THE BEATLES: Sgt. Pepper was released 50 years ago today (June 1, 1967)
It was 50 years ago today -- June 1st, 1967 -- that The Beatles released what is arguably their best album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. (The U.S. release was June 2nd, 1967).
Paul McCartney on what the critics were saying about The Beatles when they were recording Sgt. Pepper:
"Just before Sgt. Pepper the critics had written us off at that point. They said, 'Oh, they're dried up, you know. They're not gonna come up with anything new ever again.' So we were like, 'Guess what. We got something coming and your gonna blow your tiny minds."
The idea for the album came to Paul McCartney somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. Here are his words on the concept for Sgt. Pepper:
"It was gonna be boring to just make another Beatles album. We'd stopped touring [and] we now had this huge liberated opportunity - we could do anything we wanted. I went on a trip to America and came back and had this idea on the plane - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was all very Uncle Joe's Medicine Show with Dancing Bears and Elixir of Life, you know, those kind of jokey titles. Everything about the album will be imagined from the perspective of these people. So it doesn't have to be us. It doesn't have to be the kind of song you wanna write. It could be the song they might want to write."
Considered to be one of rock's first concept albums, John Lennon said nothing could be further from the truth: "It doesn't go anywhere. 'Mr. Kite,' all my contributions have absolutely nothing to do with this idea of Sgt. Pepper and his band. But it works because we said it worked and that's how it appeared."
While Ringo Starr was "glad" to be a part of Sgt. Pepper, his biggest memory from those sessions wasn't the music he helped make. Here are his words:
"It took a long time. And it took longer for me because I would do the basic backing track with the drums and then it would be days or weeks, even months sometimes, to come back to the track and put on overdub like the high-hat and all that stuff sort of came on at the end. So there was a lot of huge gaps. The biggest memory I have of Sgt. Pepper is I learned to play chess on it."
Upon its release, Pepper spent 148 weeks on the British chart, including a total of 27 weeks at number-one. During its first U.S. chart run, the album held the number-one spot for 15 of the 88 weeks it appeared in the Top 200.
It won four Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, and it remains one of the most influential and best-selling albums of all time. In 2003, the U.S. Library of Congress selected Pepper for the National Recording Registry, recognizing it as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” And it topped Rolling Stone’s definitive list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
In addition to the title track, which segues into "With a Little Help From My Friends," some of the album's more notable songs are "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," "When I'm Sixty-Four," and the epic final track, "A Day in the Life."