Beatle Lessons of the Sgt. Pepper Period

1966 June 22-1967 April 04
by Ken Westover
rev: 2012Jul14

This page is a miniscule look at material typically found in the book Songs of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper Period.

Period Overview

The Sgt. Pepper Period began when The Beatles finished recording their last song for the Revolver LP, 'She Said She Said', on 66Jun22. The next day they started a two-week "World Tour" to Germany, Japan, and The Philippines. The Asian portion of the tour went poorly, which really got the band to consider not touring.

On 66Aug11 they started their last tour ever, which was of the United States, ending in San Francisco on 66Aug30. This tour also went poorly, due in part to a comment John Lennon had made about The Beatles and Christianity which resulted in death threats. The band was mostly miserable because no one yet knew how to tour; things like proper transportation, accommodations, equipment, and performance conditions. Though not announced, the band decided amongst themselves this was their last tour. They flew back to London on 66Aug31, then The Beatles flew their separate ways for vacations.

John Lennon had accepted a small acting role in a movie, How I Won The War to be filmed in Germany and Spain. He symbolically ended the era of Beatlemania when had his famous Beatle hair cut to military shortness, and took to wearing glasses. While sitting around between takes, he wrote 'Strawberry Fields Forever', which became the first song The Beatles recorded when they returned to the studio three months later.

George Harrison with wife Pattie flew off to India to study sitar and live the Indian lifestyle for five weeks.

Ringo mostly stayed home with his family except for a trip to Spain to support John.

Paul hung around London for a couple months, then flew to France, then Africa. It was during this trip he came up with the idea of The Beatles assuming the alter-ego of another band, which eventually came to be named "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". The beauty of this idea was The Beatles could record whatever kinds of songs they wanted, not what the world expected as "Beatles" music. In that spirit, Paul blew the dust of an old song he had written when he was 15 or 16, 'When I'm Sixty-Four', which he brought to the studio for consideration at the first Sgt. Pepper recording session.

Important Dates

Date Event
1966 Jun 22 Record last songs of the Revolver Period.
1966 Jul 08 Release UK EP-12, Nowhere Man
1966 Jul 08 Release UK 45-13, 'Eleanor Rigby'/'Yellow Submarine'
1966 Aug 05 Release UK LP-7, Revolver
1966 Dec 09 Release UK LP-8, A Collection of Beatles Oldies
1967 Feb 17 Release UK 45-14, 'Strawberry Fields Forever'/'Penny Lane'
1967 Apr 04 Record last songs for the Sgt. Pepper LP
1967 Jun 01 Release UK LP-9, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Details on all the sessions and releases are in the book Songs of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper Period.

Sgt. Pepper Period Releases

Note: Parlophone released a compilation LP on 66Dec09, A Collection of Beatles Oldies. This was officially UKLP-8 but The Beatles had no involvement in its contents and there were no new recordings. This explains why Sgt. Pepper is called The Beatles' 8th LP, but it gets numbered as UKLP-9.

Sixteen songs were recorded during the Sgt. Pepper Period. Thirteen were released on the Sgt. Pepper LP, two were on a single, and one was held back for the Yellow Submarine LP.

1967 Feb 17
  Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (UKLP-9)
1967 Jun 01
Song Side
Strawberry Fields Forever A*
Penny Lane A*
* a double-A-sided single
SongLP Side-CutCD Track
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 1-11
With A Little Help From My Friends 1-22
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds 1-33
Getting Better 1-44
Fixing A Hole 1-55
She's Leaving Home 1-66
Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! 1-77
Within You Without You 2-18
When I'm Sixty-Four 2-23
Lovely Rita 2-310
Good Morning Good Morning 2-411
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) 2-512
A Day In The Life 2-613
15,000 cycle tone (run-out groove) 2-713
concentric groove 2-813

Record Recording and Release Chronology

"Brian and I worked out a grand plan of campaign. A single would be released every three months and an album every six." - George Martin, producer of the Beatles.

