Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the eighth studio album by the English rock band the Beatles. Released on May 26, 1967, it spent 27 weeks at number one on the Record Retailer chart in the United Kingdom and 15 weeks at number one on the Billboard Top LPs chart in the United States. It was lauded by critics for its innovations in songwriting, production and graphic design, for bridging a cultural divide between popular music and high art, and for reflecting the interests of contemporary youth and the counterculture. Its release was a defining moment in 1960s pop culture, heralding the Summer of Love, while the album’s reception achieved full cultural legitimization for pop music and recognition for the medium as a genuine art form.
At the end of August 1966, the Beatles permanently retired from touring and pursued individual interests for the next three months. During a return flight to London in November, Paul McCartney had an idea for a song involving an Edwardian military band that formed the impetus of the Sgt. Pepper concept. Sessions began on November 24 at EMI Studios with compositions inspired by the Beatles’ youth, but after pressure from EMI, the songs “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” were released as a double A-side single in February 1967 and left off the LP.
The album was loosely conceptualized as a performance by the fictional Sgt. Pepper band, an idea that was conceived after recording the title track. A key work of British psychedelia, it incorporates a range of stylistic influences, including vaudeville, circus, music hall, avant-garde, and Western and Indian classical music. The band continued the technological experimentation marked by their previous album, Revolver, this time without an absolute deadline for completion. With producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick, the group color much of the recordings with sound effects and tape manipulation, as exemplified on “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” and “A Day in the Life”. Recording was completed April 21. The cover, which depicts the Beatles posing in front of a tableau of celebrities and historical figures, was designed by the pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth.
Sgt. Pepper is regarded by musicologists as an early concept album that advanced the roles of sound composition, extended form, psychedelic imagery, record sleeves, and the producer in popular music. The album had an immediate cross-generational impact and was associated with numerous touchstones of the era’s youth culture, such as fashion, drugs, mysticism, and a sense of optimism and empowerment. It is considered one of the first art rock LPs, a progenitor to progressive rock, and the start of the album era. In 1968, it won four Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, the first rock LP to receive this honor; in 2003 it was inducted into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress. It has topped several critics’ and listeners’ polls for the best album of all time, including those published by Rolling Stone magazine and in the book All Time Top 1000 Albums, and the UK’s “Music of the Millennium” poll. It remains one of the best-selling albums of all time and was still, in 2018, the UK’s best-selling studio album. More than 32 million copies had been sold worldwide as of 2011. A remixed and expanded edition of the album was released in 2017.
- “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” 2:00
- “With a Little Help from My Friends” 2:42
- “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” 3:28
- “Getting Better” 2:48
- “Fixing a Hole” 2:36
- “She’s Leaving Home” 3:25
- “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” 2:37
- “Within You Without You” 5:05
- “When I’m Sixty-Four” 2:37
- “Lovely Rita” 2:42
- “Good Morning Good Morning” 2:42
- “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” 1:18
- “A Day in the Life” 5:38
John Lennon – lead, harmony and background vocals; rhythm, acoustic and lead guitars; Hammond organ, final piano E chord; harmonica, tape loops, sound effects, comb and tissue paper; handclaps, tambourine, maracas
Paul McCartney – lead, harmony and background vocals; bass and lead guitars; piano, grand piano, Lowrey and Hammond organs; handclaps; vocalizations, sound effects, comb and tissue paper
George Harrison – harmony and background vocals; lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars; sitar, tambura, swarmandal; harmonica, comb and tissue paper; handclaps, tambourine, maracas; lead vocals on “Within You Without You”
Ringo Starr – drums, congas, tambourine, maracas, handclaps, tubular bells; lead vocals on “With a Little Help from My Friends”; harmonica, comb and tissue paper; final piano E chord
Sounds Inc. – saxophones, trombones and French horn on “Good Morning Good Morning”
Neil Aspinall – tambura, harmonica
Geoff Emerick – audio engineering; tape loops, sound effects
Mal Evans – counting, harmonica, alarm clock, final piano E chord
George Martin – producer, mixer; tape loops, sound effects; harpsichord on “Fixing a Hole”, harmonium, Lowrey organ, glockenspiel and Mellotron on “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”, Hammond organ on “With a Little Help from My Friends”, piano on “Getting Better”, piano solo on “Lovely Rita”; final harmonium chord.
Session musicians – four French horns on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”: Neill Sanders, James W. Buck, John Burden, Tony Randall, arranged and conducted by Martin and McCartney; string section and harp on “She’s Leaving Home”, arranged by Mike Leander and conducted by Martin; tabla by Natwar Soni, dilrubas by Anna Joshi and Amrit Gajjar, and tambura by Buddhadev Kansara on “Within You Without You”, with eight violins and four cellos arranged and conducted by Harrison and Martin; clarinet trio on “When I’m Sixty-Four”: Robert Burns, Henry MacKenzie, Frank Reidy, arranged and conducted by Martin and McCartney; saxophones on “Good Morning Good Morning”, arranged and conducted by Martin and Lennon; and forty-piece orchestra, including strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion on “A Day in the Life”, arranged by Martin, Lennon and McCartney, and conducted by Martin and McCartney.
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