In 1965 Brian Wilson listened to Rubber Soul and was stunned, The Beatles had released a perfect record form the first to the last song, without any stuffing. That’s how, a year later, Pet Sounds emerged, an incomparable record, in which he got the best out of a recording studio. The Beatles, especially Paul, became fascinated with the result and decided to make a record to better it. Not just any record, something like Sauron’s One Ring, one capable of overcoming them all.
After a stay in the USA where he had discovered psychedelic groups like Chocolate Watch Band and Big Brother & The Holding Company, McCartney came back with the idea of making a record disguised as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Fed up with touring and hysterical fans, the Fab Four wanted to be taken seriously and to make a pure art pop record, something that would go with the slogan of the times and that would become the centre of the Summer of Love:, peace, love, music...and drugs. The conceptual idea (about the group and their alter ego) didn’t get past the two versions of the song it was named after and With a Little Help From My Friends sung by Ringo/Billy Shears. However, the result was favoured by this idea, lending it a type of oneness ( enhanced by the fact that many of the songs flow into each other without breaks) and turning it into one of the most famous albums in history, the most ambitious work of the Liverpudlians, the album that divided rock history into a before and an after.
Sgt. Pepper’s was the fruit of more than 6 months of studio work, where the Liverpool lads and their producer, George Martin, tried everything the technology of the day would allow them, using an array of instruments, and employing the mixing table as one more.
But all this wouldn’t be but a story if it wasn’t for the songs, but being the best song writing duo in history, there were plenty of songs. Lennon and McCartney show, on this record, another broad sample of their talent; it starts with the title song, the introduction of Sgt. Pepper’s Band, with raw distorted rock guitars, in particular Harrison’s Fender Stratocaster from ‘61 and McCartney’s Fender Squire, in which he lets rip his voice, flowing into the song With a Little Help From My Friends, the best song Ringo had ever sung. Lennon’s Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is a surrealist acid number that has one of the best chorus’ in history, and then there’s McCartney’s lovely work on 4-string, not with his legendary Hoffner, which wasn’t used on this record, but with his 64 Rickenbacker 4001S. Then there’s Getting Better, another McCartney gem, and Fixing a Hole, again by Paul, and includes the splendid work on guitar by Harrison with his Strat, which is back proving his mantra ‘less is more’. She’s Leaving Home is a marvelous baroque piece on which Paul and John sing over a sophisticated string arrangement. The first side ends with Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, another surreal song by Lennon.
The B side opens with the only part Harrison had in composing, Within You Without You, responsible for getting half the rock world to buy a sitar in 1967. Then McCartney takes the music hall approach to tell us what he’ll do when he’s 64, followed by Lovely Rita, a song that would become the basis of ‘power pop’ of the 70s. Good Morning Good Morning is one of the rocker songs on the record, courtesy of Lennon, it’s a real treat to hear the winds of Sound Incorporated and McCartney’s brilliant solo and his Squire, which makes it clear that Macca was in love with the new guitar sensation Jimi Hendrix. The best is yet to come, the ‘reprise’ of Sgt. Pepper’s, more rocker still, (with Lennon on lead vocal accompanying, with his Epiphone ES-230TD Casino from ‘65, the lead guitar, the very same model, played by Harrison) announces that we are arriving to the glorious finale, A Day in the Life, one of the biggest gems of the 20th century and one of the last collaborations between Lennon and McCartney. Putting the golden seal on a perfect record.