Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

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Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Beatles, holding marching band instruments and wearing colourful uniforms, stand near a grave covered with flowers that spell "Beatles". Standing behind the band are several dozen famous people.
Studio album by the Beatles
Released 26 May 1967 (1967-05-26)
Recorded 24 November 1966 – 21 April 1967
Studio EMI Studios and Regent Sound Studio, London
Genre
Length 39:52
Label Parlophone
Producer George Martin
The Beatles chronology
A Collection of Beatles Oldies
(1966)
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
(1967)
The Beatles
(1968)
The Beatles North American chronology
Revolver
(1966)
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
(1967)
Magical Mystery Tour
(1967)

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is the eighth studio album by the English rock band the Beatles. Released on 26 May 1967 in the United Kingdom[nb 1] and 2 June 1967 in the United States, it spent 27 weeks at number one on the UK Albums Chart and 15 weeks at number one in the US. It was lauded by critics for its innovations in production, songwriting and graphic design, for bridging a cultural divide between popular music and high 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, the first rock LP to receive this honour.

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

In February 1967, after recording the title track "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", McCartney suggested that the Beatles should release an entire album representing 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 "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" and "A Day in the Life". Producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick helped realise the group's ideas by approaching the studio as an instrument, applying orchestral overdubs, sound effects and other methods of tape manipulation. Recording was completed on 21 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.

Sgt. Pepper is regarded by musicologists as an early concept album that advanced the use of extended form in popular music while continuing the artistic maturation seen on the Beatles' preceding releases. It is described as one of the first art rock LPs, aiding the development of progressive rock, and is credited with marking the beginning of the album era. An important work of British psychedelia, the album incorporates a range of stylistic influences, including vaudeville, circus, music hall, avant-garde, and Western and Indian classical music. In 2003, the Library of Congress placed Sgt. Pepper in the National Recording Registry as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[2] That year, Rolling Stone ranked it number one in its list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". As of 2011, it has sold more than 32 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling albums. Professor Kevin Dettmar, writing in The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature, described it as "the most important and influential rock-and-roll album ever recorded".[3]

Background

We were fed up with being the Beatles. We really hated that fucking four little mop-top approach. We were not boys, we were men ... and thought of ourselves as artists rather than just performers.[4]

Paul McCartney

By 1966, the Beatles had grown weary of live performance.[5] In John Lennon's opinion, they could "send out four waxworks ... and that would satisfy the crowds. Beatles concerts are nothing to do with music anymore. They're just bloody tribal rites."[6] In June that year, two days after finishing the album Revolver, the group set off for a tour that started in West Germany.[7] While in Hamburg they received an anonymous telegram stating: "Do not go to Tokyo. Your life is in danger."[8] The threat was taken seriously in light of the controversy surrounding the tour among Japan's religious and conservative groups, with particular opposition to the Beatles' planned performances at the sacred Nippon Budokan arena.[8] As an added precaution, 35,000 police were mobilised and tasked with protecting the group, who were transported from hotels to concert venues in armoured vehicles.[9] The polite and restrained Japanese audiences shocked the band, because the absence of screaming fans allowed them to hear how poor their live performances had become. By the time that they arrived in the Philippines, where they were threatened and manhandled by its citizens for not visiting the First Lady Imelda Marcos, the group had grown unhappy with their manager, Brian Epstein, for insisting on what they regarded as an exhausting and demoralising itinerary.[10]

The group, with disc jockey Jim Stagg, while on their final tour in August 1966

The publication in the US of Lennon's remarks about the Beatles being "more popular than Jesus" then embroiled the band in controversy and protest in America's Bible Belt.[11] A public apology eased tensions, but a US tour in August that was marked by half-filled stadiums and subpar performances proved to be their last.[12] The author Nicholas Schaffner writes:

To the Beatles, playing such concerts had become a charade so remote from the new directions they were pursuing that not a single tune was attempted from the just-released Revolver LP, whose arrangements were for the most part impossible to reproduce with the limitations imposed by their two-guitars-bass-and-drums stage lineup.[13]

On the Beatles' return to England, rumours began to circulate that they had decided to break up.[14] George Harrison informed Epstein that he was leaving the band, but was persuaded to stay on the assurance that there would be no more tours.[11] The group took a three-month break, during which they focused on individual interests.[15] Harrison travelled to India for six weeks to study the sitar under the instruction of Ravi Shankar[16] and develop his interest in Hindu philosophy.[17] Having been the last of the Beatles to concede that their live performances had become futile,[18] Paul McCartney collaborated with Beatles producer George Martin on the soundtrack for the film The Family Way.[19] Lennon acted in the film How I Won the War and attended art showings, such as one at the Indica Gallery where he met his future wife Yoko Ono.[20] Ringo Starr used the break to spend time with his wife Maureen and son Zak.[21]

Concept and inspiration

The 1965 release of the Beatles' Rubber Soul marked the start of a period when other artists, in an attempt to emulate the Beatles' achievement, sought to create albums as works of artistic merit and with increasingly novel sounds.[22] A creative rivalry between Bob Dylan and the Beatles had existed for some time, but after the summer of 1966, the American songwriter and producer Brian Wilson, leader of the Beach Boys, emerged to rival the Beatles for artistic prestige.[23] His growing interest in the aesthetics of recording and his admiration for both record producer Phil Spector's Wall of Sound and Rubber Soul resulted in the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds LP, which demonstrated his production expertise and his mastery of composition and arrangement.[24] In May 1966, Lennon and McCartney were played the album at a party held by Beach Boy Bruce Johnston at his London hotel suite.[25] McCartney was immediately effused with the songs' "harmonic structures", its bass lines and the choice of instruments used in Wilson's musical arrangements, and said that these elements encouraged him to think the Beatles could "get further out" than the Beach Boys had.[26] He added: "we were inspired by it and nicked a few ideas."[27][nb 2]

1966 saw the wider distribution and preponderance of music, visual tropes and topicality concerned with psychedelic drugs – a development originating chiefly from San Francisco musicians and concert posters[30] – as well as the release of several ambitious pop singles in its final months.[31] Among these, according to author Kenneth Womack, the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" was viewed by the Beatles and Martin as "a direct challenge" to their supremacy.[32] In November, during a return flight to London from Kenya, where he had been on holiday with Beatles tour manager Mal Evans, McCartney had an idea for a song that eventually formed the impetus of the Sgt. Pepper concept.[16] His idea involved an Edwardian-era military band, for which Evans invented a name in the style of contemporary San Francisco-based groups such as Big Brother and the Holding Company and Quicksilver Messenger Service.[33][nb 3] In February 1967, McCartney suggested that the Beatles should record an entire album that would represent a performance by the fictional band.[36] This alter ego group would give them the freedom to experiment musically. He explained: "I thought, let's not be ourselves. Let's develop alter egos."[37] Martin remembered:

"Sergeant Pepper" itself didn't appear until halfway through making the album. It was Paul's song, just an ordinary rock number ... but when we had finished it, Paul said, "Why don't we make the album as though the Pepper band really existed, as though Sergeant Pepper was making the record? We'll dub in effects and things." I loved the idea, and from that moment on it was as though Pepper had a life of its own.[38]

McCartney identified Pet Sounds as his main musical inspiration for Sgt. Pepper[27] and recalled that he envisioned the Beatles' alter egos being able to "do a bit of B.B. King, a bit of Stockhausen, a bit of Albert Ayler, a bit of Ravi Shankar, a bit of Pet Sounds, a bit of the Doors".[39] In a 1967 interview, Harrison said that the Beatles' ongoing success had encouraged them to continue developing musically and that, given their standing, "We can do things that please us without conforming to the standard pop idea. We are not only involved in pop music, but all music."[40]

Freak Out! by the Mothers of Invention has also been cited as having influenced Sgt. Pepper.[41] According to the author Philip Norman, during the Sgt. Pepper recording sessions McCartney repeatedly stated: "This is our Freak Out!"[29] The music journalist Chet Flippo states that McCartney was inspired to record a concept album after hearing Freak Out![41][nb 4]

Recording and production

Recording history

A colour image of a large room with a piano in the middle
Abbey Road Studio Two, where nearly every track on Sgt. Pepper was recorded[44]

According to the musicologist Walter Everett, Sgt. Pepper marks the beginning of McCartney's ascendancy as the Beatles' dominant creative force. He wrote more than half of the album's material while asserting increasing control over the recording of his compositions. He would from this point on provide the artistic direction for most of the group's releases.[45][nb 5] Sessions began on 24 November 1966 in Studio Two at EMI Studios (subsequently Abbey Road Studios), marking the first time that the Beatles had come together since September.[47] Afforded the luxury of a nearly limitless recording budget, they booked open-ended sessions that allowed them to work as late as they wanted.[48][nb 6] They began with three songs that were thematically linked to their childhoods: "Strawberry Fields Forever", "When I'm Sixty-Four" and "Penny Lane".[49] The first of these made prominent use of Mellotron, a keyboard instrument on which the keys triggered tape-recordings of a variety of instruments, enabling its user to play keyboard parts using those voices.[50] McCartney performed the introduction to "Strawberry Fields Forever" using the flute setting.[51] The track's complicated production involved the innovative splicing of two takes that were recorded in different tempos and pitches.[52] Emerick remembers that during the recording of Revolver, "we had got used to being asked to do the impossible, and we knew that the word 'no' didn't exist in the Beatles' vocabulary."[53] In Martin's opinion, Sgt. Pepper "grew naturally out of Revolver", marking "an era of almost continuous technological experimentation".[54][nb 7]

Music papers started to slag us off ... because [Sgt. Pepper] took five months to record, and I remember the great glee seeing in one of the papers how the Beatles have dried up ... and I was sitting rubbing my hands, saying "You just wait."[58]

Paul McCartney

"Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" were subsequently released as a double A-side in February 1967 after EMI and Epstein pressured Martin for a single.[59] When it failed to reach number one in the UK, British press agencies speculated that the group's run of success might have ended, with headlines such as "Beatles Fail to Reach the Top", "First Time in Four Years" and "Has the Bubble Burst?"[60] After its release, in keeping with the band's approach to their previously issued singles, the songs were excluded from Sgt. Pepper.[61][nb 8] Martin later described the decision to drop these two songs as "the biggest mistake of my professional life".[63] Nonetheless, in his judgment, "Strawberry Fields Forever", which he and the band spent an unprecedented 55 hours of studio time recording, "set the agenda for the whole album".[64] He explained: "It was going to be a record ... [with songs that] couldn't be performed live: they were designed to be studio productions and that was the difference."[65] McCartney's goal was to make the best Beatles album yet, declaring: "Now our performance is that record."[66] On 6 December 1966, the group began work on "When I'm Sixty-Four", the first track that would be included on the album.[67]

