June 21, 2017

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band


Now Out with New Mixes in Stereo and 5.1 Surround Audio; Expanded Version with Previously Unreleased Session Recordings,
& Special Packaging 

By Harvey Kubernik

Sgt Pepper’s was the perfect album to absorb while being
Lost in Space.
                                — Bill Mumy

To salute the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band which ushered in The Summer of Love, the Beatles just released a slew of lavishly presented Sgt. Pepper Anniversary Edition packages via Apple Corps Ltd./Capitol/UMe.

The album is newly mixed by Giles Martin and Sam Okell in stereo and 5.1 surround audio and expanded with early takes from the studio sessions, including no fewer than 34 previously unreleased recordings.

“It’s crazy to think that 50 years later we are looking back on this project with such fondness and a little bit of amazement at how four guys, a great producer and his engineers could make such a lasting piece of art,” says Paul McCartney in his newly-penned introduction for the Sgt. Pepper Anniversary Edition.

Sgt. Pepper’ seemed to capture the mood of that year, and it also allowed a lot of other people to kick off from there and to really go for it,” Ringo Starr recalls in the Anniversary Edition’s book.

This is the first time Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has been remixed and presented with additional session recordings.

The Beatles in 1967 recording Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band at Abbey Road Studios. ©Apple Corps Ltd.

The Beatles in 1967 recording Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band at Abbey Road Studios. ©Apple Corps Ltd.

To create the new stereo and 5.1 surround audio mixes for Sgt. Pepper, producer Giles Martin and mix engineer Sam Okell worked with an expert team of engineers and audio restoration specialists at Abbey Road Studios in London.

All of the Anniversary Edition releases include Martin’s new stereo mix of the album, which was sourced directly from the original four-track session tapes and guided by the original, Beatles-preferred mono mix produced by his father, George Martin.

Using the standard four-track tape recording equipment of the day, the Beatles collaborated with producer George Martin to achieve “the impossible,” as they dubbed it, to go as far out as they could with arrangements and new technology to realize their collective vision for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts
Club Band

As George Martin described it, “We were into another kind of art form where you were putting something down on tape that could only be done on tape.”

I bought my first mono LP copy of Sgt. Pepper’s at Wallichs Music City on Sunset Blvd. and Vine St. in Hollywood immediately after the product boxes were shipped from Capitol Records on the same street.

Sgt. Pepper’s made a big impact on many people I have met over the last half century.

I asked a variety of writers, authors, musicians, record producers, engineers, deejays and friends about Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Popular music’s most universally acclaimed album.

Andrew Loog Oldham: It was the second coming of the audio Christ.”

Andrew Solt: This album which was released 50 years ago impacted us like no other. Sgt. Pepper was a game changer in a myriad of ways. The day it was released, June 1, 1967, I recall rushing to my local record store in West Hollywood, Aron’s on Melrose, and excitedly making a bee-line home to listen to it in stereo on my headphones.

“It was mind blowing from the very first note. There had never been anything like it. It was yet another wonderful gift from the most gifted group on earth. New songs, unimaginable sounds somehow captured on vinyl — such great music to bask in and decipher.

Yes, there were wonderful new tunes, but this record was different — it was a radical departure. We, the vast majority of youth, were elated with where the Beatles were taking us as they took us on an indescribable auditory ride.

In 2017, I was fortunate to be invited to listen to the brilliant new mix of Sgt Pepper on optimal speakers in Capitol Records Studio A in Hollywood. Jeff Jones and Giles Martin were our hosts/ guides as the needle dropped for 38 magical minutes.

“I was immediately transported back 50 years from the first notes of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to that haunting chord in ‘A Day in the Life.’ ‘I heard the news again that day, oh boy.’

“The listening session was an incredible experience that has basically bracketed my life. Thanks, John, Paul, George and Ringo. Your yellow covered masterpiece with all those characters on the cover holds up perfectly today. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. As it did then and it still does now, it’s destined to bring joy to many forever. A timeless masterpiece.

