Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

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Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Beatles, holding marching band instruments and wearing colourful uniforms, stand near a grave covered with flowers that spell "Beatles". Standing behind the band are several dozen famous people.
Studio album by the Beatles
Released1 June 1967
Recorded6 December 1966 – 21 April 1967,
EMI and Regent Sound studios, London
GenreRock, psychedelic rock, pop
ProducerGeorge Martin
the Beatles chronology
A Collection of Beatles Oldies
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Beatles' First
The Beatles North American chronology
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Magical Mystery Tour
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Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Beatles, holding marching band instruments and wearing colourful uniforms, stand near a grave covered with flowers that spell "Beatles". Standing behind the band are several dozen famous people.
Studio album by the Beatles
Released1 June 1967
Recorded6 December 1966 – 21 April 1967,
EMI and Regent Sound studios, London
GenreRock, psychedelic rock, pop
ProducerGeorge Martin
the Beatles chronology
A Collection of Beatles Oldies
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Beatles' First
The Beatles North American chronology
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Magical Mystery Tour

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (commonly known as Sgt. Pepper) is the eighth studio album by the English rock band the Beatles. Released in June 1967 the album, which included songs such as "With a Little Help from My Friends", "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "A Day in the Life", has sold more than 30 million copies,[1] making it one of the world's best selling albums. Its release brought the idea of a concept album to the general public.[2]

Continuing the artistic maturation seen on the Beatles' previous album Revolver (1966), Sgt. Pepper represented a departure from the conventional pop rock idiom of the time and incorporated balladry, psychedelic, music hall and symphonic influences.[3] During the Sgt. Pepper recording sessions, the Beatles improved upon the production quality of their recordings while exploring experimental techniques. The producer George Martin's innovative approach included the use of an orchestra. Widely acclaimed and imitated, the album cover, designed by English pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth, was inspired by a sketch by Paul McCartney that depicted the band posing in front of a collage of some of their favourite historic figures and celebrities.

Sgt. Pepper was a critical and commercial success, spending 27 weeks at the top of the UK Album Chart and 15 weeks at number one on the US Billboard 200. A seminal work in the emerging psychedelic rock style, the album was critically acclaimed upon release and won four Grammy Awards in 1968. Sgt. Pepper is considered by many to be the most influential and famous rock album ever recorded. In 1994 Colin Larkin ranked it second in his All Time Top 1000 Albums list and in 2005 Rolling Stone placed it at number one in their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The album was added to the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2003, calling it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."[4]


By late 1965 the Beatles had grown weary of touring. Two days after finishing the album Revolver in June 1966, the group set off to tour Germany. There, Paul McCartney visited two clubs in Hamburg, the Indra and the Star-Club, where the group had started their professional live career. The tour progressed to Japan, but the polite and restrained audience shocked the group, as the absence of fans screaming allowed them to hear how poor their live performances had become. By the time they went to the Philippines, where they were insulted and manhandled for not visiting Imelda Marcos, the group were extremely cross with Brian Epstein for insisting on such demoralising tour plans.[5] The 1966 US tour was the group's last, following which they decided to retire from live performance.[6]

John Lennon commented: "We're fed up with making soft music for soft people, and we're fed up with playing for them too"[7] He claimed that they could "send out four waxworks ... and that would satisfy the crowds. Beatles concerts are nothing to do with music anymore. They're just bloody tribal rites."[8] McCartney later explained, "We were fed up with being the Beatles. We really hated that four little mop-top approach. We were not boys, we were men ... and thought of ourselves as artists rather than just performers".[9] Although the last tour coincided with the release of Revolver, they did not perform any tracks from it in concert. McCartney later commented: "We did try performing some songs off [Revolver], but there were so many complicated overdubs we can't do them justice. Now we can record anything we want, and it won't matter. And what we want is to raise the bar a notch, to make our best album ever."[7]

George Harrison informed Epstein that he was leaving the band, but was persuaded to stay on the assurance that there would be no more tours.[10] Upon their return to England, rumours began to circulate that the band had decided to break-up.[11] They subsequently took a holiday for almost two months and became involved in their own individual interests. Harrison travelled to India for six weeks to develop his sitar playing at the instruction of Ravi Shankar.[12] McCartney and producer George Martin collaborated on the soundtrack for the film The Family Way.[13][nb 1] Lennon acted in the film How I Won the War, and he attended art showings, such as one at the Indica Gallery where he met his future wife Yoko Ono. Ringo Starr used the break to spend more time with his wife and first child.[12] In November, during a return flight to London from Kenya, where he had been on holiday with tour manager Mal Evans, McCartney had the creative idea that would first become a song, and would eventually inspire the Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band concept.[12]


