your dog"), followed by an endless loop of laughter and gibberish made by the runout groove looping back into itself. The loop (but not the tone) made its U.S. debut on the 1980 Rarities compilation, titled "Sgt. Pepper Inner Groove". However, it is only featured as a 2-second fragment at the end of side 2 rather than an actual loop in the run out groove. The CD version of Sgt. Pepper's Inner Groove is actually a bit shorter than that one found on the original UK vinyl pressing.

The sound in the loop is also the subject of much controversy, being widely interpreted as some kind of secret message. McCartney later told his biographer Barry Miles that in the summer of 1967 a group of kids came up to him complaining about a lewd message hidden in it when played backwards. He told them, "You're wrong, it's actually just 'It really couldn't be any other.'" He took them to his house to play the record backwards to them, and it turned out that the passage sounded very much like "We'll fuck you like Superman." McCartney recounted to Miles that his immediate reaction had been, "Oh my God!"

However, it seems that in reality it is nothing more than a few random samples and tape edits played backwards. The loop is re-created on the CD version which plays for a few seconds, then fades out. Although most of the content of the runout groove is impossible to decipher, it is possible to distinguish a sped-up voice (possibly McCartney's) actually reciting the phrase "never could be any other way". Played backwards, the last element of the original LP loop that is Sgt. Pepper's Inner Groove appears to be George Harrison saying "Epstein" (obviously missing from the CD version).

Some tension and discord took place during the recording sessions. One instance involved "She's Leaving Home", when an impatient McCartney, frustrated by Martin's unavailability, hired freelance arranger Mike Leander to arrange the string section — the first of only two occasions during the group's entire career that he worked with another arranger (the other was in connection with some backing orchestration used in the Magical Mystery Tour film (12 October 1967 session; see Lewisohn), which were also arranged by Leander. Harrison also became alienated by McCartney's growing dominance in the studio, particularly when McCartney re-recorded the guitar solos for the album's title track.

The Beatles were present during the mixing of the album in mono and the LP was originally released as such alongside a stereo mix prepared by Abbey Road engineers led by Geoff Emerick; the Beatles themselves did not attend the mixing of the stereo version. (The mono version is now out of print on vinyl and was not officially released on CD.) The two mixes are fundamentally different. For example, the stereo mix of "She's Leaving Home" was mixed at a slower speed than the original recording and therefore plays at a slower tempo and at a lower pitch than the original recording. Conversely, the mono version of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is considerably slower than the stereo version and features much heavier gating and reverb effects. McCartney's yelling voice in the coda section of "Sgt. Pepper (Reprise)" (just before the segue into "A Day in the Life") can plainly be heard in the mono version, but is nearly inaudible in the stereo version. The mono version of the song also features drums that open with much more presence and force, as they are turned well up in the mix. Also in the stereo mix, the famous segue at the end of "Good Morning Good Morning" (the chicken-clucking sound which becomes a guitar noise) is timed differently and a crowd noise tape comes in later during the intro to "Sgt. Pepper (Reprise)".

Other variations between the two mixes include louder laughter at the end of the mono mix of "Within You Without You", as well as a gush of laughter between the coda of the title track and the beginning of "With a Little Help From My Friends", and a colder, echoless ending on the mono version of "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"


Sgt. Pepper features elaborate arrangements — for example, the clarinet ensemble on "When I'm Sixty-Four" — and extensive use of studio effects including echo, reverberation and reverse tape effects. Many of these effects were devised in collaboration with producer George Martin and his team of engineers.

By the time the Beatles recorded the album their musical interests had grown from their simple R&B, pop, and rock and roll beginnings to incorporate a variety of new influences. They had become familiar with a wide range of instruments such as the Hammond organ and electric piano; their instrumentation now covered a wider range including strings, brass, woodwind, percussion, and even some exotic instruments such as the sitar. McCartney, although unable to read music, had scored a recent British film The Family Way (see The Family Way soundtrack) with the assistance of producer/arranger George Martin, which earned him a prestigious Ivor Novello award. McCartney came to be greatly influenced by the avant garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, whom he wanted to include on the cover.