“Paul was right — Sgt. Pepper and life itself, somehow does manage to keep getting better all the time.”

“The Sgt. Pepper’s vibrant artwork, including its extravagant Pop Art cover which finds the Beatles surrounded by a crowd of heroes in a 3D collage, was created by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth in collaboration with the band. The original artwork is showcased across the suite of Anniversary Edition releases, including the album’s pull-out sheet of Sgt. Pepper cutouts.”

Daniel Weizmann: The album cover for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, taken in London on March 30, 1967, was more important and more revolutionary than the music.”  “It was the declaration of nothing less than a new religion — the Church of Pop Culture.

Revolver’s cover was austere — the Beatles as grown-ups. By contrast, Sgt. Pepper’s was utopian, ironic, sophisticated but cartoony — a pop art shrine, screaming with color. Like Warhol’s movie star portraits, the fake, costumed group on a bandstand was both ersatz and transcendent at the same time, a post-mod challenge. As if they were saying — We are the leaders of a new sensibility. But don’t forget that we’re an act, an image, a fabrication. All this, years before Ziggy.

“The ye olde time shtick of a Lonely Hearts Club Band was no random disguise. It neatly matched the rising music hall/vaudeville revival exemplified by Laugh-In, the Kinks, Brian Wilson’s Smile.

“To paraphrase McLuhan, the sixties drove into the future looking in a rearview mirror. But even more telling was the ‘audience.’ This crowd is our collective and unconscious understanding of the word ‘culture’ in all its very different, contradictory permutations — Karl Marx and Marlon Brando, W. C. Fields and H. G. Wells, Yogananda and Dion. As if they’re saying — All this stuff we modern people share, high or low, East or West, it is all one. This is pop art about pop art, with LSD’s spirit of kaleidoscopic agglomeration.

“Jesus, Hitler, and Ghandi didn’t make the cut as originally intended.

“But the most telling audience members are the wax Mop Tops. These wax Beatles send another message, maybe the most important one of all — We are in the crowd, right alongside you.”

RS7_Sgt Pepper_cover

Kenneth Kubernik: Peter Blake’s iconic cover for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band captured the wildly playful charm that lay at the heart of the Pop Art movement, a brazen pastiche of the high/low, the cut-up, the transfigured, the found, served up in dollops of cheeky insolence, i.e., ’67 in a teapot.

“With cohorts like Richard Hamilton (who would, the following year, help design the cover and poster art for the Beatles’ White Album) and David Hockney, Blake developed a formidable technique applied to subjects and materials of dubious, often comic, merit. This orchestrated discord, so flagrantly on display on the Pepper’s cover — the electrically charged uniforms foreground against the funereal presence of legends long past—produced a kinetic charge the equal of the music contained therein. It’s worth noting that the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, hated the cover, suggesting they release the album in a brown paper bag.”

Chris Darrow: In the mid-sixties Laurel Canyon was a quieter, more secluded place than it became later on. The day our band, the Kaleidoscope, had a promo picture taken outside the Canyon Store there was hardly a soul around. That’s not like it was later on in the seventies, when there were more out of town people hanging out looking for stars than there were locals.

“One day I was over visiting Barry Friedman’s house on Fountain Ave., when he asked me if I would like to go up to B. Mitchel Reed’s pad in The Canyon to listen to a tape copy of the new Beatles’ album called Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Barry was the producer of our first Kaleidoscope album, Side Trips, and had been mentored by another premier Laurel Canyon resident, producer Paul Rothchild. The Beamer was a DJ on KFWB and was the voice of the counter culture on
local L.A. radio at the time.

“No one had access to this kind of preview, as the Beatles were very careful about leaks and such. We went up to BMR’s house, smoked some pot and sat in front of a stereo tape recorder hooked up to his stereo. I was told this was a 4th generation tape copy of the album recorded in England and I knew that the Beatles still recorded on 4-track tape recorders and bounced everything back and forth to get all the tracks they needed. And here we were in Hollywood, using the first eight track recorders at Columbia studios, while recording our debut first LP.