In early February 1967, McCartney had the idea of recording an album that would represent a performance by a fictitious band.[14] This alter ego group would give the Beatles the freedom to experiment musically. McCartney explained: "I thought, let's not be ourselves. Let's develop alter egos ... it won't be us making all that sound, it won't be the Beatles, it'll be this other band, so we'll be able to lose our identities in this".[15] The idea came to McCartney during an airline flight from the US to England with Beatles' roadie Mal Evans, who invented the band's name in the style of contemporary San Francisco-based groups such as Big Brother and the Holding Company and Quicksilver Messenger Service.[16] Martin wrote of the fictitious band concept: "'Sergeant Pepper' itself didn't appear until halfway through making the album. It was Paul's song, just an ordinary rock number ... but when we had finished it, Paul said, 'Why don't we make the album as though the Pepper band really existed, as though Sergeant Pepper was making the record? We'll dub in effects and things.' I loved the idea, and from that moment on it was as though Pepper had a life of its own".[17]

The album starts with the title song, which introduces Sgt. Pepper's band itself; this song segues into a sung introduction for bandleader "Billy Shears" (Starr), who performs "With a Little Help from My Friends". A reprise version of the title song appears on side two of the album just prior to the climactic "A Day in the Life", creating a framing device. However, according to Lennon and Starr, the band effectively abandoned the concept other than the first two songs and the reprise.[18] Lennon was especially adamant that the songs he wrote for the album had nothing to do with the Sgt. Pepper concept, noting that—in his opinion—none of the other songs did either, saying "Every other song could have been on any other album".[19] In spite of Lennon's statements to the contrary, the album has been widely heralded as an early and groundbreaking example of the concept album.[20] During the 1970s, glam rock acts co-opted the idea of using alter ego personas.[21]

Recording and production[edit]

A reproduction of the poster for Pablo Fanque's Circus Royal from 1843 that inspired the Beatles' song Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!

McCartney has repeatedly stated that the single biggest influence on Sgt. Pepper's was the Beach Boys album Pet Sounds. The album had a profound effect on McCartney and the other Beatles, specifically the unorthodox instrumentation and complicated vocal harmonies. Sound engineer Geoff Emerick has noted how the record was often played in the studio so he and the other sound engineers could hear the sounds the Beatles wanted to achieve.[22][page needed] It also led McCartney to develop a new melodically-focused style of bass guitar playing that would become prevalent on many of his recordings afterward. George Martin has also stated that "without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper wouldn't have happened... Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds."[23][24][25][26]

Sessions for Sgt Pepper began in late November 1966 with a series of recordings that were to form an album thematically linked to the Beatles' childhoods.[18] The initial results produced "Strawberry Fields Forever", "When I'm Sixty-Four" and "Penny Lane". "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" were released as a double A-sided single in February 1967 after EMI and Epstein pressured Martin for a single.[27] Once the single was released the childhood concept was abandoned in favour of Sgt. Pepper,[18] and in keeping with the group's usual practice, the single tracks were not included on the LP (a decision Martin states he now regrets).[28] They were also included as part of the American LP version of Magical Mystery Tour (which was issued as a six-track double EP in Britain). The Harrison composition "Only a Northern Song" was also recorded during the Sgt. Pepper sessions but did not see a release until the soundtrack album for the animated film Yellow Submarine, released in January 1969.

As EMI's premier act and the world's most successful rock group, the Beatles had almost unlimited access to Abbey Road Studios.[29] By 1967, all of the Sgt. Pepper tracks could be recorded at Abbey Road using mono, stereo and four-track recorders. Although eight-track tape recorders were already available in the US, the first eight-tracks were not operational in commercial studios in London until late 1967, shortly after the album was released. Like its predecessors, the recording made extensive use of the technique known as "bouncing down" (also known at that time as a "reduction mix"), in which a number of tracks were recorded across the four tracks of one recorder, which were then mixed and dubbed down onto one or several tracks of the master four-track machine. This enabled the Abbey Road engineers to give the group a virtual multi-track studio.[30]

