Deep Dive: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Released in 1967, The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is such a critically acclaimed album across the board that it's going to be impossible for me to say anything original about it. But, I am still going to try. (It's their eighth release, FYI).
I remember getting this album as a gift from my mom for Valentine's Day and I thought it was ironic because the album had the word "heart" in it. Like, I thought that's why she bought it for me. I was already a Beatles fan at that point (I think it was 7th grade); however, that was not my mother's intentions. She later told me that it was the only Beatles album the store had...and oddly, I did not yet own it. Either way, that's when I first heard it. I remember thinking the album cover was insane. (I still think that).
In Beatles history at this point, the four are used to writing all their own songs and recording them. They're obviously still digging deeper into that experimental stage where they left off while recording Revolver. And this...is the experimental rock album that lots of critics call the single greatest album of all time.
The album starts off with "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." It is the opening song to this concept album which, primarily, was McCartney's idea. This song serves as the introduction to this fictitious band, and leads seamlessly into Ringo's "With A Little Help From My Friends." This is one of the only Ringo/Beatle songs that I love. Paul commented on this song saying, "Ringo’s got a great sentimental thing. I suppose that’s why we write these sorts of songs for him."
The next song, "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds," is one that most everyone knows. And it's a pivotal one for the band. Many speculate the intentional use of "LSD" in the song title, while other's believe Lennon's story that it's based on a drawing by his son, Julian. Either way, it's a tune with a great hallucinogenic feel to it. Lennon's voice sounds magical on this track, too.
"Getting Better" is a song that I always thought sounded more like the band The Who than The Beatles. It's one I like nonetheless, but just my opinion. I like the positivity of the song, even with the lyrics: "I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved. Man I was mean but I'm changing my scene." Those lyrics are reportedly auto-biographical about John's relationship with Cynthia.
"Fixing A Hole" is a baroque style pop song with Paul singing. The lyrics are quite funny when you think about them. The lines "see the people standing there who disagree and never win, and wonder why they don't get past my door" are about groupies and fans waiting outside their doors trying to hang out with The Beatles. A funny story: “The funny thing about that was the night when we were going to record it, at Regent Sound Studios at Tottenham Court Road. I brought a guy who was Jesus. A guy arrived at my front gate and I said ‘Yes? Hello’ because I always used to answer it to everyone. If they were boring I would say, ‘Sorry, no,’ and they generally went away. This guy said, ‘I’m Jesus Christ.’ I said, ‘Oop,’ slightly shocked. I said, ‘Well, you’d better come in then.’ I thought, ‘Well, it probably isn’t. But if he is, I’m not going to be the one to turn him away’. So I gave him a cup of tea and we just chatted and I asked, ‘Why do you think you are Jesus?’ There were a lot of casualties about then. We used to get a lot of people who were maybe insecure or going through emotional breakdowns or whatever. So I said, ‘I’ve got to go to a session but if you promise to be very quiet and just sit in a corner, you can come.’ So he did, he came to the session and he did sit very quietly and I never saw him after that. I introduced him to the guys. They said, ‘Who’s this?’ I said, ‘He’s Jesus Christ.’ We had a bit of a giggle over that.”
"She's Leaving Home" is the sixth song on the album and is sung by Paul. It's about a newspaper article where a girl went to live with her older boyfriend.
The next song is the seventh on the album, "Being For The Benefit For Mr. Kite!" is another song written about a poster/newspaper ad. Paul plays this at his recent shows and it's not one of my favorites to hear, but it's special because he said it obviously was recorded as a track they knew they would never perform in concert (they stopped touring years prior). So he likes to challenge himself to play it live recently.
Another Indian influenced song by George, this one is "Within You Without You." It's one of my favorite George/Beatle songs. I think it is extremely underrated. The lyrics in this song are so beautiful.
We were talking about the space between us all
And the people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion
Never glimpse the truth
Then it's far too late when they pass away
We were talking about the love we all could share
When we find it to try our best to hold it there with our love
With our love, we could save the world, if they only knew
Try to realise it's all within yourself
No one else can make you change
And to see you're really only very small
And life flows on within you and without you
"When I'm Sixty Four" is a Paul song that I would love to see him perform live now. I never was crazy about it until recently.
"Good Morning Good Morning" is the eleventh song on Sgt. Pepper. It's a John led song and is all about a life of normalcy and the boredom that can accompany it.
The next song is "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band - Reprise." It's a shorter riff off the intro song. It brings the concept album idea full circle.
The final track, maybe the greatest of them all..."A Day In The Life," is the song to listen to. It's a dramatic energetic song that keeps you engaged throughout the entire thing. There's nothing I can really write about the song to give justice to it. So here's some text from Genius:
For the climax, they hired 40 musicians, dressed them in tuxedos and funny hats, and told them they had 15 bars to ascend from the lowest note on their instruments to the highest.
The song has often been rated as The Beatles' best, with reviewers calling it “one of the most ambitious, influential, and groundbreaking works in pop music history” and “perhaps one of the most important single tracks in the history of rock music.”"
There's no arguing that this is a great album. To me, it's just funny how it's so far derived from what four mop-tops from Liverpool known as "The Beatles" original "she loves you yeah yeah yeah" sound was. The experimentation and development of a concept album is thrilling in the sense that it's The Beatles, in 1967, as a fictitious band called Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and they created all this new timeless music.
The most impressive part to me, is the fact that the group's entire music catalog, to this day, is still timeless. They take steps away from this depiction of who they presented themselves to America as, in pressed suits and done hair, and really became themselves. This record is about being whoever you want and experimentation.
It's truly a work of art, from the inserts inside the record itself to the outfits, the inspirations, the evolutions, everything. This is one of my favorite albums without a doubt.