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Music / Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

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"Having been some days in preparation, a splendid time is guaranteed for all."

"Remember, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is The Beatles."
Tagline from the album's advertising campaign.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is the eighth studio album by The Beatles, released in 1967. It is a loose Concept Album, that sees The Beatles performing as the fictitious band of the album's title.

Initially inspired by Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys and the work of Frank Zappa, with bassist Paul McCartney even dubbing the album the Beatles' equivalent of Zappa's Freak Out (incidentally, it and Pet Sounds were both released in 1966), Sgt. Pepper in turn inspired many parodies and shout-outs over the years (Zappa would repay the initial homage with his Sgt. Pepper parody We're Only in It for the Money), as well as a 1978 cinematic flop starring The Bee Gees and Peter Frampton.

Its release is viewed as a watershed moment in rock history, marking the point where the genre finally reached maturity and was taken seriously by the musical establishment. It's also considered the first album to be presented as an artistic whole, rather than just a collection of tunes. Its release also marked the symbolic kickoff of 1967's "Summer of Love", when the various strands of the counterculture (anti-war protests, anti-materialism, spiritualism, psychedelic drugs) united into a powerful (if short-lived) movement, with this album as one of its main flagships. Oh, it made huge piles of money too (spending 27 weeks — more than half a year — atop the UK album chart, and 15 weeks at #1 in the US). This was also the first Beatles album to have the same track listing for the British and American releases.

Since mono record players were much more common than stereo in the mid-60s, the Beatles and producer George Martin paid much more attention to the mono mix of the album, with the result that the stereo mix was a bit skimpy, with lots of Gratuitous Panningnote . This was rectified in 2017 with the release of a brand new mix from the original four-track tapes supervised by Giles Martin, George's son (George himself had passed away the year before). This used sophisticated software to isolate each instrument on tapes where they'd all been bounced down onto a single track and achieve modern-sounding stereo separation. It was also issued in a deluxe edition which included previously unreleased outtakes, bonus tracks, the 2009 mono remaster, and DVD bonus content as well as replicas of the original 1967 LP's Feelies.

A splendid time is guaranteed for all.


Side One
  1. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (2:02)
  2. "With a Little Help from My Friends" (2:44)
  3. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" (3:28)
  4. "Getting Better" (2:48)
  5. "Fixing a Hole" (2:36)
  6. "She's Leaving Home" (3:35)
  7. "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" (2:37)

Side Two

  1. "Within You Without You" (5:04)
  2. "When I'm Sixty-Four" (2:37)
  3. "Lovely Rita" (2:42)
  4. "Good Morning Good Morning" (2:41)
  5. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)" (1:19)
  6. "A Day in the Life" (5:39?)note 

Principal Members:

  • George Harrison - lead and backing vocals, guitar, sitar, tamboura, harmonica, kazoo, maracas
  • John Lennon - lead and backing vocals, guitar, piano, organ, harmonica, percussion, tambourine, maracas, sound effects
  • Paul McCartney - lead and backing vocals, bass, guitar, piano, organ, percussion, sound effects
  • Ringo Starr - lead and backing vocals, drums, harmonica, piano, congas, tambourine, maracas, chimes

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is the Trope Namer for:

"We're Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, we hope you will enjoy the tropes":

