It was 50 years ago today, (Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play) and The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band–widely regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time. In the next four decades, it had sold more than 32 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling LPs in history. Their eighth studio album, it was lauded for its innovations in music production, songwriting and graphic design; for pioneering the idea of a concept album; and for providing a musical representation of youth counterculture during the 1967 Summer of Love—it was #1 on the charts for the entire summer. WATCH the new Beatles Anniversary Edition trailer… (1967)
Knowing they would not need to perform the tracks live (having recently quit touring), The Fab Four pushed beyond the technological progression achieved with their 1966 album Revolver. They adopted an experimental approach to composition and recording on songs such as “With a Little Help from My Friends”, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “A Day in the Life”.
Recorded over a 129-day period, producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick’s innovative work on the album included the liberal application of sound shaping signal processing and the use of a 40-piece orchestra performing aleatoric crescendos. The album also incorporated a range of stylistic influences, including vaudeville, circus, avant-garde, and Western and Indian music, which offered sounds and textures not usually associated with popular music.
It was Paul’s idea to build the album around alter egos. Martin explains, “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.”
Critics hailed it immediately as a cultural turning point that elevated pop music to the level of fine art. 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.” Time magazine declared it “a historic departure in the progress of music – any music”. Newsweek called it a “masterpiece”, and The New York Times Book Review characterized it as a harbinger of a “golden Renaissance of Song”. It won four Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year–the first rock LP to receive the honor.
To mark the occasion, The Beatles have released a Super Deluxe Edition 4-disk box set of the music with extras, like 33 tracks from the Sgt. Pepper sessions that place you in the studio as the group develop the songs, a documentary DVD of The Making of Sgt. Pepper, including interviews with Paul, George and Ringo, and a 144-page hardback book. (WATCH the trailer below)
MORE Good News on this Day in History:
- Give Peace a Chance, the anti-war protest song, was recorded by John Lennon and Yoko Ono at a hotel during their Bed-In for Peace –See more below (1969)
- The Heimlich maneuver for rescuing choking victims was published in the journal Emergency Medicine (1974)
- The Cable News Network (CNN) began broadcasting and for the first time Americans could watch news updates 24 hours a day (1980)
- U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush joined the leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, signing a treaty to end chemical weapons production and destroy their nation’s stockpiles (1990)
And, Happy Birthday to Morgan Freeman who turns 80 years old today. Acting since he was in junior high school, Freeman won an Academy Award for his role in Million Dollar Baby, and wide acclaim for performances in Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank Redemption, Glory, Unforgiven, Bruce Almighty, and The Dark Knight. Known for his distinctively smooth, deep voice, he got his first acting gig as a cast member in the 1970s children’s program The Electric Company. Today, Freeman is ranked the 3rd highest Hollywood box office star because his films earned over $4.316 billion in total gross receipts. (1937)
*Early in the bed-in, a reporter asked John what he was trying to do. Lennon said, “All we are saying is, ‘Give peace a chance’.” He liked the phrase and set it to music, singing the song several times during the week-long bed-in. Finally, on June 1st, he rented an 8-track tape machine from a local music store and recorded it while still in the bed. The recording session (published under the name Plastic Ono Band) was attended by dozens of journalists and various celebrities, including Timothy Leary and Dick Gregory. John was joined on acoustic guitar by Tommy Smothers of the Smothers Brothers and everyone joined in on vocals for the chorus. Meanwhile, room 1742 of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal is their most frequently requested room. (Photo Created By Roy Kerwood, CC)