Another example of the album's unusual production is John Lennon's song "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!", which closes side 1 of the album. The lyrics were adapted almost word for word from an old circus poster which Lennon had bought at an antique shop in Kent the day the Beatles had been filming the promotional clip for Strawberry Fields Forever there. The flowing sound collage that gives the song its distinctive character was created by Martin and his engineers, who collected recordings of calliopes and fairground organs, which were then cut into strips of various lengths, thrown into a box, mixed up and edited together in random order, creating a long loop which was mixed in during final production.

The opening track of side two, "Within You Without You", is unusually long for a 'pop' recording of the day, and features only George Harrison, on vocals, sitar and acoustic guitar, with all other instruments being played by a group of London-based Indian musicians. These deviations from the traditional rock and roll band formula were facilitated by the Beatles' decision not to tour, by their ability to hire top-rate session musicians, and by Harrison's burgeoning interest in India and Indian music, which led him to take lessons from sitar maestro Ravi Shankar. Harrison's fascination with Indian music is further evidenced by the use of a tamboura on several tracks, including "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" as well as "Getting Better".

This album also makes heavy use of keyboard instruments. Grand piano is used on tracks such as "A Day in the Life," along with Lowrey organ on "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." A harpsichord can be heard on "Fixing a Hole," and a harmonium was played by George Martin on "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite". Electric piano, upright piano, Hammond organ, glockenspiel and Mellotron are all heard on the record.

The thunderous piano chord that dramatically concludes "A Day in the Life", and the album, was produced by assembling three grand pianos in the studio and playing an E chord on each simultaneously. Together on cue Lennon, Starr, George Martin and assistant Mal Evans hammered the keys on the assembled pianos and held the chord. The sound from the pianos was then mixed up with compression and increasing gain on the volume to draw out the sound to maximum sustain.

Possible drug references

Concerns that lyrics in Sgt. Pepper referred to recreational drug use led to several songs from the album being banned by the BBC and criticized in other quarters.

The album's closing track, "A Day in the Life," includes the phrase "I'd love to turn you on". The BBC banned the song from airplay on the basis of this line, claiming it could "encourage a permissive attitude toward drug-taking." Both Lennon and McCartney denied any drug-related interpretation of the song.

The song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" also became the subject of speculation regarding its meaning, as many believed that the words of the chorus were code for LSD. The BBC used this as their basis for banning the song from British radio. Again, John Lennon consistently denied this interpretation of the song, maintaining that the song describes a surreal dream scape inspired by a picture drawn by his son Julian. However, during a newspaper interview in 2004, McCartney was quoted as saying:
“'Lucy in the Sky', that's pretty obvious. There's others that make subtle hints about drugs, but, you know, it's easy to overestimate the influence of drugs on the Beatles' music. Just about everyone was doing drugs in one form or another and we were no different, but the writing was too important for us to mess it up by getting off our heads all the time.”

Other songs recorded during that period

Four other tracks were recorded during the time span of the Sgt. Pepper recording sessions but not incorporated on the album:

* "Strawberry Fields Forever" – The first song recorded for the album, written by Lennon with the title referring to a Salvation Army orphanage near where he lived during his childhood in Liverpool.
* "Penny Lane" – A McCartney song written as a counterpoint to Lennon's "Strawberry Fields" - it was McCartney's own nostalgic take on the Liverpool of his youth.

Though "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" had originally been intended for the new album, in January 1967 producer George Martin responded to EMI Records' pressure for a new single (the Beatles had not released a single since August 1966) and called the two tracks for issue in February 1967. In common with UK music industry practice at that time, which did not duplicate recent singles on new albums, both tracks were subsequently left off the Sgt. Pepper album. The tracks were issued on the US Magical Mystery Tour album in late 1967 and on a UK compilation album in 1973. Martin later described the decision to extract the two songs from the album as the biggest mistake of his career.

