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On This Day: The Beatles release Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

JUNE 1, 1967: The Beatles released their most critically acclaimed album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on this day in 1967.

The LP, in which the Liverpudlian band showcased a revolutionary new sound and the first ever concept album, instantly topped the charts in both Britain and America.

It also received huge critical praise, with Kenneth Tynan in The Times describing the release as ‘a decisive moment in the history of Western civilization’.

The New Statesman claimed the album, which included the eponymous title track and Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, elevated pop into fine art.

And in the U.S., Time magazine declared the rock LP, which was the first ever to win four Grammy Awards, a ‘historic departure in the progress of music’.

To Paul McCartney, who was inspired to produce an album that was thematically linked to their childhoods, it told the world: ‘We were not boys, we were men.’

Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released ten months after The Beatles permanently retired from touring after being fed up by the hysteria that greeted them.

The Beatles allowed themselves to be more experimental and focus on high production quality (Getty)The Beatles allowed themselves to be more experimental and focus on high production quality (Getty)

‘All that boy stuff, all that screaming, we didn't want any more,’ McCartney explained. ‘There was now more to it.’

The band, who also included John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, hoped their new sound would enable them be seen ‘as artists rather than just performers.’

Bob Dylan, whom the group deeply respected for his personal and emotional song-writing style, certainly got the message.


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Upon hearing the frequently dark and strange collection of songs for the first time, the American simply told McCartney: ‘Oh I get it, you don't want to be cute anymore.’

The Beatles allowed themselves to be more experimental and focus on high production quality because they knew they would not have to perform the tracks live.

They were also given added creative impetus by assuming alter egos because the recording represented a performance by the fictional Sgt Pepper band.

The multi-genre LP showcased a wide range of sounds, styles and instruments (Getty)The multi-genre LP showcased a wide range of sounds, styles and instruments (Getty)

The multi-genre LP, which was later ranked No 1 in Rolling Stone magazine’s top 500 albums of all time, showcased a wide range of sounds, styles and instruments.

It included elements of psychedelic, vaudeville, circus, music hall, avant-garde, Western and Indian classical music – as well as using a 40-piece orchestra.

The album was so good that EMI bosses demanded that two of the songs the band had recorded for it - Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane – should be excluded and released separately as a double A-side single.

 

[On This Day: Beatles receive gongs at Buckingham Palace]

 

It also included one of the most iconic album covers, which depicted the band posing in front of a collage of celebrities and historical figures.

It was designed by the English pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth based on a sketch by McCartney.

A British Pathé newsreel from 1967 showed a replica of the artwork on a gipsy caravan that was gifted to Lennon’s son, Julian Lennon.

The band retired from touring after being fed up by the hysteria that greeted them (Getty)The band retired from touring after being fed up by the hysteria that greeted them (Getty)

Sgt Pepper, which has sold 30million copies, also inspired a host of other musicians, including the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys, to make concept pieces.

And it marked the beginning of the Album Era, when it became standard practice to write songs to tie together thematically.

For the Beatles themselves, it marked the start of a three-year period in which they recorded and released an astonishing five original studio albums.

 

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Their final LP, Let It Be, was released in May 1970 – a month after The Beatles had broken up following a decade together.

Lennon had been unhappiest in The Beatles and – encouraged by his Japanese wife Yoko Ono - wanted to go on and produce even edgier and more political music.

He was shot dead on the street near his home in New York in December 1980, while Harrison died of lung cancer in November 2001.

McCartney and Starr remain musically active.