“The quality of the tape was poor, due to the duplication, but we were all knocked out by the music itself. It is hard to imagine now, that there was a time that Beatles’ records didn’t exist, but hearing something like that for the first time, in those conditions, made me feel very special. I will never forget it!”

Kay Zar Crow: Where was I when I first heard Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band?

Back in 1967, The Summer of Love, I was hanging out with CoCo Dolenz (Micky Dolenz’s sister) and the Monkees in the Hollywood Hills. Micky had a wonderful Laurel Canyon home off of Lookout Mountain. There were ‘happenings’ and jam sessions with all the famous musicians every night in the canyon.

“Micky had an advance copy of Sgt Pepper’s given to him by the Beatles. Micky would have nightly screenings of the Disney classic Alice In Wonderland with the sound turned down. He would then play the album Sgt. Pepper on his great music system. Friends came over mostly to hear the album, but it was fun watching the movie with the Beatles singing and ‘GROOVIN’ to this new sound and musical excitement that we all felt. We all knew the music industry was in for a big change!”

Rodney Bingenheimer: I got my first copy of Sgt. Pepper’s from Nik Venet who worked at Capitol Records in the A&R department. He was a staff producer and produced the Beach Boys. I was doing some promotion work for him in the early summer of 1967 with his acts Hedge & Donna, Fred Neil, and then the Stone Poneys. I got the LP in mono. It was different than any previous album the Beatles had done. I liked the mono LP. The sound was compressed. I’m not surprised that Sgt. Pepper’s is being celebrated for a 50th anniversary. I always knew it would be around forever.”

Roger McGuinn: I loved Sgt. Pepper’s and thought it was a brilliant album. The Byrds loved everything the Beatles did. They were our heroes. They could do no wrong as far as we were concerned. Sgt. Pepper’s was just incredible. I may have liked some of their earlier stuff a little better, but I did like the production values of Sgt. Pepper’s and the fact that it all kind of ran together and had a theme, a story.”

Little Steven Van Zandt: We have all seen historical revisionists making Revolver or even Rubber Soul their favorite Beatle albums.

“And while I’m not as enamored with Rubber Soul as the rest of the world, I certainty recognize the innovative miracles and song by song higher quality of the incredible Revolver.

“However, let me state unequivocally, in my opinion, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is not only the greatest and most important album ever made by anybody, it is the most unifying, enlightening, and inspiring moment in the HISTORY OF CULTURE!

“For the only time ever, one could walk down any street in the Western world that first week of June ‘67, Macdougal Street in my case, and hear it coming from every cafe, headshop, clothing store, and passing car.

“It’s 40 magical minutes literally elevated our generation’s consciousness, standards, expectations, and dignity.

“There was something transcendent and blissful about it, (in spite of the, ironically, consistently depressing lyrics, remember — Lonely Hearts…) that is unexplainable in print but simply, like all of the greatest Art, has to be experienced first-hand.

“It just sounded different.

“Nothing like it before or since.

“Sound is how the universe began.

“And this sound is the quintessence of our Renaissance.”

Ron Lando: Living in Carmel California at the time, I clearly remember buying the album the day it came out. The irony was, at the same time, I was counting down the days (just two weeks) for the Monterey International Pop Festival to begin. Those 14 days, constantly listening to what is now considered one of the greatest albums of all times was a prelude of what I was to expect ‘down in Monterey.’ Friday night June 16th 1967, it all jelled into one. A new era was born. Sgt. Pepper tore down the walls and opened our ears. Monterey allowed the music to begin.”

Paul Body: It came out and suddenly music went from black-and-white to color to 3-D.”

