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How The Beatles’ ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ Changed The Face Of Music

The defining album of the Summer Of Love, The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band remains a benchmark album in music history.

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The Beatles Sgt Pepper era photo web optimised 740
Photo: © Apple Corps Ltd

These days, game-changers are everywhere, in every facet of our society, yet there was a time when people really had no idea what they were. In 1967 along came Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the eighth studio album by The Beatles… it was the musical game-changer. Prior to the album’s release, on 1 June 1967, long-playing records were firmly under the control of record labels, who thought they knew best as to what the fans wanted, and when they wanted it.

Listen to Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band right now.

The making of The Beatles’ eighth studio album had begun a little over six months earlier, on 20 November 1966, when they began work on two songs in Abbey Road Studio Two which they felt were perfect for their next LP. The songs were ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, written by John Lennon and inspired by a place in Liverpool, and by way of juxtaposition, Paul McCartneys composition which also referred to a real location close to his childhood home – Penny Lane.

Work continued on ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ during December, as well as recording sessions for ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ which was also to be included on the new album. Recording for ‘Penny Lane’ began two days before New Year’s Eve and was completed nearly three weeks later. The Beatles’ previous single, ‘Yellow Submarine’/‘Eleanor Rigby’, had been released in early August 1966, and so EMI were anxious for another. ‘Penny Lane’/’Strawberry Fields’ came out on 17 February 1967 after a 196-day wait – the longest time between single releases since the start of their career.

Recording continued on the new album in January, with the first of many sessions for ‘A Day In The Life’, and then on 1 February they began work on one of Paul’s songs, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. The new LP had a name and a loose concept, in so far as the band pretended they were giving a show as this fictitious band.

By the time their new single was released they were underway with ‘Good Morning Good Morning’, ‘Fixing a Hole’, ‘Only A Northern Song’ (a George Harrison song that he had originally put forward for inclusion on the album) and ‘Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite’. In the midst of all this recording, The Beatles also filmed their groundbreaking videos for both ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’.

Over the next two months work continued on Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band remaining songs – ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’, ‘Lucy In The Sky with Diamonds’, ‘Getting Better’, ‘She’s Leaving Home’, ‘Within You Without You’ and ‘Lovely Rita’ – and the album was completed on 21 April. In all, The Beatles, George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick spent 700 hours on the making of the record.

Of course, time expended does not guarantee either creativity or a brilliant result, but every second was worth it. And don’t just take our word for it: Professor Kevin J Dettmar, writing in the Oxford Encyclopedia Of British Literature, says Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is “the most important and influential rock and roll album ever recorded”. We all know that polls don’t matter, but Rolling Stone magazine ranked it No.1 in its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

The Beatles Sgt Pepper era photo web optimised 740

Photo: Apple Corps

And yet it could all have been so very different. In the early Spring of 1967, the UK press was full of reports with headlines such as “Has the Bubble Burst?” or “Beatles Fail To Reach The Top”, all because ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ had stalled at No.2 in the UK singles chart. At manager Brian Epstein’s insistence neither track was included on the LP, a decision that George Martin later described as “the biggest mistake of my professional life”.

What makes the album a game-changer?

The unprecedented time spent in the studio helped to make it so, as do the recording techniques developed by the Abbey Road technicians to give the Beatles more than just the basic four-track equipment that had been used previously. Add to this “flanging”, the use of vari-speed, the way the record was not mastered with the customary gaps between tracks and the use of crossfades on a couple of tracks. And then there’s Peter Blake’s artwork that is so redolent of the time, not forgetting the fact that a lyric sheet was included with the gatefold sleeve. And, of course, great songs, brilliantly performed

Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was the first Beatles album to be issued simultaneously worldwide, and the first where the tracklistings were exactly the same for both the UK and US versions. It debuted in the UK at No.1 – where it stayed for 22 consecutive weeks and became the soundtrack to The Summer Of Love. Naturally, it was also No.1 in America, as it was in many countries around the world.

Rock and pop has never quite been the same again…

Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band can be bought here.


The various versions of the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band reissue are:

Standard CD:
The new 2017 stereo mix, complete with the original UK album’s “edit for LP end” run-out groove.

