The Beatles were an English band whose members were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Richard Starkey “Ringo Starr”, founded in 1962 and split up in 1970. During 1962-1970 they published thirteen studio albums, fifty five singles and several Eps. It has been supposed that more than two hundred and twenty songs has been published, although the exact number of songs is unknown, because until 1967, they published different albums in UK and USA, plus the songs that appeared in “Anthology”, songs in the singles, BBC Sessions and other songs published without permission, the bootlegs. They have sold more than one billion albums worldwide. This is, without any doubt, the most important and influential album of the band, and was released when the most important markets (UK and USA) were unified, because until that moment, different albums were released for each of them. Moreover, the end of the touring era (1963-1966), made that the group could focus on working in the studio, using techniques that were very difficult, if not impossible, to do live. The album was an idea from Paul. While flying back London from USA thought it would be funny to create a fictional band, which was about to released their first album, and get away a little from the concept of The Beatles up to that moment. Later, in 1969, the fictional band would appear in the film “Yellow Submarine”. The project got five hundred thousand pounds, needed five months of work in the studio, plus an indian band and The London Philharmonic Orchestra.
The first thing that came to the listener is the cover of the album, imitated or parodied many times since then. The group appears around loads of famous people, and was created by Peter Blake. And there is the first time that John Lennon wears his famous glasses. The small book that is inside of the album is also revolutionary, because, for the first time, lyrics are published. Furthermore, there are several things to cut. The Beatles also thought to put a small box with crayons and badges, but the idea was dropped.
The album also is important because all the innovative techniques in quality and way of recording, putting EMI advanced equipment to the limit.
The album could be perfect if they had decided to include in it the single “Strawberry Fields/Penny Lane”, released before of the album, to get an opinion from the public.
And now, the analysis of each song of the album.
01 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
The song that opens the album, written and composed by Paul. In it, the fictional band is presented, which is leaded by Billy Shears, and they thank the audience for coming to the concert. Two points to highlate: George Harrison way of playing and the atmosphere of being in a room in front of a waiting audience.
02 With A Little Help From My Friends
As almost every Beatle album, Ringo Starr had always a song sung by him, written and composed by John, by Paul or by both. In “The White Album” and “Abbey Road” he would sing his own songs. The song continues from the last chords of 01, without any cut between them. The cover that Joe Cocker recorded of this song put him straight to number one in charts. The theme of the song is a man who is missing the woman he loves and asks for help to his friends to cope with that situation.
03 Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
One day, Julian Lennon, the child that John had with his first wife, Cynthia, came back home from kindergarten with a drawing of his friend Lucy and showed it to his father, saying to him “Look, It’s Lucy in the sky with diamonds”. From the drawing and a poem written by Lewis Carroll (author of “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland” and “Through The Looking Glass And What Alice Found There”), John Lennon wrote and composed the song, which is about a trip of Lucy through a world made of paper. IN 1974, during excavations in Ethopia, an skeleton of a female “Australopithecus afarensis” was discovered while the song was played in the site, and it was named “Lucy”.
04 Getting Better
The title of the song comes from a sentence that was given as an answer Jimmy Nicols, a drummer who substituted Ringo Starr for a week, during the 1964’s tour, when the rest of the group asked him how everything was going. In 1967, while going for a walk with his dog Martha (“Martha My Dear”, The White Album), Paul McCartney remembered the sentence and told John that it could be a good title. Things to highlate: George Harrison playing tamboura, an indian instrument, and the piano played by George Martin. There are three themes in the song: the hate towards school, the feeling about knowing nothing about the world and the treatment of the unknown narrator towards his wife.
05 Fixing A Hole
This song was recorded in Regent Studios, because Abbey Road was booked for another group. The theme of the song is very simple: a hole in the road which receives a lot of water; a hole in a wall waiting to be painted from which water comes in. Point to highlate: George Martin playing clavichord.
06 She Is Leaving Home
A song based on a real fact. The 27th February of 1967, Paul saw in the “Daily Mirror” a new that paid his attention: Melanie Coe, a seventeen years old girl, from a high social status, left her parent’s house, because she was pregnant from her boyfriend, and she was afraid of the reaction of her parents. A month later, she came back home, and she aborted. The curious thing is that in 1964, Paul gave her an award, when she won the show “Ready, Steady, Go!”, in which she mimed the song “Let’s Jump The Broomstick”, recorded by Brenda Lee.
07 Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite
This song has its inspiration from an old circus poster that John saw (and bought) in an antiquity shop (there are loads of them in UK). Almost the complete lyrics of the song are in the poster, except some changes made by Lennon to rhyme. Here you can see the poster, and John Lennon next to it. http://www.ringlingdocents.org/Mr.Kite.htmThere is an improved version of the song in the album “Love” (2006), which is the soundtrack of the show of the same name of “Cirque Du Soleil”.
08 Within You, Without You
This song was written and composed by George Harrison. The rest of the band did not play in it. Just himself with an indian band, which plays an adapted melody of Harrison by George Martin. Harrison wrote and composed it when he was with the house of his friend Klaus Voorman (who did the covers of “Revolver”, “Anthology” and played bass with the different members of the band, once split up). The theme of the song is peace, love, and the distance between people, physically and emotionally.