Relatively new modular effects units were used, like the wah-wah pedal and fuzzbox,[citation needed] and running voices and instruments through a Leslie speaker.[citation needed] Several then-new production effects feature extensively on the recordings. One of the most important was automatic double tracking (ADT), a system that used tape recorders to create a simultaneous doubling of a sound. Although it had long been recognised that using multitrack tape to record "doubled" lead vocals produced a greatly enhanced sound, it had always been necessary to record such vocal tracks twice; a task which was both tedious and exacting. ADT was invented especially for the band by EMI engineer Ken Townsend in 1966, mainly at the behest of Lennon, who hated tracking sessions and regularly expressed a desire for a technical solution to the problem. ADT quickly became a near-universal recording practice in popular music. Martin, having fun at Lennon's expense, described the new technique to an inquisitive Lennon as a "double-bifurcated sploshing flange". The anecdote explains one variation of how the term "flanging" came to be associated with this recording effect.[31][page needed] Also important was varispeeding, the technique of recording various tracks on a multi-track tape at slightly different tape speeds, which was used extensively on their vocals in this period. The speeding up of vocals became a widespread technique in pop production. The band also used the effect on portions of their backing tracks (as on "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds") to give them a "thicker" and more diffuse sound.

Ringo Starr, who after the completion of his basic drum parts saw his participation limited to minor percussion overdubs, later lamented: "The biggest memory I have of Sgt. Pepper ... is I learned to play chess".[32] For the album's title track, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (song)", the recording of Starr's drum kit was enhanced by the use of dampening and close-miking, which at the time were new recording techniques that MacDonald credits with creating a "three-dimensional" sound that—along with other Beatles innovations—engineers in the US would soon adopt as standard practice.[33]


The album also received popular acclaim.[34] It was a global hit, with huge sales in Europe, North and South America, Africa, Japan, Australia, and even on the black market in the Soviet Union, where their albums were very popular and widely available.[35] In the UK it debuted at number eight and the next week reached number one where it stayed for 23 consecutive weeks. It was knocked off the top by The Sound of Music on the week ending 18 November 1967. Eventually it spent more weeks at the top, including the competitive Christmas week. When the CD edition was released on 1 June 1987, it reached number 3. In June 1992, the CD was re-promoted to commemorate its 25th Anniversary, and charted at number six. In 2007, commemorating 40 years of its release, Sgt. Pepper again re-entered the charts at number 47 in the UK. In all, the album spent a total of 201 weeks on the UK charts, and is the third biggest-selling album in the UK chart history behind ABBA's Gold: Greatest Hits and Queen's Greatest Hits.[36][37] Sgt. Pepper won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, the first rock album to do so, and Best Contemporary Album in 1968. Sgt. Pepper is one of the world's best selling albums, with RIAA certified sales of 11 million copies in the US as of January 1997.[38] The album won Best British Album at the first Brit Awards in 1977.[39] By the time that Sgt Pepper was released the Beatles had already completed most of Magical Mystery Tour.[40]

Frank Zappa, whose 1966 album Freak Out! was cited as an influence on the album,[41] accused the group of co-opting the flower power aesthetic for monetary gain, saying in a Rolling Stone article that he felt "they were only in it for the money."[42]

Music and lyrics[edit]

According to the musicologist Allan F. Moore, Sgt. Pepper is a rock and pop album that aided the development of progressive rock through its focus on self-conscious lyrics, studio experimentation, and its efforts to expand the barriers of conventional three-minute tracks.[43] He described the LP "as a precursor of progressive rock's infatuation with unified concepts."[44] In the opinion of the author Kevin Holm-Hudson, the album "was pivotal in establishing the progressive aesthetic."[45] Its primary value, according to Moore, "is that it manages to capture, more vividly than almost anything contemporaneous, its own time and place."[46] The musicologist Olivier Julien described it as a "masterpiece of British psychedelia".[47]

Sgt. Pepper makes use of several keyboard instruments. McCartney plays a grand piano on "A Day in the Life"[48] and a Lowrey organ on "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds".,[49] while Martin played a Hohner Pianet on "Getting Better",[50] a harpsichord on "Fixing a Hole",[51] and a harmonium on "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"[52] An electric piano, upright piano, Hammond organ and glockenspiel can also be heard on the record.[where?] Harrison used a tamboura on several tracks, including "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "Getting Better".[53]

Concerns that lyrics in Sgt. Pepper referred to recreational drug use led to several songs from the album being banned by the BBC. The album's closing track, "A Day in the Life", includes the phrase "I'd love to turn you on". The BBC banned the song from airplay on the basis of this line, claiming it could "encourage a permissive attitude toward drug-taking". Both Lennon and McCartney denied any drug-related interpretation of the song at the time,[54] although McCartney's later comments in The Beatles Anthology documentary regarding the writing of the lyric make it clear that the drug reference was indeed deliberate.

