Sgt. Pepper Turns 50
Can you believe it? Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club is 50 years old! I consider it the greatest album of all time. While the album needs no props from me, I thought I’d give you some trivia about Sgt. Pepper that you might not have known.
The Beatles generally liked to have a album for their fans every six months or so, but Sgt. Pepper was a year in the making as the Beatles were recouping from extensive traveling. Paul had the idea to do an album as an “alter ego” band, allowing them to do things out of the norm for them. As the album progressed, it had been more than six months since a song release, so the songs “Penny Lane” (by Paul) and “Strawberry Fields” (by John) were released on a single, with both sides being the “A” side. The songs were originally intended for the Sgt. Pepper album, but were omitted after being released on the single. As great as Sgt. Pepper was, imagine if those two songs had been included.
While drug references were implied in several Sgt. Pepper songs, the Beatles thought they had been clever enough to get by the BBC censors. Alas, the censors were not fooled. “A Day In The Life’s” lyric, “I’d love to turn you on,” was seen as a drug reference and the song was banned. “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” was banned simply because of the LSD reference in the song title. The censors banned “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite” for a reference to “Henry the horse”, British slang for heroin, and “Fixing A Hole”, thought to be a reference to heroin use. There is no doubt that drugs influenced much of the album, and psychedelic rock got a big boost from the Beatles, but the songs were exceptional in quality, depth and listenability. I’d suggest that many a song in rock and country would never have been written if not for some drug or alcohol influence.
The concept and lyrics in “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite” were almost 100% from a 1843 poster for Pablo Fanque‘s circus that John purchased at an antique shop while filming a promotional video. John and Paul were both masters at taking inspiration from a saying, poster, commercial or such and making a great song out of it.
John’s “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” is NOT about LSD, although it is certainly psychedelic. It was inspired by son Julian’s coming home from school with a fanciful drawing wherein young Julian described his classmate, Lucy, flying though the sky. While today it is fanciful to attribute the song to LSD, everyone who was around at the time, in addition of course to John, backs up the picture being the inspiration for the song.
“Good Morning, Good Morning” was a John song inspired by a Kellogg’s commercial. As I said, they could draw inspiration from almost anything.
The concluding song on the album , “A Day in the Life”, was inspired by John’s reading of the Daily Mail newspaper were a story described 4,000 potholes in Blackburn, Lancashire. There wasn’t enough for a full song, so in a first for rock’n’roll, they spliced in a little diddy that Paul had written. The song is basically two songs glued together to make one of the top songs in rock history. You probably already know that the closing chord is when Paul, Ringo, John and Mal Evans all banged the grand piano’s keys at once and held it until the engineers could milk no further sound out of it.
Those are some of my favorite facts about Sgt. Pepper. What are yours?