Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Sgt. Pepper is sometimes described as a concept album because the title song, which appears twice on the album, in slightly modified forms, seems to give an overall theme to the album. That song suggests that the record was really a concert by the resident band of the aforementioned club, which was McCartney's original idea for the record. The Beatles had grown tired of touring and wanted to create a record that could tour for them. McCartney decided that they should create fictitious characters for each band member and record an album that would be a performance by that fictitious band. So, the album starts with the theme song, and introduces "Billy Shears" (Ringo Starr), who performs "With A Little Help From My Friends". The album cover was also designed to look like a performance by the fictional band. One other track, "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite", establishes "the Hendersons" as part of Sgt. Pepper's band.
However, The Beatles essentially abandoned the concept after the first two songs (and the ending) so the other songs on the album are actually unrelated, and do not form an overarching theme, so in fact this is not a true concept album.
The album features elaborate musical arrangements (for instance, the clarinet ensemble on "When I'm Sixty-Four") and extensive use of studio effects. Many of these effects were the result of collaboration between the Beatles and their producer, George Martin. One track, "Within You Without You," features only one Beatle — George Harrison on vocals and sitar. These deviations from the traditional rock and roll band formula were facilitated by the Beatles' decision not to tour.
Other particularly well-remembered songs from the album include "With A Little Help From My Friends" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" (a song describing a surreal dreamscape that became controversial as many believed that the words of the chorus were code for LSD, a claim John Lennon denied, instead claiming it was a picture drawn by his son, Julian. Julian, McCartney, Harrison and Starr back Lennon's story up. Starr even says he saw the picture).
This album in many ways represented the culmination of a period of experimentation in Beatles music that had begun with their album Rubber Soul two years earlier. Their followup album, Magical Mystery Tour contained songs that were stylistically similar to those of Sgt. Pepper (even including some songs that were recorded at Sgt. Pepper sessions.) After that, the Beatles begun to return to more conventional expressions of their music.
In another playful innovation, the album (in its original LP form that was later released on CD) ends in a rather unusual way, beginning with a semi-inaudible tone (put on the album by John Lennon and intended for dogs), followed by an endless loop made by the runout groove looping back into itself. The sound in the loop is also the subject of much controversy, being widely interpreted as some kind of secret message. However, it seems that in reality it is nothing more than a few random samples and tape edits played backwards. The loop is recreated on the CD version which plays for a few minutes, then fades out.
The packaging of the album was as stunning as the music. Designed by Peter Blake, it featured a colorful depictions of life-sized cardboard models of famous people on the front of the album cover; and, as a bow to the interest that Beatles lyrics inspired, the lyrics were printed on the back cover, which was a music first. The package was also the first gatefold album, that is, the album could be opened up like a book, to reveal a large picture of the Fab Four in costume against a yellow background. The reason for the gatefold was that the Beatles planned on filling two LPs for the release. The designs had already been approved and sent to be printed when they realized they would only have enough material for one LP.
The album also came with a page of cut-outs, with a description in the top left corner:
- SGT. PEPPER
The depiction of a guitar made out of hyacinthss on the cover was made by a flower delivery boy who asked if he could help with the making of the artwork.
The cover was subsequently parodied by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention in the cover art of their album We're Only In It For The Money, and in the opening credits of an episode of The Simpsons. It has also been mimicked by a Dutch artist as Sgt Croppers Fairport Band for the many Fairport Convention band members and associates.
When released, it was hailed as a masterpiece by critics, and is still rated after nearly forty years in many critical polls as the best rock album ever recorded. Within days of its release, Jimi Hendrix was performing the title track in concert.
A movie version of the album starring Peter Frampton as Billy Shears and The Bee Gees as the Hendersons was released in 1978.
All songs by Lennon/McCartney except "Within You Without You", by Harrison.
- "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"
- "With a Little Help from My Friends
- "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
- "Getting Better
- "Fixing a Hole
- "She's Leaving Home
- "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite
- "Within You Without You
- "When I'm Sixty-Four
- "Lovely Rita
- "Good Morning
- "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)"
- "A Day in the Life
- Sri Mahavatara Babaji
- Stan Laurel
- Aleister Crowley
- Richard Lindner
- Oliver Hardy
- Karl Marx
- H. G. Wells
- Sri Paramahansa Yogananda
- A Wax Hairdresser's Dummy
- Stuart Sutcliffe ( a former Beatle)
- Another wax hairdresser's dummy
- Max Miller
- The Petty Girl (by artist George Petty)
- Marlon Brando
- Tom Mix
- Oscar Wilde
- Tyrone Power
- Larry Bell
- Dr. David Livingstone
- Johnny Weissmuller
- Stephen Crane
- Issy Bonn
- George Bernard Shaw
- H. C. Westermann
- Albert Stubbins
- Sri Lahiri Mahasaya
- Lewis Carroll
- T. E. Lawrence (also known as Lawrence of Arabia)
- Sonny Liston
- Again, the Petty girl
- A wax model of George Harrison
- A wax model of John Lennon
- Shirley Temple
- A wax model of Ringo Starr
- A wax model of Paul McCartney
- Albert Einstein
- John Lennon with a French horn
- Ringo Starr with a trumpet
- Paul McCartney with a cor anglais
- George Harrison with a flute
- Bobby Breen
- Marlene Dietrich
- Legionnaire from the order of the Buffaloes
- Diana Dors
- Shirley Temple again
- A cloth grandmother figure by Jann Haworth
- A cloth figure of Miss Temple, again by Haworth
- A Mexican candlestick
- A television set
- A stone figure of a girl
- Another stone figure
- A statue brought over from John Lennon's house
- A trophy
- An Indian doll
- A drum skin, designed by Joe Ephgrave
- A hookah, or water tobacco pipe
- A velvet snake
- A Japanese stone figure
- A stone figure of Snow White
- A garden gnome
- A tuba
- Sri Yukteswar Giri