Side one[edit]

The album opens with an introduction to "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", which features the combined sounds of a pit orchestra warming-up and an audience waiting for a concert.[55][nb 2] The author Kenneth Womack describes the track's lyrics as "a revolutionary moment in the creative life of the Beatles", which bridges the gap—sometimes referred to as the Fourth wall—between the audience and the group.[57] He argues that, paradoxically, the lyrics "exemplify the mindless rhetoric of rock concert banter" while "mocking[ing] the very notion of a pop album's capacity for engendering authentic interconnection between artist and audience".[57] According to Womack, the mixed message ironically serves to distance the band from their audience while simultaneously "gesturing toward" them as alter egos, an authorial quality that he considers to be "the song's most salient feature."[57] He credits the recording's juxtaposition of a brass ensemble with distorted electric guitars as an example of rock fusion.[57] The musicologist Ian MacDonald agrees, describing the track as an overture, rather than a song, and a "shrewd fusion of Edwardian variety orchestra" and contemporary hard rock.[56] During the introduction and verses, the song utilises a Lydian mode chord progression that is built on parallel sevenths, which the musicologist Walter Everett describes as "the song's strength", bringing "the rock out of rock and roll".[55] The five-bar bridge is filled by what MacDonald considers to be an "anachronistic" horn quartet that was arranged by Martin from a McCartney vocal melody.[56] The track turns to the pentatonic scale for the chorus, where its blues rock progression is augmented by the use of electric guitar power chords played in consecutive fifths.[55][nb 3]

"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" became the subject of speculation regarding its meaning, as many believed that the words of the chorus were code for LSD. The BBC used this as their basis for banning the song from British radio. Again, Lennon consistently denied this interpretation of the song, maintaining that the song describes a surreal dreamscape inspired by a picture drawn by his son Julian.[59] However, during a newspaper interview in 2004, McCartney was quoted as saying:[60]

'Lucy in the Sky,' that's pretty obvious. There's others that make subtle hints about drugs, but, you know, it's easy to overestimate the influence of drugs ... Just about everyone was doing drugs in one form or another and we were no different, but the writing was too important for us to mess it up by getting off our heads all the time.

— Paul McCartney

At other times, though, McCartney seems to have contradicted himself. "When [Martin] was doing his TV programme on Pepper," McCartney is quoted as saying, "he asked me, 'Do you know what caused Pepper?' I said, 'In one word, George, drugs. Pot.' And George said, 'No, no. But you weren't on it all the time.' 'Yes, we were.' Sgt. Pepper was a drug album."[61]

For the 17 March recording of "She's Leaving Home", McCartney hired Mike Leander to arrange the string section as Martin was occupied producing one of his other artists, Cilla Black.[62]

The lyrics for "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" were adapted from a Victorian circus poster for Pablo Fanque's circus, which Lennon had bought at an antique shop in Kent on the day of filming the promotional clip for "Strawberry Fields Forever" there. The sound collage was created by Martin and his engineers, who collected recordings of calliopes and fairground organs, which were then cut into strips of various lengths, thrown into a box, mixed up and edited together in random order, creating a long loop which was mixed in during final production.

