|Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band|
|Studio album by the Beatles|
|Released||26 May 1967|
|Recorded||24 November 1966 – 21 April 1967|
|Studio||EMI Studios and Regent Sound Studio, London|
|The Beatles chronology|
|The Beatles North American chronology|
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is the eighth studio album by 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 in Abbey Road Studio Two 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 "With a Little Help from My Friends", "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "A Day in the Life". Producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick 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". 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 J. Dettmar, writing in the Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature, described it as "the most important and influential rock and roll album ever recorded".
By 1966, the Beatles had grown weary of live performance. 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." In June that year, two days after finishing the album Revolver, the group set off for a tour that started in Germany. While in Hamburg they received an anonymous telegram stating: "Do not go to Tokyo. Your life is in danger". 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. 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. 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.
After the Beatles' return to London, George Harrison replied to a question about their long-term plans: "We'll take a couple of weeks to recuperate before we go and get beaten up by the Americans." His comments proved prophetic, as soon afterwards Lennon's remarks about the Beatles being "more popular than Jesus" embroiled the band in controversy and protest in America's Bible Belt. A public apology eased tensions, but a miserable US tour in August that was marked by half-filled stadiums and subpar performances proved to be their last. 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.
Upon the Beatles' return to England, rumours began to circulate that they had decided to break up. Harrison informed Epstein that he was leaving the band, but was persuaded to stay on the assurance that there would be no more tours. The group took a three-month break, during which they focused on individual interests. Harrison travelled to India for six weeks to study the sitar under the instruction of Ravi Shankar and develop his interest in Hindu philosophy. Having been the last of the Beatles to concede that their live performances had become futile, Paul McCartney collaborated with Beatles producer George Martin on the soundtrack for the film The Family Way. 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. Ringo Starr used the break to spend time with his wife Maureen and son Zak.
In November 1966, 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. 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.[nb 2] In February 1967, McCartney suggested that the Beatles should record an entire album that would represent a performance by the fictional band. 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." 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.
In 1966, the American musician and bandleader Brian Wilson's growing interest in the aesthetics of recording and his admiration for both record producer Phil Spector's Wall of Sound and the Beatles' album Rubber Soul resulted in the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds LP, which demonstrated his production expertise and his mastery of composition and arrangement.[nb 3] The author Thomas MacFarlane credits the release with influencing many musicians of the time, with McCartney in particular singing its praises and drawing inspiration to "expand the focus of the Beatles' work with sounds and textures not usually associated with popular music". McCartney thought that his constant playing of the album made it difficult for Lennon to "escape the influence", adding: "It's very cleverly done ... so we were inspired by it and nicked a few ideas."[nb 4] Martin stated: "Without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper never would have happened ... Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds."
Freak Out! by the Mothers of Invention has also been cited as having influenced Sgt. Pepper. According to the author Philip Norman, during the Sgt. Pepper recording sessions McCartney repeatedly stated: "This is our Freak Out!" The music journalist Chet Flippo states that McCartney was inspired to record a concept album after hearing Freak Out!, considered the first rock concept album.[nb 5]
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 the group's releases.[nb 6] Sessions began on 24 November 1966 in Abbey Road Studio Two, the first time that the Beatles had come together since September. Afforded the luxury of a nearly limitless recording budget, they booked open-ended sessions that allowed them to work as late as they wanted.[nb 7] They began with three songs that were thematically linked to their childhoods: "Strawberry Fields Forever", "When I'm Sixty-Four" and "Penny Lane". The first session saw the introduction of a new keyboard instrument called the Mellotron, the keys of which triggered tape-recordings of a variety of instruments, enabling its user to play keyboard parts using those voices. McCartney performed the introduction to "Strawberry Fields Forever" using the flute setting. The track's complicated production involved the innovative splicing of two takes that were recorded in different tempos and pitches. 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." In Martin's opinion, Sgt. Pepper "grew naturally out of Revolver", marking "an era of almost continuous technological experimentation".[nb 8]
"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. 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?" After its release, at Epstein's insistence, the single tracks were not included on the LP.[nb 9] Martin later described the decision to drop these two songs as "the biggest mistake of my professional life". 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". 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." McCartney's goal was to make the best Beatles album yet, declaring: "Now our performance is that record." On 6 December 1966, the group began work on "When I'm Sixty-Four", the first track that would be included on the album.