Gary Pig Gold: You know, especially deep into my Spring of ’67 all-things-Monkee infatuation, I still can’t figure exactly how I’d heard about, and seemed to know all about, this grand new Beatles album months before its actual release. But with that particular school year winding to its close my father — as a Grade 7 Graduation Present, he winked — drove me all the way into Toronto’s giant flagship Sam The Record Man store to buy said special new LP for his one-and-only. After all, somehow I’d even managed a C+ in Math that year of ‘Clarksville,’ ‘Steppin’ Stone’ and ‘A Little Bit Me.’ Really!

“Now, entering his doors that brilliant Saturday morning, Sam was already blasting ‘A Day In The Life’ from the back counter speaker as stacked waist-deep right there on the floor, beneath a hand-scrawled cardboard sign reading HERE IT IS, excited arms were reaching, grabbing, then rushing towards cash registers with this colourful new prize of prizes. Of course I quickly claimed my own copy (mono, naturally … after all, it was 50 Canadian cents cheaper than that silly ‘Deluxe’ stereophonic version), Dad nabbed the spanking new Sounds Like …  Herb Alpert long-player for his own use, and over lunch at the nearby diner I hardly gave my French fries and giant chocolate milk a second slurp as I peered transfixed at all those words — lyrics, could they be?? — on the bright red back cover which reminded me somehow of favorite old children’s books. Dad, bemused but kinda understanding as always, just finished his burger and said C’mon, let’s get home already.

“Needless to say for the remainder of that momentous afternoon the family hi-fi alternated between Rita, Lucy, and the Tijuana Brass, Mom — an admitted P. McCartney fan ever since a certain Ed Sullivan Show — stuck her head through the kitchen door to remark ‘That was a nice one’ as ‘She’s Leaving Home’ first played out, and you know what? Monkees Headquarters never ever did make it back anywhere near our living room Entertainment Centre’s turntable … well, for at least a whole ’nother week or two that is.”

Gene Aguilera: The world was changed forever in 44 minutes–the time it took to listen to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

“After the maturation of Revolver and finally done with touring, The Beatles sat down in the studio (with a 4-track recorder, no less) and unleashed a sonic masterpiece in 1967.

“As a 14-year old lad, I remember having to beg ,borrow & steal to buy this album for $3.98 at the local Unimart discount store on Whittier Blvd. From my little nook in East L.A., a new Beatles release was a mind-changing experience, a happening. I spent countless hours studying the cover and reading the lyrics over-and-over on the back; hypnotizing myself as I watched the record go round-and-round on my small suitcase record-player. I absorbed Sgt. Pepper’s until it became my best friend.

“East L.A. has always had a thing for the Beatles. First of all, ‘Twist and Shout’ uses the same chords as ‘La Bamba.’ Secondly, ‘This Boy’ (from Meet the Beatles) sounds right in place on an Art Laboe Oldies Dedication show. Lastly, I saw The Beatles live in concert (8/28/1966) at Chavez Ravine — a proud Chicano barrio hijacked by the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team.

Sgt. Pepper’s was an opera to the ears, meant to be listened to in one-sitting. The Beatles even went so far as to state in the liners, ‘A splendid time is guaranteed for all.’ You want to give somebody the ultimate compliment? Just say ‘that was your Sgt. Pepper’s.’ They’ll know what you mean.”

Roger Steffens: I bought my copy of Sgt. Pepper on the day of release during basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. Every barracks had at least one record player and my whole unit gathered around it to listen in unison. It didn’t sound like anything else at the time, with its wide-ranging mix of styles and experiments. The Indian sitar licks of George Harrison on ‘Within You Without You’ blew everyone away, and helped break Ravi Shankar into the pop mainstream.

“We didn’t get the LSD reference in the title of ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ right away, but the song certainly evoked acidic memories in my fellow draftees who had experience with the holy medicament before being ripped from their long-haired civilian lives. But ‘A Day in the Life’ was the song that took us all over the edge and we couldn’t wait to hear it again. From the circus to the stars all on one disc, the Beatles were the kings of the universe creating that all-pervasive soundtrack for the Summer of Love, when we thought that the spiritual millennium had arrived at long last and the world would never be the same. We were right about the latter, but not in the way we suspected – or hoped.”