Deluxe 2CD (and digital edition):
The new stereo album mix on Disc One, plus a second CD of 18 tracks, including previously unreleased complete takes of the album’s 13 songs, newly mixed in stereo and sequenced in the same order as the album.

Disc Two also includes a new stereo mix and a previously unreleased instrumental take of ‘Penny Lane’, plus the 2015 stereo mix and two previously unreleased complete takes of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’.

Deluxe 2LP:
The new stereo album mix on Disc One and previously unreleased complete takes of the album’s 13 songs, newly mixed in stereo and sequenced in the same order as the album, on Disc Two.

Super Deluxe 4CD+DVD+Blu-ray:
CD1 features the new 2017 stereo album mix.

CDs 2 and 3 include 33 additional recordings from the studio sessions, most of which are previously unreleased and have been mixed for the first time from the four-track session tapes, sequenced in chronological order of their recording dates, plus the new 2017 stereo mix of ‘Penny Lane’ and the 2015 stereo mix of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’.

CD4 features a direct transfer of the album’s original mono mix, plus the ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Penny Lane’ singles, along with the US promo mono mix of ‘Penny Lane’ and previously unreleased early mono mixes of ‘She’s Leaving Home’, ‘A Day If The Life’ and the once-thought-lost early mono mix of ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’.

The DVD and Blu-ray discs both include new 5.1 surround sound audio mixes of the album and ‘Penny Lane’ by Giles Martin and Sam Okell, plus their 2015 5.1 surround sound mix of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, along with high-resolution audio mixes of the album, ‘Penny Lane’ and the 2015 stereo mix of ‘Strawberry Field Forever’.

Additionally, these discs will include 4K restored promo clips for ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘A Day In The Life’, plus The Making Of Sgt Pepper, a restored, previously unreleased documentary film originally broadcast in 1992.

The full tracklist for the super deluxe edition box set is:

CD1: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 2017 stereo mix
‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’
‘With A Little Help From My Friends’
‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’
‘Getting Better’
‘Fixing A Hole’
‘She’s Leaving Home’
‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!’
‘Within You Without You’
‘When I’m Sixty-Four’
‘Lovely Rita’
‘Good Morning Good Morning’
‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)’
‘A Day In The Life’

CD2: Outtakes
‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ [Take 1]
‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ [Take 4]
‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ [Take 7]
‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ [Take 26]
‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ [2015 stereo mix]
‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ [Take 2]
‘Penny Lane’ [Take 6: instrumental]
‘Penny Lane’ [Vocal overdubs and speech]
‘Penny Lane’ [2017 stereo mix]
‘A Day In The Life’ [Take 1]
‘A Day In The Life’ [Take 2]
‘A Day In The Life’ [Orchestra overdub]
‘A Day In The Life (Hummed Last Chord)’ [Takes 8, 9, 10 and 11]
‘A Day In The Life (The Last Chord)’
‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ [Take 1: instrumental]
‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ [Take 9 and speech]
‘Good Morning Good Morning’ [Take 1: instrumental, breakdown]
‘Good Morning Good Morning’ [Take 8]

CD3: Outtakes
‘Fixing A Hole’ [Take 1]
‘Fixing A Hole’ [Speech and Take 3]
‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!’ [Speech from before Take 1; Take 4 and speech at end]
‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!’ [Take 7]
‘Lovely Rita’ [Speech and Take 9]
‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ [Take 1 and speech at the end]
‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ [Speech, false start and Take 5]
‘Getting Better’ [Take 1: instrumental and speech at the end]
‘Getting Better’ [Take 12]
‘Within You Without You’ [Take 1: Indian Instruments Only]
‘Within You Without You’ [George coaching the musicians]
‘She’s Leaving Home’ [Take 1: instrumental]
‘She’s Leaving Home’ [Take 6: ynstrumental]
‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ [Take 1: false start; Take 2: instrumental]
‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)’ [Speech and Take 8]

CD4: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and bonus tracks in mono
Tracks 1-13: 2017 direct transfer of Sgt Pepper’s original mono mix)
‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ [Original mono mix]
‘Penny Lane’ [Original mono mix]
‘A Day In The Life’ [Unreleased first mono mix]
‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ [Unreleased mono mix: No.11]
‘She’s Leaving Home’ [Unreleased first mono mix]
‘Penny Lane’ [Capitol Records US promo single: mono mix]