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.[nb 10] 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 Abbey Road engineers to give the group a virtual multitrack studio. 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. 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. 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.
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. Relatively new modular effects units were used, such as running voices and instruments through a Leslie speaker. Several innovative production techniques feature prominently on the recordings, including direct injection, pitch control and ambiophonics. Another is automatic double tracking (ADT), a system that uses tape recorders to create a simultaneous doubling of a sound. Although it had long been recognised that using multitrack tape to record doubled lead vocals produced an enhanced sound, before ADT it had been necessary to record such vocal tracks twice, a task that was both tedious and exacting. ADT was invented by Townsend during the Revolver sessions in 1966 especially for the Beatles, who disliked tracking sessions and regularly expressed a desire for a technical solution to the problem. The process soon became a common recording practice in popular music. Martin playfully explained to Lennon that his voice had been "treated with a double vibrocated sploshing flange ... It doubles your voice, John." Lennon realised that Martin was joking, but from that point on he referred to the effect as flanging, a label that was universally adopted by the music industry. Another important effect was varispeeding. 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.
– Hunter Davies, 1968
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. 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. 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!" While Harrison's role as lead guitarist was limited during the sessions, Everett considers that "his contribution to the album is strong in several ways." In addition to providing sitar on his composition "Within You Without You", Harrison played tamboura on several tracks, including "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "Getting Better".
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. 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". 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." 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."
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. It made use of two crossfades that blended songs together, giving the impression of a continuous live performance.[nb 11] 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. Emerick recalls: "We spent three weeks on the mono mixes and maybe three days on the stereo." 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. The final cost of Sgt. Pepper was approximately £25,000 (equivalent to £416,000 in 2016). 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.
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". 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. Wagner felt the album's music reconciles the "diametrically opposed aesthetic ideals" of classical and psychedelia, achieving a "psycheclassical synthesis" of the two forms. Musicologist John Covach describes Sgt. Pepper as "proto-progressive".
– 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." Although Lennon and McCartney denied any drug-related interpretation of the song at the time, McCartney later suggested that the line was deliberately written to ambiguously refer to either illicit drugs or sexual activity. The meaning of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" became the subject of speculation, as many believed that the song's title was code for the hallucinogenic drug LSD. The BBC banned the track on those grounds. They also banned "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" because of the lyric, which mentions "Henry the Horse", a phrase that contains two common slang terms for heroin. Fans speculated that Henry the Horse was a drug dealer and "Fixing a Hole" was a reference to heroin use. 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".
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. The musicologist Oliver Julien views the album as an embodiment of "the social, the musical, and more generally, the cultural changes of the 1960s". 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. The album's primary value, according to Moore, is its ability to "capture, more vividly than almost anything contemporaneous, its own time and place". Whiteley agrees, crediting the album with "provid[ing] a historical snapshot of England during the run-up to the Summer of Love". 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.
MacDonald praises McCartney's "screaming hard rock vocal", and Martin regards the song as "the most identifiably 'Beatles' sound" on Sgt. Pepper.