  • Aborted Arc: Apart from the Intro, the introduction of Ringo Starr in the persona of "Billy Shears" at the start of "With a Little Help from My Friends", and the Reprise, the album largely ignores the "concept" of the Sergeant and his band.
  • Alice Allusion: John Lennon was a huge fan of Lewis Carroll. He said that "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was inspired by the novel. Incidentally, Carroll also appears on the album cover.
  • Alter-Ego Acting: Paul devised a concept of the Beatles recording the album as if they were the fictional Sgt. Pepper's band, in an attempt to get the Beatles to rethink how they were going to work in the studio, and to escape the expectations of Beatlemania and start anew. The façade was somewhat abandoned as the songs took shape — aside from the title song, its reprise, and "With a Little Help from My Friends" — but the album was still shaped by the idea of abandoning their pop-star personae and doing things in the studio that The Beatles wouldn't be expected to do.
  • Bookends: The title track and its reprise (with "A Day in the Life" being an encore)
  • Boring, but Practical: The line about "4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire" was inspired by a newspaper article. Lennon was really flabbergasted that someone would spend his time on counting the number of potholes he could find in a city's roads. The boring activity did inspire one of the best songs on the album, though.
  • Broken Record: The inner groove of the record, typically left silent because record players without an automatic needle return will repeat it forever until manually stopped, instead has a jarring combination of back-masked sounds and a distorted Paul saying "never could be any other way."
  • Brown Note: After "A Day in the Life", there is a high-frequency 15 kilohertz tone and some randomly spliced studio babble, with the tone being identical to a high-pitched dog whistle that only dogs and cats can hear, but normally inaudible to the human ears. Paul McCartney recalled: "Imagine there are people sitting around and they think the album's finished and then suddenly the dog starts barking and no one will know what the heck's happened."
  • But Now I Must Go: The reprise of the title track.
    We're Sgt. Peppers' Lonely Hearts Club Band / We're sorry, but it's time to go.
  • Call-Back and Continuity Nod:
    • Paul sings I'm taking the time for a number of things that weren't important yesterday in "Fixing a Hole", which sounds like a subtle Call-Back to his hit "Yesterday" from Help!.
    • "Getting Better" calls back to the "hide your head in the sand" line in "Run for Your Life" from Rubber Soul.
  • Call-and-Response Song: "With a Little Help from My Friends" and "Getting Better".
  • Captain Obvious: "Well I don't want to stop the show / But we thought you'd all like to know / That the singer's going to sing a song." (The show in question is a concert. That's right. He interrupted a concert to let everyone know that the singer would be singing. Even if it was done for a rhyme - "And he wants you all to sing along" and the supposed lead singer of Sgt. Pepper's band was playing drums up to that point, it's a pretty obvious line).
  • Circus Episode: A musical version with "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!", when John Lennon found an old 19th-century poster for Pablo Fanque's Circus Royal, with Mr. Kite at Bishopsgate jumping over men, horses, hoops and garters, through a flaming hoop, accompanied by the Hendersons and Henry the waltzing horse. The song incorporates four different kinds of musical organs, with calliope music spliced in after John told George Martin that he wanted the song to have a carnival atmosphere, yearning to "smell the sawdust on the floor".
  • Comedic Sociopathy: In-universe, the singer of "A Day in the Life" admits to finding some unpleasant news in the paper funny.
    And though the news was rather sad / Well, I just had to laugh / I saw the photograph.
  • Concept Album: Besides the title tracks, it attempts to be like a concert. The concept was that The Beatles were pretending to be another band and doing the kind of songs that that band would do instead of just making an album as themselves. Although there is intense debate over whether it actually is a concept album proper, since apart from the two title songs and "With a Little Help from My Friends" the concept of 'the fictional band's concert' doesn't really develop much further; Lennon himself said that he wasn't working to this idea and that his songs, at least, could have easily gone on any other album, but that "it works because we said it worked." There was some speculation, given the Liverpool-influenced "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" (both of which were intended for the album) that the original concept was meant to be about Liverpool and childhood nostalgia, but this was denied by the band.
  • Contemplative Boss: On the back cover Paul stands with his back to the viewer.
  • Creator Cameo: Wax statues of The Beatles themselves (in their mop-top outfits) can be seen on the left side of the album cover.
  • Day in the Life: "A Day in the Life"invoked
  • "Days of the Week" Song: "She's Leaving Home" (Wednesday and Friday only).
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The album cover is very much the Trope Codifier, so full of details that you never get tired of looking at it. It was designed by pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth from an ink drawing by Paul. Robert Fraser did the art direction and Michael Cooper the photography.
  • Domestic Abuse: "Getting Better": "I used be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved/Man I was mean, but I'm changing my scene and I'm doing the best that I can."
