Today is a really important day in music history "“ for the world at large and for me personally. It's the 42nd anniversary of the day the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released. It's important for me because this is the album that introduced me to the Beatles and I'm still madly in love with them to this day. I wasn't around for the original release, but I have very fond memories of hanging out in my friend Angie's basement in the '90s listening to the LPs on her dad's old console record player. In celebration of Sgt. Pepper, I thought we'd have a little trivia about the album and the music.
1. The famous cover collage is known as "People We Like." Each Beatle, except Ringo (who apparently didn't really care) submitted a list of people they wanted to appear on the cover. John Lennon asked for Jesus and Hitler but was refused. Mae West almost didn't allow her image to be used, asking, "What would I be doing in a lonely hearts club?" But when the Beatles personally wrote her a letter asking for permission, she relented.
2. You probably recognize most of the people on the cover, if you look closely enough. But one of them you won't recognize unless you're a Beatles buff is the first man in the third row of people to the far left. That's Stuart Sutcliffe, the Beatles' original bassist, who died of a brain hemorrhage in 1962 (he had already quit the Beatles when he died). In case there are others you can't quite put your finger on, check out this interactive map of the cover. Just mouse over a person to see who they are.
3. There's a tale going around that the album was originally supposed to be called Dr. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Beatles quickly found out that Dr Pepper was an American soda company and switched the prefix to "Sgt." instead. But I can't find any interview that actually corroborates that fact, but it's entertaining nonetheless "“ especially when you consider that John Lennon later came to adore Dr Pepper and had it shipped to him so he could get his fix when he wasn't in the States. The story I've heard is that Paul McCartney was sitting with Mal Evans, one of the Beatles' roadies, on a plane, and Mal asked what the "S" and the "P" on the little pots at their dinner plates stood for. Paul told him they were Salt and Pepper and the idea sort of grew from there. That's the story from The Beatles Anthology, so I'm willing to bet that there's more truth to that than the Dr Pepper story.
5. Automatic Double Tracking, or ADT, was invented for the Beatles specifically for this album. It was fairly standard practice for singers to record their vocals twice and then lay them on top of one another for a stronger sound, but most musicians really hated doing it "“ especially John Lennon. After much complaining by John, the ADT was invented by EMI engineer Ken Townsend. It used tape recorders to instantaneously double vocals without having to record them twice.
8. The album's second track, "With a Little Help from My Friends," contains the lyric "What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and walk out on me?" But that wasn't originally the line. The line used to be, "Would you throw ripe tomatoes at me?" Then, after remembering that George Harrison had once mentioned that he liked jelly babies (a British gummy candy) and fans showered them with the candy at every concert afterward, Ringo decided "ripe tomatoes" maybe wasn't the best idea. Which is for the best "“ "Would you stand up and walk out on me?" flows much better, don't you think?
My tastes have changed over the years. When I first discovered Sgt. Pepper, I probably would have told you that "Lucy" was hands-down my favorite. And there was a time in my teens when I thought "She's Leaving Home" soooo described how underappreciated I was at home (teen angst, what can I say?). But these days I'd have to tell you that the haunted quality of "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" or the pure innovation of "A Day in the Life" would make them my favorites. How about you? Favorite Sgt. Pepper song? Or do you think the whole thing is overrated? Share in the comments!