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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.[nb 12] 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. 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". 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". He credits the recording's use of a brass ensemble with distorted electric guitars as an early example of rock fusion. MacDonald agrees, describing the track as an overture rather than a song, and a "shrewd fusion of Edwardian variety orchestra" and contemporary hard rock.[nb 13] 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. "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".[nb 14] 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". The five-bar bridge is filled by an Edwardian horn quartet that Martin arranged from a McCartney vocal melody. 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.[nb 15]
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. The song then segues into "With a Little Help from My Friends" amidst a moment of crowd cheer that Martin had recorded during a Beatles concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Womack describes Starr's baritone lead vocals as "charmingly sincere" and he credits them with imparting an element of "earnestness in sharp contrast with the ironic distance of the title track". Lennon and McCartney's call and response backing vocals ask Starr questions about the meaning of friendship and true love.[nb 16] In MacDonald's opinion, the lyric is "at once communal and personal ... touchingly rendered by Starr [and] meant as a gesture of inclusivity; everyone could join in." Womack agrees, identifying "necessity of community" as the song's "central ethical tenet", a theme that he ascribes to the album as a whole. 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. He characterises the arrangement as clever, particularly its reversal of the question and answer relationship in the final verse, in which the backing singers ask leading questions and Starr provides unequivocal answers. 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.
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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, inspired the song's atmosphere. McCartney confirms the existence of the drawing and Carroll's influence on the track, noting that although the title's apparent drug reference was unintentional, the lyrics were purposely written for a psychedelic song. 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". Martin describes the introduction's melody, which he regards as "crucial to the staying power of the song", as "a falling scale in the left hand, a rocking scale in the right". In his opinion, the verse might have sounded monotonous if not for the juxtaposition "of that almost-single-note vocal against the inspired introductory notes", which he describes as "mesmeric, compelling". 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". 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". According to MacDonald, "the lyric explicitly recreates the psychedelic experience".
MacDonald considers "Getting Better" to contain "the most ebullient performance" on Sgt. Pepper. 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". 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". McCartney describes Lennon's lyric as "sardonic" and "against the spirit of the song", which he characterises as "typical John".[nb 17] 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. McCartney's bass line accents non-roots on the recording's downbeat.
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. MacDonald characterises it as a "distracted and introverted track", during which McCartney forgoes his "usual smooth design" in favour of "something more preoccupied". He cites Harrison's electric guitar solo as serving the track well, capturing its mood by conveying detachment. 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". 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.[nb 18]
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. 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. 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 utilise a string quartet and octet respectively.[nb 19]
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". 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." 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.[nb 20] MacDonald describes the song as "a spontaneous expression of its author's playful hedonism". Everett thinks that the track's use of Edwardian imagery thematically links it with the album's opening number.
– 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. 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.[nb 21] The track features a tempo rubato that is without precedent in the Beatles' catalogue. The pitch is derived from the eastern Khamaj scale, which is akin to the Mixolydian mode in the West. 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. 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. 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."[nb 22] Martin used the moment of levity as a segue for what he describes as the album's "jokey track" – "When I'm Sixty-Four".
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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". Its sparse arrangement includes chimes, clarinet and piano. Everett singles it out as a case of McCartney's "penchant for the audience-charming vaudeville ... that Lennon detested". 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. 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". MacDonald notes that the song's inclusion amidst Sgt. Pepper's "multi-layered psychedelic textures ... provid[es] a down-to-earth interlude". 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. Varispeeding was used on the track, raising the music's pitch by a semitone in an attempt to make McCartney sound younger. Everett notes that the lyric's 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.
Womack characterises "Lovely Rita" as a work of "full-tilt psychedelia" that contrasts sharply with the preceding track. 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. Moore views the track as a "throwaway" while praising what he characterises as its "strong sense of harmonic direction". 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".
"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". Lennon regarded the song as "a throwaway piece of garbage", and McCartney viewed it as Lennon's reaction to the frustrations of domestic life. Womack praises the song's varied time signatures, including 5/4, 3/4 and 4/4, calling it a "masterpiece of electrical energy". MacDonald notes Starr's "fine performance" and McCartney's "coruscating pseudo-Indian guitar solo", which he credits with delivering the track's climax. 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. 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.
"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. The reprise omits the brass section from the title track and features a faster tempo. MacDonald notes the Beatles' apparent excitement, which is tangibly translated during the recording.
