Sir Paul McCartney remembers Sgt. Pepper: It allowed us to be ‘more adventurous’

In his own words, Paul McCartney recalls the making of Sgt. Pepper.

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SiriusXM Editor
May 2, 2017

The Beatles Channel (Ch. 18) will celebrate “Pepper Day” on June 1, the 50th Anniversary of the band’s acclaimed Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, playing the album’s new Anniversary Edition 2017 stereo mix in its entirety at 5 pm ET.

This will be followed at 10pm ET by the “Alternate Pepper,” an airing of the entire album reimagined with previously unreleased alternate takes and instrumental versions found on the new Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Anniversary Edition Super Deluxe Box Set.

The celebration continues throughout the weekend with “Sgt. Pepper Forever,” a new two-hour documentary special written and produced by Beatles historian Kevin Howlett in the UK. Hosted by Martin Freeman, the special reveals the revolutionary studio techniques used during the remarkable sessions dating from November 1966 to April 1967 and also examines the album’s huge impact on the history of music. Featuring interviews with Paul, George, Ringo and Beatles producer George Martin, “Sgt. Pepper Forever” will premiere on June 2 at 1 pm ET, with encore airings June 2 at 8 pm ET; June 3 at 12 pm ET; and June 4 at 10 pm ET.

Also, be sure to check out “Sgt. Pepper’s Musical Revolution,” a new documentary special that will premiere June 3 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

“We experienced a sense of freedom that was quite liberating.”  

Paul McCartney penned the introduction to the 144-page hardback book that accompanies the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition, recalling what made the record and its album art a “lasting piece of art.”

“Having given up touring after Candlestick Park, we decided we would try to make our next record something special. As I was flying back from a visit to America, Mal Evans our big friendly bear of a roadie and I were having an inflight meal.

He asked me to pass the salt and pepper and I misheard it as Sergeant Pepper. This set off a train of thought that ended up in me writing a song for a fictitious band, who would be called Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and would be the alter egos of The Beatles. When I got back, I suggested this idea to the other guys. This would free us from our normal Beatles thinking and allow us to be more adventurous in our approach to our next recording. I suggested that we all think of heroes that the members of Sgt. Pepper’s Band might have, which would help us fill in their imaginary background story. I did a couple of sketches of how the band might look and, as we made the album, we experienced a sense of freedom that was quite liberating. We pushed boundaries and tried at every turn to come up with new ideas that we hoped would surprise people who would eventually hear the record.

When we were done, I took my sketches and our ideas to a friend of mine, Robert Fraser, a London gallery owner who represented a number of artists. He suggested we take the idea to Peter Blake, and John and I had discussions with Peter about the design of the album cover. Peter and his then wife Jann Haworth had some interesting additional ideas and we all had an exciting time putting the whole package together.

It’s crazy to think that, 50 years later, we are looking back on this project with such fondness and a little bit of amazement at how four guys, a great producer and his engineers could make what turned out to be such a lasting piece of art.”

Paul McCartney
March 2017