In an effort to get the right sound, the Beatles attempted numerous re-takes of "Getting Better". When the decision was made to re-record the basic track, Starr was summoned to the studio, but called off soon afterwards as the focus switched from rhythm to vocal tracking.[68] Preferring to overdub his bass part last, McCartney tended to play other instruments when recording a song's backing track. This approach afforded him the extra time required to write and record melodic basslines that complemented the song's final arrangement.[69] McCartney played a grand piano on "A Day in the Life" and a Lowrey organ on "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", while Martin played a Hohner Pianet on "Getting Better", a harpsichord on "Fixing a Hole" and a harmonium on "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"[70] Although Harrison's role as lead guitarist was limited during the sessions, Everett considers that "his contribution to the album is strong in several ways."[71] In addition to providing sitar and tambura on his composition "Within You Without You", and swarmandal on "Strawberry Fields Forever", Harrison played tambura on "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "Getting Better".[72]

According to Barry Miles, Lennon resented McCartney's direction of the band as well as how, aside from "Strawberry Fields Forever", he himself was now supplying "songs to order" rather than "writing from the heart" as he had on Revolver.[73] Everett describes Starr as having been "largely bored" during the sessions, with the drummer later lamenting: "The biggest memory I have of Sgt. Pepper ... is I learned to play chess".[71] Speaking in 2000, Harrison said he had little interest in McCartney's concept of a fictitious group and that, after his experiences in India, "my heart was still out there … I was losing interest in being 'fab' at that point."[74] Harrison added that, having enjoyed recording Rubber Soul and Revolver, he disliked how the group's approach on Sgt. Pepper became "an assembly process" whereby, "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 as much."[75]

Technical aspects

A colour image of a grey recording machine
One of EMI's Studer J37 four-track tape recorders, the machines used to record Sgt. Pepper

Sgt. Pepper was recorded using four-track equipment. Although eight-track tape recorders were available in the US, the first units were not operational in commercial studios in London until late 1967.[76][nb 9] As with previous Beatles albums, the Sgt. Pepper recordings made extensive use of the technique known as reduction mixing, in which one to four tracks from one recorder are mixed and dubbed down onto a master four-track machine, enabling the engineers to give the group a virtual multitrack studio.[80] EMI's Studer J37 four-track machines were well suited to reduction mixing, as the high quality of the recordings that they produced minimised the increased noise associated with the process.[81] When recording the orchestra for "A Day in the Life", Martin synchronised a four-track recorder playing the Beatles' backing track to another one taping the orchestral overdub. The engineer Ken Townsend devised a method for accomplishing this by using a 50 Hz control signal between the two machines.[82]

Listening to each stage of their recording, once they've done the first couple of tracks, it's often hard to see what they're still looking for, it sounds so complete. Often the final complicated, well-layered version seems to have drowned the initial simple melody. But they know it's not right, even if they can't put it into words. Their dedication is impressive, gnawing away at the same song for stretches of ten hours each.[83]

Hunter Davies, 1968

A key feature of Sgt. Pepper is Martin and Emerick's liberal use of signal processing to shape the sound of the recording, which included the application of dynamic range compression, reverberation and signal limiting.[84] Relatively new modular effects units were used, such as running voices and instruments through a Leslie speaker.[85] Several innovative production techniques feature prominently on the recordings, including direct injection, pitch control and ambiophonics.[86] Another is automatic double tracking (ADT), a system that uses tape recorders to create a simultaneous doubling of a sound. ADT was invented by Townsend during the Revolver sessions in 1966 especially for the Beatles, who had regularly expressed a desire for a technical alternative to having to record doubled lead vocals.[87] Another important effect was varispeeding, a technique that the Beatles had also used extensively on Revolver.[85] Martin cites "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" as having the most variations of tape speed on Sgt. Pepper. During the recording of Lennon's vocals, the tape speed was reduced from 50 cycles per second to 45, which produced a higher and thinner-sounding track when played back at the normal speed.[88] For the album's title track, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", the recording of Starr's drum kit was enhanced by the use of damping and close-miking. The musicologist Ian MacDonald credits the new recording technique with creating a "three-dimensional" sound that, along with other Beatles innovations, engineers in the US would soon adopt as standard practice.[89]

Sgt. Pepper was the first pop album to be mastered without the momentary gaps that are typically placed between tracks as a point of demarcation.[90] It made use of two crossfades that blended songs together, giving the impression of a continuous live performance.[91][nb 10] Although both stereo and monaural mixes of the album were prepared, the Beatles were minimally involved in what they regarded as the less important stereo mix sessions, leaving the task to Martin and Emerick.[93] Emerick recalls: "We spent three weeks on the mono mixes and maybe three days on the stereo."[94] He estimates that they spent 700 hours on the LP, more than 30 times that of the first Beatles album, Please Please Me, which cost £400 to produce.[95] The final cost of Sgt. Pepper was approximately £25,000 (equivalent to £416,000 in 2016).[96] The album was completed on 21 April 1967 with the recording of random noises and voices that were included on the run-out groove along with a high-pitched tone, inaudible to human ears, that could be heard by dogs.[97]

Songs

Overview

Sgt. Pepper, according to American musicologist Allan F. Moore, is composed mainly of rock and pop music, while Michael Hannan and Naphtali Wagner both believed it is an album of various genres; Hannan said it features "a broad variety of musical and theatrical genres".[98] According to Hannan and Wagner, the music incorporates the stylistic influences of rock and roll, vaudeville, big band, piano jazz, blues, chamber, circus, music hall, avant-garde, and Western and Indian classical music.[99] Wagner felt the album's music reconciles the "diametrically opposed aesthetic ideals" of classical and psychedelia, achieving a "psycheclassical synthesis" of the two forms.[100] Musicologist John Covach describes Sgt. Pepper as "proto-progressive".[101]

We didn't really shove the LP full of pot and drugs but, I mean, there was an effect. We were more consciously trying to keep it out. You wouldn't say, "I had some acid, baby, so groovy," but there was a feeling that something had happened between Revolver and Sgt. Pepper.[75]

John Lennon, 1968

Concerns that some of the lyrics in Sgt. Pepper refer to recreational drug use led to the BBC banning several songs from British radio, such as "A Day in the Life" because of the phrase "I'd love to turn you on", with the BBC claiming that it could "encourage a permissive attitude towards drug-taking."[102] Although Lennon and McCartney denied any drug-related interpretation of the song at the time, McCartney later suggested that the line referred to either drugs or sex.[103] The meaning of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" became the subject of speculation, as many believed that the title was code for the hallucinogenic drug LSD.[104] The song was banned by the BBC,[105] as was "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!", for its reference to "Henry the Horse", a phrase that contains two common slang terms for heroin.[106] Fans speculated that Henry the Horse was a drug dealer and "Fixing a Hole" was a reference to heroin use.[107] Others noted lyrics such as "I get high" from "With a Little Help from My Friends", "take some tea" – slang for cannabis use – from "Lovely Rita" and "digging the weeds" from "When I'm Sixty-Four".[108]

The author Sheila Whiteley attributes Sgt. Pepper's underlying philosophy not only to the drug culture, but also to metaphysics and the non-violent approach of the flower power movement.[109] The musicologist Oliver Julien views the album as an embodiment of "the social, the musical, and more generally, the cultural changes of the 1960s".[110] The American psychologist and counterculture figure Timothy Leary contends that the LP "gave a voice to the feeling that the old ways were over ... it came along at the right time" and stressed the need for cultural change based on a peaceful agenda.[111] The album's primary value, according to Moore, is its ability to "capture, more vividly than almost anything contemporaneous, its own time and place".[112] Whiteley agrees, crediting the album with "provid[ing] a historical snapshot of England during the run-up to the Summer of Love".[111] Several scholars have applied a hermeneutic strategy to their analysis of Sgt. Pepper's lyrics, identifying loss of innocence and the dangers of overindulgence in fantasies or illusions as the most prominent themes.[113]

Side one

"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"

Sgt. Pepper opens with the title track, starting with 10 seconds of the combined sounds of a pit orchestra warming up and an audience waiting for a concert, creating the illusion of the album as a live performance.[115][nb 11] The author Kenneth Womack describes the lyric as "a revolutionary moment in the creative life of the Beatles" that bridges the gap – sometimes referred to as the fourth wall – between the audience and the artist.[118] He argues that, paradoxically, the lyrics "exemplify the mindless rhetoric of rock concert banter" while "mock[ing] the very notion of a pop album's capacity for engendering authentic interconnection between artist and audience".[118] In his view, the mixed message ironically serves to distance the group from their fans while simultaneously "gesturing toward" them as alter egos, an authorial quality that he considers to be "the song's most salient feature".[118] He credits the recording's use of a brass ensemble with distorted electric guitars as an early example of rock fusion.[118] MacDonald agrees, describing the track as an overture rather than a song, and a "shrewd fusion of Edwardian variety orchestra" and contemporary hard rock.[117][nb 12] The musicologist Michael Hannan describes the track's unorthodox stereo mix as "typical of the album", with the lead vocal in the right speaker during the verses, but in the left during the chorus and middle eight.[120] "Sgt. Pepper" was the first Beatles track that benefitted from the production technique known as direct injection, which according to Womack "afforded McCartney's bass with richer textures and tonal clarity".[90][nb 13] The song's arrangement utilises a rock and roll oriented Lydian mode chord progression during the introduction and verses that is built on parallel sevenths, which Everett describes as "the song's strength".[121] The five-bar bridge is filled by an Edwardian horn quartet that Martin arranged from a McCartney vocal melody.[117] The track turns to the pentatonic scale for the chorus, where its blues rock progression is augmented by the use of electric guitar power chords played in consecutive fifths.[121][nb 14]

"With a Little Help from My Friends"