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As the last chord of the "Sgt. Pepper" reprise plays, an acoustic guitar strumming offbeat quavers begins, introducing what Moore describes as "one of the most harrowing songs ever written". "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".[nb 24] The idea to use an orchestra was McCartney's; he drew inspiration from the avant-garde composers John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen. 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". Martin notes Lennon's request for "a tremendous build-up, from nothing up to something absolutely like the end of the world". 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".[nb 25] 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.[nb 26] 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". 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.[nb 27] 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". MacDonald describes the track as "a song not of disillusionment with life itself, but of disenchantment with the limits of mundane perception". According to him, it "remains among the most penetrating and innovative artistic reflections of its era", representing the Beatles' "finest single achievement".
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.[nb 28] 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".[nb 29]
Sgt. Pepper's album cover was designed by the pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth from an ink drawing by McCartney. It was art-directed by Robert Fraser and photographed by Michael Cooper. 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. Each of the Beatles sported a heavy moustache, after Harrison had first grown one as a disguise during his visit to India. 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. The centre of the cover depicts the Beatles standing behind a bass drum[nb 30] on which fairground artist Joe Ephgrave painted the words of the album's title. In front of the drum is an arrangement of flowers that spell out "Beatles". 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. The album's lyrics were printed in full on the back cover, the first time this had been done on a rock LP.
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". 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." 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. 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. Moore believes that the inclusion of these items helped fans "pretend to be in the band".
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. 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".[nb 32] 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 (as well as comedian W.C. Fields) and the writers H. G. Wells, Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll and Dylan Thomas.[nb 33] Adolf Hitler and Jesus Christ were requested by Lennon, but ultimately rejected. The actor Leo Gorcey's image was painted out after he requested a fee. 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." 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). For their work on Sgt. Pepper, Blake and Haworth won the 1968 Grammy Award for Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts.
After finishing Sgt. Pepper, but prior to the album's commercial release, 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. On 26 May 1967, Sgt. Pepper was given a rushed release in the UK, where it was originally scheduled for 1 June. The US release followed on 2 June.[nb 34] It was the first Beatles album where the track listings were exactly the same for the UK and US versions. The band's eighth LP, it debuted in the UK at number one – where it stayed for 22 consecutive weeks – selling 250,000 copies during the first seven days. On 4 June, the Jimi Hendrix Experience opened a show at the Saville Theatre in London with their rendition of the title track. Epstein owned the Saville at the time, and Harrison and McCartney attended the performance. 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." Rolling Stone magazine's Langdon Winner recalls:
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.
Sgt. Pepper was widely perceived by listeners as the soundtrack to the "Summer of Love". In Riley's opinion, the album "drew people together through the common experience of pop on a larger scale than ever before". American radio stations interrupted their regular scheduling, playing the album virtually non-stop – often from start to finish. It occupied the number one position of the Billboard Top LPs in the US for 15 weeks, from 1 July to 13 October 1967. 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. None of its songs were issued as singles at the time.
The vast majority of contemporary reviews were positive, with Sgt. Pepper receiving a widespread critical acclaim that matched its immediate commercial success. Kenneth Tynan of The Times described it as "a decisive moment in the history of Western civilisation". 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." Time magazine declared it "a historic departure in the progress of music – any music". Newsweek's Jack Kroll called it a "masterpiece", comparing the lyrics with literary works by Edith Sitwell, Harold Pinter and T. S. Eliot, particularly "A Day in the Life", which he compared to Eliot's The Waste Land. The New York Times Book Review characterised Sgt. Pepper as a harbinger of a "golden Renaissance of Song" and the New Statesman's Wilfrid Mellers praised its elevation of pop music to the level of fine art.