09 When I’m Sixty Four
This song has its origins in a visit of Paul McCartney to the doctor, after some breathing problems derived from LSD. The doctor said to him that living that way he will not be seventy years old. In the song, Paul sees himself with sixty four years old, deteriorated, with a house in the island of Wight, with three grandchildren (Vera, Chuck and Dave), taking care of his garden, with his wife Linda, who takes care of him in his elderly years. Now, he is older than in the song, and the future of the song is very different to the real future. Linda died of breast cancer in 1998 and the rest is known….
10 Lovely Rita
The song was inspired by the “meter-maids”, a word not very known at the time in UK, referring to female traffic wardens. Paul McCartney, who wrote and composed the song, imagined himself being in love with a “meter maid”. Another story, never confirmed or denied by Paul, says that a “meter maid”, was about to put a fine on his car, when Paul came out from Abbey Road Studios to stop her. She recognized him, fined him and the next thing she did was to ask Paul for an autograph. Finally, Paul promised her to write a song with her name.
11 Good Morning, Good Morning
The inspiration of this song came from a Kellogg’s advertisement which said “good morning, good morning, the best for you and for me”. Musically is not a great song, but there is a lot of work of production in it. The wind tract gives the song its characteristic style. Other point in the song is the order of animal sounds, there are not chaotic. The sound of each animal had to appear in a way each animal is running in front of the next one.
12 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
This is a cut from 01, which was recorded the last. The fictional band says “bye” to their audience in less than two minutes.
13 A Day In The Life:
The most important song of the album. At that point in their musical career, it could be said that it is one of the last songs written and composed by John and Paul together. John had an incomplete song and Paul another incomplete song that could fill the space of John’s song. The truth is, even if the listener knows that in some moment it was two different songs, nowadays is nearly impossible to imagine one without the other and no other “filling song” could make an union between John’s song that Paul’s one.
John’s part starts and ends the song. The lyrics of the song have its origins in January 1967, from different sources: Man Who Blew His Mind: Tara Browne, aged 21, grandson of Edward Cecil Guinness (the famous Irish beer businessman) died in a car crash on 18th December of 1966. Tara was a friend of the band, but John did not take everything about the accident. According to John “Tara did not blow his mind. But that was exactly I was thinking about when I was writing that verse”. Although the accident took place in December, the official investigation was not published until January, when John read about it in the newspapers. I Saw A Film Today: John recorded the film “How I Won The War” in Almería, Spain. The film represents him as a British soldier winning the Vietnam War. Although the film was not released until October 1967, several articles were written about it before. Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancanshire: On 17th January 1967, an article was published saying that according to Blackburn town hall, there were 1/26 hole for each people living in the town. The reference to the Royal Albert Hall is just a way to rhyme with “small”.
Paul’s part took its inspiration from his school days, when he used to take the bus and smoke cigarettes on the way. In 1968, he admitted that the part which refers to “turn on”, was a direct reference to marihuana, and it’s the only reference to that drug in the album.
The musical part of the song is even more interesting than the origin of the lyrics. It is necessary to know the different stages of them to understand the whole process. Paul and John had already put together their songs, although the lyrics of Paul’s part were not finished. They even did not know what to put between verses two and three. But both agreed that beat must be 24. Mal Evans was in charge of counting them (if you listen carefully, you can listen him counting). An alarm clock was programmed to warn The Beatles when to record Paul’s part. John’s voice was echoed, even to his earphones, in a way to give him about the effect on the track.
Then, Paul had the idea about asking forty members of The London Philarmonic Orchestra to play on the track, playing an instrumental part composed by George Martin. Every of them had to start in the lowest sound possible and going “in crescendo” for 24 beats, ending in a certain sound. George Martin put 4 times, the part, just to feel that a complete orchestra of 160 members was playing.
The last chord of the song was played in three pianos by George, John, Paul and Mal Evans, the longest they could, ending with the same sound of the orchestra. In the part, George Martin played a clavichord. The result, after nine takes, was a chord of fifty three seconds. With nowadays technology, the chord is longer, and, as Geoff Emerick said in 1987, when the album was released in CD, they could made it longer.
Finally, it was John’s idea to put (only in the first British edition of the album), a dog whistle to warn animals. An 15Khz sound was added and some of the listeners could hear it. The strange sounds at the end of the album were recorded in a way to oblige people to use automatic Lps players. There were rumours about that sounds were a secret message, but there’s nothing to understand there. That sounds were included in the CD release in 1987.
Any band, nowadays, only would need this album to be in the music history. The Beatles would continue to record, even in 1967 they released another album, “Magical Mystery Tour”. Although it seems it is a band that works together, that is not true. John Lennon and George Harrison started their solo careers in 1968, and tensions between the members started to increase with some reasons: Brian Epstein death, bad management, Zapple Records, Apple Store, changes in production, George Harrison being disappointed because he could not publish his songs, and the inclusion of partners in the studio, led to the split up of the band in 1970, when every member was already record on his own. Without The Beatles, it would be very difficult to understand nowadays music.