* "Only a Northern Song" – A George Harrison song that offered a sarcastic commentary on his music publishing contract with the Beatles' publishing company "Northern Songs". Harrison presented it as a possibility for inclusion on the album to George Martin, who rejected it. Harrison then decided to write another track for the album, "Within You Without You", and that song about spirituality was deemed a more suitable choice for the album. "Only a Northern Song" was shelved and then given to the makers of the animated feature film Yellow Submarine. It was used in the 1968 film and then incorporated on the soundtrack album released the following year.
* "Carnival of Light" – A McCartney sound collage reportedly lasting ten to fifteen minutes, the piece was commissioned and recorded for use at a psychedelic London event in early 1967—the "Carnival of Light Rave"—and expanded on the use of tape loops that the Beatles had explored on "Tomorrow Never Knows". "Carnival of Light" has not yet appeared on any release, be it official or a bootleg recording. However, a minute-long track claimed to be an excerpt from the song containing backwards, sped up electric guitar noises has appeared on various file-sharing networks. In November 2008 McCartney confirmed its existence, and he believes the time has come to let it be released.

Album cover

The Grammy Award-winning album packaging was created by art director Robert Fraser, mostly in collaboration with McCartney, designed by Peter Blake, his wife Jann Haworth, and photographed by Michael Cooper. It featured a colorful collage of life-sized cardboard models of famous people on the front of the album cover and lyrics printed on the back cover, the first time this had been done on an English pop LP. The Beatles themselves, in the guise of the Sgt. Pepper band, were dressed in custom-made military-style outfits made of satin dyed in day-glo colors. The suits were designed by Manuel Cuevas. Among the insignia on their uniforms are:

* MBE medals on McCartney's and Harrison's jackets. MBEs had been awarded to all four Beatles.
* The Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom, on Lennon's right sleeve
* Ontario Provincial Police flash on McCartney's sleeve

Art director Robert Fraser was a prominent London art dealer who ran his own gallery and sponsored exhibitions at the Indica Gallery, through which he had become a close friend of McCartney, and it was at his strong urging that the group abandoned their original cover design, a psychedelic painting by The Fool. The Fool's design for the inner sleeve was, however, used for the first few pressings.

Fraser was one of the leading champions of modern art in Britain in the 1960s and after. He argued strongly that the Fool artwork was not well-executed and that the design would soon be dated. He convinced McCartney to abandon it, and offered to art-direct the cover; it was Fraser's suggestion to use an established fine artist and he introduced the band to a client, noted British 'pop' artist Peter Blake, who, in collaboration with his wife, created the famous cover collage, known as "People We Like".

According to Blake, the original concept was to create a scene that showed the Sgt. Pepper band performing in a park; this gradually evolved into its final form, which shows the Beatles, as the Sgt. Pepper band, surrounded by a large group of their heroes, rendered as life-sized cut-out figures. Also included were wax-work figures of the Beatles as they appeared in the early '60s, borrowed from Madame Tussauds. The wax figures appear to be looking down on the word "Beatles" spelled out in flowers as if it were a grave, and it has been speculated that this symbolizes that the innocent mop-tops of yesteryear were now dead and gone. At their feet were several affectations from the Beatles' homes including small statues belonging to Lennon and Harrison, a small portable TV set and a trophy. A young delivery boy who provided the flowers for the photo session was allowed to contribute a guitar made of yellow hyacinths. Although it has long been rumored that some of the plants in the arrangement were cannabis plants, this is untrue. Also included is a Shirley Temple doll wearing a sweater in homage to the Rolling Stones (who would return the tribute by having the Beatles hidden in the cover of their own Their Satanic Majesties Request LP later that year).

The collage depicted more than 70 famous people, including writers, musicians, film stars and (at Harrison's request) a number of Indian gurus. Starr reportedly made no contribution to the design. The final grouping included Marlene Dietrich, Carl Gustav Jung, W.C. Fields, Diana Dors, Bob Dylan, Marilyn Monroe, Aldous Huxley, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Sigmund Freud, Aleister Crowley, Edgar Allan Poe, Karl Marx, Oscar Wilde, William S. Burroughs, Marlon Brando, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, and controversial comedian Lenny Bruce. Also included was the image of the original Beatles bass player, the late Stuart Sutcliffe. Pete Best said in a later NPR interview that Lennon borrowed family medals from his mother Mona for the shoot, on condition he not lose them. Adolf Hitler and Jesus Christ were requested by Lennon, but ultimately they were left out.