One of the best-known American critics at the time, Richard Goldstein, wrote a scathing contemporary review in The New York Times that described Sgt. Pepper as "spoiled" and "reek[ing]" of "special effects, dazzling but ultimately fraudulent". According to the music journalist Robert Christgau, The New York Times was subsequently "deluged with letters, many abusive and every last one in disagreement", a backlash that he credits as "the largest response to a music review" in the newspaper's history. Goldstein published a defence of his review in which he 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", but felt that underneath the production when "the compositions are stripped to their musical and lyrical essentials" the LP is shown to be "an elaboration without improvement" on the group's music. In Christgau's 1967 column for Esquire magazine, he described Sgt. Pepper as "a consolidation, more intricate than Revolver but not more substantial", suggesting 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".[nb 35]
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.
|The A.V. Club||B+|
|The Daily Telegraph|||
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
|The Village Voice||A|
While gathering material for his 1979 anthology, Stranded: Rock and Roll for a Desert Island, the editor Greil Marcus polled the 20 rock critic contributors regarding their choice for the best rock album of all time, and while Rubber Soul was mentioned, Sgt. Pepper was not. He asserts that, by 1968, the album appeared vacuous against the emotional backdrop of the political and social upheavals of American life, describing it as "a triumph of effects", but "a Day-Glo tombstone for its time". He characterises the LP as "playful but contrived" and "less a summing up of its era than a concession to it". Marcus believes that the album "strangled on its own conceits" while being "vindicated by world-wide acclaim".[nb 36] In 1977, Christgau revisited the "supposedly epochal Works of Art" from 1967—"the watershed year for what was once called rock culture"—that had inspired future critical standards, including his own early on: He found much of the music that was most culturally important had "dated in the sense that it speaks with unusually specific eloquence of a single point in history—it may well be true that Sgt. Pepper is more bound to a moment than in a lot of the Beatles' earlier music."
In 1981, Christgau stated that although few critics agreed with Goldstein at the time of his negative contemporary review, many later came to appreciate his sentiments. In the opinion of Lester Bangs – the so-called "godfather" of punk rock journalism, also writing in 1981 – "Goldstein was right in his much-vilified review ... predicting that this record had the power to almost singlehandedly destroy rock and roll."[nb 37] He said: "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." The musicologist John Kimsey cites the preservation of authenticity as a guiding tenet of rock music and suggests that many purists denounce Sgt. Pepper in that respect, accusing the album of "mark[ing] a fall from primal grace into pretense, production and self-consciousness."[nb 38] In his opinion, detractors regard the LP as less a breakthrough and more a "break with all that's good, true and rocking".[nb 39] According to Christgau: "Although 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". In Moore's estimation, "because its cultural impact was so large, it was simply being asked to do too much." Writing for Paste in 2009, Mark Kemp regarded it as a "blast of avant-rock genius" but also "one of rock's most overrated albums".
– Chris Ingham, writing in 2006 of the critical response to Sgt. Pepper in the decades following its release
Although widely acclaimed, the album has been censured by some. It was voted the worst record ever made in a 1998 Melody Maker poll of pop stars, DJs and journalists. Among the harshest detractors was musician and journalist John Robb, who described the album as "the benchmark of 1967 – the low water point of rock 'n' roll". In a scathing appraisal of the record prior to its 40th anniversary in 2007, Guardian critic Richard Smith wrote that it is "if not the worst, then certainly the most overrated album of all time". He also said that the "excruciating" LP was often ranked by members of the music press as the best ever due to affection for its cultural impact, and "not because of anything intrinsically great about the record". Asked in 2007 to nominate the "supposedly great" album he would "gladly never hear again", artist and writer Billy Childish named Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, saying that it "signalled the death of rock 'n' roll". Musician and author Bill Drummond, in a 2010 publication, called the record "the worst thing that ever happened to music".
According to Womack, with Sgt. Pepper's first song "the Beatles manufacture an artificial textual space in which to stage their art." The reprise of the title song appears on side two, just prior to the climactic "A Day in the Life", creating a framing device. In Starr's opinion, only the first two songs and the reprise are conceptually connected. 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." 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". Martin became worried upon the album's completion that its lack of musical unity might draw criticism and accusations of pretentiousness.
