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Sgt. Pepper’s – The Stories behind the Tracks

An artist doesn’t intend to create a masterpiece. Da Vinci never aspired for ‘Mona Lisa’ to become one of the greatest pieces of the artistry and neither did The Beatles, with possibly, their most quintessential album- Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Even after 50 years, the album sounds radical and erupts creativity. Sgt. Pepper’s, a culmination of many ideas and many ‘firsts’, was way ahead of its time. This album revolutionized rock and roll. It might not have been the best album The Beatles made, but it is their most important one.

Why was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band so important?

Reimagine the music world about 50 years ago. Rock was still growing and some incredible albums were being made. The Beatles brought into this mix a delightful album with a new step away from the popularized production of singles. Sgt. Pepper’s was the first album to have lyrics printed for the fans. This marketing concept was received well by their existing audience, intrigued the new listeners, and created a never before seen impact. It was also the first album to have a designed inner sleeve – a protective film that vinyl records require to increase their shelf life. Another striking feature was its album cover. No record back then had such an intricately designed cover (the estimated value of the cover was $3000 which is equivalent to $23,234.55 in 2020). The album, which took around 700 hours of recording, was shelved as The Beatles’ eighth album in four years, which was a magnificent feat in itself.

The Album ~

Sgt. Pepper’s features a wide variety of musical and theatrical genres. It was primarily rock and roll but had multiple elements influenced by avant-garde, piano jazz, and classical music. Somehow, components of two diametrically opposite ideas; classical and psychedelia, were incorporated into a single album.

The concept of this album was the simulation of a live performance by a fictitious band. This can be seen in the first 10 seconds of the title track which portrays a group of musicians preparing for their performance with the audience awaiting, conceptualizing the album as a live performance. A reprise with the same name acts as a pivot to the album’s finale. It was suggested that ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ opened the album, and that they should close it too. Thus, they ended up creating an album with a definitive start and end; sort of like a movie/book.

Behind the tracks ~

Ringo Starr’s ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’ is an adorable song with McCartney and Lennon as backing vocals, asking Starr about the meaning of friendship and true love. The album then proceeds onto one of the most famous Beatles’ songs, ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’. Lennon’s son, Julian, inspired the song with a nursery school drawing. However, speculations arose that it was a subtle reference to LSD (considering the capitalization in the name). The song is riddled with multiple imageries like, ‘tangerine trees’, ‘marmalade skies’, ‘a girl with kaleidoscope eyes’. The succeeding song, ‘Getting Better’ was intended to have a positive tone but focused on dark themes like domestic abuse. Its lyrics inspire the listener to usurp the past by living well and flourishing in the present.

The album has many songs that have been influenced by real-life scenarios. Lennon was inspired by a television commercial for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and penned down ‘Good Morning Good Morning’. Interestingly, the track contains a series of animal noises at the end, and are sequenced in a way that each successive animal is large enough to devour the previous one. McCartney wrote ‘Lovely Rita’ about a meter maid who gave him a parking ticket outside the studio they were recording the album in. ‘Fixing A Hole’, by McCartney is about his perspective on how fans would stand outside of his house all the time.

‘She’s Leaving Home’, often cited as an orchestrated grandeur, is a song about a girl who runs away from home to be with her lover. This descriptive narration was inspired by a piece about teenage runaways published by the Daily Mail. The song’s instrumental background was performed entirely by a small string orchestra which perfectly imbued the emotions behind the song.

George Harrison’s masterpiece ‘Within You Without You’ is heavily influenced by Indian culture. It was written after Harrison spent six weeks of meditation in India with his mentor, Ravi Shankar. Focusing on the Hindu Philosophy and the Vedas, its essence is perfectly delivered with the use of sitar, tabla, and other classical instruments.

‘A Day in the Life’, widely revered as the first attempt at emotive music by many critiques, is the final track on the album, written by Lennon and McCartney. The music is highly avant-garde. Lennon took his lyrical inspiration from the death of Tara Browne, heir to the Guinness Family Fortune, who died in a car crash at the young age of 21. McCartney sings about his younger years, which includes getting late for the bus, smoking, and going to class. However, this song was banned by the BBC because it seemingly had a drug reference in the line “I’d love to turn you on”. Royal Albert Hall banned the song’s performance due to the lyrics “Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall“.

When The Beatles gave up touring in 1966, many assumed that they were done. Every band back then was, but they weren’t. Furthermore, they hadn’t released any new material for five months which was peculiar during that era. Then, June 1, 1967 hit, and The Beatles came out with this album, showing the world how much they still had to offer and revolutionized the music industry; giving the world one of its most memorable musical game-changers.

Currently pursuing BTech. in Information Technology. Writing is one of the things that drives Anjali's passion. Some of her self-imposed responsibilities include arguing about grammar, fangirling over Lana Del Rey and basically just trying to keep people around her happy.
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