The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album
and the death of Brian Epstein
The Beatles’ eighth album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, was released on June 1, 1967. It featured 13 original songs, including “A Day in the Life” and “With A Little Help From My Friends.”
Paul McCartney came up with the concept of the Beatles to pretend they were the fictitious Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band, and the whole album was created around this theme. From the title song to the reprise at the end of the album, listeners were taken on a journey with this psychedelic band. The album was meant to be listened to straight through from beginning to end, so pauses between songs were omitted.
John Lennon said, “It makes the whole album sound more like a continuous show. We’ve put everything in a sequence, which is balanced just like a program of stuff for a concert.”
Not only was this idea of a concept album unique, but so was the album cover. It featured the Beatles dressed in their Sgt. Pepper suits, surrounded by a huge group of celebrity photos ranging from Marilyn Monroe to Albert Einstein. It also was the first album to have a gatefold sleeve, and the first to include printed lyrics.
1) Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Lennon/McCartney)
2) With A Little Help From My Friends (Lennon/McCartney)
3) Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (Lennon/McCartney)
4) Getting Better (Lennon/McCartney)
5) Fixing A Hole (Lennon/McCartney)
6) She’s Leaving Home (Lennon/McCartney)
7) Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! (Lennon/McCartney)
8) Within You Without You (Harrison)
9) When I’m Sixty-Four (Lennon/McCartney)
10) Lovely Rita(Lennon/McCartney)
11) Good Morning Good Morning (Lennon/McCartney)
12) Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) (Lennon/McCartney)
13) A Day in the Life (Lennon/McCartney)
Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever (released February 17, 1967)
(available on Magical Mystery Tour album)
All You Need Is Love/Baby You’re a Rich Man (released July 7, 1967)
(available on Magical Mystery Tour album)
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Remastered)
(released September 2009)
Beatles iTunes Digital Box Set (released November 2010)
Beatles Remastered Stereo Vinyl Box set (released November 2012)
Sgt. Pepper’s 50th Anniversary CD/DVD set (released May 2017)
The album was originally intended to depict childhood memories of the Beatles in Liverpool, since the first two songs intended for the album, “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever,” were written by Paul and John, respectively, about their memories of their hometown.
But since the Beatles were urged to release another single well before the album would be ready, they released these two songs as a single on Feb. 17, 1967. As a result, these songs would not be included on the upcoming album, so the idea of childhood reminiscences was scrapped.
These two beautifully orchestrated songs exemplified the songwriting differences between Lennon and McCartney.
Watch the Beatles music video for “Penny Lane”
George Martin’s role as producer was most obvious during the making of Sgt. Pepper. The Beatles incorporated extensive orchestral arrangements, innovative recording techniques, and original sound effects in many of the songs on the album.
With George Martin’s help, they took the genre of the pop song and elevated it to heights never before imagined in the music world.
Critics and fans alike were astounded by the Beatles achievement. If there was ever a pinnacle in their career, Sgt. Pepper proved to be it.
All You Need Is Love
The Beatles cemented their reign as the leaders of the “Summer of Love” when they performed “All You Need Is Love” on June 25, 1967 on the program “Our World”.
This was the first live broadcast seen all across the world. An estimated 400 million people in 24 countries watched the show.
From June 16 to June 18, 1967, the first major outdoor rock festival was held in Monterey, California. The Monterey International Pop Music Festival featured appearances by Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Janis Joplin and The Mamas and The Papas. Although the Beatles did not attend, they sent an original drawing that was featured in the festival program. “Peace to Monterey” is one of the few pieces of artwork that all four Beatles created together.
The death of Brian Epstein,
the Beatles manager
While the rest of the world was trying to dissect every minute of Sgt. Pepper, the Beatles began a new exploration. After being famous and rich for several years now, they were looking for something new, something to make sense out of all the craziness in the world, and something more fulfilling than the drugs transporting them out of reality.
As a result, Eastern philosophy sounded very intriguing to them and, led by George Harrison, they met with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to guide them on their quest.
It was during a meeting with the Maharishi in Bangor, Wales, that they received the news that Brian Epstein had died. Brian had been having difficult times over the last few years in dealing with success.
He was very unhappy in his personal life, and he also became depressed over his diminishing role in the Beatles career. Brian was known to constantly take unhealthy doses of uppers and downers to cope with day-to-day living.
This lifestyle finally caught up with him on Aug. 27, 1967 when he was found dead in his home from an accidental overdose of drugs. Someone who had been in such control of his professional life and the career of the Beatles had lost control emotionally.
At the age of 32, Brian’s death was a shock to everyone that knew him. The Beatles were stunned. Not only did they lose their friend, but they lost the person that held them together professionally and personally.
Unfortunately, in the years to come, the mysterious circumstances of Brian’s death would overpower his deserved recognition of leading the Beatles to fame and fortune.
To the outside world, the loss of a manager may not have seemed that significant, but as time would tell, Brian’s death would be the beginning of the Beatles breakup.
As John Lennon recalls in “Lennon Remembers” by Jann S. Wenner, “I knew that we were in trouble then. I didn’t really have any misconceptions about our ability to do anything other than play music. And I was scared. I thought, ‘We’ve fuckin’ had it.'”
Paul McCartney meets Linda Eastman
In the Spring of 1967, Paul took a trip to the U.S. to visit Jane Asher who was acting in a play in Denver. Paul and Jane had been having problems in their relationship since Jane refused to give up her career for Paul.
As a result, she and Paul were separated frequently due to both of their careers. Jane did not like being in the shadow of Paul’s fame, and was quoted as saying, “I want to be known as a Shakespearean actress, not as Paul McCartney’s girlfriend.”
Meanwhile, in May of 1967, Paul was introduced to an American photographer, Linda Eastman, at the Bag O’Nails club in London, and then the next day at the Sgt. Pepper press party.
Although Paul and Jane’s relationship was somewhat strained, Linda and Paul kept in touch and started an affair a few months after Paul and Jane became engaged.
Before returning home in April 1967, Paul stopped in San Francisco, and visited with other musicians and took in the hippie scene.
This trip inspired him to come up with the idea for Magical Mystery Tour, the film–“a Sgt. Pepper with pictures.”
Continue to the ninth Beatles album, Magical Mystery Tour