A photo also exists of a rejected cardboard printout with a cloth draped over its head; its identity is unknown, but may possibly be Elvis Presley. Even now, co-creator Jann Haworth regrets that so few women were included. The entire list of people on the cover can be found at List of images on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The package was a 'gatefold' album cover, that is, the album could be opened like a book to reveal a large picture of the Fab Four in costume against a yellow background. The reason for the gate fold was that the Beatles originally planned to fill two LPs for the release. The designs had already been approved and sent to be printed when they realized they would only have enough material for one LP.

Originally the group wanted the album to include a package with pins, pencils and other small Sgt. Pepper goodies but this proved far too cost-prohibitive. Instead, the album came with a page of cut-outs, with a description in the top left corner:


* Mustache
* Picture card of Sgt. Pepper
* Stripes
* Badges
* Stand-up of the band

The special inner sleeve, included in the early pressings of the LP, featured a multi-coloured psychedelic pattern designed by the Fool.
The inner sleeve

The collage created legal worries for EMI's legal department, which had to contact the people who were still living to obtain their permission. Mae West initially refused — famously asking "What would I be doing in a lonely hearts club?" — but she relented after the Beatles sent her a personal letter. Actor Leo Gorcey requested payment for inclusion on the cover, so his image was removed. An image of Mohandas Gandhi was also removed at the request of EMI (it was airbrushed out), who had a branch in India and were fearful that it might cause offence there. Lennon had, perhaps facetiously, asked to include images of Jesus Christ and Adolf Hitler, but these were rejected because they would almost certainly have generated enormous controversy. Most of the suggestions for names to be included came from McCartney, Lennon and Harrison, with additional suggestions from Blake and Fraser (Starr demurred and let the others choose). Beatles manager Brian Epstein had serious misgivings, stemming from the scandalous U.S. Butcher Cover controversy the previous year, going so far as to give a note reading "Brown paper bags for Sgt. Pepper" to Nat Weiss as his last wish.

The collage was assembled by Blake and his wife during the last two weeks of March 1967 at the London studio of photographer Michael Cooper, who took the cover shots on March 30, 1967 in a three-hour evening session. The final bill for the cover was £2,868 5s/3d, a staggering sum for the time — it has been estimated that this was 100 times the average cost for an album cover in those days.

There were also variations of the cover for different countries. On the Soviet Union pirate edition cover, the writing on the bass drum was translated into cyrillic, Karl Marx was replaced by Rasputin and a photo of the director of the record company was added in the back row between Edgar Allan Poe and Fred Astaire. Some countries had colored vinyl such as a yellow LP in The Netherlands and a red one in Japan.

Release and reception

Upon release, Sgt. Pepper received both popular and critical acclaim. Various reviews appearing in the mainstream press and trade publications throughout June 1967, immediately after the album's release, were generally positive. In The Times prominent critic Kenneth Tynan described Sgt. Pepper as "a decisive moment in the history of Western civilization." Others including Richard Poirier, and Geoffrey Stokes were similarly expansive in their praise, Stokes noting, "listening to the Sgt. Pepper album one thinks not simply of the history of popular music but the history of this century."

One notable critic who did not like the album was Richard Goldstein, a critic for The New York Times, who wrote, "Like an over-attended child, "Sergeant Pepper" is spoiled. It reeks of horns and harps, harmonica quartets, assorted animal noises, and a 41-piece orchestra," and added that it was an "album of special effects, dazzling but ultimately fraudulent." On the other hand, Goldstein called "A Day in the Life" "a deadly earnest excursion in emotive music with a chilling lyric," and that "it stands as one of the most important Lennon-McCartney compositions, and it is a historic Pop event."

