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Beatles Recovered: Sgt Pepper’s

The release of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50 years ago rewrote the rulebook of pop music. It’s not that it was the first concept album (in as far as it was even that in the sense we’ve come to understand the idea now), nor the first to dabble innovative studio tricks (The Beatles themselves had done so on Revolver, and Brian Wilson was perhaps even more innovative at the time). But for contemporaries, the album changed everything.

Perhaps it was also the cover that had such an impact. It was not usual to create artworks for LP covers — the Beach Boys were still goofing about with animals on snapshots for the sleeve for Pet Sounds. One could study Peter Blake’s collage for the duration of Side 1 and while away the inferior second side studying it some more,, and return to it over and over again. Even today, it is a significant piece of 20th-century art.

But the thing is, Sgt Pepper’s is greater in its context than it is within the canon of Beatles albums. Of course, there are mighty tracks on it. A Day In The Life is a masterpiece, but I know few Beatles fans whose life would be poorer for the absence of Lovely Rita, or, indeed, Within You Without You (cleverly sequenced to start Side 2, for easy skipability). It doesn’t require clever revisionism by deliberate iconoclasts to regard Sgt Pepper’s as not the greatest album the Beatles made. But it does require the revisionism of fools to call it overrated. Sgt Pepper’s is a great album, especially the first side, and its historical impact cannot be overstated.

And if the later rule of already-released singles finding a place on albums had been in force, imagine how much better Sgt Pepper’s might have been with Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane. In the event, EMI insisted on releasing the songs, which were recorded as part of the Sgt Pepper’s sessions, as a double a-sided single.

A poster of The Beatles in Sgt Pepper’s uniforms in the German youth magazine Bravo in July 1967. (see www.bravoposters.wordpress.com for daily vintage Bravo posters)

Just a couple of weeks after Sgt Pepper’s was released, The Beatles recorded All You Need Is Love. The boys — Ringo was just turning 27; John was 26, Paul was about to turn 25, George was 24 — were on a hot streak.

Of course, Paul McCartney will turn 75 this month. But 50 years ago he was already dead, and long-standing research shows that Sgt Pepper’s provided the proof we’d have confirmed by the Abbey Road cover, by way of very clear clues. To start with, there’s a new band with one Billy Shears as the singer (well, Ringo is Billy Shears, but let’s not have Failing Fake News disturb us). In A Day In The Life John sings: “He blew his mind out in a car”, indicating the method of Paul’s death. And if you play the song backwards, you apparently can hear the phrase, “Paul is dead, miss him, miss him”. At the end of Strawberry Fields Forever, John says, “I buried Paul”. Lennon claimed he mumbled “cranberry sauce”, but why would he say “cranberry sauce” when Paul is dead and he buried him? Wake up, sheeple!

And then there’s the cover. In the foreground is clearly a grave — Paul’s grave! Look at the wax figure Young Beatles: Ringo is sad, very sad, as he looks at Paul’s grave. John is putting a comforting hand on Ringo’s shoulder (George seems glad though. Was he involved in the plot to kill Paul?). On the back cover, “Paul” turns his back; even Fake Paul is trying to give us a clue, apparently trying to escape the conspiracy. And here’s the smoking gun: Place the cover in front of a mirror, and the words “Lonely Hearts” on the drum read, “1 ONE 1 X HE DIE 1 ONE 1”, as you can see very clearly below. It’s so obvious, folks.

So happy birthday to you, Sir Paul McCartney, whoever you are!

Which brings us to this selection of cover versions of songs from Sgt Pepper’s, in the proper sequence. The selection is eclectic, yet it all flows. You’d expect otherwise from a sequence that goes from psychedelic rock of Jimi Hendrix (recorded in concert in Stockholm) to bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs to soul singer Natalie Cole to rockers Status Quo to old comedian George Burns to folkie Richie Havens and so on. And still, it all fits together well. It helps that Scruggs isn’t banjoing the hell out of With A Little Help From My Friends, and that Natalie Cole rocks harder than the Quo, who sound more like Burns. On the LP, the closing song is the crowning glory. The same might be said here of War’s epic take on A Day In The Life.

