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 1 June 1967
Recorded 6 December 1966 – 21 April 1967,
EMI and Regent Sound studios, London
Genre Rock, pop, psychedelic rock, art rock
Length 39:42
Label Parlophone
Producer George Martin
the Beatles chronology
Revolver
(1966)
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
(1967)
Magical Mystery Tour
(1967)

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (commonly known as Sgt. Pepper) is the eighth studio album by the English rock band the Beatles. Released in June 1967, it was an immediate commercial and critical success, spending 22 weeks at the top of the UK Albums Chart and 15 weeks at number one on the US Billboard 200. It won four Grammy Awards in 1968, including Album of the Year, the first rock LP to receive this honour.

An important early example of a concept album, Sgt. Pepper continued the artistic maturation seen on the Beatles' preceding releases while advancing the use of unified themes in popular music. It is often described as one of the first art rock albums, aiding the development of progressive rock. A seminal work in the emerging psychedelic rock style, the multigenre album represents a departure from the conventional pop rock idiom of the time, incorporating diverse stylistic influences, including rock and roll, vaudeville, big band, piano jazz, blues, chamber, circus, music hall, avant-garde, Western and Indian classical music.

Following the Beatles' August 1966 retirement from touring and the three-month break from the studio that followed, their work improved upon the production quality of their prior releases, with the group adopting an experimental approach to composition. The producer George Martin's innovative recording of the album's tracks, such as "With a Little Help from My Friends", "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "A Day in the Life" included the liberal application of compression and reverb and the use of a forty-piece orchestra. The album cover was designed by the English pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth from a sketch by Paul McCartney that depicted the band posing in front of a collage of some of their favourite celebrities and historical figures.

In 1998 the musicologist Colin Larkin ranked Sgt. Pepper second in his All Time Top 1000 Albums list and in 2005 Rolling Stone magazine placed it at number one in its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2003 the Library of Congress placed it in the National Recording Registry, preserving the work as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[1] In 2006 the music scholar David Scott Kastan described it as "the most important and influential rock and roll album ever recorded".[2] As of 2014 Sgt. Pepper has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best selling albums of all time.

Background[edit]

"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."[3]

Paul McCartney

By 1966 the Beatles had grown weary of live performance.[4] In June, just two days after finishing the album Revolver, the group set off for a tour that started in Germany.[5] When it progressed to Japan the polite and restrained audience shocked the group – as 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 for not visiting the First Lady Imelda Marcos, the group had grown extremely cross with their manager, Brian Epstein, for insisting on what they regarded as an exhausting and demoralising itinerary.[6] When George Harrison was asked about their long-term plans after having returned to London he replied: "We'll take a couple of weeks to recuperate before we go and get beaten up by the Americans."[7] His comments would prove to be surprisingly accurate, as soon afterward John Lennon's remarks about the Beatles being "more popular than Jesus" embroiled the band in controversy and protest in America's Bible Belt.[7] A public apology eased tensions, but a miserable tour in August that was marked by half-filled stadia and subpar performances proved to be the group's last, following which they permanently retired from touring.[8]

Upon the Beatles' return to England, rumours began to circulate that they had decided to break-up.[9] Harrison informed Epstein that he was leaving the band, but was persuaded to stay on the assurance that there would be no more tours.[7] Lennon complained: "We're fed up with making soft music for soft people, and we're fed up with playing for them too."[10] In his 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."[11] Paul McCartney commented: "Now we can record anything we want ... and what we want is to raise the bar a notch, to make our best album ever."[10] They subsequently took a nearly two-month holiday, during which they focused on individual interests. Harrison travelled to India for six weeks to develop his sitar playing at the instruction of Ravi Shankar.[12] McCartney and producer George Martin collaborated on the soundtrack for the film The Family Way.[13][nb 1] 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.[14] Ringo Starr used the break to spend more time with his wife and first child.[12]

Concept and inspiration[edit]

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.[12] His idea involved an Edwardian era military band that Evans invented a name for in the style of contemporary San Francisco-based groups such as Big Brother and the Holding Company and Quicksilver Messenger Service.[15] In February 1967, McCartney suggested that the Beatles should record an entire album that would represent a performance by the fictional band.[16] 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 ... it won't be us making all that sound, it won't be the Beatles, it'll be this other band, so we'll be able to lose our identities in this".[17][nb 2] 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".[19]

During the early and mid-1960s, the American group the Beach Boys released music that displayed an increasing level of sophistication. Led by their principal songwriter, bassist and producer, Brian Wilson, they combined jazz-inspired vocal harmony with surf music, creating their unique sound.[20] In 1966 Wilson's growing interest in the aesthetics of recording resulted in the album Pet Sounds, which demonstrated his production expertise and his mastery of composition and arrangement. According to the musicologist Thomas MacFarlane, the release was widely influential among musicians of the time, with McCartney in particular singing its praises and drawing inspiration to "expand the focus of the Beatles' work with sound and textures not usually associated with popular music."[21] It also led him to develop a melodically-focused style of bass guitar playing that would become prevalent on many of his recordings.[22] Martin stated: "Without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper never would have happened ...Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds."[23][nb 3]

Recording and production[edit]

