It was 20 years ago to-day--in 1967, the summer of love, that the Beatles spent their nocturnal days and nights in Abby Road's EMI Studios in London before revealing to the world, their meisterwork known as Sgt. Pepper's Lonley Hearts Club Band. Since then, no other artiste ever came close to duplicating that formula known as the concept album, an album in which for the first time, the words to the featured tracks were printed and the cover. Who can forget the tricks and special effects the Beatles used on the album, much remember the carboard cutouts also included? Not to mention the cover photo depicting the Fab Four with cut outs of some of their favourite people? When the Beatles set to work on that cover, their late manager Brian Epstein set to the task of attaining permission from many famous people; one star requested a fee, so he was omitted, Mae West refused at first, saying, "What would I want to be in a lonely hearts club?" before reconsidering after the Beatles sent her a personal letter. Ringo didn't want to be bothered (go figure), saying "Whatever you want is fine with me." George, true to form, had a list that was all gurus, whilst John, naturally, had a list that included Jesus and even Hitler, but that was long after his statement of "We're more popular than Jesus," so the former was left out, and the same fate awaited the latter for obvious reasons. They also arranged for their own wax dummies from Madame Tussauds as well, along with a doll wearing a "Welcome The Rolling Stones Good Guys" shirt.
And what of the origin of the album's title? That came when Paul Mc Cartney and their late roadie Mal Evans were on a plane, when Mal asked Paul what the P on a packet meant.
Anyway, it was at EMI studios, where the Fab Four--Paul, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr (born Richard Starkey)--and several musicians joined together to create their great work:
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band:
The title track, with a brass fanfare, and some recorded effects, including the recorded squeals from the Beatles Hollywood Bowl performance which sets the stage for the show itself, prior to using the "Billy Shears" link to the next tune......
With A Little Help From My Friends:
.......Ringo's one tune per album track, which next to Yellow Submarine, would be his signiture tune, and the inspiration for those with friends in need. An impressive display on straightfoward rock.
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds:
Considering the initials in the title unwittingly spelled out LSD, John may had possibly wrote the words whilst under the influence, how ever he nonetheless claimed to his dying day he got the title from his son Julian when he came home from school with a drawing of a girl in his group; when John asked what is was, Julian replied, "It's Lucy, in the sky, with diamonds." In any case, the harpsichord like notes set the stage for a strange world of colour.............
Featuring a lot of tabla and tamboura, Jhon's Getting Better was done when he under the influence of drugs and had to be taked to the roof of Abbey Road for air, but was taken back in when Paul remembered there was no railing on the roof and it was a long way down. When I first heard it, it sounded like those parts had been from an interstellar India. A great track, all the same.
Fixing A Hole:
Paul's contribution to the album, taking the time for a number of things, with ideal guitar work all around.
She's Leaving Home:
Another creation from Paul, on a teen girl running away from home to meet her lover, with a unique string section--unique because it also featured a harp player who would be the first female on a Beatles recording session. Harmonies and strings, like that of Yesterday and Elenor Rigby, work out so well here.
Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!!:
Almost word for word, much of the words for John's creation came from a fairground poster he had bought at Sevenoaks when he and his mates were doing the video for Penny Lane. In fact one may wonder if that poster also inspired John to come up with idea for a circus background for the tune, so he, Mal, Paul, Sir George Martin and engineer Geoff Emrick came up with some harmonica, harmonium and organs to do that, even recording some hurdy gurdy organs at a slow speed on the tape, and sppeding up the playback, then transcribed some Sousa steam organ tracks, and had the tape cut up and flung in the air, before spiced back together in random spots, resulting in what Sir George called a "wash at the back of the picture." A circus sound to conclude side one.
Within You, Without You:
Opening up side two is George's only track and true to form, it's like stepping into India, as we here dozens of tablas, swordmandels, tambouras and sitars, with strings tossed in for ideal measure in such a surreal way, with only George singing, everything else done by session musicians. Incredible.
When I’m Sixty Four:
Strange as it seems, it's not only the first tune written for the album, it was created even way before the Beatles EVEN existed--it was played by the Quarrymen in their halcyon days, making it the oldest Beatle tune in history. Again, it was Paul's idea, hiring some horn and oboe players, thuse proving the Fab Four could create tunes for people of all ages. A tune created with the mood of a geriatric review, it was also featured in the film The World According To Garp.
Another creation from Paul's mind of a romance with a meter maid, it also features Sir George on piano and some strings, adding to the makings of a love song.
Good Morning, Good Morning:
Inspired by a breakfast cereal commercial, Jhon came up with the brassy juant, with horns supplied by the group Sounds Incorperated, as we hear the tale of a business as usual worker getting up in the morning, and just as it was with the title track and With A Little Help From My Friends, Good Morning, Good Morning, with the help of some chicken clucking sounds, merges into the guitar that leads to........
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise):
.......the reprise of the title track--in fact, it was the quickest tune ever recorded by the Fab Four, having been recorded and mixed all in one take, with the applause merging the tune into the album's finale.......
A Day In The Life:
......into the first tune the group recorded for the album, a joint endevour with John and Pual, using an alarm clock, the equivilent of 160 orchestral musicians, conducted by Sir George and Paul, three pianos crashing an E cord at the same, all that, just to chornicle a typical day in the life, although it would be the first Beatles tune banned from the BBC, for fear of reference to drugs, before I Am The Walrus would meet the same fate. And not content with that, John had a high pitched sound stuck in the track for dogs, and then he and his mates would record some gibberish for the inner groove.
Overall, Sgt. Pepper, which would also be the all time favourite Beatles album for The Electric Light Orchestra's Jeff Lynne, was considered a must for any record collctor, even me. In fact, in 1987, when the Beatles' albums came out on CD for the first time, the first album to do so, was indeed Sgt. Pepper. I urge ANYONE to grab yourself a copy that album, be it original LP or even CD whilst you still can.