Steve Lukather: Sgt. Pepper is the most important album of all time on so many levels. It was the Beatles re-inventing yet another time, using the studio like no one had ever before them!

“The songs and writing were so ahead of what was happening at the time. It was a statement of the times as well. They led my generation and I was an early fan seeing them on The Ed Sullivan Show and waiting for their every move. It was like my life had gone from Black and White to Color when I saw them the first time.

“When Sgt. Pepper was released no one thought they could top Revolver… but they did!

“I have said many times that for me, the Beatles are my classical music. It is the band and the music and the album by which all others will be put up against. Pound for pound song for song it was audio cinema. You could almost see what you were hearing and no, I was not high at 10 years old!

Ringo re-invented what drums were to popular music. No one ever heard drums play like that or sound like that. Paul’s Bass as well. Just stellar musicianship …  ALL of them plus George Martin and Geoff Emerick deserve kudos here as well!

“The music did transcend me to a place. Perhaps just imagining where and how such sound and music was made. I still get chills when I hear it.”

Richard Bosworth: While doing sessions at Abbey Road Studios I was able to listen to Beatles’ recordings and through careful study I determined why Paul McCartney’s sound is so big. On every Pepper song that has bass guitar except ‘A Day In The Life’ the part is precisely doubled in unison creating one huge sound.

“I’m certain he was emulating the similar use of multiple basses from the productions of Phil Spector and Brian Wilson. McCartney continued utilizing this technique through Magical Mystery Tour.

“Beyond his brilliant bass guitar work McCartney plays much of the lead guitar on the album. A blistering solo for ‘Good Morning Good Morning.’ The lead guitar on Pepper’s title song as well as the reprise version I’m fairly sure the double tracked electric lead guitar solo on ‘Fixing a Hole’ is his.

“It must be stated that George Martin’s production and the recording engineering of Geoff Emerick as well as several other recording engineers is exemplary and continues to inspire all who make records to this day.”

Lonn Friend: After I bought Meet the Beatles in the wake of their Ed Sullivan Show debut, I forfeited my pre-teen allowance for every new vinyl release. When my ten year old ears first beheld the opening strains to Sergeant Pepper’s — imperfectly blasting off a $40 Motorola record player — I was suddenly jettisoned into some surreal tripped out post-adolescent dream state. I remember being emotionally tweaked by Rubber Soul but Pepper’s was something, uh, really NEW. I’m pretty sure I ferried the album home from a local San Fernando Valley department store like the May Company strapped to the rear rack of my Schwinn.

“I’m also dead certain that the platter spun endlessly for untold weeks. ‘Fixing a Hole,’ ‘Lovely Rita,’ ‘For the Benefit of Mr. Kite,’ ‘She’s Leaving Home’ – there was so much going on between the psychedelic grooves, far more than my kid brain could assimilate. I fell desperately in love with every song, romanced into melodic submission by the most four most fabulous human minstrels mankind will ever know.

“Of course, given my last name, one particular track has always maintained a personal resonance. I was in Japan with Bon Jovi, January 1991. The band was sound checking in the vast, empty Yokohama arena, rehearsing a special encore cover. When the chorus arrived, Jon and Richie belted, ‘By with a little help from Lonn Friend!’ Gotta make sure someone cues that up at my funeral.”

David N. Pepperell: Australia had to wait for Sgt. Pepper.

“Local EMI was not confident they could do a proper job on the cover so all covers were imported from the UK causing the release date in Oz to move from June to July 1967.

“A whole month — it seemed like an eternity especially as tracks from the album were being played on the radio and we couldn’t buy the record!