Sgt. Pepper marks the beginning of McCartney's ascendancy as the Beatles' dominate creative force. He wrote more than half of the album's material while increasingly asserting control over the recording of his songs. He would from this point on provide the artistic direction for the group's releases.[18] Sessions began on 24 November 1966 at Abbey Road Studios, the first time that they had come together since September.[25] Afforded the luxury of a limitless recording budget, they booked open-ended sessions that allowed them to work as late as they wanted.[26][nb 4] They began with three songs that were written with the intention to record an entire album of material that would be thematically linked to their childhoods: "Strawberry Fields Forever", "When I'm Sixty-Four" and "Penny Lane".[27] "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" were subsequently released as a double A-sided single in February 1967 after EMI and Epstein pressured Martin for a single.[28][nb 5] With the release the childhood concept was abandoned in favour of Sgt. Pepper, and at Epstein's insistence the single tracks were not included on the LP.[30] When the single failed to reach number one in the UK, British press agencies took the opportunity to suggest that the Beatles' 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?"[31] Martin later described the decision to drop these two songs as "the biggest mistake of my professional life."[32] Nonetheless, in his opinion "Strawberry Fields Forever", which he and the band spent an unprecedented 55 hours of studio time recording, "set the agenda for the whole album."[33] 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."[34] According to McCartney, "Now our performance is that record."[34] On 6 December the group began work on "When I'm Sixty-Four", the first track that would be included on the album.[35]

By 1967, all of the Sgt. Pepper tracks could be recorded at Abbey Road using mono, stereo and four-track recorders. Although eight-track tape recorders were already available in the US, the first units were not operational in commercial studios in London until late 1967, shortly after the album was released. Like earlier Beatles albums, the recording made extensive use of the technique known as reduction mixing, in which a number of tracks were recorded across the four tracks of one recorder, which were then mixed and dubbed down onto one or several tracks of the master four-track machine. This enabled the Abbey Road engineers to give the group a virtual multi-track studio.[36] McCartney tended to play other instruments than his usual bass when recording the backing track, preferring to overdub it later, and "Fixing a Hole" was the only track released on Sgt. Pepper where it was cut live.[37] To record the orchestra for "A Day In The Life", Martin had to synchronise a four track recorder playing the Beatles' backing track to another one taping the orchestral overdub, which engineer Ken Townsend achieved by using a 50 Hz control signal between the two machines.[38]

A key feature of Sgt. Pepper is Martin and his engineer's liberal use of signal processing to shape the recording, which included the application of dynamic range compression, reverberation and signal limiting.[39] Several innovative production techniques feature prominently on the recordings, including direct injection, pitch control and ambiophonics.[40] 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. In 1966, ADT was invented especially for the Beatles by Townsend, who disliked tracking sessions and regularly expressed a desire for a technical solution to the problem. ADT quickly became a near-universal recording practice in popular music.[41] Martin, having fun at Lennon's expense, described the technique: "We take the original image and we split it through a double vibrocated sploshing flange with double negative feedback", to which Lennon responded: "You're pulling my leg aren't you?"[41] Martin replied: "Well, let's flange it again and see", thus originating the term flanging.[41] Another important effect was varispeeding, the technique of recording various tracks on a multi-track tape at slightly different tape speeds, which was used extensively on their vocals in this period. The speeding up of vocals became a widespread technique in pop production. The band also used the effect on portions of their backing tracks – as on "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", where the tape speed dropped from 49 cycles per second to 45 – to give them a thicker and more diffuse sound.[42] Relatively new modular effects units were used, such as running voices and instruments through a Leslie speaker.[43]

The UK pressing of Sgt. Pepper was the first pop album to be mastered without rills, the momentary gaps that are typically placed between tracks as a point of demarcation.[44] The album makes use of several keyboard instruments. McCartney plays a grand piano on "A Day in the Life"[45] and a Lowrey organ on "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds".,[46] while Martin played a Hohner Pianet on "Getting Better",[47] a harpsichord on "Fixing a Hole",[48] and a harmonium on "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"[49] Harrison used a tamboura on several tracks, including "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "Getting Better".[50] Starr, who after the completion of his basic drum parts saw his participation limited to minor percussion overdubs, later lamented: "The biggest memory I have of Sgt. Pepper ... is I learned to play chess".[51] 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 dampening and close-miking, which at the time were new recording techniques that MacDonald credits with creating a "three-dimensional" sound that – along with other Beatles innovations – engineers in the US would soon adopt as standard practice.[52] The recording and production of Sgt. Pepper was completed on 21 April 1967. Emerick estimated that they spent 700 hours on the LP, more than 50 times that of the first Beatles album, Please Please Me.[53]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Sgt. Pepper is a multigenre album that is a work of rock and pop.[54] It incorporates the diverse stylistic influences of rock and roll, vaudeville, big band, piano jazz, blues, chamber, circus, music hall, avant-garde, Western and Indian classical music.[55] In the opinion of the author Naphtali Wagner, its music reconciles the "diametrically opposed aesthetic ideals" of classical and psychedelia, achieving a "psycheclassical synthesis" of the two forms.[56]

Concerns that some of the lyrics in Sgt. Pepper refer to recreational drug use led to the BBC banning several songs from the 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 toward drug-taking."[57] 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.[58] 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.[59] The BBC used this as justification for banning the track from British radio.[60] "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" was also banned by the BBC because of the lyric that mentions "Henry the Horse", a phrase that contains two common slang terms for heroin.[61] Fans speculated that Henry the Horse was a drug dealer and that "Fixing a Hole" was a reference to heroin use.[62] 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".[63] According to McCartney, "When [Martin] was doing his TV programme on Pepper ... he asked me, 'Do you know what caused Pepper?' I said, 'In one word, George, drugs. Pot.' And George said, 'No, no. But you weren't on it all the time.' 'Yes, we were.' Sgt. Pepper was a drug album."[64]

In the opinion of the author Sheila Whiteley, Sgt. Pepper's underlying philosophy relates not only to the drug culture, but also to metaphysics and the non-violent approach of the flower power movement.[65] Its primary value – according to the musicologist Alan F. Moore – "is that it manages to capture, more vividly than almost anything contemporaneous, its own time and place."[66] Whiteley agrees, crediting the album with "provid[ing] a historical snapshot of England during the run-up to the Summer of Love".[67] The American psychologist Timothy Leary asserts 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.[67] Several scholars have applied a hermeneutic strategy to their analysis of the content of the album, identifying loss of innocence and the dangers of overindulgence in fantasies or illusions as the album's most prominent lyrical themes.[68]