I have added covers of Strawberry Fields and Penny Land to the mix. The best cover of the former is that by Richie Havens, but he already features with She’s Leaving Home. In any case, Havens’ version has featured before on one of the many mixes of Beatles covers.

Coming in at under an hour, the mix fits on a standard CD-R. Covers are included. PW in the comments section (the purpose of which is not really to declare passwords but for readers to say something).

1. Jimi Hendrix Experience – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1968)
2. Earl Scruggs – With A Little Help From My Friends (1971)
3. Natalie Cole – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (1978)
4. Status Quo – Getting Better (1976)
5. George Burns – Fixing A Hole (1978)
6. Richie Havens – She’s Leaving Home (1968)
7. Eddie Izzard – Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite (2007)
8. Sonic Youth – Within You Without You (1989)
9. Claudine Longet – When I’m Sixty-Four (1967)
10. Fats Domino – Lovely Rita (1968)
11. Micky Dolenz – Good Morning Good Morning (2012)
12. Stereophonics – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) (2007)
13. War feat. Eric Burdon – A Day In The Life (1976)
14. Peter Gabriel – Strawberry Fields Forever (1976)
15. Amen Corner – Penny Lane (1969)

GET IT!

More great Beatles stuff:
Beatles Recovered: A Hard Day’s Night
Beatles Recovered: Beatles For Sale
Beatles Recovered: Help!
Beatles Recovered: Rubber Soul
Beatles Recovered: Revolver
Wordless: Any Major Beatles Instrumentals
Covered With Soul Vol. 14 – Beatles Edition 1
Covered With Soul Vol. 15 – Beatles Edition 2

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1967-68
Any Major Beatles Covers: 1968-70
Any Bizarre Beatles
Beatles – Album tracks and B-Sides Vol. 1
Beatles – Album tracks and B-Sides Vol. 2
Beatles Reunited: Everest (1971)
Beatles Reunited: Live ’72 (1972)
Beatles Reunited: Smile Away (1972)

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  1. halfhearteddude
    June 15th, 2017 at 07:16 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. Chance
    June 15th, 2017 at 17:10 | #2

    Here’s the Pepper drum death clue properly executed:
    http://turnmeondeadman.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/pid_HeDie.jpg

  3. rekkids
    June 15th, 2017 at 17:38 | #3

    Thank You .

  4. RhodB
    June 16th, 2017 at 22:05 | #4

    Thanks for the Sgt Pepper compilation a great diverse interpretations

    Great share

    Regards

    Rhod

  5. Ronald
    June 18th, 2017 at 13:47 | #5

    forgot the fallout groove?

  6. halfhearteddude
    June 19th, 2017 at 10:21 | #6

    Oh, that’s there. In the original version.

  7. JohnnyDiego
    June 20th, 2017 at 13:15 | #7

    My wife and I were holed up in a Denver basement apartment with ceilings so low I couldn’t completely stand up in places during the Paul Is Dead hub-bub around November 1969. We were tuned to a Denver FM station that spent several days continuously playing Beatles records and discussing the “evidence” of Paul’s death. It was fascinating. Of course we didn’t believe any of it and it’s hard to believe that the disc jockeys did either. But everyone loved the Beatles and in the days before the internet or cable TV books about the band were scarce and news difficult to obtain. It was all such fun and so entertaining that we spent an entire day listening to DJs and “educated” guests discussing the topic and spinning the evidence. Does that stuff even happen anymore?

    I always look forward to your Beatles Recovered posts, Dude. I thank you, my wife thanks you, but I’m not too certain poor dead Paul thanks you.

  8. Matt
    June 21st, 2017 at 01:19 | #8

    After your Christmas mixes (which of course I have to wait all year for), my second-favorite thing you do are these Beatles covers. I’m not nearly the musicologist that you or your other readers appear to be, so not only am I treated to music that’s mostly new to me, I learn a little too. Thanks so much!

  9. J. Loslo
    June 21st, 2017 at 18:45 | #9

    Thanks. I’m surprised I’d never heard the Havens or the War/Eric Burden. They’re good, too.

  10. halfhearteddude
    June 22nd, 2017 at 07:23 | #10

    All the Fake News stuff gets Snoped — an then is circulated regardless.

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