McCartney acts as the master of ceremonies near the end of the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" track, introducing Starr as an alter ego named Billy Shears.[90] The song then segues into "With a Little Help from My Friends" amid a moment of crowd cheer that Martin had recorded during a Beatles concert at the Hollywood Bowl.[123] Womack credits Starr's baritone lead vocals with imparting an element of "earnestness in sharp contrast with the ironic distance of the title track".[123] Lennon and McCartney's call-and-response backing vocals ask Starr questions about the meaning of friendship and true love.[124][nb 15] In the final verse, the question and answer relationship is reversed, as the backing singers ask leading questions and Starr provides unequivocal answers.[126] In MacDonald's opinion, the lyric is "at once communal and personal ... [and] meant as a gesture of inclusivity; everyone could join in."[127] Womack agrees, identifying "necessity of community" as the song's "central ethical tenet", a theme that he ascribes to the album as a whole.[124] Everett notes the track's use of a major key double-plagal cadence that would become commonplace in pop music following the release of Sgt. Pepper.[126] The song ends on a vocal high note that McCartney, Harrison and Lennon encouraged Starr to achieve despite his lack of confidence as a singer.[128]

"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"

Despite widespread suspicion that the title of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" contained a hidden reference to LSD, Lennon insisted that it was derived from a pastel drawing by his four-year-old son Julian. A hallucinatory chapter from Lewis Carroll's 1871 novel Through the Looking-Glass, a favourite of Lennon's, inspired the song's atmosphere.[130] McCartney later commented that although the title's apparent drug reference was unintentional, the lyrics were purposely written for a psychedelic song.[131] The first verse begins with what Womack characterises as "an invitation in the form of an imperative" through the line: "Picture yourself in a boat on a river", and continues with imaginative imagery, including "tangerine trees", "rocking horse people" and "newspaper taxis".[132] In Womack's view, with the merging of Lennon's lyrics and McCartney's Lowrey organ introduction "the Beatles achieve their most vivid instance of musical timbre".[133] In addition to the tambura drone, Harrison contributed a lead guitar part that doubles Lennon's vocal over the verses in the style of a sarangi player accompanying an Indian khyal singer.[134][135] The musicologist Tim Riley identifies the track as a moment "in the album, [where] the material world is completely clouded in the mythical by both text and musical atmosphere".[136] According to MacDonald, "the lyric explicitly recreates the psychedelic experience".[104]

"Getting Better"

MacDonald considers "Getting Better" to contain "the most ebullient performance" on Sgt. Pepper.[137] Womack credits the track's "driving rock sound" with distinguishing it from the album's overtly psychedelic material; its lyrics inspire the listener "to usurp the past by living well and flourishing in the present".[132] He cites it as a strong example of Lennon and McCartney's collaborative songwriting, particularly Lennon's addition of the line "couldn't get no worse", which serves as a "sarcastic rejoinder" to McCartney's chorus: "It's getting better all the time".[138] McCartney describes Lennon's lyric as "sardonic" and "against the spirit of the song", which he characterises as "typical John".[139][nb 16] MacDonald characterises the beginning of the track as "blithely unorthodox", with two staccato guitars – one panned left and one right – playing the dominant against the subdominant of an F major ninth chord, with the tonic C resolving as the verse begins. The dominant, which acts as a drone, is reinforced through the use of octaves played on a bass guitar and plucked on piano strings.[140] McCartney's bass line accents non-roots on the recording's downbeat.[139]

"Fixing a Hole"

A black and white 1843 circus poster
The circus poster from 1843 that inspired "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"

Womack interprets the lyric to "Fixing a Hole" as "the speaker's search for identity among the crowd", in particular the "quests for consciousness and connection" that differentiate individuals from society as a whole.[138] MacDonald characterises it as a "distracted and introverted track", during which McCartney forgoes his "usual smooth design" in favour of "something more preoccupied".[141] He cites Harrison's electric guitar solo as serving the track well, capturing its mood by conveying detachment.[141] Womack notes McCartney's adaptation of the lyric "a hole in the roof where the rain leaks in" from Elvis Presley's "We're Gonna Move".[142] The song deals with McCartney's desire to let his mind wander freely and to express his creativity without the burden of self-conscious insecurities.[143][nb 17]

"She's Leaving Home"

In Everett's view, the lyrics to "She's Leaving Home" address the problem of alienation "between disagreeing peoples", particularly those distanced from each other by the generation gap.[145] McCartney's "descriptive narration", which details the plight of a "lonely girl" who escapes the control of her "selfish yet well-meaning parents", was inspired by a piece about teenage runaways published by the Daily Mail.[146] It is the first track on Sgt. Pepper that eschews the use of guitars and drums, featuring a string nonet with a harp and drawing comparison with "Yesterday" and "Eleanor Rigby", which use a string quartet and octet respectively.[147][nb 18]

"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"

Lennon adapted the lyric for "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" from an 1843 poster for Pablo Fanque's circus that he purchased at an antique shop in Kent on the day of filming the promotional film for "Strawberry Fields Forever".[150] Womack views the track as an effective blending of a print source and music: "The interpretive power of the mixed-media application accrues its meaning through the musical production with which the group imbues the Ur-text of the poster."[151] MacDonald notes Lennon's request for a "fairground production wherein one could smell the sawdust", an atmosphere that Martin and Emerick attempted to create with a sound collage that comprised randomly assembled recordings of harmoniums, harmonicas and calliopes.[152][nb 19] MacDonald describes the song as "a spontaneous expression of its author's playful hedonism".[154] Everett thinks that the track's use of Edwardian imagery thematically links it with the album's opening number.[155]

Side two

"Within You Without You"

We're not trying to outwit the public. The whole idea is to try a little bit to lead people into different tastes.[156]

George Harrison, 1967

Harrison wrote the Hindustani classical music-inspired "Within You Without You" after the decision was made to abandon his composition "Only a Northern Song", which the band had recorded earlier in the sessions.[157] The lyrics reflect Harrison's immersion in the teachings of the Hindu Vedas while the song's musical form and Indian instrumentation, such as sitar, tabla, dilrubas and tamburas, recall the Hindu devotional tradition known as bhajan.[158][nb 20] The track features a tempo rubato that is without precedent in the Beatles' catalogue.[160] The pitch is derived from the eastern Khamaj scale, which is akin to the Mixolydian mode in the West.[161] MacDonald regards the song as "the most distant departure from the staple Beatles sound in their discography", and a work that represents the "conscience" of the LP through the lyrics' rejection of Western materialism.[162] Womack calls it "quite arguably, the album's ethical soul" as a concise reflection of the Beatles' and the counterculture's perspective during the Summer of Love era.[160] The track ends with a burst of laughter that some listeners interpret as a mockery of the song, but Harrison explained: "It's a release after five minutes of sad music ... You were supposed to hear the audience anyway, as they listen to Sergeant Pepper's Show. That was the style of the album."[163][nb 21] Martin used the moment of levity as a segue for what he describes as the album's "jokey track" – "When I'm Sixty-Four".[165]

"When I'm Sixty-Four"

MacDonald characterises McCartney's "When I'm Sixty-Four" as a song "aimed chiefly at parents", borrowing heavily from the English music hall style of George Formby, while invoking images of the illustrator Donald McGill's "seaside postcards".[67] Its sparse arrangement includes chimes, clarinet and piano.[167] Everett singles it out as a case of McCartney's "penchant for the audience-charming vaudeville ... that Lennon detested".[168] Moore characterises the song as a synthesis of ragtime and pop, noting that its position following "Within You Without You" – a blend of Indian classical music and pop – demonstrates the diversity of the album's material.[169] McCartney asked that the clarinets be arranged "in a classical way", which according to Martin "got ... round the lurking schmaltz factor ... [and] gave added bite to the song, a formality that pushed it firmly towards satire".[170] MacDonald notes that the song's inclusion amidst Sgt. Pepper's "multi-layered psychedelic textures ... provid[es] a down-to-earth interlude".[67] Moore credits Martin's clarinet arrangement and Starr's use of brushes with establishing the music hall atmosphere, which is reinforced by McCartney's vocal delivery and the recording's use of chromaticism, a harmonic pattern that can be traced to Scott Joplin's "The Ragtime Dance" and The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss.[171] Varispeeding was used on the track, raising the music's pitch by a semitone in an attempt to make McCartney sound younger.[172] Everett notes that the lyrics' protagonist is sometimes associated with the Lonely Hearts Club Band, but in his opinion the song is thematically unconnected to the others on the album.[168]

"Lovely Rita"

Womack characterises "Lovely Rita" as a work of "full-tilt psychedelia" that contrasts sharply with the preceding track.[173] He identifies the song as an example of McCartney's talent for "creating imagistic musical portraiture", yet he also considers it to be a work that foreshadows the "less effectual compositions" that the Beatles would record post-Sgt. Pepper.[173] MacDonald describes the song as a "satire on authority" that is "imbued with an exuberant interest in life that lifts the spirits, dispersing self-absorption".[174]

"Good Morning Good Morning"

"Good Morning Good Morning" was inspired by a television commercial for Kellogg's Corn Flakes, from which Lennon adapted a jingle as the song's refrain. The track utilises the bluesy mixolydian mode in A, which Everett credits with "perfectly express[ing] Lennon's grievance against complacency".[175] Lennon regarded the song as "a throwaway piece of garbage", and McCartney viewed it as Lennon's reaction to the frustrations of domestic life.[176] Womack praises the song's varied time signatures, including 5/4, 3/4 and 4/4, calling it a "masterpiece of electrical energy".[177] MacDonald notes Starr's "fine performance" and McCartney's "coruscating pseudo-Indian guitar solo", which he credits with delivering the track's climax.[178] A series of animal noises are heard during the fade-out that are sequenced – at Lennon's request – so that each successive animal is large enough to devour the preceding one.[178] Martin spliced the sound of a chicken clucking at the end of the track to overlap with a guitar being tuned in the next one, making a seamless transition between the two songs.[179]

"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)"

"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)" serves as a bookend for the album and a segue to its finale. The hard-rocking song was written after the Beatles' assistant, Neil Aspinall, suggested that since "Sgt. Pepper" opened the album, the fictional band should make an appearance near the end.[180] The reprise omits the brass section from the title track and features a faster tempo.[181] MacDonald notes the Beatles' apparent excitement, which is tangibly translated during the recording.[180]

"A Day in the Life"