That was the plan when The Beatles started releasing records, and they managed to stick to it for the first few years. The plan began to falter after Rubber Soul, then broke down completely after Revolver. It took so long for the next LP, Sgt. Pepper, that the rumors arose the band was breaking up.

The rumors were wrong.

Songs recorded for a single or Sgt. Pepper?

On 66Nov24, five months after recording their last album, Revolver, the Beatles' team gathered together in EMI's Studio Two. Paul brought 'When I'm Sixty-Four', but John was insistent they hear his 'Strawberry Fields Forever' first. Paul relented, so the Sgt. Pepper LP sessions started with 'Strawberry Fields'.

After they thought they were finished with 'Strawberry Fields', they started recording 'When I'm Sixty-Four'. The basic tracks and lead vocal were finished when John came back saying he wanted to remake 'Strawberry Fields', perhaps with orchestration this time. So a whole new version of the song was recorded.

Meanwhile, Paul had started writing a song called 'Penny Lane' back in the Rubber Soul Period. Perhaps inspired and influenced by the first two Sgt. Pepper songs, he finished writing it, and 'Penny Lane' became the third song recorded during these sessions.

There are conflicting accounts about the new single. The last new Beatles record had been released in early 66August. Some say George Martin gave in to pressure from Capitol to release a single, so he chose the best of what was already recorded. However, quotes in the press show Martin planned to record songs for a single at about this time.

On 67Jan03, George Martin prepared 'When I'm Sixty-Four' and 'Strawberry Fields Forever' to send over, but with 'Penny Lane' still in the works, he held off.

Eventually Martin chose to make 'Strawberry Fields Forever'/'Penny Lane', companion nostalgia songs, the next single. The 45 was released in both the U.K. and U.S. as a double-A-sided single, leaving it to individual radio stations to decide which was the stronger side.

UK45-13: 'Strawberry Fields Forever'/ 'Penny Lane'

Released: 1967 February 17

John was pretty much the sole writer of his song, and Paul pretty much the sole writer of his, but they would still turn to each other for feedback and ideas.

Strawberry Fields Forever

by Lennon & McCartney

Solo vocal: John Lennon

The decision to quit touring was a life-changer for John. Playing in a band had dominated his life for ten straight years (since he was 16) - he'd never held any other job. What would he do now that The Beatles would no longer play live?

He cut off his Beatle locks, put on glasses he'd stopped wearing in public during The Beatle years, then went to Spain to think between takes on movie sets. His thoughts returned to his childhood yet again (see 'In My Life') for a new song but this time the trip was more surreal, at least lyrically. When he first auditioned the song for George Martin, John strummed simple chords on an acoustic guitar, just he and his song. Martin thought it it was "absolutely lovely".

But it grew to be perhaps the most complicated recording The Beatles ever made. The team spent the first three sessions solely on 'Strawberry Fields', about 21 studio hours. A demo mix was made for John to take home and mull over.

He came back wanting to remake the song, which they did. John then came back again saying he liked the first half of one and the second half of the other. He asked Martin to combine the two.

Martin initially said it couldn't be done - the two versions were recorded in different keys and at different tempos. But he and engineer Emerick determined they could speed up one and slow down the other, then splice the two together. It worked.

Penny Lane

by Lennon & McCartney

Lead vocal: Paul McCartney

John and Paul had been a songwriting team from their earliest days together, but they also had a friendly competition between them. After Paul heard 'Strawberry Fields', he went back and finished a nostalgia piece of his own where he listed people and places that populated the Liverpool of his childhood. He called it 'Penny Lane', which was the name of a street and district which included businesses and a roundabout/traffic circle.

Since John's song opened the door to complicated production, Paul walked through by using several layers of instruments and sound effects. Work was completed on 67Jan17.

