• Beatle Song Profiles

    <span itemprop="name">Sgt. Peppers</span>

     

     

     

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  • Sgt. Peppers

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    Released on June 1st, 1967 – St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band - or more commonly known as Sgt. Pepper  was the eighth album The Beatles recorded in the three-and-a-third years that had passed since they became global superstars. While it used to be a given that it was their best album, in recent years, Abbey Road, and Revolver, in particular, have rivaled it.

    Having given up touring at the end of 1966, The Beatles wanted to create a record that would be centered on a fictitious band – their “alter-ego.”

    McCartney was the chief advocate of the “concept” notion for the album and he was the one who came up with the idea to create a fake group. He claimed the name “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was just a word game. While flying home to England from an African holiday in November 1966, longtime band associate Mal Evans innocently asked what the “S” and “P” stood for on the in-flight salt and pepper shakers. This led to the concept of a Sgt. Pepper, which was fleshed out into the unwieldy title as a parody of American psychedelic bands.

    Recorded over a five-month period from early January 1967 until mid-May of that year, the album required 700 hours of studio time. All the songs were recorded using only four-track recording technology as eight-track recording was not yet the norm in recording studios in the UK.

    Sgt. Peppers is considered to be the most “engineered” album The Beatles produced. Engineer Geoff Emerick said that The Beatles told him they wanted everything to be different on the album. There were microphones right down in the bells of brass instruments and headphones turned into microphones attached to violins. They used giant primitive oscillators to vary the speed of instruments and vocals.  Recording tapes chopped to pieces and spliced together upside down and the wrong way round.

    In the UK it debuted at number eight and the next week reached number one where it would remain for nearly six months. A 20-year anniversary CD edition released in June 1987 hit number 3 in the charts. In June 1992, the CD was re-promoted to commemorate the album’s 25th Anniversary charting at number six. In 2007, commemorating 40 years since its release, it again entered the charts. Over the last 45 years since its release, more than 35 million units of the album have been shipped.

     

    A Day In The Life  

    Considered to be one of the most inventive compositions of all Beatle tracks, “A Day In The Life”  represented a new category of song which is much more sophisticated than pop, a lot more accessible and down to earth than pop, and inherently, uniquely innovative. It was the first composition of its type – classical or vernacular – that blended so many disparate elements in such an imaginative way.

    In the early 70s, Lennon remarked:

    “We wanted to think of a good end and we had to decide what sort of backing and instruments would sound good. Like all our songs, they never became an entity until the very end. They are developed all the time as we go along.”

    A year later, he said:

    “It was a good price of work between Paul and me. Now and then we really turn each other on with a bit of song and he just said ‘yeah- bang bang’, like that. It just sort of happened beautifully, and we arranged it and rehearsed it, which we don’t often do, the afternoon before.”
     

    In 1980, his take on Pauls’ contribution was:

    “The beautiful lick in the song, ‘I’d love to turn you on’ . I had the bulk of the song and the words, but he contributed this little lick floating around in his head that he couldn’t use for anything.” McCartney comments in his autobiography:  “Part of the song was about me remembering what it was like to run up the road to catch the school bus, having a smoke and then going into class.” 

     ”A Day In The Life” was the first rock/pop song to use a Mellotron – a keyboard that electronically produces programmed taped sounds. The final chord was produced by all four Beatles and George Martin banging on three pianos simultaneously. The resulting note lasted 42 seconds.

    McCartney wanted his voice to sound all muzzy, as if he had just woken up from a deep sleep and hadn’t yet gotten his bearings, because that was what the lyric was trying to convey.

    Ringo came up with one of his most inventive drum parts on record in the final verses as there is the distant thunder effect he creates which is a perfect complement to Lennon’s voice. Ringo’s fantastic, innovative tom-tom fills punctuate the lyrics of the song. They were a perfect mixture of simplicity and guts and had introduced a new musicality: “musical drumming.”

    The song’s use of dynamics and tricks of rhythm, and of space and stereo effect, and its deft intermingling of scenes from dream, reality and something in between, was so visually evocative it seemed more like a film than just another track on a rock album.

     ”A Day In The Life” was a song inside a song and it worked in much the same way that the technique of a play within a play does; the interdependence of reality and illusion is telescoped into one setting.

    The technique of the blurring of the dream life and the real world leaves the listener not sure whether Lennon’s section is the “real” world or if it’s merely the dream that Paul slips back into atop the bus: The alarm clock blurs these boundaries; is Paul waking from Lennon’s nightmare, or is Lennon imaging Paul’s generic day in the life?

     

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