As the last chord of the "Sgt. Pepper" reprise plays, an acoustic guitar strumming offbeat quavers begins,[nb 22] introducing what Moore describes as "one of the most harrowing songs ever written".[184] "A Day in the Life" consists of four verses by Lennon, a bridge, two aleatoric orchestral crescendos and an interpolated middle part written and sung by McCartney. The first crescendo serves as a segue between the third verse and the middle part, leading to a bridge known as the "dream sequence".[184][nb 23] The idea to use an orchestra was McCartney's; he drew inspiration from the avant-garde composers John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen.[187] The 24-bar crescendos feature forty musicians selected from the London and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras and tasked with filling the space with what Womack describes as "the sound of pure apocalypse".[188] Martin notes Lennon's request for "a tremendous build-up, from nothing up to something absolutely like the end of the world".[189] Lennon recalled drawing inspiration for the lyrics from a newspaper: "I was writing the song with the Daily Mail propped up in front of me at the piano ... there was a paragraph about 4000 [pot]holes in Blackburn, Lancashire".[190][nb 24] For "A Day in the Life", he wanted his voice to sound like Elvis Presley on "Heartbreak Hotel". Martin and Emerick obliged by adding 90 milliseconds of tape echo.[193][nb 25] Womack describes Starr's performance as "one of his most inventive drum parts on record", a part that McCartney encouraged him to attempt despite his protests against "flashy drumming".[188] The thunderous piano chord that concludes the track and the album was produced by recording Lennon, Starr, McCartney and Evans simultaneously sounding an E major chord on three separate pianos; Martin then augmented the sound with a harmonium.[194][nb 26] Riley characterises the song as a "postlude to the Pepper fantasy ... that sets all the other songs in perspective", while shattering the illusion of "Pepperland" by introducing the "parallel universe of everyday life".[197] MacDonald describes the track as "a song not of disillusionment with life itself, but of disenchantment with the limits of mundane perception".[198] According to him, it "remains among the most penetrating and innovative artistic reflections of its era", representing the Beatles' "finest single achievement".[199]

As "A Day in the Life" ends, a 15-kilohertz high-frequency tone is heard; it was added at Lennon's suggestion with the intention that it would annoy dogs.[200][nb 27] This is followed by the sounds of backwards laughter and random gibberish that was pressed into the record's concentric run-out groove, which loops back into itself endlessly on any record player not equipped with an automatic needle return. Lennon can be heard saying, "been so high", followed by McCartney's response: "never could be any other way".[202][nb 28]

Pepper concept

According to Womack, with Sgt. Pepper's opening song "the Beatles manufacture an artificial textual space in which to stage their art."[90] The reprise of the title song appears on side two, just prior to the climactic "A Day in the Life", creating a framing device.[180] In Starr's opinion, only the first two songs and the reprise are conceptually connected.[45] Lennon agreed and in 1980 he commented: "Sgt. Pepper is called the first concept album, but it doesn't go anywhere ... it works because we said it worked."[205] He was especially adamant that his contributions to the LP had nothing to do with the Sgt. Pepper concept. Further, he suggested that most of the other songs were equally unconnected, stating: "Except for Sgt. Pepper introducing Billy Shears and the so-called reprise, every other song could have been on any other album".[205] Martin became worried upon the album's completion that its lack of musical unity might draw criticism and accusations of pretentiousness.[206]

In MacFarlane's view, the Beatles "chose to employ an overarching thematic concept in an apparent effort to unify individual tracks".[207] Everett contends that the album's "musical unity results ... from motivic relationships between key areas, particularly involving C, E, and G".[202] Moore argues that the recording's "use of common harmonic patterns and falling melodies" contributes to its overall cohesiveness, which he describes as narrative unity, but not necessarily conceptual unity.[208] MacFarlane agrees, suggesting that with the exception of the reprise, the album lacks the melodic and harmonic continuity that is consistent with cyclic form.[209]

In a 1995 interview, McCartney said that the Liverpool childhood theme behind the first three songs recorded during the Sgt. Pepper sessions was never formalised as an album-wide concept, but acknowledged that it served as a "device" or underlying theme throughout the project.[48] MacDonald identifies allusions to the Beatles' upbringing throughout Sgt. Pepper that are "too persuasive to ignore". These include evocations of the postwar Northern music-hall tradition, references to Northern industrial towns and Liverpool schooldays, Lewis Carroll-inspired imagery (acknowledging Lennon's favourite childhood reading), the use of brass instrumentation in the style of park bandstand performances (recalling McCartney's visits to Sefton Park),[210] and the album cover's flower arrangement akin to a floral clock.[211]

Cover artwork

Sgt. Pepper's album cover was designed by the pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth.[212] Blake recalled of the concept: "I offered the idea that if they had just played a concert in the park, the cover could be a photograph of the group just after the concert with the crowd who had just watched the concert, watching them. If we did this by using cardboard cut-outs, it could be a magical crowd of whomever they wanted."[213] According to McCartney, he himself provided the ink drawing on which Blake and Haworth based the design.[214] The cover was art-directed by Robert Fraser and photographed by Michael Cooper.[215] The front of the LP included a colourful collage featuring the Beatles in costume as the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, standing with a group of life-sized cardboard cut-outs of famous people.[216] Each of the Beatles sported a heavy moustache, after Harrison had first grown one as a disguise during his visit to India.[17] The moustaches reflected the growing influence of hippie style trends, while the group's clothing "spoofed the vogue in Britain for military fashions", writes the Beatles biographer Jonathan Gould.[217] The centre of the cover depicts the Beatles standing behind a bass drum on which fairground artist Joe Ephgrave painted the words of the album's title.[nb 29] In front of the drum is an arrangement of flowers that spell out "Beatles".[220] The group were dressed in satin day-glo-coloured military-style uniforms that were manufactured by the theatrical costumer M. Berman Ltd in London. Right next to the Beatles are wax sculptures of the bandmembers in their suits and moptop haircuts from the Beatlemania era, borrowed from Madame Tussauds.[221] The album's lyrics were printed in full on the back cover, the first time this had been done on a rock LP.[222]

A colour image of four men in brightly coloured suits of cyan, magenta, yellow and orange
Sgt. Pepper's inner gatefold. McCartney (in blue) wears a badge on his left sleeve that bears the initials O.P.P. Proponents of the Paul is dead theory read them as O.P.D., which they interpret as "Officially Pronounced Dead". According to Martin the badge was a gift from a fan; the initials stand for "Ontario Provincial Police".[223][nb 30]

The 30 March 1967 photo session with Cooper also produced the back cover and the inside gatefold, which the musicologist Ian Inglis describes as conveying "an obvious and immediate warmth ... which distances it from the sterility and artifice typical of such images".[220] McCartney explained: "One of the things we were very much into in those days was eye messages ... So with Michael Cooper's inside photo, we all said, 'Now look into this camera and really say I love you! Really try and feel love; really give love through this! It'll come out; it'll show; it's an attitude.' And that's what that is, if you look at it you'll see the big effort from the eyes."[226] The album's inner sleeve featured artwork by the Dutch design team the Fool that eschewed for the first time the standard white paper in favour of an abstract pattern of waves of maroon, red, pink and white.[220] Included with the album as a bonus gift was a sheet of cardboard cut-outs designed by Blake and Haworth, a postcard-sized portrait of Sgt. Pepper based on a statue from Lennon's house that was used on the front cover, a fake moustache, two sets of sergeant stripes, two lapel badges and a stand-up cut-out of the Beatles in their satin uniforms.[227] Moore believes that the inclusion of these items helped fans "pretend to be in the band".[228]

The collage includes 57 photographs and nine waxworks that depict a diversity of famous people, including actors, sportsmen, scientists and – at Harrison's request – the Self-Realization Fellowship gurus Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yukteswar and Paramahansa Yogananda.[229] Inglis views the tableau "as a guidebook to the cultural topography of the decade", demonstrating the increasing democratisation of society whereby "traditional barriers between 'high' and 'low' culture were being eroded".[230][nb 31] The final grouping included singers such as Bob Dylan and Bobby Breen; the film stars Marlon Brando, Tyrone Power, Tony Curtis, Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe; the artist Aubrey Beardsley; the boxer Sonny Liston and the footballer Albert Stubbins. Also included were the comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy and the writers H.G. Wells, Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll and Dylan Thomas.[230][nb 32] Adolf Hitler, Mahatma Gandhi[213] and Jesus Christ were requested by Lennon, but ultimately rejected. The actor Leo Gorcey's image was painted out after he requested a fee.[232] When McCartney was asked why the Beatles did not include Elvis Presley, he replied: "Elvis was too important and too far above the rest even to mention ... so we didn't put him on the list because he was more than merely a ... pop singer, he was Elvis the King."[233] The final cost for the cover art was nearly £3,000 (equivalent to £49,971 in 2016), an extravagant sum for a time when album covers would typically cost around £50 (equivalent to £833 in 2016).[227]

Release

After finishing Sgt. Pepper, the Beatles took an acetate disc of the album to the American singer Cass Elliot's flat off King's Road in Chelsea, where at six in the morning they played it at full volume with speakers set in open window frames. The group's friend and former press agent, Derek Taylor, remembered that residents of the neighbourhood opened their windows and listened without complaint to what they understood to be unreleased Beatles music.[234] The album was previewed on the pirate radio station Radio London on 12 May and officially on the BBC Light Programme's show Where It's At, by Kenny Everett, on 20 May.[235] Everett played the entire album apart from "A Day in the Life".[236]

On 26 May, Sgt. Pepper was given a rush-release in the UK, where it had originally been scheduled for 1 June. The US release followed on 2 June.[237] It was the first Beatles album where the track listings were exactly the same for the UK and US versions.[238] The band's eighth LP,[239] it topped the Record Retailer albums chart (now the UK Albums Chart) for 23 consecutive weeks, with a further four weeks at number one in the period through to February 1968.[240] The record sold 250,000 copies in the UK during its first seven days on sale there.[237][nb 33] Rolling Stone magazine's Langdon Winner recalled:

The closest Western Civilization has come to unity since the Congress of Vienna in 1815 was the week the Sgt. Pepper album was released. In every city in Europe and America the radio stations played [it] ... and everyone listened ... it was the most amazing thing I've ever heard. For a brief while the irreparable fragmented consciousness of the West was unified, at least in the minds of the young.[244]

Sgt. Pepper was widely perceived by listeners as the soundtrack to the Summer of Love,[245] during a year that author Peter Lavezzoli describes as "a watershed moment in the West when the search for higher consciousness and an alternative world view had reached critical mass".[246] According to Riley, the album "drew people together through the common experience of pop on a larger scale than ever before".[247] Writing in his book Electric Shock, Peter Doggett describes the release as "An Event" and "the biggest pop happening" to take place between the Beatles' debut on American television in February 1964 and Lennon's murder in December 1980.[248]

