June 1st marks the release of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]the Beatles[/lastfm]‘ masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, although it was not released in the US until a day later. Produced by George Martin, Sgt. Pepper was the groups 8th studio album that featured many popular songs including “With a Little Help From my Friends”, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, and “A Day in the Life”. The album achieved further progress in production the Beatles sought following their previous release, Revolver.
After the Beatles stopped touring in August of 1966, the group’s members were able to live their individual lives, whether that meant traveling to India for enlightenment, acting, writing other forms of music, or just being a father and husband.
Recording of the album began later that year. Both “Strawberry Fields” and “Penny Lane” were recorded during these sessions, but were not included in the LP, rather they were released as singles and later on the Magical Mystery Tour in the US.
Production of the album was difficult and customized for the Beatles. The “reduction mix” and automatic double tracking techniques were used to produce thicker layers of music and enhance the sound. Sgt. Pepper also featured many different instruments, from the traditional instruments the group used all the way to harpsichord, french horn, glockenspiel, cellos, tabla, and many others. The most recognized note from the album is the final E Chord in “A Day in the Life”. This long, drawn-out end was accomplished by assembling three grand pianos and playing the E Chord simultaneously. By compressing the mixed down track and adding gain, the sound was drawn out to its maximum sustain.
Sgt. Pepper was also controversial for its lyrics. Many suggested the lyrics alluded to drug use. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was an easy target, as its title could be abbreviated as LSD. The line “I love to turn you on” from “A Day in the Life” was also easy to interpret with your own meaning.
Another prominent feature to the Sgt. Pepper album was its cover. More than 70 artists, musicians, actors and actresses, and other famous people graced the Sgt. Pepper cover including[lastfm link_type="artist_info"] Bob Dylan[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Elvis Presley[/lastfm], Edgar Allen Poe, Marilyn Monroe, Karl Marx, and James Dean. It ended up costing a modern day US sum of $64,000 to produce.
The album’s impact was instant and incredible. [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Brian Wilson[/lastfm] of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]the Beach Boys[/lastfm] gave up on recording Smile upon hearing “A Day in the Life”, and would not complete the project until 2003. Sgt. Pepper reached #1 in the UK a week after it was released and would remain there for 23 weeks. In the Us, the album reached #1 on the Billboard 200 and would chart for 175 weeks. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band went on to win four Grammy Awards in 1968 including ‘Album of the Year’.
Sgt. Pepper should be near the top of everyone’s list for best album of all time. Join us as we salute Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, released this week in 1967.