Side two[edit]

"Within You Without You" was recorded on 15 March with Harrison on vocals, sitar and tambura; the other instruments (tabla, dilruba, swarmandel, and an additional tambura) were played by four London-based Indian musicians. None of the other Beatles participated in the recording.[63]

Recordings of "A Day in the Life" began on 19 January 1967 with Lennon counting-in the first take by mumbling, "sugar plum fairy, sugar plum fairy".[64] The thunderous piano chord that concludes the track, and the album, was produced by assembling three grand pianos in the studio and playing an E chord on each simultaneously. Together on cue, Lennon, Starr, McCartney and assistant Mal Evans hammered the keys on the assembled pianos and held down the chord. The sound from the pianos was then mixed up with compression and increasing gain on the volume to draw out the sound to maximum sustain.[65][page needed]

British pressings of the album (in its original LP form that was later released on CD), end with a 15-kilohertz high-frequency tone (put on the album at Lennon's suggestion and said to be "especially intended to annoy your dog"), followed by an endless loop of laughter and gibberish made by the run-out groove looping back into itself, which would play endlessly (on a record player not equipped with an automatic needle return). The loop (but not the tone) made its US debut on the 1980 Rarities compilation, titled "Sgt. Pepper Inner Groove". However, it is only featured as a two-second fragment at the end of side two rather than an actual loop in the run-out groove. The CD version of "Sgt. Pepper Inner Groove" is actually a bit shorter than that one found on the original UK vinyl pressing. The sound in the loop caused some controversy when it was interpreted as a secret message. McCartney later told his biographer Barry Miles that in the summer of 1967 a group of kids came up to him complaining about a lewd message hidden in it when played backwards. He told them, "You're wrong, it's actually just 'It really couldn't be any other'". He took them to his house to play the record backwards to them, and it turned out that the passage sounded to him very much like "We'll fuck you like Superman". McCartney recounted to Miles that "we had certainly had not intended to do that but probably when you turn anything backwards it sounds like something ... if you look hard enough you can make something out of anything".[28] When the album was repressed for LP release in 2012, it took several attempts to successfully reproduce the run-out groove effect.[66] Later CD releases of the album were not true to the original "endless loop" effect, as the loop on these versions faded out after a few seconds.

Cover artwork[edit]

The gatefold

The Grammy Award-winning album packaging was art-directed by Robert Fraser, designed by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth, his wife and artistic partner, and photographed by Michael Cooper. It featured a colourful collage of life-sized cardboard models of famous people on the front of the album cover and the lyrics printed in full on the back cover, the first time this had been done on a rock LP.[67] In the guise of the Sgt. Pepper band, the Beatles, all mustachioed, were dressed in custom-made satin day-glo-coloured military-style outfits (Lennon in electric lime, Harrison in orange, McCartney in cyan, and Starr in magenta). The suits were conceived by the Beatles and manufactured by the theatrical costumer M. Berman Ltd. in London,[68] with some parts designed by Manuel Cuevas.[69][70] Among the insignia on their uniforms are: MBE medals on McCartney's and Harrison's jackets, the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom on Lennon's right sleeve and an Ontario Provincial Police flash on McCartney's sleeve.

The centre of the cover depicts the Beatles standing behind a drum skin, on which are painted the words of the album's title. The skin was painted by fairground artist Joe Ephgrave.[71] In front of the drum skin is a series of flowers that spell out "The Beatles". A collage depicts around 60 famous people, including writers, musicians, film stars, and (at Harrison's request) a number of Indian gurus. The final grouping included: Mahavatar Babaji, Issy Bonn, Marlon Brando, Lenny Bruce, Larry Bell, Lewis Carroll, Aleister Crowley, Marlene Dietrich, Diana Dors, Bob Dylan, W.C. Fields, Sigmund Freud, Oliver Hardy, Aldous Huxley, Carl Gustav Jung, Stan Laurel, T. E. Lawrence, Karl Marx, Marilyn Monroe, Sir Robert Peel, Edgar Allan Poe, Karlheinz Stockhausen, H. G. Wells, Mae West, Oscar Wilde, Shirley Temple, Paramahansa Yogananda and Yukteswar Giri.[72] Also included was the image of the original Beatles' bassist, the late Stuart Sutcliffe. Pete Best said in a later NPR interview that Lennon borrowed family medals from his (Best's) mother Mona for the shoot, on condition that he did not lose them. Adolf Hitler and Jesus Christ were requested by Lennon, but ultimately they were left out.[73] A photo also exists of a rejected cardboard printout with a cloth draped over its head; its identity is unknown. The final cost for the cover art was nearly £3,000 (equivalent to £46,104 today) an extravagant sum for a time when album covers would typically cost around £50.[74]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[75]
The A.V. ClubB+[76]
Robert ChristgauA[77]
The Daily Telegraph5/5 stars[78]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music5/5 stars[79]
MusicHound5/5 stars[80]
Pitchfork Media10/10[82]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[83]