MacFarlane notes that – despite these concerns – Sgt. Pepper "is widely regarded as the first true concept album in popular music".[nb 40] In his view, the Beatles "chose to employ an overarching thematic concept in an apparent effort to unify individual tracks." Everett contends that the album's "musical unity results ... from motivic relationships between key areas, particularly involving C, E, and G." 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. MacFarlane agrees, suggesting that with the exception of the reprise the album lacks the melodic and harmonic continuity that is consistent with cyclic form. In a May 1967 review published by The Times, the music critic William Mann made a similar observation, indicating a thematic connection between the title track, its reprise and "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!", while suggesting that – aside from those songs – the album's "unity is slightly specious". In 1972, the musicologist Richard Middleton suggested that the album was "undercoded", in that listeners could grasp only a general understanding of the material that, in his opinion, was not particularly meaningful. Nonetheless, the author Martina Elicker asserts that Sgt. Pepper's release familiarised critics and fans alike with the notion of a "concept and unified structure underlying a pop album", thus originating the term concept album.
Musicologists regard Sgt. Pepper as a continuation of the artistic maturation seen on the Beatles' two preceding albums, Revolver and Rubber Soul. 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.[nb 41] Jones locates Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper's to the beginning of art rock; Julien considers the latter a "masterpiece of British psychedelia".[nb 42] NME described it as an "orchestral baroque pop masterpiece". Rolling Stone's Andy Greene credits it with marking the beginning of the Album Era. 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. Julien credits Sgt. Pepper with contributing towards the evolution of long-playing albums from a "distribution format" to a "creation format". In Moore's view, the album assisted "the cultural legitimization of popular music" while providing an important musical representation of its generation. It is regarded by journalists as having influenced the development of the counterculture of the 1960s. 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.
– Christopher Scapelliti, writing in Guitar World, June 2007
Sgt. Pepper sustained its immense popularity into the next century while breaking numerous sales records. With certified sales of 5.1 million copies, it is the third-best-selling album in UK chart history. Sgt. Pepper is one of the most commercially successful albums in the US, where the RIAA certified sales of 11 million copies in 1997. It has sold more than 32 million copies worldwide, making it one of the highest-selling albums of all time.
In a 1987 review for Q magazine, the music journalist and author Charles Shaar Murray asserted that the album "remains a central pillar of the mythology and iconography of the late '60s". That same year Rolling Stone's Anthony DeCurtis described it as an "enormous achievement" that "revolutionized rock and roll". In 1994, Sgt. Pepper was ranked first in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums. He described it as "the album that revolutionized, changed and re-invented the boundaries of modern popular music."[nb 43] 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". In 2003, Rolling Stone placed it at number one in their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, describing it as "the pinnacle of the Beatles' eight years as recording artists". In the Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Larkin wrote: "[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." In 2006 it was chosen by Time as one of the 100 best albums of all time. That same year the music scholar David Scott Kastan described Sgt. Pepper as "the most important and influential rock and roll album ever recorded".[nb 44] The album was included in Robert Dimery's 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
– Colin Larkin, writing in the Guinness Book of Top 1000 Albums, 1994
George Martin, along with Brian Wilson, is generally credited with helping to popularise the idea of the recording studio as a musical instrument which could then be used to aid the process of composition.[nb 45] In MacFarlane's opinion, Sgt. Pepper's most important musical innovation is its "integration of recording technology into the compositional process".[nb 46] 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. Although early analogue synthesisers were available – Robert Moog was working on the second generation of the first commercially available keyboard around the same time as the Sgt. Pepper recording sessions – none were used during the album's recording, which relied solely on electric and acoustic instruments and field recordings that were available at Abbey Road Studios. 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."
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." Its lasting commercial success and critical impact are largely due to Martin and his engineers' creative use of studio equipment while originating new processes. Artistic experimentation, such as the placement of random gibberish in the run-out groove, is one of the album's defining features. 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. Emerick notes the minimal involvement of Harrison and Starr, viewing Sgt. Pepper as a work of Lennon and McCartney that was less a group effort than any of their previous releases.