One rock musician who apparently did not like the album was Frank Zappa, who accused the Beatles of co-opting the flower power aesthetic for monetary gain, saying in a Rolling Stone article that he felt "they were only in it for the money." That criticism later became the title of the Mothers of Invention album (We're Only in It for the Money), which mocked Sgt. Pepper with a similar album cover. Ironically, when recording of Sgt. Pepper was completed, McCartney said, "This is going to be our Freak Out!", referring to Zappa's 1966 debut album, which is considered by many as the first rock concept album.

Within days of its release, Jimi Hendrix was performing the title track in concert, first for an audience that included Harrison and McCartney, who were greatly impressed by his unique version of their song and his ability to learn it so quickly. Also, Australian band The Twilights — who had obtained an advance copy of the LP in London — wowed audiences in Australia with note-perfect live renditions of the entire album, weeks before it was even released there.

The chart performance of the album was even stronger than critical reception. In the UK it debuted at #8 before the album was even released (on June 1, 1967) and the next week peaked at #1 where it stayed for 23 consecutive weeks. Then it was knocked off the top for The Sound of Music on the week ending November 18, 1967. Eventually it spent more weeks at the top, including the competitive Christmas week. When the CD edition was released on June 1, 1987, it made #3. In June 1992, the CD was re-promoted to commemorate its 25th Anniversary, and charted at #6. In 2007, commemorating 40 years of its release, Sgt. Pepper again re-entered the charts at #47 in the UK. In all, the album spent a total of 201 weeks on the UK charts. The album won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, the first rock album to do so, and Best Contemporary Album in 1968. U.S. sales for the album totalled 11 million units, with 30 million worldwide.

The album won Best British Album at the first Brit Awards in 1977.

Planned TV movie

On 10 February 1967, during the orchestral recording sessions for "A Day in the Life," six cameramen filmed the chaotic events with the purpose of using the footage for a planned but unfinished Sgt. Pepper television special. The TV special was to have been written by Ian Dallas and directed by Keith Green. If the project had proceeded, it would have been the first full-length video album (that claim would later go to Blondie's Eat to the Beat in 1979). The shooting schedule included all the songs from the album set to music video style scenes: for example; "Within You Without You" scenes would have been set throughout offices, factories and elevators. There were even production numbers planned involving "meter maids" and "rockers". Although production was canceled, the "A Day in the Life" footage was edited down with stock footage into a finished clip. This clip was not released to the public until the John Lennon documentary Imagine: John Lennon was released in 1988. A more complete version was later aired on The Beatles Anthology series.


It has been on many lists of the best rock albums, including Rolling Stone, Bill Shapiro, Alternative Melbourne, Rod Underhill and VH1. In 1987 Rolling Stone named Sgt. Pepper the greatest album of the last twenty years (1967-1987). In 1997 Sgt. Pepper was named the number 1 greatest album of all time in a 'Music of the Millennium' poll conducted by HMV, Channel 4, The Guardian and Classic FM. In 1998 Q magazine readers placed it at number 7, while in 2003 the TV network VH1 placed it at number 10; In 2003, the album was ranked number 1 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 2006, the album was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the 100 best albums of all time. In 2002, Q magazine placed it at number 13 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 2003, it was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry.


Year / Chart / Position
1967 / US Billboard 200 / 1
1967 / UK Albums Chart / 1
1967 / Australian ARIA Albums Chart / 1
1967 / Norwegian Album Chart / 1

The album entered the UK Albums Chart on 3 June 1967 and has remained there for a total of 201 weeks as at 1 July 2007. In the USA the album stayed in the Billboard 200 chart for 175 weeks.

Grammy Awards

The album project was nominated for an impressive seven Grammy Awards on the 1968 ceremony, receiving four of them, including the prestigious Album of the Year, becoming the first rock/pop album to receive the prize.
Year Winner Award
1968 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Album of the Year
1968 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts
1968 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical
1968 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Contemporary Album

Grammy Award nominations
Year Nominee Award
1968 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Group Vocal Performance
1968 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Contemporary Vocal Group
1968 "A Day in the Life" Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)

Track listing

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was the first Beatles album to be released with identical track listings in the United Kingdom and the United States (although the American release did not originally contain the side two runout groove and inner groove sound effects that were restored for worldwide CD issue). The projected track listing for side one was 'Sgt.Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'; 'With a Little Help From My Friends'; 'Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite!'; 'Fixing a Hole'; 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds'; 'Getting Better'; 'She's Leaving Home'.