Side one[edit]

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, which introduces the illusion of the album as a live performance.[69][nb 6] The musicologist Kevin Womack describes the lyrics 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.[72] He argues that, paradoxically, the lyrics "exemplify the mindless rhetoric of rock concert banter" while "mocking[ing] the very notion of a pop album's capacity for engendering authentic interconnection between artist and audience".[72] In his opinion 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."[72] He credits the recording's use of a brass ensemble with distorted electric guitars as an early example of rock fusion.[72] The musicologist Ian MacDonald agrees, describing the track as an overture rather than a song, and a "shrewd fusion of Edwardian variety orchestra" and contemporary hard rock.[71][nb 7] It utilises a rock and roll orientated Lydian mode chord progression during the introduction and verses that is built on parallel sevenths, which the author Walter Everett describes as "the song's strength".[70] The five-bar bridge is filled by an Edwardian horn quartet that Martin arranged from a McCartney vocal melody.[71] 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.[70][nb 8]

McCartney acts as the master of ceremonies near the end of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", introducing Starr as an alter ego named Billy Shears.[44] 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.[75] 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."[75] Lennon and McCartney's call and response backing vocals ask Starr questions about the meaning of friendship and true love.[76] In MacDonald's opinion, the track is "at once communal and personal ... [its] touchingly rendered by Starr [and] meant as a gesture of inclusivity; everyone could join in."[77] Womack agrees, identifying "necessity of community" as the song's "central ethical tenet", a theme that he ascribes to the album as a whole.[76] 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 encouraged Starr to achieve despite his lack of confidence as a singer.[78]

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.[79] Womack describes it as a colourful adventure and the Beatles' "most vivid instance of musical timbre."[80] The lyric begins with what he 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".[81] In MacDonald's opinion, "the lyric explicitly recreates the psychedelic experience".[59] According to Lennon: "It was Alice in the boat. She is buying an egg and it turns into Humpty Dumpty. The woman serving in the shop turns into a sheep and the next minute they are ... in a rowing boat and I was visualizing that. There was also the image of the female who would someday come to save me – a 'girl with kaleidoscope eyes' who would come out of the sky. It turned out to be Yoko ... so maybe it should be 'Yoko in the Sky with Diamonds'."[82]

MacDonald considers "Getting Better" to contain "the most ebullient performance" on Sgt. Pepper.[83] In Womack's opinion the track's "driving rock sound" distinguishes it from the album's overtly psychedelic material with lyrics that enliven the listener "to usurp the past by living well and flourishing in the present."[81] He cites it as a strong example of Lennon and McCartney's collaborative songwriting, particularly Lennon's addition of the lyric: "couldn't get much worse", which serves as a "sarcastic rejoinder" to McCartney's chorus: "It's getting better all the time".[84] McCartney describes Lennon's lyric as "sardonic" and "against the spirit of the song", which he characterises as "typical John."[47] 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".[84] He explained: "I was a hitter. I couldn't express myself and I hit".[84] 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."[84] MacDonald describes 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.[85] Everett notes McCartney's "adventurous" bass line, which accents non-roots on the recording's downbeat.[47]

In Womack's opinion, the lyrics to "Fixing a Hole" focus on "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.[84] MacDonald characterises it as a "distracted and introverted track", during which McCartney forgoes his "usual smooth design" in favour of "something more preoccupied".[86] He cites Harrison's electric guitar solo as serving the track well, capturing its mood by conveying detachment.[86] McCartney drew inspiration for the song in part from his work restoring a Scottish farmhouse.[87] Womack notes his adaptation of the lyric: "a hole in the roof where the rain leaks in" from Elvis Presley's "We're Gonna Move".[88] McCartney states that the song deals with his desire to let his mind wander freely and to express his creativity without the burden of self-conscious insecurities.[89]

A reproduction of the poster for Pablo Fanque's Circus Royal from 1843 that inspired Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!

In Everett's opinion, the lyrics to "She's Leaving Home" deal with the problem of alienation "between disagreeing peoples", particularly those distanced from each other by the generation gap.[48] 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.[90] Womack describes the song as "a quaint study of a young woman's need to discover a sense of identity and become a conscious participant in the world."[91] It is the first track on the album to eschew 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.[92][nb 9] While Richard Goldstein's 1967 review in the The New York Times characterises the song as uninspired, MacDonald identifies the track as one of the two best on Sgt. Pepper. In Moore's opinion, the writers judge the work from "opposing criteria", with Goldstein opining during the dawn of the counterculture of the 1960s whereas MacDonald – writing in 1995 – is "intensely aware of [the movement's] failings."[92]

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".[95] Womack praises the track's successful 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."[96] According to MacDonald, Lennon requested a "fairground production wherein one could smell the sawdust"; Martin and his engineers created the resulting atmospheric sound collage by collecting recordings of harmoniums, harmonicas and calliopes, which were then cut into strips of various lengths, thrown into a box, mixed up and edited together in random order, creating a loop that was mixed-in during final production.[97] In MacDonald's opinion, the song represents "a spontaneous expression of its author's playful hedonism".[98] According to Everett, the track's use of Edwardian imagery thematically links it with the album's opening number.[49]

Side two[edit]

After it was decided that "Only a Northern Song" was not good enough for inclusion on Sgt. Pepper, Harrison wrote the Hindustani classical music-inspired "Within You Without You".[99][nb 10] According to MacDonald, the track is an "ambitious essay in cross-cultural fusion and meditative philosophy" that most commentators dismiss as boring, with critics characterising the music as lacking "harmonic interest" and the lyric as "sanctimonious ... didactic and dated".[101] In Moore's opinion, the recording's reliance on melody in favour of harmony is entirely appropriate for the genre. He characterises the critical response as "extremely varied" and points out that Goldstein notes the track as one of the album's highlights, while others see it as an apt summary of the material from the first side.[102] MacDonald describes the song as a "distant departure" from the Beatles' sound and a "remarkable achievement" that represents the "conscience" of the LP.[103] Womack agrees, calling it "quite arguably, the album's ethical soul."[104] Maximising the recording's "capacity for expressiveness", the track features a tempo rubato that is without precedent in the Beatles' catalogue.[104] The pitch is derived from the eastern Khamaj scale, which is akin to the Mixolydian mode in the West.[105][nb 11]

