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For those of you who read the news today and thought “oh boy”, here’s a fun distraction: This year/month marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles game-changing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, culminating in a re-mastered release of the record as well as an hour-long PBS documentary premiering Saturday, June 3rd at 8 p.m. ET.
Here are thoughts from the Fab Four themselves, as well as other artists, on the record that re-imagined pop music.
“The big influence was Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys. I just thought, Oh dear me. This is the album of all time. What the hell are we going to do?” — Paul McCartney
Sgt. Pepper’s origin story
“We were fed up with being Beatles…we’d now got turned on to pot and thought of ourselves as artists rather than just performers… then suddenly on the plane, I got this idea. I thought, Let’s not be ourselves. Let’s develop alter egos so we’re not having to project an image which we know.” — Paul McCartney
Just say no
“I never took it [LSD] in the studio. We didn’t really shove the LP full of pot and drugs. We were more consciously trying to keep it out. You wouldn’t say, ‘I had some acid, baby, so groovy,’ but there was a feeling that something had happened between Revolver and Sgt. Pepper.’” — John Lennon
Lucy was really a girl named Lucy
“People later thought ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ was LSD. I swear– we didn’t notice that when it first came out.” — Paul McCartney
Urge to innovate
“When I first started in the music business, the ultimate aim for everybody was to try and recreate, on record, a live performance as accurately as possible. Without being too pompous, we decided to go into another kind of art form, where we are devising something that couldn’t be done any other way. We were putting something down on tape that could only be done on tape.” — producer, George Martin
“The night we went to record ‘Fixing A Hole’ a guy turned up at my house who announced himself as Jesus. So I took him to the session. You know — couldn’t harm, I thought. Introduced Jesus to the guys. Quite reasonable about it. But that was it. Last we ever saw of Jesus.” — Paul McCartney
No clue what come next
“Now that we only play in the studios, and not anywhere else, we have less of a clue what we’re going to do. Nobody knows what the tunes sound like until we’ve recorded them and listen to them afterward.” — George Harrison
“[Ringo] Starr is vastly underrated. The drum fills on the song ‘A Day In The Life’ are very complex things. You could take a great drummer today and say ‘I want it like that.’ He wouldn’t know what to do.” — Phil Collins
“A Day In The Life” was not a typical day in the life
“Brian Jones and Marianne Faithfull were in attendance, along with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Donovan and Mike Nesmith, while a 40-piece orchestra, wearing funny hats and clown noses, generated a tremendous orchestral tsunami the likes of which had never been heard before – certainly not on a pop record.” — journalist Darryn King
The concept that wasn’t a concept
“’Sgt. Pepper is called the first concept album, but it doesn’t go anywhere. All my contributions to the album have absolutely nothing to do with this idea of Sgt. Pepper and his band, but it works, because we said it worked, and that’s how the album appeared. But it was not put together as it sounds, except for Sgt. Pepper introducing Billy Shears and the so-called reprise. Every other song could have been on any other album.” — John Lennon
George wasn’t so curious
“I felt we were just in the studio to make the next record, and Paul was going on about this idea of some fictitious band. That side of it didn’t really interest me. The trips to India had really opened me up…I’d been let out of the confines of the group, and it was difficult for me to come back into the sessions…It was a job, like doing something I didn’t really want to do, and I was losing interest in being ‘fab’ at that point.” — George Harrison
Who invited these people?
“I still have no idea who chose some of those people [on the cover]. I think [artist]Peter Blake put a lot of the more confusing people in there. The ones I wanted were people I admired. I didn’t put anybody on there because I didn’t like them (unlike some people…)” — George Harrison
Keith just can’t
“If you’re the Beatles in the ’60s, you just get carried away — you forget what it is you wanted to do. You’re starting to do Sgt. Pepper. Some people think it’s a genius album, but I think it’s a mishmash of rubbish, kind of like Satanic Majesties — ‘Oh, if you can make a load of shit, so can we.'” — Keith Richards
John’s dark side
“It is a diary form of writing. All that ‘I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved’ was me. I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically… any woman. I was a hitter. I couldn’t express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women. That is why I am always on about peace, you see. It is the most violent people who go for love and peace.” — John Lennon
A little help from John’s hand
“I think that was probably the best of our songs that we wrote for Ringo actually. I remember giggling with John as we wrote the lines, ‘What do you see when you turn out the light/ I can’t tell you but I know it’s mine.’ It could have been him playing with his willie under the covers…” — Paul McCartney