On May 26, 1967, The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in the United Kingdom. The album featured a host of innovative studio techniques and visionary songwriting led by an inspired Paul McCartney. 

While it isn’t necessarily the best The Beatles produced, it’s hard to think of another album that’s had a greater cultural impact; right place, right time. Fifty years on, the album still sounds good. Here are 50 facts – in chronological order – that you may or may not know about Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.

  1. Paul McCartney was heavily influenced by Brian Wilson’s work on Pet Sounds. Beatles producer George Martin would famously claim that “without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Peppers would never have happened.”
  2. The Mother’s of Invention’s concept album Freak Out! has also been cited as a major influence.
  3. McCartney conceived the idea for a song that would involve an Edwardian military-style band on a flight in November 1966 with Beatles tour manager, Mal Evans.
  4. Evans – also the band’s chief assistant and a long-time friend – came up with the name Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
  5. At that stage Sgt. Pepper’s was still just the name of a song – the theme for the album wouldn’t materialise until February 1967 when McCartney suggested the band lose their identities and record the album as if it was performed by the fictional Sgt. Pepper’s Band.
  6. Recording began on November 24, 1966 in Abbey Road Studio Two.
  7. When Im 64, Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane were the first songs recorded for the album. However, under pressure from the record label to release a single, Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane were released as a double A-side single.
  8. The singles only reached number two – the first Beatles songs not to get to number one since Love Me Do (1962). Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane were cut from the album.
  9. The first verse in A Day In The Life’s lyrics was inspired by the Daily Mail’s report on the death of millionaire socialite and The Beatles’ friend, Tara Browne, who drove his car through red lights and into a parked car.
  10. The song took close to 34 hours to record.
  11. The final chord on A Day In The Life was played on three pianos by five different people and tracked four times.
  12. Lennon asked for a 15-kilohertz high-frequency tone to be included at the end of A Day In The Life, supposedly to annoy dogs.
  13. The crowd sounds that can be heard in Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band were actually recorded by Martin in the early ‘60s for British stage comedy Beyond the Fringe.
  14. The song itself was recorded in four studio sessions.
  15. John Lennon would go on to call Good Morning, Good Morning “a throwaway, a piece of garbage.”
  16. The song was inspired by an annoying cereal ad running on British television at the time for Kellogg’s cornflakes.
  17. Fixing A Hole was the only song on the album not to have the bass dubbed in at a later stage.
  18. McCartney invited a man who had turned up on his doorstep at his London home and declared himself as Jesus to sit in on the recording of Fixing A Hole. They never saw him again.
  19. Erroneously, listeners initially thought the song’s theme was a reference to heroin.
  20. While filming a promo for Strawberry Fields Forever in Sevenoaks, Kent, Lennon found an old Victorian circus poster in an antique store, inspiring him to write Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!.
  21. According to Lennon, all of the extensive text on the poster made it into the song.
  22. George Martin used old tape recordings of Victorian steam organs on the track.
  23. Lennon was pleased with the effects Martin had created but didn’t like the song.
  24. When referring to McCartney’s Lovely Rita, Lennon said disparagingly, “These stories about boring people doing boring things. I’m not interested in third-party songs – I like to write about me, because I know me.”
  25. McCartney apparently based Lovely Rita on a traffic warden he met near his home in London, called Meta Davis.
  26. The title Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds came from a drawing that Lennon’s son Julian had created and named.
  27. The song’s ‘feel’ was taken from a passage in Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass.
  28. It has become popular folklore that Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds was a reference to LSD – it wasn’t intended to be, and surprised The Beatles when it was pointed out to them.
  29. During one of the recording sessions for Getting Better, Lennon mistakenly took LSD instead of an ‘upper’ and had to be taken up to the Abbey Studio roof by George Martin for air, when he began to feel unwell.
  30. Once Only A Northern Song was removed from the album, Within You Without You became the only Harrison track on Sgt. Pepper’s. He composed the song on a harmonium.
  31. A story in the Daily Mail about runaway children provided the inspiration, yet again, on McCartney’s beautiful Shes Leaving Home.
  32. Shes Leaving Home was completed in just two days. The Beatles didn’t play any instruments on the recording.
  33. With Martin not available, McCartney asked Mike Leander to arrange the orchestration and it was the first Beatles song not to be arranged by the long-time producer.
  34. With A Little Help From My Friends was written specifically to be Ringo Starr’s song for the album, and was originally called Bad Finger Boogie.
  35. Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) was the final piece of music written for the album, and took under a day to complete.
  36. The album had taken five months to record, from November 24, 1966 to April 21, 1967.
  37. It cost around £25,000 to make compared to £400, the production cost on The Beatles’ first album, Please Please Me.
  38. When the album was finally completed, at dawn the band took an acetate to singer/actresses Cass Elliot’s flat in Chelsea, put the speakers on the window sill and played the entire album at full volume.
  39. Artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth designed the iconic cover based on a drawing by Paul McCartney.
  40. The collage features many sportspeople, historic figures, actors, writers and musicians. Lennon had wanted to include Jesus Christ and Adolf Hitler. Hitler was deemed too offensive and Jesus was removed as it was less than a year after  Lennon had made his infamous comment that The Beatles were “bigger than Jesus.”
  41. Shirley Temple wanted to hear the album before she allowed her image to be used on the cover.
  42. In 2008, the famous drum skin featured on the front of the album sold for a whopping $1 million.
  43. The album artwork cost £3000 to produce. The standard cost for album artwork at the time was around £50.
  44. In 1967 you could pick up a copy of the album for £1.50.
  45. Engineer Geoff Emerick estimates that Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band took close to 700 hours to record.
  46. The BBC banned A Day In The Life and Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds because it didn’t want to promote drug use.
  47. Incredibly (or maybe not), religious groups attacked Shes Leaving Home for its alleged promotion of abortion.
  48. David Crosby from The Byrds brought a tape of Sgt. Pepper’s to his band’s hotel whilst on tour, and played it in the lobby all night long.
  49. The album’s success was unprecedented, selling an incredible 250,000 in the first seven days and 2.5 million copies in the first three months. It has sold over 32 million copies worldwide to date.
  50. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was the best-selling album of the 1960s.

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