MacDonald cites "When I'm Sixty-Four" as an example of the Beatles' versatility. In his opinion the track is "aimed chiefly at parents", borrowing heavily from the English music hall style of George Formby and Donald McGill, with a sparse arrangement that includes clarinet, drums, guitar and bass.[35] McCartney wrote the tune in the late 1950s as an instrumental piece, revisiting the composition in 1966 around the time of his father's sixty-fourth birthday.[105][nb 12] According to MacDonald, the song receives a "cool reception" from most younger listeners and Everett singles it out as a case of McCartney's "penchant for the audience-charming vaudeville ... that Lennon detested".[108] 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 II.[109] He characterises the song as a synthesis of ragtime and pop and notes that it's position following "Within You Without You" – a blend of Indian classical music and pop – demonstrates the diversity of the Beatles' material, which he identifies as an important factor in their success.[110] 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.[111]

Womack characterises "Lovey Rita" as a work of "full-tilt psychedelia" that contrasts sharply with the preceding track.[107] He identifies the song as an example of McCartney's talent for "creating imagistic musical portraiture", but considers it to be among the album's weakest offerings, presaging what he describes as the "less effectual compositions" that the Beatles would record post-Sgt. Pepper.[107] Inspired by the traffic warden Meta Davis, who had recently given McCartney a parking ticket, in Womack's opinion "the song accomplishes little in the way of advancing the album's journey toward a more expansive human consciousness".[107] Despite his reservations, he considers the track to be "irresistibly charming".[107] Moore agrees, describing the composition as a "throwaway" while praising what he characterises as its "strong sense of harmonic direction".[112] According to MacDonald, the song is a "satire on authority" that is "imbued with an exuberant interest in life that lifts the spirits, dispersing self-absorption".[113]

Inspired by a television commercial for Kellogg's Corn Flakes, from which Lennon adapted a jingle as the song's refrain, "Good Morning, Good Morning" utilises the bluesy mixolydian mode in A that in Everett's opinion "perfectly expresses Lennon's grievance against complacency."[114] Lennon considers the song "a throwaway piece of garbage" and McCartney views it as Lennon's reaction to the frustrations of domestic life.[115] Womack praises the song's varied time signatures, including 5/4, 3/4 and 4/4, calling it a "masterpiece of electrical energy".[116] MacDonald notes Starr's "fine performance" and McCartney's "coruscating pseudo-Indian guitar solo", which he credits with delivering the track's climax.[117] 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.[117]

"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.[118] The reprise omits the brass section from the title track and features a faster tempo.[119] MacDonald notes the Beatles' apparent excitement, which is tangibly translated during the recording.[118]

In addition to being treated with heavy tape echo, Lennon's vocalisations during the sequence are slowly panned right to left and back again before ending in the left field.[120]

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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."[121] "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 that Moore describes as the "dream sequence", which features Lennon's vocalisations.[121] An aggressive brass section 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.[122] The idea to use an orchestra was McCartney's; he drew inspiration from the avant-garde composers John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen.[123] The 24-bar crescendos feature forty musicians culled from the London and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras and tasked with filling the space with what Womack describes as "the sound of pure apocalypse."[124] Martin notes Lennon's request for "a tremendous build-up, from nothing up to something absolutely like the end of the world."[125] Lennon strongly disliked the sound of his own voice and he often asked for generous amounts of tape echo to be added to his vocal in an effort to bury it deep in the mix. 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 echo.[126] In Womack's opinion, Starr delivers "one of his most inventive drum parts on record", a part that McCartney encouraged him to attempt despite his protests against "flashy drumming".[124] The thunderous piano chord that concludes the track and the album was produced by recording three pianos simultaneously sounding an E major chord; Martin then augmented the sound with a harmonium. Together on cue, Lennon, Starr, McCartney and Beatles assistant Mal Evans hammered the keys and sustained the chord, which faded-out for 53 seconds.[127][nb 13] MacDonald describes the track as "a song not of disillusionment with life itself, but of disenchantment with the limits of mundane perception".[130] According to him, it "remains among the most penetrating and innovative artistic reflections of its era", representing the Beatles' "finest single achievement".[131]

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.[132] This is followed by the sounds of laughter and gibberish created by playing 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".[133] When the album was repressed for LP release in 2012, it took several attempts to successfully reproduce the run-out groove effect.[134]

Cover artwork[edit]

Sgt. Pepper's Grammy Award-winning album cover was designed by the pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth from an ink drawing by McCartney.[135] It was art-directed by Robert Fraser and photographed by Michael Cooper.[136] 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 cutouts of famous people.[137] According to Beatles biographer Jonathan Gould, the heavy moustaches worn by the group reflected the growing influence of hippie style trends, while their clothing "spoofed the vogue in Britain for military fashions".[138] The centre of the cover depicts the Beatles standing behind a drum skin, on which the fairground artist Joe Ephgrave painted the words of the album's title. In front of the drum skin is a series of flowers that spell out "Beatles".[139] The group were dressed in satin day-glo-coloured military-style uniforms that were manufactured by the theatrical costumer M. Berman Ltd. in London.[140] The album's lyrics were printed in full on the back cover, the first time this had been done on a rock LP.[141][nb 14]

