Ett av världens mest omtalade skivkonvolut sedan det kom ut den 1 juni 1967.
Med anledning av 50-årsjubileumet av Sgt.Pepper-albumet har Paul McCartney låtit sig intervjuas om tillkomsten av och arbetet med albumet. Här följer några axplock ut intervjun som går under namnet Sgt. Pepper Special. En mer utförlig intervju går att läsa i höstnumret av Beatles Nytt.
Question [Q:] Do you remember coming up with the cover and band concepts? We understand that the original concept came from you doing a doodle on a plane based around an Edwardian military band?
Paul McCartney [PM]: Yeah! Well, what really happened was I was coming back from a trip abroad with our roadie, Mal Evans, just the two of us together on the plane. And we were eating and he mumbled to me, asked me to pass the salt and pepper. And I misheard him. He said [mumbles] “saltandpepper”. I go, “Sergeant Pepper?” I thought he said, “Sergeant Pepper”. I went, “Oh! Wait a minute, that’s a great idea!” So we had a laugh about it, then I started thinking about Sergeant Pepper as a character. I thought it would be a very interesting idea for us to assume alter egos for this album we were about to make.
Ringo Starr, Mal Evans (i glasögon) och John Lennon i samspråk i samband med fotograferingen av omslaget till Sgt. Pepper-albumet torsdagen den 30 mars 1967.
So that’s what we did. And yeah, I started doing drawings of how the band might look. I sort of got this military look thing going and one of my ideas was that they were being presented by the Lord Mayor of some Northern town in a park. And in the old days they used to have floral clocks, they called them. It was like a clock that was made out of flowers. So I did drawings of the floral clock and then, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band”, AKA The Beatles, getting an award. So they’ve got a big cup and they’re getting some sort of award from the town.
So that’s where the idea came from and then I just talked to all the guys and said, “What do you think of this idea?” They liked it and I said, “It will mean, when I approach the mic, it’s not Paul McCartney. I don’t have to think this is a Paul McCartney song”. So it was freeing. It was quite liberating.
So, you know, we didn’t keep that idea up all the time, but that was the basic idea that we would make something that was very free. Something that this other band might make, instead of doing something that we thought The Beatles ought to make. It originally came from that mishearing of salt and pepper!
Q: Had you already started to write the songs for that album?
PM: No, but when I got back I started thinking, “Okay, what would their theme tune be?” So I wrote what became the opening song where they would introduce themselves and then they would introduce another character: Billy Shears, which was Ringo.
Q: Was there any reason for the different coloured outfits?
PM: No, we just chose a material. Said, “I’ll have that, he’ll have that”. There was no concept, no. It was just whoever wanted what colour.
Q: We understand there were two drum skins created for the cover. Was there any specific reason for that, or was it just to make sure you had different options?
PM: No, I think the drum skins – as I recall – were organised by Peter Blake, who had someone he knew who did painting for fairgrounds. So you see the rides in the fairgrounds – like the Waltzer, or you know, the House Of Fun and all that – it’s always lettered and painted a certain way, which is quite an ancient tradition, apparently. There’s a specific look to it all and there are people who specialise in those, so I think Peter had those done by those people, and I suppose he just had a spare one made as well. I think we probably would have just said, “That one”.
Q: We realised in the office that there are some grammar mistakes on the drum skin: a semicolon after ‘Sgt’, and there isn’t an apostrophe in ‘Peppers’. Is that just an accident?
PM: Yeah, that’s an accident! The guy doing it was, as I say, a fairground guy, so all this sort of stuff [Paul points to the logo on the album cover] – the filigree and all these decorative things – are the kind of things you would see on the side of a Waltzer, when you go to the fairground. It’s covered in this kind of stuff.
So I think he will have just been told “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, and instead of putting a dot after the ‘gt’ of ‘Sgt.’ – which I think you might naturally do – I think it just looks better as a composition to be down there. And there’s no particular reason for it being a semi colon. It could have just as easily been two dots, or something. And then no apostrophe? There’s no reason for it. He was asked to do that and he came up with that beautiful design.
Två varianter av trumskinn som diskuterades. Det till höger är det som finns med på skivkonvolutet.
Q: Was there anybody who kind of didn’t make the final collage on the cover?
PM: Oh, yeah! I mean, some, because it was just a fun thing. You know, I think someone brought Hitler. And that was vetoed immediately: “No!” And then Jesus was in there. You know, he was an understandable hero. But there were certain ones that might have offended people.
I mean, Hitler, I think was just a joke. No way he was gonna get on there. Jesus was not so much a joke. He could have been in there but we didn’t want to offend Christians.
Q: Do you remember any specific names you suggested?
PM: [Looking at the album cover] I think these were mine: Aldous Huxley, because I had been reading a book by him. H.G. Wells, Fred Astaire. And then there was Dylan Thomas.
There’s a footballer there, I think that’s Dixie Dean. I mean this is all documented exactly who they are. Laurel and Hardy, we liked them. William Morris, Marilyn Monroe, Terry Southern. This is what the floral clock became at the bottom of the cover. And then people thought this was marijuana, which they weren’t. They were just plants! But, of course, in those days everyone read everything into everything we did.
There were certain ones we all liked, like Oscar Wilde. Max Miller was a British comedian. And then there’s Stuart [Sutcliffe], who had been our old bass player, who died. Aubrey Beardsley, the artist. The Bowery Boys, they were a TV series when we were growing up, and there was one of them who wouldn’t do it. One of them wanted money for it.