American radio stations interrupted their regular scheduling, playing the album virtually non-stop, often from start to finish.[249] Emphasising its identity as a self-contained work, none of the songs were issued as singles at the time.[250][251] Instead, the Beatles released "All You Need Is Love" as a single, in July, after performing the song on the Our World satellite broadcast on 25 June,[252] before an audience estimated at 400 million.[253] According to sociomusicologist Simon Frith, the international broadcast served to confirm "the Beatles' evangelical role" amid the public's embrace of Sgt. Pepper.[254]

The album occupied the number one position on the Billboard Top LPs chart in the US for 15 weeks, from 1 July to 13 October 1967.[255] With 2.5 million copies sold within three months of its release, Sgt. Pepper's initial commercial success exceeded that of all previous Beatles albums.[107] Sgt. Pepper appeared on the Billboard albums chart in the US for 175 non-consecutive weeks through 1987.[256] At the 10th Annual Grammy Awards in 1968, Sgt. Pepper won in the categories of Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts, Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical and Best Contemporary Album. It also won Album of the Year, the first rock LP to receive this honour.[257]

Contemporary critical reception

Sgt. Pepper's arrival in late spring 1967 came at a most opportune moment in Western cultural history: mainstream journalism had at last warmed to the idea that the "rock" world ... could produce a lasting masterpiece that transcended the genre's lowly origins, while a new and legitimate niche called "rock journalism" was working up its own head of steam ... [E]veryone wanted the Beatles to succeed – and to lead. The wind was at their back, and they knew it.[258]

– Beatles biographer Robert Rodriguez, 2012

The release of Sgt. Pepper coincided with a period when, with the advent of dedicated rock criticism, commentators sought to recognise artistry in pop music, particularly in the Beatles' work, and identify albums as refined artistic statements.[259][260] In America, this approach had been heightened by the "Strawberry Fields Forever" / "Penny Lane" single,[261] and was also exemplified by Leonard Bernstein's television program Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution, broadcast by CBS in April 1967.[259] Following the release of the Beatles' single, in author Bernard Gendron's description, a "discursive frenzy" ensued as Time, Newsweek and other publications from the cultural mainstream increasingly voiced their "ecstatic approbation toward the Beatles".[261]

The vast majority of contemporary reviews of Sgt. Pepper were positive, with the album receiving widespread critical acclaim.[262] Schaffner said that the consensus was aptly summed up by Tom Phillips in The Village Voice, when he called the LP "the most ambitious and most successful record album ever issued".[263] Among Britain's pop press, Peter Jones of Record Mirror said the album was "truly fine ... clever and brilliant, from raucous to poignant and back again", while Disc and Music Echo's reviewer called it "a beautiful and potent record, unique, clever, and stunning".[264] In The Times, William Mann described Sgt. Pepper as a "pop music master-class" and wrote admiringly of its use of "vivid" bass lines that partly recalled the Alberti tradition in classical music.[265] He also commented that, so considerable were the album's musical advances, "the only track that would have been conceivable in pop songs five years ago" was "With a Little Help from My Friends".[266] Having been among the first British critics to fully appreciate Revolver,[267] Peter Clayton of Gramophone magazine said that the new album was "like nearly everything the Beatles do, bizarre, wonderful, perverse, beautiful, exciting, provocative, exasperating, compassionate and mocking". He found "plenty of electronic gimmickry on the record" before concluding: "but that isn't the heart of the thing. It's the combination of imagination, cheek and skill that make this such a rewarding LP."[268] Wilfrid Mellers, in his review for New Statesman, praised the album's elevation of pop music to the level of fine art.[265]

Newsweek's Jack Kroll called Sgt. Pepper a "masterpiece" and compared its lyrics with literary works by Edith Sitwell, Harold Pinter and T. S. Eliot, particularly "A Day in the Life", which he likened to Eliot's The Waste Land.[269] The New Yorker paired the Beatles with Duke Ellington, as artists who operated "in that special territory where entertainment slips into art".[270] One of the few well-known American rock critics at the time, and another early champion of Revolver, Richard Goldstein wrote a scathing review in The New York Times.[271] He characterised Sgt. Pepper as a "spoiled" child and dismissed it as "an album of special effects, dazzling but ultimately fraudulent".[272][273] Although he admired "A Day in the Life",[272] he said that the songs lacked lyrical substance such that "tone overtakes meaning", an aesthetic he blamed on "posturing and put-on" in the form of production effects such as echo and reverb.[274] As a near-lone voice of dissent, Goldstein was widely castigated for his views.[275] Four days later, The Village Voice, where Goldstein had become a celebrated columnist since 1966, reacted to the "hornet's nest" of complaints, by publishing Phillips' highly favourable review.[276] According to Schaffner, Goldstein was "kept busy for months" justifying his opinions,[277] which included writing a defence of his review, for the Voice, in July.[278][nb 34]

Among the commentators who responded to Goldstein's critique,[280] composer Ned Rorem, writing in The New York Review of Books, credited the Beatles with possessing a "magic of genius" akin to Mozart and characterised Sgt. Pepper as a harbinger of a "golden Renaissance of Song".[263] Time quoted musicologists and avant-garde composers who equated the standard of the Beatles' songwriting to Schubert and Schumann, and located the band's work to electronic music;[281] the magazine concluded that the album was "a historic departure in the progress of music – any music".[107] In his appreciation of the Beatles in the journal Partisan Review, Richard Poirier wrote: "listening to the Sgt. Pepper album one thinks not simply of the history of popular music but the history of this century."[282] Kenneth Tynan, the London Times' theatre critic, said the album represented "a decisive moment in the history of Western civilisation".[283] In his December 1967 column for Esquire, Robert Christgau described Sgt. Pepper as "a consolidation, more intricate than Revolver but not more substantial". He suggested that Goldstein had fallen "victim to overanticipation", identifying his primary error as "allow[ing] all the filters and reverbs and orchestral effects and overdubs to deafen him to the stuff underneath, which was pretty nice".[284][nb 35]

Retrospective appraisal

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[286]
The A.V. Club B+[287]
The Daily Telegraph 5/5 stars[288]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 5/5 stars[289]
MusicHound Rock 5/5[290]
Paste 89/100[291]
Pitchfork 10/10[292]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars[293]
Sputnikmusic 5/5[294]
The Village Voice A[295]

Although few critics in 1967 agreed with Goldstein's criticism of the album, many later came to appreciate his sentiments.[283] In his 1979 book Stranded: Rock and Roll for a Desert Island, Greil Marcus wrote that, by 1968, Sgt. Pepper appeared vacuous against the emotional backdrop of the political and social upheavals of American life, and he described it as "a triumph of effects", but "a Day-Glo tombstone for its time".[296] He characterises the LP as "playful but contrived" and "less a summing up of its era than a concession to it".[244] Marcus believes that the album "strangled on its own conceits" while being "vindicated by world-wide acclaim".[297][nb 36] In a 1976 article for The Village Voice, Christgau revisited the "supposedly epochal Works of Art" from 1967 and found that Sgt. Pepper appeared "bound to a moment" amid other culturally important music that had "dated in the sense that it speaks with unusually specific eloquence of a single point in history". Christgau said of the album's "dozen good songs and true", "Perhaps they're too precisely performed, but I'm not going to complain."[295][nb 37]

Writing in 1981, Lester Bangs – the so-called "godfather" of punk rock journalism – said that "Goldstein was right in his much-vilified review ... predicting that this record had the power to almost singlehandedly destroy rock and roll."[301][nb 38] He added: "In the sixties rock and roll began to think of itself as an 'art form'. Rock and roll is not an 'art form'; rock and roll is a raw wail from the bottom of the guts."[303] In another 1981 assessment, Simon Frith described Sgt. Pepper as "the last great pop album, the last LP ambitious to amuse everyone".[304]

It was inevitable that some of the critical assessment of subsequent generations would grumble. Some have griped about the archness of the band-within-a-band concept, the elaborate studio artifice, the dominance of McCartney's songs (routinely but unfairly considered as lightweight and bourgeois), the virtual freezing out of George Harrison … and the only episodic interest of a perpetually tripping Lennon.[305]

– Chris Ingham, 2006

The album was voted the worst record ever made in a 1998 Melody Maker poll of pop stars, DJs and journalists.[306] Among the most ardent detractors was musician and journalist John Robb, who described it as "the benchmark of 1967 – the low water point of rock 'n' roll".[306] In his feature article on Sgt. Pepper's 40th anniversary, for Mojo, John Harris said that its lack of critical favour in the UK was such that it had become "the most underrated album of all time". With regard to its absence from the NME's best-albums list in 1985, Harris wrote:

What on earth had happened to Sgt. Pepper? Though by no means universally degraded ... Sgt. Pepper had taken a protracted beating from which it has perhaps yet to fully recover. Regularly challenged and overtaken in the Best Beatle Album stakes by Revolver, the White Album, even Rubber Soul, it suffered more than any Beatles record from the long fall-out after punk, and even the band's Britpop-era revival mysteriously failed to improve its standing.[307]

Writing in the 2004 edition of The Rolling Stone Album Guide, Rob Sheffield described Sgt. Pepper as "a revelation of how far artists could go in a recording studio with only four tracks, plenty of imagination, and a drug or two", but also "a masterwork of sonics, not songwriting".[308] In his review for Rough Guides, Chris Ingham said that, while the album's detractors typically bemoan McCartney's dominant role, the reliance on studio innovation, and the unconvincing concept, "as long as there are pairs of ears willing to disappear under headphones for forty minutes ... Sgt. Pepper will continue to cast its considerable spell."[305] Among reviews of the 2009 remastered album, Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph wrote: "It is impossible to overstate its impact: from a contemporary Sixties perspective it was utterly mind-blowing and original. Looking back from a point when its sonic innovations have been integrated into the mainstream, it remains a wonky, colourful and wildly improbable pop classic, although a little slighter and less cohesive than it may have seemed at the time."[288] Mark Kemp, writing for Paste, said the album was a "blast of avant-rock genius" but also "one of rock's most overrated albums".[291] According to BBC Music critic Chris Jones, while Sgt. Pepper has long been subsumed under "an avalanche of hyperbole", the album retains an enduring quality "because its sum is greater than its whole ... These guys weren't just recording songs; they were inventing the stuff with which to make this record as they went along."[309] Although the lyrics, particularly McCartney's, were "a far cry from the militancy of their American peers", he continues, "what was revolutionary was the sonic carpet that enveloped the ears and sent the listener spinning into other realms."[310]