Sgt. Pepper's inner gatefold

The 30 March 1967 photo session with Cooper also produced the back cover and the inside gatefold, which according to the musicologist Ian Inglis conveys "an obvious and immediate warmth ... which distances it from the sterility and artifice typical of such images."[139] 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."[144] The album's inner sleeve featured a design by 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.[139] 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 the 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.[145] Moore suggested that the inclusion of these items helped fans "pretend to be in the band."[146]

The collage includes 57 photographs and 9 waxworks that depict a diversity of famous people, including writers, musicians, film stars and – at Harrison's request – the Self-Realization Fellowship gurus Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yukteswar and Paramahansa Yogananda.[147] According to Inglis, the "tableau acted as a guidebook to the cultural topography of the decade", demonstrating the increasing democratization of society whereby "traditional barriers between 'high' and 'low' culture were being eroded."[148][nb 15] The final grouping also included: Issy Bonn, Marlon Brando, Lenny Bruce, Larry Bell, Wallace Berman, William S. Burroughs, Lewis Carroll, Aleister Crowley, Marlene Dietrich, Diana Dors, Bob Dylan, W.C. Fields, Sigmund Freud, Oliver Hardy, Aldous Huxley, Carl Gustav Jung, Stan Laurel, T. E. Lawrence, Karl Marx, Marilyn Monroe, Sir Robert Peel, Edgar Allan Poe, Karlheinz Stockhausen, H. G. Wells, Mae West, Oscar Wilde, Shirley Temple and an image of the original Beatles' bassist, the late Stuart Sutcliffe.[149] Adolf Hitler and Jesus Christ were requested by Lennon, but ultimately rejected.[150][nb 16] 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."[152] The final cost for the cover art was nearly £3,000 (equivalent to £46,104 today) an extravagant sum for a time when album covers would typically cost around £50.[145]

Release[edit]

After having finished Sgt. Pepper, but prior to its commercial release, the Beatles brought an acetate to the American singer Cass Elliot's flat off King's Road in Chelsea, where at six in the morning they played the album at full volume with speakers set in open window frames. Beatles' press agent Derek Taylor remembered that residents of the neighbourhood opened their windows and listened without complaint to what they understood to be an unreleased Beatles album.[153] The LP was released on 1 June 1967 in the United Kingdom and on 2 June in the United States.[154] It debuted in the UK at number one – where it stayed for 22 consecutive weeks – selling 250,000 copies during the first seven days.[155] 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 both 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 honors of my career."[156] Rolling Stone's Langdon Winner writes:

"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."[157]

American radio stations interrupted their regular scheduling, playing Sgt. Pepper tracks virtually non-stop.[153] The album occupied the top spot of the Billboard 200 in the US for 15 weeks, from 1 July to 13 October.[158] Its initial commercial success exceeded all previous Beatles albums, selling 2.5 million copies within three months of its release.[62]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[159]
The A.V. Club B+[160]
Robert Christgau A[161]
The Daily Telegraph 5/5 stars[162]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 5/5 stars[163]
MusicHound 5/5 stars[164]
Paste 89/100[165]
Pitchfork Media 10/10[166]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars[167]
Sputnikmusic 5/5[168]

Most contemporary reviews were positive, with Sgt. Pepper receiving a widespread critical acclaim that matched its immediate commercial success.[169] The Times' Kenneth Tynan described it as "a decisive moment in the history of Western civilisation".[153] 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."[170] Time magazine declared it "a historic departure in the progress of music – any music".[62] 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.[171] The New York Times Book Review characterised Sgt. Pepper as a harbinger of "a new and golden Renaissance of Song" and the New Statesman's Wilfrid Mellers praised its elevation of pop music to the level of fine art.[172]

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".[173][174] According to the music journalist Robert Christgau, the Times was subsequently "deluged with letters, many abusive and every last one in disagreement".[173] He credited the backlash as "the largest response to a music review" in the newspaper's history.[173] Goldstein published a defense 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.[175] 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".[173][nb 17]

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, Best Contemporary Album and Album of the Year,[177] the first rock album to receive this honour.[178]

Legacy[edit]

Sgt. Pepper continued the artistic maturation seen on the Beatles' albums Rubber Soul (1965) and Revolver (1966), aiding the development of progressive rock through its focus on self-conscious lyrics, studio experimentation, and its efforts to expand the barriers of conventional three-minute tracks.[179][nb 18] It has been described as one of the first art rock albums and a "masterpiece of British psychedelia", and credited with marking the beginning of the album era.[183] For several years following its release, straightforward rock and roll would be supplanted by a growing interest in extended form, and for the first time in music history sales of albums outpaced sales of singles.[184] In Moore's opinion, the album completed "the cultural legitimization of popular music" while providing an important musical representation of its generation.[185] It is regarded as having significantly influenced the development of the counterculture of the 1960s.[186] During the 1970s, glam rock acts co-opted Sgt. Pepper's use of alter ego personas and in 1977 it won Best British Album at the first Brit Awards.[187]

While gathering material for his 1979 anthology, Stranded: Rock and Roll for a Desert Island, the editor Greil Marcus polled the twenty rock critic contributors regarding their choice for the best rock album of all time, and while Rubber Soul was mentioned Sgt. Pepper was not.[188] 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".[189] He characterises the LP as "playful but contrived" and "less a summing up of its era than a concession to it".[157] In his opinion, the album "strangled on its own conceits" while being "vindicated by world-wide acclaim".[190][nb 19] 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.[192] 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."[193][nb 20] He notes: "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."[195][nb 21] 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."[193][nb 22] In his opinion detractors regard the LP as less a breakthrough and more a "break with all that's good, true and rocking".[193][nb 23] 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".[198] In Moore's opinion, "because its cultural impact was so large, it was simply being asked to do too much."[199]