DVD and Blu-ray:
Audio Features (both discs):
New 5.1 surround sound audio mixes of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and ‘Penny Lane’, plus 2015 5.1 surround sound mix of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ (Blu-ray: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby True HD 5.1; DVD: DTS Dolby Digital 5.1)

High-resolution audio versions of 2017 Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band stereo mix and 2017 ‘Penny Lane’ stereo mix, plus 2015 ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ hi-res stereo mix (Blu-ray: LPCM Stereo 96KHz/24bit; DVD: LPCM Stereo)

Video Features (both discs):
The Making Of Sgt Pepper [restored 1992 documentary film, previously unreleased]

Promotional films: ‘A Day In The Life’; ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, ‘Penny Lane’ [4K restored]



  1. Scott

    June 1, 2017 at 11:06 pm

    I was only six when “Sgt. Pepper” was released. I was vaguely aware of The Beatles – my older sister by six years was fixated on them, and one of the earliest memories of my life was of her running around singing “I Want To Hold Your Hand” over and over until I told her to shut up and quit singing.
    I also recall us kids marching (more or less) around the school playground singing “Yellow Submarine” at recess. But like lots of people today, it would be after high school before I really started to listen to them, and of course now consider them the best band ever in rock and roll.
    It was a really fruitful time in rock music – labels and managers for the most part had no idea what to do with all these bands out doing their thing, or tell them how to write their music. Hence, a period of blissful creativity not marred by interference from greedy labels gave us the greatest music in rock history – The Beatles, Beach Boys, who had just released “Pet Sounds” and took a copy to Paul and John in London, who were blown away by it, and now had to top “Revolver” AND “Pet Sounds”, answering with “Sgt. Pepper”. I prefer “Pet Sounds” over “Sgt. Pepper” but it’s close.
    The dramatic sound shift for The Beatles had actually occurred during the sessions for “Rubber Soul”, which was a huge improvement over its predecessor “Help!” The sound kept improving and “Sgt. Pepper” was a huge mind blower. Hard separation, lots of instruments, segues into tracks without the customary blank interval and musical risks must have been nothing short of shock and delight for fans older than myself who were in their teens or a little older, influenced by certain “recreational” items and the culture marked the halcyon days of rock at its most daring, versatile and lasting power.
    Even with the modern recording techniques of today, where any musician or band can record music that sounds better than the best studios through the 1980’s, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” remains magical.

  2. Nadine

    June 2, 2017 at 1:36 am

    I loved The Beatles from the first second that I saw them. All these years later–I am still a fan!
    When I was 10 years old, my aunt was dating a sailor from Liverpool, and I got to go on his ship when they came into our Canadian port. All the young sailors had Beatle haircuts when most people in North America were still in shock about the length of The Beatle’s hair.
    One sailor on board told me about a group that he claimed was going to be bigger than The Beatles. I told him that was impossible. He bet me 50 pounds that Gerry and The Pacemakers would be bigger than The Beatles. I had never heard of Gerry and The Pacemakers, but I knew no one would ever be bigger than The Beatles. That guy owes me 50 pounds with interest. Ha ha.
    I remember when Sgt Pepper’s was released, and some radio stations played only this album 24 hours a day. It was incredible! It was so different from anything anyone else had ever put out. I also remember when I heard When I’m Sixty-Four,, and I couldn’t relate to it at all as even my parents were no where near that age. How time has flown.
    I was always an artistic type and loved the visual ideas that could be created from the lyrics of songs like Lucy InThe Sky With Diamonds. This album influenced so many things like: the hippie movement, civil rights movement, Vietnam war protests,sit ins at the universities, fashion, drug use, and it divided a lot of people in the United States into declaring themselves either Hawks or Doves. The Beatles also released All You Need Is love in 1967 which contributed to the summer of love. It was a radical time on a grand scale–and I loved all of it!
    I loved basically everything The Beatles put out, but I was always a little more partial to the John Lennon songs. For this reason, I actually preferred The White Album because I liked more of John’s songs on that album. That being said, I still loved Sgt. Pepper’s and have my original copy.

  3. Darrin

    June 2, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    You forgot to mention it was the first album that the Beatles made after their decision to become a studio band and not tour anymore, which gave the time needed to make this masterpiece.

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