Influence and legacy

Development of popular music and 1960s counterculture

The Beatles three months after the release of Sgt. Pepper, filming a musical segment for the Magical Mystery Tour television film

Musicologists regard Sgt. Pepper as a continuation of the artistic maturation seen on the Beatles' two preceding albums, Revolver and Rubber Soul.[311] Moore credits it with aiding the development of progressive rock through its self-conscious lyrics, its studio experimentation, and its efforts to expand the barriers of conventional three-minute tracks.[312][nb 39] MacFarlane writes that, despite concerns regarding its thematic unity, Sgt. Pepper "is widely regarded as the first true concept album in popular music".[207] According to Riley, "Strictly speaking, the Mothers of Invention's Freak Out! has claims as the first 'concept album', but Sgt. Pepper was the record that made that idea convincing to most ears."[315][nb 40] Author Martina Elicker similarly writes that, while the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and Pete Seeger's 1966 album God Bless the Grass had each contained a unified lyrical theme, it was Sgt. Pepper that familiarised critics and listeners with the notion of a "concept and unified structure underlying a pop album", thus originating the term "concept album".[317]

In Sgt. Pepper's intricate aural tapestry is the sound of four men rebelling against musical convention and, in doing so, opening wide the door for the sonic experimentation that launched hard rock, punk, metal, new wave, grunge and every other form of popular music that followed.[318]

– Christopher Scapelliti, writing in Guitar World, June 2007

Carys Wyn Jones locates Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper to the beginning of art rock; Julien considers the latter a "masterpiece of British psychedelia".[319] In 2014, the NME described it as an "orchestral baroque pop masterpiece".[320] Rolling Stone's Andy Greene and Scott Plagenhoef of Pitchfork credit it with marking the beginning of the album era.[321][292] For several years following Sgt. Pepper's release, straightforward rock and roll was supplanted by a growing interest in extended form, and for the first time in the history of the music industry sales of albums outpaced sales of singles.[322] In Gould's description, Sgt. Pepper was "the catalyst for an explosion of mass enthusiasm for album-formatted rock that would revolutionize both the aesthetics and the economics of the record business in ways that far out-stripped the earlier pop explosions triggered by the Elvis phenomenon of 1956 and the Beatlemania phenomenon of 1963".[323] Aside from the Mothers of Invention parodying the Sgt. Pepper collage on the cover of their 1968 album We're Only in It for the Money, Everett characterises Their Satanic Majesties Request by the Rolling Stones and Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake by the Small Faces as Sgt. Pepper "copycat LPs".[237]

In Moore's description, the album "seems to have spoken (in a way no other has) for its generation".[324] It is regarded by journalists as having influenced the development of the counterculture of the 1960s.[325] Ian MacDonald wrote that the album's impact was cross-generational as "Young and old alike were entranced", and era-defining, in that the "psychic shiver" it inspired across the world was "nothing less than a cinematic dissolve from one Zeitgeist to another". He also said that in the context of 1967, Sgt. Pepper conveyed the psychedelic experience so effectively to listeners unfamiliar with hallucinogenic drugs that "If such a thing as a cultural 'contact high' is possible, it happened here."[326]

During the 1970s, glam rock acts co-opted Sgt. Pepper's use of alter ego personas and in 1977 the LP won Best British Album at the first Brit Awards.[327] Simon Frith, in his overview of 1967 for the magazine The History of Rock, in 1981, said that Sgt. Pepper had "defined the year" by conveying the optimism and sense of empowerment at the centre of the youth movement. He added that the Velvet Underground's The Velvet Underground & Nico, an album that contrasted sharply with the Beatles' message by "offer[ing] no escape", had become more relevant in a cultural climate typified by "the Sex Pistols, the new political aggression, the rioting in the streets" during the 1970s.[254] Writing in 1987, in Q magazine, Charles Shaar Murray asserted that the album "remains a central pillar of the mythology and iconography of the late '60s",[328] while Rolling Stone's Anthony DeCurtis described it as an "enormous achievement" that "revolutionized rock and roll".[329] In the Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Colin Larkin writes: "[it] turned out to be no mere pop album but a cultural icon, embracing the constituent elements of the 60s' youth culture: pop art, garish fashion, drugs, instant mysticism and freedom from parental control."[330]

Cultural legitimisation of popular music

In The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature, Kevin Dettmar writes that Sgt. Pepper achieved "a combination of popular success and critical acclaim unequaled in twentieth-century art ... never before had an aesthetic and technical masterpiece enjoyed such popularity."[3] Through the level of attention it received from the rock press and more culturally elite publications, the album achieved full cultural legitimisation for pop music and recognition for the medium as a genuine art form.[265][331] Riley says that pop had been due this accreditation "at least as early as A Hard Day's Night" in 1964.[332] He adds that the timing of the album's release and its reception ensured that "Sgt. Pepper has attained the kind of populist adoration that renowned works often assume regardless of their larger significance – it's the Beatles' 'Mona Lisa'."[333]

According to author Robert Rodriguez, an element of exaggeration accompanied some of the acclaim for Sgt. Pepper, with particularly effusive approbation coming from Rorem, Bernstein and Tynan, "as if every critic was seeking to outdo the other for the most lavish embrace of the Beatles' new direction".[334][nb 41] In Gendron's view, the cultural approbation represented American "highbrow" commentators (Rorem and Poirier) looking to establish themselves over their "low-middlebrow" equivalent, after Time and Newsweek had led the way in recognising the Beatles' artistry, and over the new discipline of rock criticism.[336] Gendron describes the discourse as one whereby, during a period that lasted for six months, "highbrow" composers and musicologists "jostl[ed] to pen the definitive effusive appraisal of the Beatles".[337]

Aside from the attention afforded the album in literary and scholarly journals, the American jazz magazines Down Beat and Jazz both began to cover rock music for the first time, with the latter publication changing its name to Jazz & Pop as a result.[338] Writing for Rolling Stone in 1969, Michael Lydon said that reviewers had had to invent "new criticism" to match the musical advances, since: "Writing had to be an appropriate response to the music; in writing about, say, Sgt. Pepper, you had to try to write something as good as Sgt. Pepper. Because, of course, what made that record beautiful was the beautiful response it created in you; if your written response was true to your listening response, the writing would stand on its own as a creation on par with the record."[339]

Recording practice and cover design

Equal credit [for Sgt. Pepper] is now justifiably placed with George Martin ... He shaped glorious songs, fantazmagorical lyrics with melody and harmony and pushed recording technique into unknown waters.[340]

Colin Larkin, writing in the Guinness Book of Top 1000 Albums, 1994

In MacFarlane's opinion, Sgt. Pepper's most important musical innovation is its "integration of recording technology into the compositional process".[341][nb 42] He credits Edgard Varèse's Poème électronique as the piece of music that made this advance feasible, by "expand[ing] the definition of sound recording from archival documentation to the reification of the musical canvass"; he identifies "A Day in the Life" as the Sgt. Pepper track that best exemplifies this approach.[343] The musician and producer Alan Parsons believes that with Sgt. Pepper "people then started thinking that you could spend a year making an album and they began to consider an album as a sound composition and not just a musical composition. The idea was gradually forming of a record being a performance in its own right and not just a reproduction of a live performance."[344]

According to Julien, Sgt. Pepper represents the "epitome of the transformation of the recording studio into a compositional tool", marking the moment when "popular music entered the era of phonographic composition."[345] Artistic experimentation, such as the placement of random gibberish in the run-out groove, is one of the album's defining features.[346] In the opinion of the Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, Sgt. Pepper represents the group's last unified effort, displaying a cohesion that would begin deteriorating immediately following the album's completion and that had entirely disappeared by the release of The Beatles in 1968.[347] Martin recalled in 1987 that throughout the making of Sgt. Pepper, "There was a very good spirit at that time between all the Beatles and ourselves. We were all conscious that we were doing something that was great." He said that while McCartney effectively led the project, and would sometimes annoy his bandmates, "Paul appreciated John's contribution on Pepper. In terms of quantity, it wasn't great, but in terms of quality, it was enormous. And Paul knew that."[348]

Inglis notes that almost every account of the significance of Sgt. Pepper emphasises the cover's "unprecedented correspondence between music and art, time and space".[349] After its release, album sleeves were no longer "a superfluous thing to be discarded during the act of listening, but an integral component of the listening that expanded the musical experience".[349] The cover helped to elevate album art as a respected topic for critical analysis whereby the "structures and cultures of popular music" could henceforth justify intellectual discourse in a way that – before Sgt. Pepper – would have seemed like "fanciful conceit".[350] He writes: Sgt. Pepper's "cover has been regarded as groundbreaking in its visual and aesthetic properties, congratulated for its innovative and imaginative design, credited with providing an early impetus for the expansion of the graphic design industry into popular music, and perceived as largely responsible for the connections between art and pop to be made explicit."[350] Riley describes it as "one of the best-known works that pop art ever produced".[351] In the late 1990s, the BBC included the cover in its list of British masterpieces of twentieth-century art and design, placing it ahead of the red telephone box, Mary Quant's miniskirt, and the Mini motorcar.[227] In 2008, the bass drum skin used on the front cover sold at auction for €670,000.[352]

Appearances on best-album lists and further recognition

Sgt. Pepper sustained its immense popularity into the 21st century while breaking numerous sales records.[353] With certified sales of 5.1 million copies, it is the third-best-selling album in UK chart history.[354][355] Sgt. Pepper is one of the most commercially successful albums in the US, where the RIAA certified sales of 11 million copies in 1997.[356] It has sold more than 32 million copies worldwide, making it one of the highest-selling albums of all time.[357]

Sgt. Pepper was voted in first place in Paul Gambaccini's 1978 book Critics' Choice: Top 200 Albums,[358] based on submissions from around 50 British and American critics and broadcasters including Christgau, Marcus, Dave Marsh and Ed Ward,[359] and again in the 1987 edition.[360] In 1994, it was ranked first in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums.[361] He described it as "the album that revolutionized, changed and re-invented the boundaries of modern popular music".[340][nb 43] Among its appearances in other critics' polls, the album topped the BBC's "Music of the Millennium" albums list in 1998 and was ranked third in Q's 2004 list "The Music That Changed the World".[365] In 2003, it was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry, honouring the work as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[2]