Inglis notes that almost every account of the significance of Sgt. Pepper emphasizes the cover's "unprecedented correspondence between music and art, time and space". 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." 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". 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." Riley describes it as "one of the best-known works that pop art ever produced". In the late 1990s, the BBC included it in its list of British masterpieces of twentieth-century art and design. In 2008, the iconic bass drum skin used on the front cover sold at auction for €670,000.[nb 47]
Sgt. Pepper was the first Beatles album to be released with identical track listings in the UK and the US.
|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|
|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|
|1.||"Within You Without You"||Harrison||5:04|
|2.||"When I'm Sixty-Four"||McCartney||2:37|
|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|
Track lengths and lead vocals per Mark Lewisohn and Ian MacDonald.
On 26 May 2017, the album was reissued for the album's 50th anniversary in four different formats: a single CD, a double CD set, a double vinyl set and a six-disc super deluxe edition. 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's. Unlike the original album, first-generation tapes were used rather than their subsequent mixdowns, resulting in a clearer and more spacious sound. The other discs contain alternative mixes and previously unreleased session tapes. The six-disc box 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. The 50th anniversary edition topped the UK albums chart after its release.
|Double CD/vinyl bonus disc/digital version (Note: tracks 14–18 omitted from vinyl release)|
|1.||"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (Take 9)||2:37|
|2.||"With a Little Help from My Friends" (Take 1 – False Start and Take 2 – Instrumental)||3:15|
|3.||"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" (Take 1)||3:40|
|4.||"Getting Better" (Take 1 – Instrumental and Speech at the End)||2:19|
|5.||"Fixing a Hole" (Speech And Take 3)||3:28|
|6.||"She's Leaving Home" (Take 1 – Instrumental)||3:49|
|7.||"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" (Take 4)||3:08|
|8.||"Within You Without You" (Take 1 – Indian Instruments)||5:33|
|9.||"When I'm Sixty-Four" (Take 2)||3:00|
|10.||"Lovely Rita" (Speech and Take 9)||3:05|
|11.||"Good Morning Good Morning" (Take 8)||2:47|
|12.||"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)" (Take 8)||2:00|
|13.||"A Day in the Life" (Take 1 With Hummed Last Chord)||4:52|
|14.||"Strawberry Fields Forever" (Take 7)||3:17|
|15.||"Strawberry Fields Forever" (Take 26)||3:19|
|16.||"Strawberry Fields Forever" (Stereo Mix – 2015)||4:10|
|17.||"Penny Lane" (Take 6 – Instrumental)||2:56|
|18.||"Penny Lane" (Stereo Mix – 2017)||3:00|
|Super deluxe edition, disc one — 2017 stereo remix of original album|
|1.||"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"||2:02|
|2.||"With a Little Help from My Friends"||2:44|
|3.||"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"||3:28|
|5.||"Fixing a Hole"||2:36|
|6.||"She's Leaving Home"||3:35|
|7.||"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"||2:37|
|8.||"Within You Without You"||5:04|
|9.||"When I'm Sixty-Four"||2:37|
|11.||"Good Morning Good Morning"||2:41|
|12.||"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)"||1:19|
|13.||"A Day in the Life"||5:39|
|Super deluxe edition, disc two — early session highlights, sequenced in chronological order of their first recording dates|
|1.||"Strawberry Fields Forever" (Take 1)||2:40|
|2.||"Strawberry Fields Forever" (Take 4)||3:00|
|3.||"Strawberry Fields Forever" (Take 7)||3:17|
|4.||"Strawberry Fields Forever" (Take 26)||3:19|
|5.||"Strawberry Fields Forever" (Stereo Mix – 2015)||4:10|
|6.||"When I'm Sixty-Four" (Take 2)||3:00|
