Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts' Club Band is by many critics' estimation the most influential rock music album of all time, paving the way for countless subsequent recordings by many different artists, and also launching what we know today as the Classic Rock radio format. It was recorded by The Beatles over a 129 day period from December 6, 1966.

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
CUT-OUTS
Moustache
  • Picture Card
  • Stripes
  • Badges
  • Stand Up

  • People appearing on the cover include actress Mae West, comedian Lenny Bruce, comedian W. C. Fields, poet Edgar Allen Poe, actor Fred Astaire, singer Bob Dylan, poet Dylan Thomas, actor Tony Curtis, actress Marilyn Monroe, comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, former Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe, actor Marlon Brando, author George Bernard Shaw, author Lewis Carroll, child actress Shirley Temple, physicist Albert Einstein, and singer Elvis Presley. What seemed like a good idea to the Beatles, became a legal nightmare for EMI, who was faced with the job of contacting each of the living people that were to be represented on the cover for permission. Mae West nearly turned them down. Actor Leo Gorcey requested payment for inclusion on the cover, so the Beatles painted over his image and it does not appear on the cover. Mohandas Gandhi was also painted out at the request of EMI. John Lennon had wanted to include images of Jesus Christ and Adolf Hitler, but these were rejected because they would almost certainly have generated enormous controversy (especially in the wake of the recent "more popular than Jesus" incident).

    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.

    The album won the Grammy Awards for Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Album for 1967.

    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.

    1. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"
    2. "With a Little Help from My Friends
    3. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
    4. "Getting Better
    5. "Fixing a Hole
    6. "She's Leaving Home
    7. "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite
    8. "Within You Without You
    9. "When I'm Sixty-Four
    10. "Lovely Rita
    11. "Good Morning
    12. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)"
    13. "A Day in the Life

    The celebrities and items featured on the front cover are:


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