In 2003, Rolling Stone placed Sgt. Pepper at number one in the magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time", describing it as "the pinnacle of the Beatles' eight years as recording artists".[366] The editors also said it was "the most important rock and roll album ever made", a point to which June Skinner Sawyers adds, in her 2006 collection of essays Read the Beatles: "[Sgt. Pepper] has been called the most famous album in the history of popular music. It is certainly among the most written about. It is still being written about."[367] In 2006 it was chosen by Time as one of the 100 best albums of all time.[368] Writing that same year, Dettmar described Sgt. Pepper as "quite simply, the most important and influential rock-and-roll album ever recorded".[3] It is featured in Chris Smith's 2009 book 101 Albums That Changed Popular Music, where Smith highlights the album among the most "obvious" choices for inclusion due to its continued commercial success, the wealth of imitative works it inspired, and its ongoing recognition as "a defining moment in the history of music".[369]

The album inspired the 1974 off-Broadway musical Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road, directed by Tom O'Horgan,[370] and the 1978 film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, produced by Robert Stigwood.[307] It has been the subject of many tribute albums,[371] including a multi-artist CD available with the March 2007 issue of Mojo and a 2009 live album, Sgt. Pepper Live, by the American band Cheap Trick.[365] Other tribute recordings include Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father, a multi-artist charity compilation released by the NME in 1988, and Big Daddy's 1992 Sgt. Pepper album, a release that Moore recognised as "the most audacious" of all the interpretations of the Beatles' LP up to 1997.[372]

Track listing

Original release

All songs written by Lennon–McCartney, except "Within You Without You" by George Harrison. Track lengths and lead vocals per Mark Lewisohn and Ian MacDonald.[373]

Side one
No. 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 2:48
5. "Fixing a Hole" McCartney 2:36
6. "She's Leaving Home" McCartney with Lennon 3:35
7. "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" Lennon 2:37
Total length: 19:50
Side two
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. "Within You Without You" Harrison 5:04
2. "When I'm Sixty-Four" McCartney 2:37
3. "Lovely Rita" McCartney 2:42
4. "Good Morning Good Morning" Lennon 2:41
5. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)" Lennon, McCartney and Harrison 1:19
6. "A Day in the Life" Lennon with McCartney 5:39
Total length: 20:02

50th anniversary editions

Sgt. Pepper 50th anniversary billboard in London

On 26 May 2017, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was reissued for the album's 50th anniversary as a six-disc box set. The first CD contains a new stereo remix of the album produced by Giles Martin. Created using modern and vintage technology, the 2017 mix retains more of the idiosyncrasies that were unique to the original mono version of Sgt. Pepper. Unlike the original album, first-generation tapes were used rather than their subsequent mixdowns, resulting in a clearer and more spacious sound.[374] The other discs contain alternative mixes and previously unreleased session tapes. The set includes four CDs as well as a documentary and 5.1 surround sound mixes of the album in both DVD and Blu-ray form.[375]

Sgt. Pepper's Musical Revolution, a documentary produced by Apple Corps and written and presented by Howard Goodall, was televised on the BBC, PBS and Arte to commemorate the anniversary.[376] The occasion was also celebrated with posters, billboards and other decorations at notable locations around the world, including a billboard in Times Square.[377] The 50th anniversary edition of Sgt. Pepper topped the UK Albums Chart after its release.[353]

Personnel

According to Mark Lewisohn and Ian MacDonald:[378]

The Beatles

Additional musicians and production

  • Sounds Incorporated – the saxophone sextet on "Good Morning Good Morning"[379]
  • Neil Aspinall – tambura, harmonica[380]
  • Geoff Emerickaudio engineering; tape loops, sound effects[381][nb 44]
  • Mal Evans – counting, harmonica, alarm clock, final piano E chord[383]
  • George Martin – producer, mixer; tape loops, sound effects; harpsichord on "Fixing a Hole", harmonium, Lowrey organ and glockenspiel on "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!", Hammond organ on "With a Little Help from My Friends", piano on "Getting Better", piano solo on "Lovely Rita"; final harmonium chord.[384]
  • Session musicians – four French horns on "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band": Neill Sanders, James W. Buck, John Burden, Tony Randall,[385] arranged and conducted by Martin and McCartney; string section and harp on "She's Leaving Home", arranged by Mike Leander and conducted by Martin; tabla, dilrubas, tamboura and swarmandal on "Within You Without You", played by members of the Asian Music Circle, with eight violins and four cellos arranged and conducted by Harrison and Martin; clarinet trio on "When I'm Sixty-Four": Robert Burns, Henry MacKenzie, Frank Reidy, arranged and conducted by Martin and McCartney; saxophones on "Good Morning Good Morning", arranged and conducted by Martin and Lennon; and forty-piece orchestra, including strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion on "A Day in the Life", arranged by Martin, Lennon and McCartney, and conducted by Martin and McCartney.[386]

Charts

Weekly charts

Certifications

In the US, the album sold 2,360,423 copies by 31 December 1967 and 3,372,581 copies by the end of the decade.[439]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Argentina (CAPIF)[440] 2× Platinum 120,000^
Argentina (CAPIF)[440]
1987 CD issue
3× Platinum 180,000^
Australia (ARIA)[441] 4× Platinum 280,000^
Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)[442] Gold 100,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[443] 8× Platinum 800,000^
France (SNEP)[444] Gold 696,800[445]
Germany (BVMI)[446] Platinum 500,000^
Italy (FIMI)[447] Gold 50,000*
Japan (Oricon Charts) 208,000[396]
New Zealand (RMNZ)[448] 6× Platinum 90,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[449] 17× Platinum 5,340,000[450]
United States (RIAA)[451] 11× Platinum 11,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Notes