|7.||"Penny Lane" (Take 6 – Instrumental)||2:56|
|8.||"Penny Lane" (Vocal Overdubs and Speech)||1:47|
|9.||"Penny Lane" (Stereo Mix – 2017)||3:00|
|10.||"A Day in the Life" (Take 1)||4:41|
|11.||"A Day in the Life" (Take 2)||4:49|
|12.||"A Day in the Life" (Orchestra Overdub)||0:56|
|13.||"A Day in the Life (Hummed Last Chord)" (Takes 8, 9, 10 and 11)||1:55|
|14.||"A Day in the Life (The Last Chord)"||2:53|
|15.||"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (Take 1 – Instrumental)||2:34|
|16.||"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (Take 9 and Speech)||2:37|
|17.||"Good Morning Good Morning" (Take 1 – Instrumental, Breakdown)||1:04|
|18.||"Good Morning Good Morning" (Take 8)||2:47|
|Super deluxe edition, disc three — as above|
|1.||"Fixing a Hole" (Take 1)||3:00|
|2.||"Fixing a Hole" (Speech and Take 3)||3:28|
|3.||"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" (Speech from Before Take 1; Take 4 and Speech at End)||3:08|
|4.||"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" (Take 7)||2:35|
|5.||"Lovely Rita" (Speech and Take 9)||3:05|
|6.||"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" (Take 1 and Speech at the End)||3:40|
|7.||"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" (Speech, False Start and Take 5)||4:08|
|8.||"Getting Better" (Take 1 – Instrumental and Speech at the End)||2:19|
|9.||"Getting Better" (Take 12)||2:45|
|10.||"Within You Without You" (Take 1 – Indian Instruments Only)||5:33|
|11.||"Within You Without You" (George Coaching the Musicians)||3:56|
|12.||"She's Leaving Home" (Take 1 – Instrumental)||3:49|
|13.||"She's Leaving Home" (Take 6 – Instrumental)||3:48|
|14.||"With a Little Help from My Friends" (Take 1 – False Start and Take 2 – Instrumental)||3:15|
|15.||"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)" (Speech And Take 8)||2:00|
|Super deluxe edition, disc four — 1967 mono mix of original album with bonus tracks|
|1.||"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"||2:02|
|2.||"With a Little Help from My Friends"||2:44|
|3.||"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"||3:28|
|5.||"Fixing a Hole"||2:36|
|6.||"She's Leaving Home"||3:35|
|7.||"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"||2:37|
|8.||"Within You Without You"||5:04|
|9.||"When I'm Sixty-Four"||2:37|
|11.||"Good Morning Good Morning"||2:41|
|12.||"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)"||1:19|
|13.||"A Day in the Life"||5:39|
|14.||"Strawberry Fields Forever" (Original Mono Mix)||4:08|
|15.||"Penny Lane" (Original Mono Mix)||3:02|
|16.||"A Day in the Life" (Unreleased First Mono Mix)||4:43|
|17.||"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" (Unreleased Mono Mix – No. 11)||3:49|
|18.||"She's Leaving Home" (Unreleased First Mono Mix)||3:42|
|19.||"Penny Lane" (Capitol Records U.S. Promo Single – Mono Mix)||3:01|
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 50th anniversary of the album. The 50th anniversary was also celebrated with posters, billboards, and other decorations at notable locations around the world, including a billboard in Times Square.
According to Mark Lewisohn and Ian MacDonald:
Additional musicians and production
Sgt. Pepper appeared on the Billboard 200 chart in the US for 175 non-consecutive weeks through 1987.
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.
|Argentina (CAPIF)||2× Platinum||120,000^|
1987 CD issue
|Australia (ARIA)||4× Platinum||280,000^|
|Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)||Gold||100,000*|
|Canada (Music Canada)||8× Platinum||800,000^|
|Japan (Oricon Charts)||208,000|
|New Zealand (RMNZ)||6× Platinum||90,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||17× Platinum||5,340,000|
|United States (RIAA)||11× Platinum||11,000,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
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