With certified sales of 5 million copies, Sgt. Pepper is the second best-selling album in UK chart history behind Queen's Greatest Hits.[200][201] It is one of the best-selling albums in the US, where RIAA certifies sales of 11 million copies.[202] It has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best selling albums of all time.[203] 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."[204] That same year Rolling Stone's Anthony DeCurtis described it as an "enormous achievement" that "revolutionized rock and roll".[205] In 1998 the author Colin Larkin ranked it second in his All Time Top 1000 Albums list, calling it a "masterpiece" and stating: "This one album revolutionized, altered and reinvented the boundaries of 20th century popular music, style and graphic art."[206] 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."[163] In 2003 it was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry, preserving the album as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[1] In 2005 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".[207] In 2006 the music scholar David Scott Kastan described Sgt. Pepper as "the most important and influential rock and roll album ever recorded".[2][nb 24]

Recording and cover[edit]

In MacFarlane's opinion, Sgt. Pepper's most important musical innovation is it's "integration of recording technology into the compositional process."[209] 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"; MacFarlane identifies "A Day in the Life" as the Sgt. Pepper track that best exemplifies this approach.[210] The album's lasting commercial success and critical impact is due in large part to Martin and his engineer's creative use of studio equipment while originating new processes. Although early analog synthesizers were available at the time, 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.[211] Artistic experimentation, such as the placement of random gibberish in the run-out groove, is one of the album's defining features.[212]

According to Inglis, almost every account of the significance of Sgt. Pepper emphasizes the cover's "unprecedented correspondence between music and art, time and space".[213] With 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."[213] The cover helped to elevate album art as "legitimate texts for critical attention", 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".[214][nb 25] In the opinion of Inglis, 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."[214] In the late 1990s the BBC included it in its list of British masterpieces of twentieth-century art and design.[145] In July 2008 the iconic bass drum skin used on the front cover sold at auction for €670,000 (US$879,000).[215][nb 26]

Concept revisited[edit]

According to Womack, with Sgt. Pepper's first song "the Beatles manufacture an artificial textual space in which to stage their art."[44] The reprise of the title song appears on side two, just prior to the climactic "A Day in the Life", creating a framing device.[118] In Starr's opinion, only the first two songs and the reprise are conceptually connected.[18] 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."[217] He was especially adamant that his contributions to the LP had nothing to do with the Sgt. Pepper concept. Further, he suggested that indeed 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".[217] Martin became worried upon the album's completion that its lack of musical unity might draw criticism and accusations of pretentiousness.[199]

MacFarlane notes that – despite these concerns – Sgt. Pepper "is widely regarded as the first true concept album in popular music."[218] In his opinion, the Beatles "chose to employ an overarching thematic concept in an apparent effort to unify individual tracks."[218] According to Everett, the album's "musical unity results ... from motivic relationships between key areas, particularly involving C, E, and G."[133] 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.[219] MacFarlane agrees, suggesting that with the exception of the reprise the album lacks the melodic and harmonic continuity that is consistent with cyclic form.[220] 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".[221] 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.[222] 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.[223][nb 27]

Track listing[edit]

Sgt. Pepper was the first Beatles album to be released with identical track listings in the UK and the US.[225]

All songs written and composed by Lennon–McCartney except "Within You Without You", by George Harrison. 

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[nb 28] 3:35
7. "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"   Lennon 2:37
Side two
No. Title Lead vocals Length
8. "Within You Without You"   Harrison 5:04
9. "When I'm Sixty-Four"   McCartney 2:37
10. "Lovely Rita"   McCartney 2:42
11. "Good Morning Good Morning"   Lennon 2:41
12. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)"   Lennon, McCartney and Harrison[nb 29] 1:19
13. "A Day in the Life"   Lennon and McCartney 5:39

Track list information according to Mark Lewisohn and Ian MacDonald.[229]

Personnel[edit]

According to Mark Lewisohn and Ian MacDonald:[230]

The Beatles
Additional musicians and production
  • Neil Aspinall – tamboura and harmonica[231]
  • Geoff Emerick – recording and mixing engineer; tape loops and sound effects
  • Mal Evans – counting, harmonica, alarm clock and final piano E chord[232]
  • Matthew Deyell – tambourine
  • George Martin – producer and mixer; tape loops and 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"), and piano (on "Getting Better" and the solo in "Lovely Rita"); final harmonium chord.[233]
  • Session musicians – four French horns (on "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"), (Neil Sanders, James W. Buck, John Burden, Tony Randall),[234] arranged and conducted by Martin and McCartney; string section and harp (on "She's Leaving Home"), arranged by Mike Leander and conducted by Martin; harmonium, tabla, sitar, dilruba, eight violins and four cellos (on "Within You, Without You"), arranged and conducted by Harrison and Martin; clarinet trio (on "When I'm Sixty Four"), as arranged and conducted by Martin and McCartney; saxophone sextet (on "Good Morning, Good Morning"), arranged and conducted by Martin and Lennon; and forty-piece orchestra (strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion) (on "A Day in the Life"), arranged by Martin, Lennon and McCartney and conducted by Martin and McCartney.[235]

Charts[edit]

In the US the album appeared on the Billboard 200 chart for 175 non-consecutive weeks through 1987. It remained at number one in the US for 15 weeks, longer than any other Beatles album in the US.[236]

Weekly charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Argentina (CAPIF)[266] 2× Platinum 120,000x
Argentina (CAPIF)[266]
1987 CD issue
3× Platinum 180,000x
Australia (ARIA)[267] 4× Platinum 280,000^
Brazil (ABPD)[268] Gold 100,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[269] 8× Platinum 800,000^
France (SNEP)[270] Gold 88,100[271]
Germany (BVMI)[272] Platinum 500,000^
Italy (FIMI)[273] Gold 50,000*
Japan (Oricon Charts) 208,000[244]
New Zealand (RMNZ)[274] 6× Platinum 90,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[275] 16× Platinum 5,045,000[276]
United States (RIAA)[277] 11× Platinum 11,000,000^