  • Dual-Meaning Chorus: "With a Little Help from My Friends". Its chorus ("I get high with a little help from my friends") is either about the euphoria one feels when with friends or about how you can smoke pot with them.
  • Echoing Acoustics: The majority of the album was recorded in the gymnasium-like Studio 2 at Abbey Road, and you can hear its cavernous acoustics throughout. Many of the vocals sound like they were recorded in a cathedral.
  • Exactly Exty Years Ago: According to the title track, "it was twenty years ago today / That Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play."
  • Face on the Cover: A group shot of the band, although as noted, they have a lot of company.
  • Fading into the Next Song: Both the title track and the reprise do this to the song that follows.note 
  • Fake Band: This is supposedly an album by "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". The Beatles even changed their image to look like another band with their old selves as part of the crowd on the cover to boot.
  • Falling Bass: The verse of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" has a version that skips from the first to the third note in the usual sequence.
  • Feelies: Some original LPs shipped with various thematic props such as cutout masks and badges designed by the Beatles themselves. The original idea was to include a baggie with (presumably already cut-out) badges, little pencils, and other trinkets; but would have proven too expensive.
  • Fleeting Demographic Rule: Variation. Before this album, The Beatles had been putting out albums and touring almost unendingly, and they were feeling burnt out. So, from this album onward, they decided to stop touring and take their time working on the album instead of working as hectically as they had been. However, since that meant the album took much longer to be completed and the band wasn't making any official public appearances during the process, the perceived decreased productivity of the band in the public's eye led critics to declare that the band was officially dead. These people were proven to be very wrong.
  • Fourth Wall Greeting: "We're Sgt. Peppers' Lonely Hearts Club Band/ we hope you will enjoy the show."
  • Friendship Song: "With a Little Help From My Friends".
  • The Future Will Be Better: "Getting Better".
    I have to admit it's getting better, a little better all the time
    It can't get no worse.
  • Genre Roulette: Music hall, jazz, rock and roll, classical music, Indian music, proto-Brass Rock...
  • Gratuitous German: At the end of "Good Morning Good Morning".
  • Grief Song: "She's Leaving Home".
  • Grow Old with Me: "When I'm Sixty-Four" (now consider the fact that Paul McCartney got divorced shortly before his 64th birthday).
  • Hell Is That Noise: "A Day in the Life". Twice. Especially noticeable in Mono, because it's impossible to tell exactly when it starts - it just emerges from the background.
  • Hermit Guru: "Within You Without You", which has philosophical lyrics that, due to the sitar arrangement, come across as the wise teachings of an Indian guru.
  • Hidden Track: "Inner Groove" on British editions was made by having an endless loop of laughter and gibberish right at the end in the inner groove where the vinyl needle stops, designed to play forever until the needle was lifted, or the turntable was equipped with an automatic return. Some fans consider it a coda to the preceding song "A Day in the Life" and CD versions append it to the end of that song.
  • Hiroshima as a Unit of Measure: The lyrics to "A Day in the Life" are the reason why some people use the Albert Hall as a measure of comparative volume.
  • Hulk Speak: The second verse of "Getting Better".
    Me used to be angry young man
    Me hiding me head in the sandnote 
  • Iconic Outfit: The marching band outfits from the cover.
  • In the Style of: It has many examples.
    • The title track is partly in the style of Jimi Hendrix and partly in the style of British brass band music.
    • "Within You Without You" is in the style of Hindustani classical music, or as close as they could get to that style without having a 15+-minute improvisation in the middle.
    • "She's Leaving Home" is in the style of a 19th-century parlour song.
    • "Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite" is in the style of a 19th/early 20th-century music hall song.
    • "Good Morning Good Morning" is in the style of mutated R&B.
    • The orchestral freakouts in "A Day in the Life" are very much in the style of late 60s avant-garde music, especially the improvising group AMM, one of whose concerts Paul had attended.note 
  • Incredibly Long Note: The end of "A Day in the Life" has all four of the Beatles striking a final E major chord on a piano that lasts 45 seconds.
    • During recording, as the piano faded Lennon turned the gain up so that it remained audible for longer. (If you listen closely to a high-quality recording, you can hear rustling papers and a chair being moved.)
  • Intercourse with You: At the end of "Lovely Rita".
  • I Will Find You: The protagonist in "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" searches for the girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes and finds her in the end.
  • Kaleidoscope Eyes: "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is the trope namer.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "Within You Without You" ends with crying/laughter coming out of nowhere. "A Day in the Life" ends with an orchestra exploding, a long note fading out and a loop of one line repeated forever.