Sgt. Pepper was released on 1 June 1967 in the United Kingdom and on 2 June in the United States.[85] Various reviews appearing in the mainstream press and trade publications throughout June 1967, immediately after the album's release, were generally positive.[86] In The Times, prominent critic Kenneth Tynan described Sgt. Pepper as "a decisive moment in the history of Western civilisation".[87] Richard Poirier wrote "listening to the Sgt. Pepper album one thinks not simply of the history of popular music but the history of this century."[88]

Richard Goldstein wrote a negative contemporary review in The New York Times that described the album as "spoiled" and "reek[ing]" of "special effects, dazzling but ultimately fraudulent".[89] After he was criticised for his remarks,[90] Goldstein published a response in which he said the album was not on-par with the best of the Beatles' previous work, and despite being "better than 80 per cent of the music around today" he felt that underneath the production when "the compositions are stripped to their musical and lyrical essentials" the album is shown to be "an elaboration without improvement" on the group's music.[91] In 1997 the musicologist Allan Moore wrote that Goldstein's position was an exception among a group of primarily positive contemporary reviewers that he characterized as the most for any single album at the time. He also notes that some negative letters had been sent to Melody Maker that he speculates were written by jazz enthusiasts.[92]

The journalist Robert Christgau asserted in 1981 that although few critics agreed with Goldstein at the time of Sgt Pepper's release, many have come to appreciate his sentiments.[93] Christgau, writing a contemporary review for The Village Voice described the album as "a consolidation, more intricate than Revolver but not more substantial. Part of Goldstein's mistake, I think, has been to allow all the filters and reverbs and orchestral effects and overdubs to deafen him to the stuff underneath, which was pretty nice, and to fall victim to overanticipation."[90] Christgau commented, "although Sgt. Pepper is thought of as the most influential of all rock masterpieces, it is really only the most famous. In retrospect it seems peculiarly apollonian—precise, controlled, even stiff—and it is clearly peripheral to the rock mainstream".[94]

In 1998 the author Colin Larkin ranked Sgt Pepper second in his All Time Top 1000 Albums list, calling it a "masterpiece" and stating: "This one album revolutionized, altered and reinvented the boundaries of 20th century popular music, style and graphic art."[95] In the Encyclopedia of Popular Music Larkin wrote "[it] turned out to be no mere pop album but a cultural icon embracing the constituent elements of the 60s' youth culture: pop art, garish fashion, drugs, instant mysticism and freedom from parental control."[79] In a 1987 review for Q, Charles Shaar Murray commented that the album "remains a central pillar of the mythology and iconography of the late '60s."[96] Rolling Stone's Anthony DeCurtis argued that it "revolutionized rock & roll" and that its "immensely pleasurable trip has earned Sgt. Pepper its place as the best record of the past twenty years." DeCurtis found it to be "not only the Beatles' most artistically ambitious album but their funniest" and cited its "fun-loving experimentalism" as the album's "best legacy for our time."[97] In 2005 Rolling Stone placed it at number one in their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, describing it as "the pinnacle of the Beatles' eight years as recording artists" and "the most important rock and roll album ever made".[98]


The album is often said to be a huge influence in the development of counterculture-era[99] progressive rock music, and rock music generally. It has been included in numerous lists about progressive rock albums and influences. Nick Mason, the drummer of the pioneering progressive rock group Pink Floyd, said that Ringo's drumming on the album significantly influenced him.[100] The album was also featured on Classic Rock magazine's list "50 albums that built Prog Rock".[101]

The album is credited as heralding the beginning of the Album Era in popular music. Rolling Stone Assistant Editor Andy Greene posits that, "That album was the beginning of the album era. It was the big bang of albums. This was the first concept album. All the songs go together to tell a story, and it's inspired every musician."[102]