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

dagger BPI certification awarded only for sales since 1994.[278]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Martin used two McCartney themes to write thirteen variations for The Family Way soundtrack, which failed to chart, but won McCartney an Ivor Novello Award for Best Instrumental Theme.[13]
  2. ^ In the opinion of the musicologist Walter Everett, the alter egos "allowed the Beatles to remove themselves from the public by an extra layer—they were now giving a performance of a performance".[18]
  3. ^ Freak Out! by the Mothers of Invention is often cited as having influenced Sgt. Pepper.[24]
  4. ^ EMI owned the Beatles' recordings and Abbey Road Studios, so they did not deduct fees for studio time from the band's royalty payments during the recording and production of Sgt. Pepper.[26]
  5. ^ "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" were later included as part of the American LP version of Magical Mystery Tour, which was issued as a six-track double EP in the UK.[29]
  6. ^ The effect was first utilized by the Byrds on their January 1967 release, "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star", which included the sounds made by a loud audience.[70] The crowd noises on "Sgt. Pepper" were gleaned from George Martin's recordings of a 1961 comedy show, Beyond the Fringe, and the ambient sounds captured during the 10 February orchestral session for "A Day in the Life".[71]
  7. ^ Moore identifies the middle section of "Sgt. Pepper" as the moment when the juxtaposition becomes fusion.[73]
  8. ^ The song's lead guitar part was played by McCartney, who replaced an effort by Harrison that he had spent seven hours recording. MacDonald speculates that this might have contributed to Harrison's minimized role on the album.[74]
  9. ^ 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.[93] Martin was upset to discover that Leander had written the arrangement in his absence, but conducted the musicians using the score more or less as written.[94]
  10. ^ In January 1969, "Only a Northern Song" was released on the soundtrack album for the animated film Yellow Submarine.[100]
  11. ^ "Within You Without You" was recorded on 15 March with Harrison on vocals, sitar and tambura; the other instruments, including tabla, dilruba, swarmandel and an additional tambura, were played by four London-based Indian musicians. None of the other Beatles participated in the recording.[106]
  12. ^ A version of "When I'm Sixty-Four" was performed by the Beatles during their time in Hamburg.[107]
  13. ^ 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".[124] McCartney's lead vocal in the middle of the track was recorded the next day and the orchestral overdub session occurred on 10 February.[128] Martin recorded five tracks of the orchestral musicians and layered them into a composite track.[129] The final piano chord was recorded twelve days later.[128]
  14. ^ The Sgt. Pepper cover piqued a frenzy of analysis.[142] According to the musicologist Ian Inglis, the album is the only example in popular music where the cover has attracted as much analysis as the music.[143]
  15. ^ Inglis is paraphrasing George Melly, who in 1970 described the Sgt. Pepper cover as "a microcosm of the underground world".[148]
  16. ^ Starr was the only Beatle who offered no suggestions for the collage.[151]
  17. ^ Moore asserts that 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 also notes that some negative letters had been sent to Melody Maker that he speculates were written by jazz enthusiasts.[176]
  18. ^ Moore describes Sgt. Pepper as "a precursor of progressive rock's infatuation with unified concepts."[180] In the opinion of the author Kevin Holm-Hudson, the album "was pivotal in establishing the progressive aesthetic."[181] The music journalist Thomas Blackwell, writing for PopMatters and citing Moore's 1997 book The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, credits the LP as being "virtually responsible for the birth of the progressive rock genre".[182]
  19. ^ 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."[191]
  20. ^ The central theme of Goldstein's 1967 critique of Sgt. Pepper involves his complaints about substance overwhelming style, or in his words: "tone overtakes meaning".[194] He places much of the blame for this on the album's copious use of production effects such as echo and reverb, which he characterises as "posturing and put-on".[194] He also criticises the album's lack of lyrical substance, stating: "even from fantasy, I expect authenticity".[194]
  21. ^ Kimsey asserts that with Sgt. Pepper, "rock began to be called most emphatically an art form."[195]
  22. ^ According to Bangs, punk rock "is rock in its most basic, primitive form", a stylistic approach that is decidedly unselfconscious.[195] In Riley's opinion, Sgt. Pepper "has a degree of self-consciousness throughout that primitive rock and roll snubs in favor of urgency and raw energy."[196] Down Beat magazine published an unfavourable contemporary review written by John Gabree, in which he questions where the proper credit for Sgt. Pepper should lie based on his having heard that "A Day in the Life" consisted of two songs that had been spliced together by Martin. Kimsey cites this as an example of detractors conflating ethical concerns with issues of aesthetics while casting doubt on the musical authenticity of the work.[197]
  23. ^ According to Kimsey rock purists like Bangs – whom he characterises as a "punk ideologue" – approach the problem of authenticity with the presupposition that true rock music is inherently "uncorrupted by skill or self-consciousness".[195] He compares Bangs' conception of the "attitude-driven everyman" with Jean-Jacques Rousseau's noble savage, suggesting that Bangs' disdain for Sgt. Pepper is informed by a Romanticised rejection of Modernism.[195] According to Kimsey, "In this sense, Pepper can be said to have called forth, in dialectical fashion, the discourse of punk."[195]
