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Beatles Rarity Of The Week – “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (unconnected)

Posted by on May 31, 2010 at 7:00 am.

Welcome to this week’s BROW (now available as a podcast). It’s pretty common knowledge that by the late summer of 1966, touring had become such a strain on The Beatles and they simply were not interested in doing it anymore – at least not in the near future. For examples of why, check out here, or here. Their careers had been non-stop up to this point, and they all needed a break for a few months. In November, John Lennon occupied himself with the filming of How I Won The War, in Almeria Spain and Paul McCartney went on a Kenyan safari.

It was during Paul’s flight back from Africa to London, when he formed the idea of “the act you’ve known for all these years.” Soon afterward, the idea came together of how this famous sergeant’s band would actually become an alter-ego of The Beatles themselves. The Anthology documentary reveals how long-time Beatles assistant Neil Aspinal came up with the idea of this Sgt. Pepper figure coming on at the beginning of the album and introducing the band and then toward the end of the album have him return to announce their final number and say goodbye. This is just as The Beatles themselves had done in their previous stage acts where Paul would tell the audience they had one more song, thank them for coming, do the final number and split. In the case of the album, the title song could open the album and introduce the band and the farewell before the last song is, of course, the purpose of the Sgt. Pepper reprise before the “A Day In The Life” finale. The idea here was to send the album on tour instead of the band itself. Of course, the applause and audience sound effects used were also there to add to the fantasy of this live show. The Beatles further reasoned that since Elvis Presley had just sent his gold-plated Cadillac on tour, instead of himself, for people to actually pay to see, then certainly they could send Sgt. Pepper and his band on tour, on their behalf.

On February 1, 1967, The Beatles recorded the initial takes of the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” opening. It took 9 takes to perfect a backing track and the following day Paul added some bass overdubs and lead vocals while John and George Harrison added their harmonies. A mono mix of this finalized take 9 was cut onto an acetate for producer George Martin to use in scoring the section for the French horns. A slightly degraded copy of this acetate is what is featured for this week’s BROW. The audience/atmosphere sound effects and other overdubs are yet to be added, and the connected entrance of Ringo Starr’s character Billy Shears doing “With A Little Help From My Friends” was still being thought out. The ending here has the band vamping on a C major chord long enough for the recording to be faded. With the addition of these further improvements, the final mix took it’s place in the sequence of their other groundbreaking music that would soon be introduced.

It’s interesting to note that just before the release of the Sgt. Pepper album, the media was hinting at how The Beatles had “dried up.” There were articles pointing out that they had not only stopped touring, but their last single was held out of the #1 spot in the UK by Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Release Me,” and it had been nearly a year since they had put out an album. Almost a whole year…imagine that! History was then made in the first few days of June 1967, when Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band magically put the world in a state of amazement, by coming to your town and all the others, and from there, completely redefining where rock music stood, and where it could go, and in the process, creating a whole new level on which to enjoy it in a fresh new way. And the world followed…..

Happy 43rd, SPLHCB!!!

The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (alternate cover shot), 1967

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (alternate cover shot), 1967

Want to make a suggestion for a future Beatles Rarity of the Week? If so, I will do my best to deliver, so let me hear from you. To browse for ideas, check out this search-able listing of Beatle-related recordings to choose from. Then let me hear from you here.

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Want to make a suggestion for a future Beatles Rarity of the Week? If so, I will do my best to deliver, so let me hear from you. To browse for ideas, check out this search-able listing of 10,130 Beatle-related recordings to choose from. Then let me hear from you here.

23 Comments

  • dermarhk says:

    This is GREAT, Mark. I’ve never heard this. Pepper, so spectacular when first heard, has not aged as well as many of their other releases. I wonder if part of the reason is all of the gilt added to the lily. This sounds refreshingly raw.

  • dermarhk says:

    Same to you, and I just made a contribution to your fab cause and encourage others to do the same. But, uh, who is Dennis L.? That’s who Paypal tells me I’ve paid, and your Mark, right?

  • dermarhk says:

    You’re, not your. Geez, I am NOT illiterate – bad typist, though.

  • I too enjoyed this. Like Mark, I do not believe the good Sgt has aged as well as other of the Fab’s work. But its still a monster album & endlessly fascinating

  • Elliott Marx says:

    I always love hearing them reduced to a 4 piece band. Particularly on the more ornate recordings from this period. It is always a thrill to hear how the track stands up without all of the make up. Quite well.

  • Chip says:

    I’ve never thought of Pepper as not aging well. When I think of their records that haven’t aged well, I think of Please Please Me or Beatles For Sale. I say that because those songs are pretty raw and very much “boy loves girl.” I don’t typically put Pepper songs on a playlist because I think of that album as a whole, not as individual songs. Some certainly stand up as individual songs but I guess it’s a bit like putting on Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’ On another note, the mono version of this album is fantastic. I love hearing the differences to the stereo one.

    • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

      I agree with you, Chip. As someone who didn’t grow up knowing what was going on in the world at the time of its release, I certainly did hear this album as a very young child and I recall thinking how pretty the music was. I had to be 2 or 3 and no more than 5 by the time all the songs were familiar to me. I was born in 65, but my sister had the album and my father showed me at a young age how to use the record player. Seriously, I remember back that far in rather vivid detail. Not on everything, but on many things. For instance, I remember being a Herman’s Hermits fan back then, (still am), but I don’t recall the story of how I would stand in front of the TV in diapers dancing to their song, Dandy.