Sgt. Pepper has been named on many lists of the best rock albums. In 1997 it was named the number one greatest album of all time in a "Music of the Millennium" poll conducted by HMV, Channel 4, The Guardian and Classic FM. In 1998 Q magazine readers placed it at number seven, while in 2003 the TV network VH1 placed it at number 10.[103] In 2005, the album was ranked number 1 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The publisher called it "the most important rock & roll album ever made ... by the greatest rock & roll group of all time."[98] In 2006, the album was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 best albums of all time.[104] In 2002, Q magazine placed it at number 13 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever.[105] The album was named as one of Classic Rock magazine's "50 Albums That Built Prog Rock".[106] In 2003, it was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry.[4] In July 2008 the "iconic bass drum skin" used on the front cover sold at auction for €670,000 (US$879,000).[107] In November 2009, the entire album was made available to download for The Beatles: Rock Band on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii. The game disc already had the album's title track, "With a Little Help from My Friends", "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "Getting Better" and "Good Morning Good Morning"; the download provides the remaining tracks from the album. On 30 March 2013, a rare, signed (by all four Beatles) copy of the album was sold at Dallas-based Heritage Auctions to an unnamed buyer from the Midwestern United States for $290,500.[108]

Nominated for seven Grammys in 1968, it won four, including Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts, Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical, Contemporary Album and Album of the Year, the first rock album to receive this honour. Additionally, it was nominated for Group Vocal Performance, Contemporary Vocal Group and Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s).

Planned television film[edit]

On 10 February 1967, during the orchestral recording sessions for "A Day in the Life", six cameramen filmed the chaotic events with the purpose of using the footage for a planned but unfinished Sgt. Pepper television special. The TV special was to have been written by Ian Dallas and directed by Keith Green. The shooting schedule included all the songs from the album set to music video style scenes: for example, "Within You Without You" scenes would have been set throughout offices, factories and elevators. There were even production numbers planned involving "meter maids" and "rockers". Although production was cancelled, the "A Day in the Life" footage was edited down with stock footage into a finished clip.[109] This clip was not released to the public until the Lennon documentary Imagine: John Lennon was released in 1988. A more complete version was later aired in The Beatles Anthology documentary. In 1992, an hour-long feature produced by London Weekend Television called The Making of Sgt. Pepper was aired, and featured George Martin, the three surviving Beatles and Neil Aspinall discussing the album and the songs, with George Martin running through the tapes, similar in fashion to VH1's Classic Albums documentaries.


On June 4, 1967, Jim Hendrix opened a show at the Saville Theatre in London with his rendition of Sgt. Pepper's title track, which was released just three days previous. Beatles manager Brian Epstein owned the Saville at the time, and both George Harrison and Paul McCartney attended the performance. McCartney described the moment: "The curtains flew back and he came walking forward playing 'Sgt. Pepper'. It's a pretty major compliment in anyone's book. I put that down as one of the great honors of my career."[110]

Sgt. Pepper has inspired a number of tribute albums, such as NME's Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father in 1988.[111] In 2008, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the album's release, rock pioneer and long-time associate of Starr, Todd Rundgren headlined a live performance tour of Sgt. Pepper featuring an all star cast. In the show were former Wings member Denny Laine, former American Idol Bo Bice, Foreigner vocalist Lou Gramm, and Grammy Award winner Christopher Cross.[112] The American rock band Cheap Trick performed the entire Sgt. Pepper album live in New York and released the live recording in both CD and DVD formats in September 2009, with all proceeds benefiting prostate cancer research. This recording was engineered by Geoff Emerick, the original engineer for the Sgt. Pepper album. In April 2009, the reggae group Easy Star All-Stars released a dub reggae tribute cover of Sgt. Pepper, Easy Star's Lonely Hearts Dub Band. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, a feature film based on the album and other Beatles songs, was released in 1978.

Track listing[edit]

Sgt. Pepper was the first Beatles album to be released with identical track listings in the UK and the US.[113]

All songs written and composed by Lennon–McCartney except "Within You Without You", by George Harrison. 

Side one
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"  McCartney2:02
2."With a Little Help from My Friends"  Starr2:44
3."Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"  Lennon3:28
4."Getting Better"  McCartney2:48
5."Fixing a Hole"  McCartney2:36
6."She's Leaving Home"  McCartney with Lennon[nb 4]3:35
7."Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"  Lennon2:37
Side two
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."Within You Without You"  Harrison5:04
2."When I'm Sixty-Four"  McCartney2:37
3."Lovely Rita"  McCartney2:42
4."Good Morning Good Morning"  Lennon2:41
5."Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)"  Lennon, McCartney and Harrison[nb 5]1:19
6."A Day in the Life"  Lennon and McCartney5:39

Track list information according to Mark Lewisohn and Ian MacDonald.[118]


According to Mark Lewisohn:[65]

The Beatles
Additional musicians and production

Charts and certifications[edit]