Q: Did that delay the album release?
PM: No. No the cover wasn’t shot. We had the idea… Or it may have been, it may have been actually. Yeah, I think it was shot, but we just had to ask them all.
Q: Would you pick different people for the cover today, compared to 1967?
PM: I’m not sure. You know probably, yeah. But just because it wouldn’t be the same time.
Paul, Ringo, George och John gratulerar varandra till att ha åstadkommit ett av världens bästa popalbum på releasepartyt fredagen den 19 maj 1967 hemma hos deras manager Brian Epstein i London.
Q: At the end of the album – following ‘A Day In The Life’ – you have that very high-pitched tone. And then you have the inner groove loop on the record. Where did those ideas come from?
PM: Okay, so the loop thing was that at that time people were partying a lot and getting stoned a lot. And one of the things is you would be in a party with everyone, you’d be playing an album on vinyl and so the record would end. But everybody would be so sort of stoned that the record would just go [mimics the noise of the record player getting stuck in the inner groove]. You’ve all been there! And people would go, “Ahhh… Yeah…” And no one would turn it off!
Q: And no one had done that kind of inner groove loop before, is that right?
PM: Yeah, nobody had done it on a loop like that. It’s a silly idea. No one was as silly as we were! But the other thing, that was fascinating: the high-pitched noise [whistles]. We would have great conversations with George Martin in the studio, because he was very swotty, George was. Very mathematics, and he knew the science behind a lot of what we were doing, whereas we didn’t. We just enjoyed it and loved it. But he was talking about frequencies. He said, “There are so many frequencies”. For instance, he said, “Your ears are all younger than mine”. He said, “Let’s do a little test’. So he took a little oscillator that we had and went [whistles from a low to high pitch]. And he got it up to [whistles very high]. And he said, “Can you hear that?” We go, “Yeah…” He goes [whistles higher]. He said, “I can’t hear that, can you?” We go, “Yeah!”
Then he took it higher so even we couldn’t hear it and said, “It’s still there”. The noise, the frequency was still there. He said, “Dogs can hear that. Dogs have a different framework, a different range of hearing”. We went, “Fantastic! We’ve gotta put that on the record!” So when suddenly when everyone’s listening to it, no one can hear it and the dog would perk up. You know, prick his ears up: “What’s that?”
Q: And George Martin told you that story?
PM: Yeah, George Martin. This was all one conversation: “The Highs And The Lows” by George Martin. But you know, we took it all in. We loved him. We loved these little chats and we used it all in our music.
Q: I’ve always wondered if you guys slowed down ‘When I’m Sixty Four’ because your voice sounds slightly higher?
PM: Sometimes I would just speed things up a bit. Often, when you make a song you record it and then you think, “It’s not quite fast enough!” So rather than do it again, you just lifted the tape. These days you can lift the tape and not lift the pitch, with Logic and a few other machines. But back then you would actually lift the pitch a bit.
Brian Epstein hade bjudit in utvalda personer från media till sitt hem på 24 Chappel Street i London fredagen den 19 maj 1967. Avsikten var att – tillsammans med The Beatles – göra reklam för The Beatles kommande album ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, som skulle släppas torsdagen den 1 juni samma år. Här håller Paul och John upp fram- och baksidan av skivkonvolutet i bästa PR-stil under överseende av Ringo och George!
Q: So another question we quite often see is, in hindsight, do you wish ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘Strawberry Fields’ had been included on the album? And if so, where would you have placed them?
PM: No, I was happy. So we won’t even get into placing them! I was happy that it was the precursor to ‘Sgt. Pepper’. And the thing was, you know, we always liked to release things fresh. We had just made those tracks, so the thought of waiting until we had completed the whole album would not have appealed to us. You know, we liked that as soon as it’s made, at the nearest point to the actual making of the song and the record, we would like to put it out. So I was glad how we did it and it was like a fanfare, that single. Another thing we liked about it was it was simple value for money. You really got two A-sides. But it kind of heralded what was to come.
Q: Another question we see is: Did you have any kind of idea at the time just how big this album would become?
PM: No, not really. The only thing we knew was that the music press, I’m not sure who it was – it would probably have been The New Music Express or The Melody Maker, the two music papers that were very big at the time – one of them, somebody from one of those music papers said, “Oh, The Beatles have dried up. They’ve finished. We haven’t heard anything from them, you know, they’ve run out of ideas”. So we were quietly tinkering away at Abbey Road knowing we hadn’t run out of ideas and knowing it was gonna be really great to be able to say, “No, we didn’t run out. Check this out!” And give them ‘Sgt. Pepper’ and go – “Take that back!”
In fact, when it did get released, the music critic from The New York Times said it was terrible. And Linda said she met him in the street and said, “You’re crazy, man. It’s a great album! What are you talking about?” And there must have been a lot of people that said it to him that week, because he took it back a week later. He said, “You know what, it’s grown on me. I like it’.
Q: And looking back now, what always blows our minds, is that you were only 24 when that album was recorded. That’s quite incredible!
PM: Yeah, I mean there’s quite a few people who feel they’re very grown up when they’re 24. And we did! We’d been doing the group since, well, since we were kinda 19 and 20. So four years at that kind of pace was a long time. And we all smoked Rothman cigarettes. And we had Carnaby Street stuff, so we thought we were pretty hot. So 24 didn’t seem young to us, because we had just been 20!