All songs written and composed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney except where noted.
Side One
# Title Lead vocals Length
1. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" McCartney 2:02
2. "With a Little Help from My Friends" Starr 2:44
3. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" Lennon 3:28
4. "Getting Better" McCartney 2:47
5. "Fixing a Hole" McCartney 2:36
6. "She's Leaving Home" McCartney and Lennon 3:35
7. "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" Lennon 2:37
Side two
# Title Lead vocals Length
8. "Within You Without You" (George Harrison) Harrison 5:05
9. "When I'm Sixty Four" McCartney 2:37
10. "Lovely Rita" McCartney 2:42
11. "Good Morning Good Morning" Lennon 2:41
12. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise)" McCartney, with Harrison and Lennon 1:18
13. "A Day in the Life" Lennon and McCartney 5:33

Inner groove

Following the last track on the album is an extremely high-pitched tone (15 kHz), too high-pitched for many adults to hear, but audible to dogs, other animals, and most younger listeners. The high tone was inserted, as was John Lennon’s intention, to irritate the listener’s dog. The tone was only inserted on the first 5000 copies of the LP (save for the American Capitol Records pressing), but was included on all copies of the later CD release.

The 15 kHz tone is followed by a loop of incomprehensible Beatles studio chatter, spliced together apparently at random and with sections playing both normally and in reverse. This lasts for two seconds and the final three syllables were mastered into the final "run-out" groove of vinyl LP record, creating a loop of gibberish that is repeated ‘endlessly’ on manual turntables until the listener lifts the tonearm. This coda to the Sgt. Pepper LP was included in British pressings but not originally in American pressings; it was included on the 1980 "Rarities" compilation LP, as "Sgt. Pepper Inner Groove." The 1987 CD re-release simulates this effect, though since an infinite loop cannot be created on compact discs, the Beatle chatter is looped eleven times before fading out.


The Beatles

* George Harrison – lead, rhythm, acoustic and bass guitars; sitar; lead, harmony and background vocals; tamboura; harmonica and kazoo; handclaps; maracas
* John Lennon – lead, harmony and background vocals; lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars; Hammond organ and piano; bass guitar; handclaps, harmonica, tape loops, sound effects and kazoo; tambourine and maracas
* Paul McCartney – lead, harmony and background vocals; lead electric and acoustic guitars; bass guitar; piano and Hammond organ; handclaps, vocalizations, tape loops, sound effects and kazoo
* Ringo Starr – drums, congas, tambourine, maracas, handclaps and tubular bells; lead vocals; harmonica and kazoo; final piano E chord

Additional musicians and production

* Neil Aspinall – tamboura and harmonica
* Geoff Emerick – recording and mixing engineer; tape loops and sound effects
* Mal Evans – counting, alarm clock and final piano E chord
* Matthew Deyell – tambourine
* George Martin – producer and mixer; tape loops and sound effects; harpsichord, Hammond organ and piano strings; final harmonium chord.
* Session musicians – four French horns on "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", arranged and conducted by Martin and McCartney; string section and harp on "She's Leaving Home", arranged by Mike Leander and conducted by Martin; harmonium, tabla, sitar, dilruba, eight violins and four cellos on "Within You, Without You", arranged and conducted by Harrison and Martin; clarinet trio on "When I'm Sixty Four", as arranged and conducted by Martin and McCartney; saxophone sextet on "Good Morning, Good Morning", arranged and conducted by Martin and Lennon; and forty-piece orchestra (strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion) on "A Day in the Life", arranged by Martin, Lennon and McCartney and conducted by Martin and McCartney

Released: 1 June 1967
Recorded: 6 December 1966 – 21 April 1967 at Abbey Road Studios, London, England
Genre: Psychedelic rock
Length: 39:42
Language: English
Label: Parlophone/Capitol
Producer: George Martin


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