“On the magic day it was finally released, as luck would have it, I found myself without any money at all. I hocked my guitar — not a particularly good one, an old acoustic I’d had for years – for the princely sum of six dollars – just enough — and made my way to Alans’ Music Store in the heart of downtown Melbourne. Their massive front window was just a sea of Sgt. Pepper covers, posters and pictures of the Beatles. I fought my way to the counter, amidst throngs of people waving money, and managed to buy a copy. Once outside I pulled it out of the Alans’ bag and took a look. What a sight!

“A fold-out cover — unknown in Australia in those days – with an amazing collage featuring the Beatles old and new, as well as a crowd behind them featuring some people I recognized but many I did not, on the front cover plus the complete song lyrics on the back.

“Inside the fold were the four Beatles resplendent in their Sgt. Pepper uniforms and in the left hand sleeve cavity was a sheet of cut-outs featuring badges, pictures, cards and even a moustache!

“It was thoroughly breathtaking. While I was trying to take all this artwork in, the record was blaring from loudspeakers outside the shop and I was beginning to realize that this was even more of a way-out work than Revolver which was hard to imagine.

“I barreled home in a tram as fast as I could – nowhere fast enough really but I spent the time reading the lyrics and trying to make some kind of sense of them, really impossible without the music and Beatles voices.

“Finally I made it home, rushed to my room, took out the record noting it had no individual tracks, so this was not a collection of songs but a true album I realized, and put it on the turntable.

“I still think that the opening of Sgt. Pepper’s commencing with the title track, then segueing into ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ then into the wondrous lunacy of ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ is the greatest opening of any album in history and instantly transports the listener to a new world, Pepperland, the Beatles world.

“Every track thereafter is a wonder, with standouts like ‘Mr. Kite’ and George’s Indian fantasy ‘Within You Without You’ taking your breath away, with the culmination of ‘A Day In The Life’ causing sheer amazement at what the Beatles were capable of achieving.

“In many ways the first real album Sgt. Pepper’s is still the greatest album ever made performed by the greatest group the world has ever seen. A phantasmagoria of sight and sound as well as being the perfect example of the mid-Sixties zeitgeist it stands as not only a work of genius but a true time capsule of a period in history too fantastic to even imagine in these hard days of the 21st Century.

“Still, if you want a taste of what paradise was like, you only have to put the needle down on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and keep playing it until you reach ‘A Day In The Life’ and you are almost back there again.

“I’m still really there because I refused to ever leave.”

Celeste Goyer: Consulting the three versions of myself for their experiences of SPLHCB, I get very distinct responses. The young girl of 6-12 years absorbed every Beatles song without mediation, leaving me with a kind of Beatles-imprinted DNA, like millions of others my age, I suppose. In the way that Harold Bloom says Shakespeare’s plays created modern human consciousness, I can say without overstating that Beatles music created me.

“The young teenager of 13-15 appreciated McCartney’s cheery music hall tunes, so fun to sing with (and even tap dance to, sad to relate) as counterbalance to the hormonal emotional swings.

“The third and current version of myself will only put the needle down on ‘Within You Without You.’ It may be a while before ‘A Day in the Life’ sounds fresh to me again, because at 17 I spent countless hours kind of walking around inside the masterpiece of Sgt. Pepper’s in those big, cheap ‘70s headphones we lived in. It may be that the elaborate production of the album was a necessary revolution at the time, but like dropping acid, you don’t need to keep repeating a revolution once it does its work.”

In my 1997 interview with George Harrison for HITS magazine, Harrison commented on the Beatles’ studio expeditions.

“That was the environment in the band — everybody was very open to bringing in new ideas. We were listening to all sorts of things, Stockhausen, avant-garde music, whatever, and most of it made its way onto our records.”

Harvey Kubernik has been a music journalist for over 44 years and is the author of 8 books.  In April of 2017, Sterling will publish Kubernik’s 1967 A Complete Rock Music History of the Summer of Love.


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