  24. ^ In 2006 it was chosen by Time as one of the 100 best albums of all time.[208]
  25. ^ According to Riley, Sgt. Pepper "was the record that made rock criticism worthy of its subject."[196]
  26. ^ On 30 March 2013, a copy of the album that was signed by all four Beatles was sold at Dallas-based Heritage Auctions to an unnamed buyer from the Midwestern United States for $290,500.[216]
  27. ^ 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."[224]
  28. ^ Lennon's double-tracked vocal isn't officially credited, but musicologists have acknowledged his backing vocal contribution.[94][226]
  29. ^ According to Mark Lewisohn's liner notes accompanying the 2009 CD remaster, the vocals are by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison.[227] Lewisohn previously indicated in The Beatles Recording Sessions (1988) that all four Beatles recorded the "shared lead vocals."[228]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The National Recording Registry 2003". Library of Congress. 2003. Retrieved 19 November 2007. 
  2. ^ a b Kastan 2006, p. 139.
  3. ^ Miles 1997, p. 303.
  4. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 210.
  5. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 212.
  6. ^ MacDonald 2005, pp. 212–213.
  7. ^ a b c MacDonald 2005, p. 213.
  8. ^ Lewisohn 1992, pp. 210: The Beatles grew tired of touring, 230: The Beatles final commercial performance; MacDonald 2005, p. 213: a public apology eased tensions, but the 1966 US tour was miserable.
  9. ^ Julien 2008b, p. 1.
  10. ^ a b Emerick & Massey 2006, p. 132.
  11. ^ The Beatles 2000, p. 229.
  12. ^ a b c Julien 2008b, p. 2.
  13. ^ a b Blaney 2007, p. 8.
  14. ^ Womack 2007, p. 158, 160–161.
  15. ^ Womack 2007, p. 168.
  16. ^ Moore 1997, pp. 20–21.
  17. ^ Miles 1997, pp. 303–304.
  18. ^ a b c Everett 1999, p. 99.
  19. ^ Martin 1994, p. 202.
  20. ^ MacFarlane 2008, p. 36.
  21. ^ MacFarlane 2008, pp. 36–37.
  22. ^ Miles 1997, p. 281.
  23. ^ Crowe, Jerry (1 November 1997). "'Pet Sounds Sessions': Body of Influence Put in a Box". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  24. ^ Julien 2008c, p. 160.
  25. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 87.
  26. ^ a b MacDonald 2005, p. 215.
  27. ^ Everett 1999, p. 99; MacDonald 2005, pp. 212–223.
  28. ^ Moore 1997, pp. 19–20.
  29. ^ Lewisohn 1992, pp. 350–351.
  30. ^ Everett 1999, p. 99: the childhood concept was abandoned in favour of Sgt. Pepper; Miles 1997, p. 306: at Epstein's insistence the single tracks were not included on the LP.
  31. ^ Harry 2002, p. 714.
  32. ^ Martin & Pearson 1994, p. 26.
  33. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 219: 55 hours of studio time; Martin & Pearson 1994, p. 13: "set the agenda for the whole album."
  34. ^ a b Julien 2008b, p. 6.
  35. ^ a b MacDonald 2005, pp. 220–221.
  36. ^ Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 2009 Stereo Reissue Liner Notes, Page. 29
  37. ^ MacDonald 2005, pp. 235–235.
  38. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 96.
  39. ^ Kimsey 2008, p. 133.
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  42. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 101.
  43. ^ Bromell, Nick (2002). Tomorrow Never Knows: Rock and Psychedelics in the 1960s. University of Chicago Press. p. 95. ISBN 978-0-226-07562-4. 
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  50. ^ Everett 1999, pp. 104, 106.
  51. ^ Everett 1999, p. 100.
  52. ^ MacDonald 2005, pp. 233–234.
  53. ^ Lewisohn 1992, p. 253.
  54. ^ Hannan 2008, p. 61: "The album is made up of a broad variety of musical and theatrical genres"; Moore 1997, pp. 18, 70–79: rock and pop; Wagner 2008, p. 76: the "multigenre nature of Sgt. Pepper".
  55. ^ Hannan 2008, pp. 61–62: music hall and blues; Wagner 2008, p. 76; rock and roll, vaudeville, big band, piano jazz, chamber, circus, avant-garde, Western and Indian classical music.
  56. ^ Wagner 2008, pp. 76, 89–90.
  57. ^ Grillo, Ioan (2011). El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency. Bloomsbury Press. p. 38. ISBN 978-1-60819-401-8. 
  58. ^ For Lennon and McCartney's contemporary denial of an intentional reference to illicit drugs in the lyrics to "A Day in the Life" see: Glausser, Wayne (2011). Cultural Encyclopedia of LSD. MacFarland. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-7864-4785-5. ; For McCartney's immediate denial in Melody Maker see: Moore 1997, p. 60; for McCartney later suggesting that the line was deliberately written to ambiguously refer to either illicit drugs or sexual activity, see: Miles 1997, p. 325.
  59. ^ a b MacDonald 2005, p. 240.
  60. ^ Emerick & Massey 2006, p. 174.
  61. ^ Whiteley 2008, pp. 18–19.
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  136. ^ Inglis 2008, pp. 92–95.
  137. ^ Gould 2007, pp. 391–395: The Sgt. Pepper cover featured the Beatles as the imaginary band alluded to in the album's title track, standing with a host of celebrities (secondary source); The Beatles 2000, p. 248: Standing with a host of celebrities (primary source).
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Sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Headquarters by The Monkees
Billboard 200 number-one album
1 July – 13 October 1967
Succeeded by
Ode to Billie Joe by Bobbie Gentry
Preceded by
Going Places by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
Australian Kent Music Report number-one album
5 August 1967 – 1 March 1968
Succeeded by
Their Satanic Majesties Request by The Rolling Stones
Preceded by
The Sound of Music (soundtrack)
The Sound of Music (soundtrack)
The Sound of Music (soundtrack)
The Sound of Music (soundtrack)
UK Albums Chart number-one album
10 June – 18 November 1967
25 November – 2 December 1967
23 December 1967 – 6 January 1968
3–10 February 1968
Succeeded by
The Sound of Music (soundtrack)
The Sound of Music (soundtrack)
Val Doonican Rocks, But Gently by Val Doonican
The Four Tops Greatest Hits
by The Four Tops
Preceded by
Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys
The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
1
Succeeded by
End of List