  1. ^ According to author Allen J. Wiener, the album's intended release date of 1 June has been "traditionally observed" over the ensuing decades, yet the true release date was 26 May.[1]
  2. ^ In Martin's opinion: "Without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper never would have happened ... Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds."[28] At the time, Lennon similarly expressed an admiration of Wilson's talents.[25] McCartney thought that his constant playing of the album made it difficult for Lennon to "escape the influence".[29]
  3. ^ McCartney has said that the idea for the title came from his mishearing of road manager, Mal Evans, asking for "salt and pepper" over a meal.[34] According to Larry Portis, the "Sergeant Pepper" referred to in the song is "the ghost of either Will Pepper or his son Harry S. Pepper", described by Portis as "two outstanding figures in English show business". Will Pepper was the manager of an Edwardian concert party called "Will C. Pepper's White Coons".[35]
  4. ^ The author Will Romano observed that Sgt. Pepper closes with nonsensical vocals just as Freak Out! had,[42] while author Barry Miles identifies a resemblance between "Carnival of Light", an unreleased Beatles track recorded during the Sgt. Pepper sessions, and "The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet", the closing track on Freak Out![43]
  5. ^ In the opinion of EMI audio engineer Geoff Emerick, the recording of Sgt. Pepper marks the emergence of McCartney as the Beatles' de facto producer, as Martin was increasingly absent near the end of late-night sessions that often lasted until dawn.[46]
  6. ^ EMI owned the Beatles' recordings and the studios, so the company did not deduct fees for studio time from the band's royalty payments during the recording and production of Sgt. Pepper.[48]
  7. ^ According to the Beatles biographer Hunter Davies, "the really serious experimentation" started in April 1966, with the closing track from Revolver – "Tomorrow Never Knows".[55] In Emerick's opinion, the "major difference" between Revolver and Sgt. Pepper is that with the latter there was no absolute deadline for completion. He also notes that recording sessions for Revolver were primarily booked during the afternoon and early evening, whereas sessions for Sgt. Pepper typically started after 7 pm.[56] He ascribes the difference in sound between the two albums to the fact that Revolver was primarily recorded in EMI Studio Three, which is a much smaller room and a "dirtier sounding studio acoustically" than Studio Two.[57]
  8. ^ Martin and Epstein decided that it was inappropriate to require fans to pay twice for the same material, so they did not include "Strawberry Fields Forever" or "Penny Lane" on the album.[62]
  9. ^ The Beatles first used eight-track at Trident Studios in July 1968, when recording "Hey Jude".[77] The following month, they commandeered EMI Studios' untested 3M machine to continue recording the White Album.[78][79]
  10. ^ "Sgt. Pepper" was crossfaded into "With a Little Help from My Friends" and the "Sgt. Pepper" reprise was crossfaded into "A Day in the Life".[92]
  11. ^ The crowd noises on "Sgt. Pepper" were gleaned from the Abbey Road archive, including "Volume 28: Audience Applause and Atmosphere, Royal Albert Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall" for the murmuring, and Martin's recording of a 1961 comedy show, Beyond the Fringe, for the laughter. The screaming that is heard as the song segues into "With a Little Help from My Friends" was overdubbed from one of Martin's recordings of the Beatles performing at the Hollywood Bowl.[116] According to MacDonald, they also used recordings of ambient sounds captured during the 10 February orchestral session for "A Day in the Life".[117]
  12. ^ Moore identifies the middle section of "Sgt. Pepper" as the moment when the juxtaposition becomes fusion.[119]
  13. ^ Direct injection was devised by the assistant EMI engineer Ken Townshend as a method for plugging electric guitars directly into recording consoles, eliminating the need for amplifiers and microphones.[90]
  14. ^ The song's lead guitar part was played by McCartney, who replaced an effort by Harrison that he had spent seven hours recording.[122]
  15. ^ In mid-March 1967, during a songwriting session at McCartney's home in St John's Wood, he and Lennon wrote "With a Little Help from My Friends" as a song for Starr. With Lennon on guitar and McCartney on piano, they traded lines back and forth, eventually settling on the call and response format of questions and answers.[125]
  16. ^ Lennon's contribution to the lyric includes a confessional regarding his having been violent with female companions: "I used to be cruel to my woman".[138] He explained: "I was a hitter. I couldn't express myself and I hit".[138] In Womack's opinion, the song encourages the listener to follow the speaker's example and "alter their own angst-ridden ways": "Man I was mean, but I'm changing my scene and I'm doing the best that I can."[138]
  17. ^ The backing track for "Fixing a Hole" was recorded at Regent Sound Studio, in west London, after EMI refused to cancel another band's booking when the Beatles wanted to schedule a last minute session at Abbey Road.[144]
  18. ^ For the 17 March recording of "She's Leaving Home", McCartney hired Mike Leander to arrange the string section as Martin was occupied producing one of his other artists, Cilla Black.[148] Martin was upset at McCartney for choosing to work with another arranger, but conducted the musicians using the score more or less as written.[149]
  19. ^ Emerick first employed this method in 1966, while creating the ambiance for "Yellow Submarine" from Revolver.[153]
  20. ^ "Within You Without You" was recorded on 15 March with Harrison on vocals, sitar and tambura; the other Indian instruments were played by four London-based Indian musicians from the Asian Music Circle. None of the other Beatles participated in the recording.[159]
  21. ^ Martin and Emerick advised against the inclusion of the laughter, which was gleaned from the Abbey Road effects tape "Volume 6: Applause and Laughter", but Harrison insisted.[164]
  22. ^ The transition between "Sgt. Pepper (Reprise)" and "A Day in the Life" differs between the mono and stereo versions of the album; the former has the final note of "Reprise" hit the first chord of "A Day in the Life", leaving no time in between the two songs. The stereo mix, however, has a small pause between the final note of "Reprise" and the first chord of "A Day in the Life", making the chord more easily audible.[183]
  23. ^ In Martin's opinion, the "vocal wailings", which are treated with tape echo and slowly panned from right to left and back again before suddenly ending in the left speaker, contribute to the song's "reception as a 'marijuana dream'".[185] The accompanying brass section loudly indicates the end of the sequence and the start of the fourth and final verse, after which the song enters the last crescendo before finishing with a piano chord that is allowed to fade out for nearly a minute.[186]
  24. ^ The "lucky man who made the grade" was inspired by – but not directly based on – the recent accidental death of Beatles friend and Guinness heir Tara Brown. Lennon noted he "didn't copy the accident. Tara didn't blow his mind out, but it was in my mind when I was writing that verse."[191] According to Martin, the line "he blew his mind out in a car" is a drug reference.[192]
  25. ^ Lennon strongly disliked the sound of his own voice and often asked for generous amounts of echo to be added to his vocal in an effort to bury it deep in the mix.[193]
  26. ^ Recordings of "A Day in the Life" began on 19 January 1967 with Lennon counting-in the first take by mumbling, "Sugar plum fairy, sugar plum fairy".[188] McCartney's lead vocal in the middle of the track was recorded the next day and the orchestral overdub session occurred on 10 February. Martin recorded four tracks of the orchestral musicians and layered them into a composite track.[195] The final piano chord was recorded 12 days later.[196]
  27. ^ Lennon was unaware that most record players and speakers of the time were incapable of reproducing the tone, which many listeners would not hear until the release of the CD version in 1987.[201]
  28. ^ When the audio contained in the run-out groove is played in reverse and slowed-down, McCartney can be heard shouting: "I will fuck you like Superman", with Starr and Harrison giggling in the background.[203] When the album was re-pressed for LP release in 2012, it took several attempts to successfully reproduce the run-out groove effect.[204]
  29. ^ The bass drum was that of the Essex Yeomanry Band and has the names of the regiment's World War I battles painted on the shell, including the Battle of Loos.[218] Harrison's grandfather Henry Harrison, a private in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, was killed at the Battle of Loos on 25 September 1915.[219]
  30. ^ McCartney and Harrison are also seen wearing their MBE medals.[96] According to Gould the Sgt. Pepper cover piqued a frenzy of analysis.[224] Inglis cites it as the only example in popular music where the album art attracted as much attention as the album. He notes several elements of the cover that were interpreted as evidence of McCartney's death, including: the Beatles are supposedly standing about a grave, the hand above McCartney's head is regarded as a "symbol of death", and on the back cover, he is turned away from the camera.[225]
  31. ^ Inglis is paraphrasing George Melly, who in 1970 described the Sgt. Pepper cover as "a microcosm of the underground world".[230]
  32. ^ Also included were the philosophers and scientists Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.[230] Starr was the only Beatle who offered no suggestions for the collage, telling Blake, "Whatever the others say is fine by me."[231]
  33. ^ On 4 June, the Jimi Hendrix Experience opened a show at the Saville Theatre in London with their rendition of the title track.[241] Epstein leased the Saville at the time,[242] and Harrison and McCartney attended the performance.[241] McCartney described the moment: "The curtains flew back and [Hendrix] came walking forward playing 'Sgt. Pepper'. It's a pretty major compliment in anyone's book. I put that down as one of the great honours of my career."[243]
  34. ^ In this piece, Goldstein explained that, although the album was not on-par with the best of the Beatles' previous work, he considered it "better than 80 per cent of the music around". He also said that, underneath the production when "the compositions are stripped to their musical and lyrical essentials", the LP was shown to be "an elaboration without improvement" on the group's music.[279]
  35. ^ According to Moore, Goldstein's position was an exception among a group of primarily positive contemporary reviewers that he characterises as the most for any single album at the time. He adds that some negative letters were sent to Melody Maker that he speculates were written by jazz enthusiasts.[285]
  36. ^ According to Riley, Rubber Soul and Revolver are "miracles of intuition" that are "greater than the sum of their parts" while in comparison "Sgt. Pepper is tinged with conceit."[298] He describes Sgt. Pepper as "a flawed masterpiece that can only echo the strength of Revolver".[299]
  37. ^ In another article from the 1970s, Christgau commented: "[A]lthough 'Sgt. Pepper' is thought of as the most influential of all rock masterpieces, it is really only the most famous. In retrospect it seems peculiarly apollonian – precise, controlled, even stiff – and it is clearly peripheral to the rock mainstream. (The 'concept album' idea was embodied more fruitfully – and earlier in 'Rubber Soul.')"[300]
  38. ^ In a 2017 interview, Goldstein said that originally he was "sort of horrified by the album [and] being determined with that sort of narcissistic frenzy that young men can have. To, you know, shake them up and force them to actually make rock 'n' roll again. ... they would say oh we've made a mistake, we're going to go back to singing 'Long Tall Sally' or 'now I'll never dance with another.' I wasn't really interested in the prophetic aspect of 'Sgt. Pepper.'"[302]
  39. ^ Moore describes Sgt. Pepper as "a precursor of progressive rock's infatuation with unified concepts".[313] The music journalist Thomas Blackwell credits the LP as being "virtually responsible for the birth of the progressive rock genre".[314]
  40. ^ The author Carys Wyn Jones comments that Sgt. Pepper, Revolver, the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, and the Who's Tommy (1969) are variously cited as "the first concept album", usually for their "uniform excellence rather than some lyrical theme or underlying musical motif".[316]
  41. ^ In the November 1967 issue of Down Beat magazine, John Gabree complained that the Beatles were being afforded excessive praise by writers that were unfamiliar with rock music and unaware of the advances made by rival acts such as the Mothers of Invention and the Who.[335]
  42. ^ According to Julien, the Beatles' "gradual integration of arranging and recording into one and the same process" began as early as 1963, but developed in earnest during the sessions for Rubber Soul and Revolver and "ultimately blossomed" during the Sgt. Pepper sessions.[342]
  43. ^ In the book's second edition, published four years later, Revolver was ranked first, with Sgt. Pepper second followed by the White Album.[362] In the third edition, published in 2000, Sgt. Pepper was ranked third to Revolver and Radiohead's The Bends.[363][364]
  44. ^ Despite Martin's efforts to secure an engineer's credit for Emerick on Sgt. Pepper, EMI refused the request based upon what was then company policy. While Peter Blake received a gold disc for his contribution to the album cover, Emerick did not receive one for his contribution to the album's recording, however; in 1968 he received a Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.[382]

References

  1. ^ Wiener 1992, p. 31.
  2. ^ a b "The National Recording Registry 2003". Library of Congress. 2003. Retrieved 19 November 2007.
  3. ^ a b c Dettmar 2006, p. 139.
  4. ^ Miles 1997, p. 303.
  5. ^ Lewisohn 1992, p. 210.
  6. ^ The Beatles 2000, p. 229.
  7. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 212.
  8. ^ a b Martin & Pearson 1994, p. 7.
  9. ^ Lewisohn 1992, p. 211; Martin & Pearson 1994, p. 7.
  10. ^ MacDonald 2005, pp. 212–213.
  11. ^ a b MacDonald 2005, p. 213.
  12. ^ Lewisohn 1992, pp. 210: the Beatles grew tired of touring, 230: the Beatles' final commercial performance; MacDonald 2005, p. 213
  13. ^ Schaffner 1978, pp. 58–59.
  14. ^ Julien 2008b, p. 1.
  15. ^ Gould 2007, p. 367.
  16. ^ a b Julien 2008b, p. 2.
  17. ^ a b Everett 1999, p. 71.
  18. ^ Rodriguez 2012, p. 18.
  19. ^ Blaney 2007, p. 8.
  20. ^ Womack 2007, p. 158, 160–161.
  21. ^ Harry 2000, pp. 323, 333; Julien 2008b, p. 2.
  22. ^ Howard 2004, p. 64; Rodriguez 2012, p. 36: artistic merit; Turner 2016, p. 44: increasingly novel sounds
  23. ^ Philo 2015, pp. 105–106.
  24. ^ MacFarlane 2008, pp. 36–37: Wilson's growing interest in the aesthetics of recording; Kimsey 2009, pp. 37, 235: Wilson's admiration for the Beatles' Rubber Soul and Phil Spector.
  25. ^ a b Womack 2018, p. 75.
  26. ^ Babiuk 2002, p. 197.
  27. ^ a b Babiuk 2002, p. 204.
  28. ^ Crowe, Jerry (1 November 1997). "'Pet Sounds Sessions': Body of Influence Put in a Box". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  29. ^ a b Julien 2008c, p. 158.
  30. ^ Echard 2017, pp. 29, 126.
  31. ^ Gould 2007, p. 35.
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Further reading

  • Ashby, Arved Mark, ed. (2004). The Pleasure of Modernist Music: Listening, Meaning, Intention, Ideology. Boydell & Brewer. ISBN 978-1-58046-143-6.
  • Bannister, Matthew (2007). White Boys, White Noise: Masculinities and 1980s Indie Guitar Rock. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7546-8803-7.
  • Edmondson, Jacqueline, ed. (2013). Music in American Life: An Encyclopedia of the Songs, Styles, Stars, and Stories that Shaped our Culture. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-313-39348-8.
  • Roberts, Michael James (2014). Tell Tchaikovsky the News: Rock ’n’ Roll, the Labor Question, and the Musicians’ Union, 1942–1968. Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-7883-9.

External links

  • Official website
  • Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band at Discogs (list of releases)
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