      So, considering that album is now almost 50 years old I’d have to say it holds up just fine! Anyone who says otherwise has just heard it too often I guess. For me, I can NEVER hear it too often. I can change which album I’d like to hear, but I wouldn’t tell somebody I was tired of hearing this one. If pressed, I’d say Abbey Road was my favorite album by them, but again, I sometimes just want to hear Revolver or Rubber Soul. It’s really a mood thing for me.

      I can listen to some tracks from this album on their own but I usually just play the whole thing anyway.

      The only tracks I can’t listen to by themselves:

      Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
      Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (and the reprise)
      With A Little Help From My Friends

      All the rest can be taken per track for me. They each have a mood I can draw on which recalls times when I was a kid or teenager or a rainy day or some place I can go to simply by listening.

      Oh and since I don’t do drugs, I have never associated anything with the album to feel the need to be high. lol Makes it easier for me to listen and enjoy anytime I guess? lol

      Do I feel the “sound” of the album is dated? Only that you can’t deny it was from the end of the 60s pop music sound. But they helped to usher that whole sound in. Some groups were lucky to find that sound for a song or two. They found it over an album, a few singles and a movie soundtrack! It was only after criticism (from the same folks who declared them bankrupt of ideas a few months prior) that they felt they should strip things back to where they were simpler – aka White Album.

      As far as the white album goes, that’s an album I can easily take track by track. I never feel the need to listen from start to finish – I do, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t feel empty if I have to stop listening at any point in the album. lol Abbey Road and Pepper make me feel that way. As does Revolver.

  • lennonista says:

    Fantastic, what a delight to hear it like that! I agree that most of the Pepper album has not aged that well, but I think the title track and, of course, ADITL have held up just fine!

    • Elliott Marx says:

      I think Good Morning, Good Morning is still very vibrant and not at all dated. It always seems more electric and bare bones than any other Pepper track. The solo (even on the ’87 master) just jumps out of the stereo. But overall, I guess I generally jump from Revolver to the White Album. Magical Mystery Tour and Pepper, while better than just about anything else on the planet, don’t do much for me as part of the Beatle cannon.

      • Happy Nat says:

        Some of my favorite Pepper bits: I’m a big fan of Mr. Kite (a great mood lifter after She’s Leaving Home). But I love She’s Leaving Home too (the trade off vocals of John and Paul in the chorus almost have a hypnotic effect on me). A Day In The Life still ranks number one with me for the best album closer (especially given the ground-breaking aspect of the song’s arrangement). I could’ve used less brass on Good Morning Good Morning. The foxhunt at the end is cool though as each animal is succeeded by another that is big enough to scare away or devour the one before it (except for that very charming concluding rooster).

        • lennonista says:

          Lovely Rita has aged well, imo… even though meter maids are most definitely a thing of the past! That’s just part of its charm, the nostalgia. It’s got a bit of the McCartney schmaltz, but that perverted ending makes it not so precious and it never fails to crack me up.

          • Happy Nat says:

            Sitting on the sofa with a sister, or two…
            And I’m not sure how to take “took her home, I nearly made it”….quite the triple entendre, there (didn’t make it to her place?, orgasm reference? or death clue?)

  • The comment from Mohamed Renk was spam to promote a debt website. Look out for those generic “I stumbled across this site and found it really informative” comments – they’re normally non-specific enough to spot.

  • beetle says:

    is there any way were i can download this?

  • Happy Nat says:

    I wouldn’t doubt it.

  • Dale True says:

    I was 14 years old in June 1967. Our family was vacationing in Canada. My parents went into a grocery store for supplies, leaving me in the car to fiddle with the radio dial in an effort to find some rock and roll music.

    The dial halted on a station just as the DJ announced the first playing of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. As the song progressed, I didn’t tap my foot or snap my fingers to the beat. I was stunned. I could only sit motionless and listen to the hypnotizing musical strains and swirling visual images.

    Since we were on a fishing trip in remote Ontario, I had no other opportunity to hear a replay of the song for several weeks. After awhile, I began to wonder if I even heard what I heard. I couldn’t remember how the melody went or any of the lyrics. But just summoning the murky memory of the song evoked euphoria. I couldn’t wait to get back home and seek out more of this incredible new musical experience.

    In my opinion, rock and roll music as it was played in the 50′s and 60′s died on that very day in June 1967. Three chord melodies set to a back beat with lyrics about boys or girls or cars or waves were no longer relevant. The Beatles had reset the dial to a new station. Music was now far beyond the old criteria of “It has a good beat and you can dance to it”.

    • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

      And at 14 on a fishing trip you didn’t need any substances to know what you had just heard was nothing short of fantastic! lol Now, not only do you recall where you were when you first heard it, but you also probably recall a few things about that fishing trip thanks to the Beatles. Can’t beat that!

  • Calvin Cecil says:

    Don’t know where or how you get some of your “rarities” but they are extremely enjoyable! Keep up the great work!

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