UKLP-9: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Recorded: 1966 December 06 - 1967 April 20
Released (UK): 1967 June 01

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band revolutionized the music industry and pop music. All songs were recorded using four-track technology.

The Sgt. Pepper sessions started 66Nov24 with 'Strawberry Fields Forever', but that was released on a single. The first song recorded to be on the LP was 'When I'm Sixty-Four', started on 66Dec06.

Sgt. Pepper Recording: Chronological
SongWritten byMain Writer
When I'm Sixty-Four L&MPaul
A Day In The Life L&MJohn & Paul
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band L&MPaul
Good Morning Good Morning L&MJohn
Fixing A Hole L&MPaul
Only A Northern Song George HarrisonGeorge
Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! L&MJohn
Lovely Rita L&MPaul
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds L&MJohn (with Paul)
Getting Better L&MPaul (with John)
Within You Without You George HarrisonGeorge
She's Leaving Home L&Mco-written
With A Little Help From My Friends L&Mco-written
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) L&MPaul
15,000 cycle tone L&M 
concentric groove L&M 

Song Details

Side One

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

by Lennon & McCartney

Lead vocal: Paul.

Written mostly by Paul, to introduce the alter-ego band.

It was Paul who came up with the direction and concept for the new album. The band was feeling constrained by their past; their fans and press expected them to keep producing songs that sounded like The Beatles.

To break away from expectations, The Beatles would record as an alter-ego band, complete with a different name and style. The band would be called Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The name was long and a little random, in the style of band names then emerging from the U.S. West Coast. One legend has it the "Sgt. Pepper" part came from an exchange between Paul and roadie Mal Evans on a noisy airplane as they talked about salt and pepper containers on the dinner tray.

The idea of adding crowd noise and a segue into the second song on the album didn't arise until after 'With A Little Help From My Friends' was recorded, near the end of the LP sessions.

With A Little Help From My Friends

by Lennon & McCartney

Lead vocal: Ringo.

This was the last new song recorded for the LP. (The 'Sgt. Pepper' reprise was technically the last song, but it was more of a new recording than a new song.)

As was often the case, as the album neared completion, they needed a song for Ringo to sing. John and Paul co-wrote this song at a songwriting session at John's house. Details can be found in Davies' The Beatles.

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

by Lennon & McCartney

Lead vocal: John

Co-written by John and Paul, inspired by a drawing John's son, Julian, had made at school. John had the title and first verse when Paul arrived for a songwriting session, then the two of them finished it off.

Although influenced by drugs like marijuana and LSD, basic imagery in the lyrics came from Lewis Carroll's writings, especially Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.

Getting Better

by Lennon & McCartney

Lead vocal: Paul

This song was co-written by Paul and John at a songwriting session at Paul's house. Paul initiated the song by recalling a phrase used by a temporary drummer The Beatles used while Ringo was in the hospital having his tonsils treated. When the press asked drummer Jimmy Nicol how he was doing, his stock reply was "It's getting better".

Details of how this song was written can be found in The Beatles by Hunter Davies. The song includes a reference to John's early days when he was a hitter of women.

Fixing A Hole

by Lennon & McCartney

Lead vocal: Paul

Written by Paul about several things. It was a word against people telling him what he should and shouldn't do in general. It was about him (Paul) taking action when he thought it was necessary. It was a word to his fans about being friendly, and it was about marijuana.

She's Leaving Home

by Lennon & McCartney

Lead vocal: Paul

Co-written by John and Paul based on a newspaper article about a runaway. Paul was so taken with the song he wanted to record it immediately, but George Martin was already booked to record singer Cilla Black. So Paul called a freelance producer/arranger (Mike Leander) to write the score with Paul's input. George Martin was hurt and upset, but went ahead and recorded Leander's score virtually untouched. This song is the only song outside of the Let It Be LP where George Martin did not write the orchestral score for a Beatles recording.

Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!

by Lennon & McCartney

Lead vocal: John

Written by John. Most of the lyrics were taken directly off an old poster John bought in an antique shop. As with 'Strawberry Fields Forever', he told the production team in broad terms what he wanted the feel to be (in this case, to make it sound like a circus), then left the details to Martin and Emerick. They did a remarkable creative job using edited tape segments to create the atmosphere.

Side Two

Within You Without You

by George Harrison

Solo vocal: George Harrison

Written by George Harrison alone. He started writing the song on a harmonium after dinner at a friend's house. No other Beatle plays or sings on this song.

When I'm Sixty-Four

by Lennon & McCartney

Lead vocal: Paul.

Written by Paul when he was 15 or 16.

On 66Dec06 The Beatles started recording Paul's 'When I'm Sixty-Four'. The basic rhythm track was recorded in a single session, mainly because the band already knew the song from playing it in their Hamburg gigs. The vocals and instrumental overdubs (clarinets) were spread out over another few sessions.

Lovely Rita

by Lennon & McCartney

Lead vocal: Paul

Written by Paul, inspired by reports of a new form of enforcing parking laws by the use of "meter maids". The story was totally made up so John was totally uninterested (but for the heated panting heard towards the end).

Good Morning Good Morning

by Lennon & McCartney

Lead vocal: John

Written by John, inspired by a TV cereal commercial jingle. The animal sounds at the end was another example of John telling Martin and Emerick what he wanted in general, leaving it up to them to find the specific sounds and edit them together.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)

by Lennon & McCartney

Lead vocal: Paul.

It was Neil Aspinall's idea to close the album with a reprise of the song that started the LP. He based it on the way The Beatles used to close their live concerts, where Paul would announce this was their last song, and thanked the audience for coming.

This was the last song recorded for Sgt. Pepper, but it was not the last recording.

A Day In The Life

by Lennon & McCartney

Lead vocal: John:Paul:John

The fourth song of the Sgt. Pepper Period was 'A Day In The Life'. Recording started on 67Jan19. This was a heterogeneous song where John was sole writer of the beginning and ending lyrics, while Paul was the sole writer of the middle section. Each writer sang lead vocal for their respective sections.

15,000 cycle tone

concentric groove

Albums were played on record players that were either manual or automatic. On both, the tonearm holding the needle moved towards the center of the record. After the last song there was a wide space containing a "runout groove" which took the needle to an endless, circular "concentric" groove.

On manual turntables, the needle would sit in the concentric groove forever and you would hear a click and scratches as the record turned. More expensive automatic turntables would detect the tonearm position, lift it, and return it to a resting position off the record.

It was Paul who asked if it were possible to put content in the concentric groove, a little something for those who couldn't afford automatic turntables, and that those with automatic turntables couldn't hear even if they wanted to (it was hard to override the automatic function on most players). The recording would sound sort of like an endless mantra or chant on manual turntables.

Accounts vary about the amount of time spent recording the content, from five minutes to hours, even though only a few seconds were needed. Exactly what was recorded is unknown, but the tape was cut up and spliced back together, some of it backwards. It's all gibberish, but when played backwards on a turntable, some could hear a naughty phrase.

Finally, either Paul or John suggested a 15,000 cycle tone be put in the runout groove, something only dogs could hear. This had to be done using an oscillator at the stamping plant.

Neither the runout nor concentric groove contents were on U.S. versions of Sgt. Pepper. Contents of both were reproduced on the CD.

Unreleased Song (at that time)

Only A Northern Song

by George Harrison

Lead vocal: George Harrison

Written by George Harrison alone. By the time they finished recording it, George Martin had the difficult task of telling Harrison the song wasn't good enough for the new LP. It was eventually passed off to the Yellow Submarine project, where The Beatles sent material they considered inferior.

Anomalies can be found at:

For more details about the Sgt. Pepper LP, its history and songs, visit the Wikipedia Sgt. Pepper web page.