  • Leave the Camera Running: The album ends with one of the first "hidden tracks", a collection of backward studio chatter. Although the CD version simply repeats the chatter a few times before fading out, the original LP placed the chatter in the record's run-out groove, meaning it could hypothetically repeat endlessly (at least, until either the stylus or the record wore itself out), or until the listener got up and manually turned the stereo off if their turntable didn't stop automatically at the end of each side.
  • Longest Song Goes Last: The album closes with "A Day In The Life", which is supposed to be 5:39 but on LP releases technically lasts as long as it takes for the listener to take the needle out of the looping runout groove.
  • Long Title: "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" is such a long title that people usually refer to it as "Sgt. Pepper's".
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Getting Better", and the opening of "Good Morning Good Morning"
  • Match Cut: The rooster crowing in "Good Morning Good Morning" to the guitar of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise)".
  • Mind Screw:
    I'm fixing a hole, when the rain gets in/ to stop my mind from wandering/ where it will go?
  • Mundane Made Awesome: "Fixing a Hole", about fixing a hole in the ceiling because of the rain.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: All the celebrities on the album cover are photographic cardboard cut-outs or wax statues borrowed from Madame Tussauds. EMI took the precaution of asking every living celebrity on the cover for permission to use their image. Only one person complained and asked a fee, actor Leo Gorcey, who was then airbrushed out of the cover. Shirley Temple wanted to hear the album first and Mae West wondered "What would I be doing in a Lonely Hearts Club?", but both eventually agreed to be included.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "A Day in the Life". The whole phrase "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" too.
  • The Not-Remix: The album had a notoriously bad stereo mix, so it was given a brand new stereo mix in 2017 by using software to isolate each instrument and create a modern-sounding stereo composition. The result was very well received.
  • One-Woman Song: "Lovely Rita" and "She's Leaving Home".
  • Overly-Long Gag: The band inserted a short groove containing unintelligible gibberish right at the edge of the side-two label on original UK pressings. For listeners whose turntables did not shut off automatically, this loop would continue endlessly until the needle was lifted from the record.
  • Packaged as Other Medium: The cover makes the Beatles appear as some kind of fanfare band.
  • Pep-Talk Song: "With a Little Help from My Friends" and "Getting Better".
  • The Power of Friendship: "With a Little Help from My Friends".
  • The Power of Love: "Within You Without You" includes the lines that were basically the mission statement for the entire decade of The '60s.
    With our love
    We could save the world
    If they only knew
  • Protest Song: "Within You Without You" protests Western materialism. Could also be interpreted as an example of Capitalism Is Bad (after Harrison wrote "Taxman', a song protesting the UK's then-95% top tax rate, no less).
  • Pun: "She's Leaving Home": The last word in the chant "we gave her anything money could buy" is repeated again after Paul sings the line "she's leaving home after living alone", sounding like the farewell word "good bye".
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite'' was based on the text of an old circus poster. John Lennon regretted it later and felt it was the laziest and worst thing he'd ever written.
  • Recursive Reality: The concept of the album and the cover combine to present an example. The (rough) conceit of the album is that it was recorded by the Beatles pretending to be a completely different band and imagining the kind of concert/album that other bands would perform. To reflect this, "Sgt Pepper's..." appears on the band's drum as is common for a performing band (and was famously done by the Beatles themselves), while "Beatles" appears as a large floral arrangement in front of the band as if it was the title. So are we listening to Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles, or are we actually listening to Beatles by Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band?
  • Remember the New Guy?: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is allegedly "The act you've known for all these years."
  • Ripped from the Headlines:
    • "She's Leaving Home" was based on a story Paul read in the paper about a girl who ran away from her home. "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" was based on a really old headline...specifically, a poster for one Pablo Fanque's fair that John saw in an antique shop. His verses in "A Day in the Life" are similarly based on various newspaper articles.
    • More specifically, the first verse is about the death of London socialite Tara Browne in a drug-fuelled car crash note . The second verse is an allusion to the movie How I Won The War (in which Lennon himself appears). The final verse is referencing a story about potholes in the roads of Blackburn, Lancashire.
    • The name "Sgt. Pepper" came from salt and pepper recipients.
    • "Good Morning Good Morning" was inspired by a Kellogg's Corn Flakes commercial.
  • The Runaway: "She's Leaving Home"
  • Self-Plagiarism: "With a Little Help from My Friends" and "Fixing a Hole" sound very much alike.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The cover:
      • The doll on the far right "salutes The Rolling Stones". The Stones returned the nod with a shout-out to The Beatles on Their Satanic Majesties Request.
