The Beatles – ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’
  • Writers: John Lennon & Paul McCartney
  • Producer: George Martin
  • Recorded: February and March 1967 at Abbey Road Studios, London
  • Players:
    Paul McCartney — vocal, lead guitar, bass
    John Lennon — backing vocals
    George Harrison — guitar, vocals
    Ringo Starr — drums
    Session players — horns
  • Album: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Capitol, 1967)
  • Also On:
    The Beatles 1967-1970 (Apple, 1973)
    The Beatles Anthology 2 (Apple, 1996)
  • The song “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was actually written and recorded before the Beatles latched onto it as the theme for their most famous album. Producer George Martin remembered, “When we had finished it, Paul (McCartney) said, ‘Why don’t we make the album as though the Pepper band really existed, as though Sgt. Pepper was making the record?’ I loved the idea, and from that moment, it was as though ‘Pepper’ had a life of its own.”
  • John Lennon, however, never bought into the idea of Sgt. Pepper as a concept album. “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 ’cause we said it worked.”
  • McCartney said the “Billy Shears” name used for the singer of the Lonely Hearts Club Band was pure chance, and had no grounding outside of the song.
  • At the suggestion of road manager Neil Aspinall, the group recorded a reprise of “Sgt. Pepper” on April 1st, 1967, in order to close the thematic circle on the album.
  • During the infamous “Paul Is Dead” rumor of 1969, “Billy Shears” was said to be the name of McCartney’s replacement in the band.
  • Longtime Beatles assistant Mal Evans received some of the songwriting royalties from the track but no credit, and it’s unclear what his contribution actually was.
  • The “Sgt. Pepper” characters popped up in the animated film Yellow Submarine.
  • Though widely played on the radio, “Sgt. Pepper” was not released as a single in 1967. In fact, no songs from the album were released as singles at the time.
  • The album took more than 700 hours to record at a cost of more than $75,000, both of which were astronomical figures in 1967.
  • There were advance orders of more than a million copies for the Sgt. Pepper album in the U.S., and it sold more than 2.5 million copies in its first three months of release.
  • The album spent 15 weeks at Number One on the Billboard 200 and a combined 113 weeks on the chart.
  • The Sgt. Pepper album entered the British chart at Number One, selling more than 250,000 copies in its first week.
  • Sgt. Pepper has sold over 11 million copies in the U.S. since its release.

FAST FORWARD:

  • The song and album became the subject of a 1978 film starring Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees, with cameos by Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, and Earth, Wind & Fire. The film was a bomb.
  • In August 1978, in an attempt to cash in on the ill-fated movie, the Beatles’ label Capitol/EMI released a single of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band/With A Little Help From My Friends” backed with “A Day In The Life.” The single peaked at Number 71.
  • McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr performed “Sgt. Pepper” at the May 19th, 1979, wedding reception for Eric Clapton and Patti Harrison, who was George’s ex-wife.
  • McCartney also performed the song on his 1989-1990 world tour, and on subsequent tours.

McCartney opened the July 2005 Live 8 concert in Hyde Park in London by performing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” with U2.