Mono and stereo variations
The only real version of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the mono version. The Beatles were there for all the mono mixes. Then, after the album was finished, George Martin, Geoff Emerick and I did the stereo in a few days, just the three of us, without a Beatle in sight. There are all sorts of things on the mono, little effects here and there, which the stereo doesn’t have.
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn
The differences include the following:
- ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’: there is more prominent lead guitar towards the end (mono).
- ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’: the mono mix is a semitone lower, and consequently slower; the mono version uses a phasing effect on John Lennon’s vocals in the chorus.
- ‘She’s Leaving Home’: the mono mix is a semitone higher, increasing the song’s tempo.
- ‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!’: brighter sounding ending, with more echo, in the stereo mix.
- ‘Within You Without You’: louder laughter in the mono mix.
- ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)’: slight delay between the hen’s cluck and George Harrison’s guitar at the beginning (mono); more prominent crowd noise at the beginning (stereo); Paul McCartney’s ad-libbed vocals at the end are louder (mono).
- ‘A Day In The Life’: the crossfade on the stereo mix adds a bar of crowd noise between ‘Sgt Pepper (Reprise)’ and this song. On the mono version the transition is instant.
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in the United Kingdom on 1 June 1967, as Parlophone PMC 7027 (mono) and PCS 7027 (stereo).
The album spent a total of 148 weeks on the charts from 3 June 1967; it debuted at number eight on pre-orders alone. It topped the charts for a total of 27 weeks – 23 consecutive weeks from 10 June; 1 week from 25 November; two weeks from 23 December; and a final week from 3 February 1968.
In the US it was released on 2 June 1967, a day after the UK first heard it. It spent 88 consecutive weeks in the Billboard 200, during which time it spent 15 weeks at number one, and in total spent 175 weeks on the chart.
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band sold 11 million copies in the US, and 30 million worldwide.
The album won four Grammy Awards in 1968, for Album of the Year, Best Contemporary Album, Best Album Cover (Graphic Arts) and Best Engineered Recording (Non-Classical). It was nominated for three further awards: Best Group Vocal Performance, Best Contemporary Vocal Group, and Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) – the latter for ‘A Day In The Life’.
In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Sgt Pepper at number one in its poll of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Sgt Pepper’s legacy
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band remains one of the most influential rock records of all time. Upon its release Newsweek compared it to ‘The Waste Land’ by TS Eliot, and in The Times critic Kenneth Tynan famously called it “a decisive moment in the history of Western civilisation”.
The New York Times was less positive. Its critic Richard Goldstein wrote: “Like an over-attended child, Sergeant Pepper is spoiled. It reeks of horns and harps, harmonica quartets, assorted animal noises, and a 41-piece orchestra”. He added that it was an “album of special effects, dazzling but ultimately fraudulent, though described ‘A Day In The Life’ as “a deadly earnest excursion in emotive music with a chilling lyric,” which “stands as one of the most important Lennon-McCartney compositions, and it is a historic Pop event.”
Frank Zappa parodied the cover on The Mothers Of Invention’s album We’re Only In It For The Money, on which he mocked The Beatles for cynically exploiting the flower power period for their own gain.
It was viewed more favourably by Jimi Hendrix, whom performed the title track at the Roundhouse, London, three days after the album was released. In the audience that night were Paul McCartney and George Harrison. Hendrix also performed the song at the Isle Of Wight Festival in 1970.
The album also inspired a 1978 musical feature film, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, starring Peter Frampton, the Bee Gees, Frankie Howerd and Steve Martin.
The influence of Sgt Pepper endures well into the 21st century, with numerous parodies, tributes and cover versions.
For The Beatles themselves, it was harder to escape the album’s legacy. Magical Mystery Tour was made in the same heady spirit, but for their next long-player, the eponymous release commonly known as the White Album, gone were psychedelia, elaborate artwork and much of their enthusiasm for collaboration.
Looking back on Pepper, you can see it was quite an icon. It was the record of that time, and it probably did change the face of recording, but we didn’t do it consciously. I think there was a gradual development by the boys, as they tried to make life a bit more interesting on record. They felt: ‘We don’t have to go up onstage and do this; we can do it just for ourselves, and just for the studio.’ So it became a different kind of art form – like making a film rather than a live performance. That affected their thinking and their writing, and it affected the way I put it together, too.
I think Pepper did represent what the young people were on about, and it seemed to coincide with the revolution in young people’s thinking. It was the epitome of the Swinging Sixties. It linked up with Mary Quant and miniskirts and all those things – the freedom of sex, the freedom of soft drugs like marijuana and so on.