In the US the album appeared on the Billboard 200 chart for 175 non-consecutive weeks through 1987. It remained at number one in the US for 15 weeks, longer than any other Beatles album in the US.[120]

Peak positions
Original release
Australian Kent Music Report Chart[121]1
Norwegian Albums Chart[122]1
Swedish Kvällstoppen Chart[123]1
UK Albums Chart[124]1
US Billboard 200[125]1
West German Media Control Albums Chart[126]1
1987 reissue
Dutch Mega Albums Chart[127]2
Japanese Albums Chart[128]3
UK Albums Chart[129]3
2009 reissue
Australian Albums Chart[130]16
Belgian Albums Chart (Flanders)[131]21
Belgian Albums Chart (Wallonia)[132]22
Brazilian Albums Chart[133]20
Danish Albums Chart[134]20
Finnish Albums Chart[135]9
Italian Albums Chart[136]9
Japanese Albums Chart[137]20
Mexican Albums Chart[138]13
New Zealand Albums Chart[139]12
Norwegian Albums Chart[140]31
Portuguese Albums Chart[141]4
Spanish Albums Chart[142]22
Swedish Albums Chart[143]8
UK Albums Chart[144]5
US Billboard 200[145]114
Year-end charts
Chart (1967)Position
Australian Albums Chart[121]1
Italian Albums Chart[146]1
UK Albums Chart[147]1
U.S. Billboard 200[148]10
Chart (1968)Position
Australian Albums Chart[121]3
U.S. Billboard 200[149]6
Decade-end charts
Chart (1960s)Position
UK Albums Chart[150]1
Argentina (CAPIF)[151]2× Platinum120,000x
Argentina (CAPIF)[151]
1987 CD issue
3× Platinum180,000x
Australia (ARIA)[152]4× Platinum280,000^
Brazil (ABPD)[153]Gold100,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[154]8× Platinum800,000^
France (SNEP)[155]Gold88,100[156]
Germany (BVMI)[157]Platinum500,000^
Japan (Oricon Charts)208,000[128]
New Zealand (RMNZ)[158]6× Platinum90,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[159]3× Platinum5,045,000[160]
United States (RIAA)[161]11× Platinum11,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

dagger BPI certification awarded only for sales since 1994.[162]


  1. ^ Martin used two McCartney themes to write thirteen variations for The Family Way soundtrack, which failed to chart, but won McCartney an Ivor Novello Award for Best Instrumental Theme.[13]
  2. ^ The effect was first utilized by the Byrds on their January 1967 release, "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star", which included the sounds made by a loud audience.[55] The crowd noises on "Sgt. Pepper" were gleaned from George Martin's recordings of a 1961 comedy show, Beyond the Fringe, and the ambient sounds captured during the 10 February orchestral session for "A Day in the Life".[56]
  3. ^ The song's lead guitar part was played by McCartney, who replaced an effort by Harrison that he had spent seven hours recording. MacDonald speculates that this might have contributed to Harrison's minimized role on the album.[58]
  4. ^ Lennon's double-tracked vocal isn't officially credited, but many affiliated to the group have acknowledged his vocal contribution.[114][115]
  5. ^ According to Mark Lewisohn's liner notes accompanying the 2009 CD remaster, the vocals are by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison.[116] Lewisohn previously indicated in The Beatles Recording Sessions (1988) that all four Beatles recorded the "shared lead vocals."[117]


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Headquarters by The Monkees
Billboard 200 number-one album
1 July – 13 October 1967
Succeeded by
Ode to Billie Joe by Bobbie Gentry
Preceded by
Going Places by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
Australian Kent Music Report number-one album
5 August 1967 – 1 March 1968
Succeeded by
Their Satanic Majesties Request by The Rolling Stones
Preceded by
The Sound of Music (soundtrack)
The Sound of Music (soundtrack)
The Sound of Music (soundtrack)
The Sound of Music (soundtrack)
UK Albums Chart number-one album
10 June – 18 November 1967
25 November – 2 December 1967
23 December 1967 – 6 January 1968
3–10 February 1968
Succeeded by
The Sound of Music (soundtrack)
The Sound of Music (soundtrack)
Val Doonican Rocks, But Gently by Val Doonican
The Four Tops Greatest Hits
by The Four Tops
Preceded by
Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys
The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
Succeeded by
End of List