      • Lewis Carroll can be seen. Lennon was inspired to write "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds", "I Am The Walrus" and "Cry Baby Cry", all based on imagery from Alice in Wonderland.
      • Marlon Brando is visible in his The Wild One outfit. The band credited this film for giving them their group name, as one of the gangs mentioned in the movie is called "The Beetles".
      • Former bassist of The Beatles Stu Sutcliffe (who died at a young age) is also present.
      • Bob Dylan can be seen on the far upper right. The image used is the same photograph used earlier on the album cover of Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited from 1965. The Beatles were very much inspired by Dylan to improve their song-writing from 1964 on, and there's the famous 1964 meeting between him and the band during which he kindled their fondness for marijuana.
      • Here is a list of everybody on that cover. W. C. Fields is on there!
    • The line "it's time for tea and Meet the Wife" in "Good Morning, Good Morning" refers to the British sitcom Meet the Wife from 1963 to 1966.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and its reprise with "With a Little Help From My Friends" and "A Day In The Life", respectively.
  • Stock Sound Effects:
    • Laughter, applause and rumour during the title track (with the laughter reportedly taken from a Beyond the Fringe cast album).
    • Laughter at the end of "Within You Without You".
    • Animal sounds during "Good Morning Good Morning".
  • Subliminal Seduction: This album, more than any other, has been the source of countless Urban Legend stories about hidden messages that appear in the album artwork, the lyrics and/or the music. For instance, take the inner groove. Specifically, when it's played backwards it sounds remarkably like "I'll fuck you like Superman!" In Many Years from Now Paul McCartney insists that this was accidental. Listen here. The most famous theory is the idea that clues to Paul's supposed death in a car accident are hidden in the album artwork and the music.
  • Throw It In:
    • Almost literally invoked in "Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite!", when after several attempts to devise a suitably circus-sounding bridge by adding tape loops of calliope music, a frustrated George Martin told engineer Geoff Emerick to cut them up into small strips, throw them up in the air and splice them back together at random.
    • Some of the celebrities on the cover were only added because their names "sounded groovy". For instance, soccer player Albert Stubbins was thrown in because Paul remembered that his father used to talk about him when he was younger.
    • As McCartney counts in the reprise of the title track, Lennon says "Bye!"
    • "It can't get no worse" in "Getting Better" was ad-libbed by Lennon as McCartney was running through the song for George Martin, and everyone liked it so much that it stayed in.
  • Title-Only Chorus: "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"
  • Title Track:
    We're Sergeant Peppers' Lonely Hearts Club Band
    We hope you will enjoy the show.
  • Triumphant Reprise: "Sgt. Pepper's... (reprise)", faster, harder, shorter and more exciting than the original song. It also lacks the overdubbed horn section.
  • Trope Codifier: For Concept Albums.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: "Sgt. Pepper's... (reprise)"
  • Uncommon Time:
    • "Good Morning, Good Morning" both plays it straight and subverts it. John syncopates some parts of the song in a weird way, but the patterns eventually add up to multiples of four. However, other parts are constructed out of patterns of 44 and 42, respectively (the song is constructed in a rhythmic ABCBCBA pattern, with the B part of the song having 5+5+5+3+4+5+4+3+3+4+4/4 for 44/4, while the C has 5+5+5+3+4+4+4+4+4+4 for 42/4). That said, significant parts of the song are still in straight 4/4.
    • "Within You Without You" plays it quite straight, being based on Indian talas in cycles of 10 and 16 beats. The up-tempo middle section works out to be in about 5/4, usually.
  • Urban Legend: A lot of imagery on the cover and in the lyrics made fans speculate whether these were clues to Paul McCartney's supposed death, or not?
  • Vocal Tag Team: The Beatles did this all the time but only rarely within the same song.
    • "A Day In the Life" features John on four verses and Paul on one; the group found that Paul's unfinished composition matched up well with John's, fitting precisely into a "hole" in John's song where there was no verse.
    • "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" features John singing the verses and Paul the chorus.
  • Wanderlust Song: "She's Leaving Home".
  • Wham Line: "Getting Better" could almost be mistaken for yet another of the group's Silly Love Songs until the singer admits to a history of Domestic Abuse:
    I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" describes a "girl with kaleidoscope eyes".
  • World Music: George Harrison plays the sitar during "Within You Without You", an instrument he was being taught by his friend Ravi Shankar. He played it earlier during "Norwegian Wood" on Rubber Soul from 1965 and "Love You To" from Revolver from 1966. A fourth example of World Music can be found on "The Inner Light" on Past Masters, but Harrison does not play the sitar on that song.
  • World of Chaos: "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" even provides the quote for that page.

People appearing on the famous cover who have their separate TV Tropes article:

"We're Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
We hope you have enjoyed the show
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
We´re sorry but it's time to go"