Recording "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"

Nov 24, 1966 - Apr 20, 1967 • For The Beatles

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (UK Mono) LP.
Regent Sound Studio, London
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Songs recorded


Christmas Messages for Radio Caroline

Dec 06, 1966Recording Christmas messages and "When I'm Sixty Four"


Christmas Messages for Radio London

Dec 06, 1966Recording Christmas messages and "When I'm Sixty Four"



Feb 22, 1967Recording and mixing "A Day In The Life"




The Beatles’ last recording session as a group took place on June 22, 1966, when they finalized “Revolver“. After a summer spent touring internationally, including stops in GermanyJapanthe Philippines and the USA, the band took a break and each Beatle spent time doing solo activities. During this time, Paul McCartney vacationed in FranceSpain and Kenya, and also composed the soundtrack for the film “The Family Way“. He also spent time in recording studios with Donovan and The Escorts.

On November 24, 1966, The Beatles were back at EMI Studios, Abbey Road, to start recording their next single and album.

From Wikipedia:

Recording history

Sessions began on 24 November 1966 in Studio Two at EMI Studios (subsequently Abbey Road Studios), marking the first time that the Beatles had come together since September. Afforded the luxury of a nearly limitless recording budget, and with no absolute deadline for completion, the band booked open-ended sessions that started at 7 pm and allowed them to work as late as they wanted. They began with “Strawberry Fields Forever”, followed by two other songs that were thematically linked to their childhoods: “When I’m Sixty-Four“, the first session for which took place on 6 December, and “Penny Lane“.

“Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” were subsequently released as a double A-side in February 1967 after EMI and Epstein pressured Martin for a single. When it failed to reach number one in the UK, British press agencies speculated that the group’s run of success might have ended, with headlines such as “Beatles Fail to Reach the Top”, “First Time in Four Years” and “Has the Bubble Burst?” In keeping with the band’s approach to their previously issued singles, the songs were then excluded from Sgt. Pepper. Martin later described the decision to drop these two songs as “the biggest mistake of my professional life”. In his judgment, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, which he and the band spent an unprecedented 55 hours of studio time recording, “set the agenda for the whole album”. He explained: “It was going to be a record … [with songs that] couldn’t be performed live: they were designed to be studio productions and that was the difference.” McCartney declared: “Now our performance is that record.”

According to the musicologist Walter Everett, Sgt. Pepper marks the beginning of McCartney’s ascendancy as the Beatles’ dominant creative force. He wrote more than half of the album’s material while asserting increasing control over the recording of his compositions. In an effort to get the right sound, the Beatles attempted numerous re-takes of McCartney’s song “Getting Better“. When the decision was made to re-record the basic track, Starr was summoned to the studio, but called off soon afterwards as the focus switched from rhythm to vocal tracking. Much of the bass guitar on the album was mixed upfront. Preferring to overdub his bass part last, McCartney tended to play other instruments when recording a song’s backing track. This approach afforded him the time to devise bass lines that were melodically adventurous – one of the qualities he especially admired in Wilson’s work on Pet Sounds – and complemented the song’s final arrangement. McCartney played keyboard instruments such as piano, grand piano and Lowrey organ, in addition to electric guitar on some songs, while Martin variously contributed on Hohner Pianet, harpsichord and harmonium. Lennon’s songs similarly showed a preference for keyboard instruments.

Although Harrison’s role as lead guitarist was limited during the sessions, Everett considers that “his contribution to the album is strong in several ways.” He provided Indian instrumentation in the form of sitar, tambura and swarmandal, and Martin credited him with being the most committed of the Beatles in striving for new sounds. Starr’s adoption of loose calfskin heads for his tom-toms ensured his drum kit had a deeper timbre than he had previously achieved with plastic heads. As on Revolver, the Beatles increasingly used session musicians, particularly for classical-inspired arrangements. Norman comments that Lennon’s prominent vocal on some of McCartney’s songs “hugely enhanced their atmosphere”, particularly “Lovely Rita“.

Within an hour of completing the last overdubs on the album’s songs, on 20 April 1967, the group returned to Harrison’s “Only a Northern Song“, the basic track of which they had taped in February. The Beatles overdubbed random sounds and instrumentation before submitting it as the first of four new songs they were contracted to supply to United Artists for inclusion in the animated film Yellow Submarine. In author Mark Lewisohn’s description, it was a “curious” session, but one that demonstrated the Beatles’ “tremendous appetite for recording”. During the Sgt. Pepper sessions, the band also recorded “Carnival of Light“, a McCartney-led experimental piece created for the Million Volt Light and Sound Rave, held at the Roundhouse Theatre on 28 January and 4 February. The album was completed on 21 April with the recording of random noises and voices that were included on the run-out groove, preceded by a high-pitched tone that could be heard by dogs but was inaudible to most human ears.

Studio ambience and happenings

The Beatles sought to inject an atmosphere of celebration into the recording sessions. Weary of the bland look inside EMI, they introduced psychedelic lighting to the studio space, including a device on which five red fluorescent tubes were fixed to a microphone stand, a lava lamp, a red darkroom lamp, and a stroboscope, the last of which they soon abandoned. Harrison later said the studio became the band’s clubhouse for Sgt. Pepper; David Crosby, Mick Jagger and Donovan were among the musician friends who visited them there. The band members also dressed up in psychedelic fashions, leading one session trumpeter to wonder whether they were in costume for a new film. Drug-taking was prevalent during the sessions, with Martin later recalling that the group would steal away to “have something”.

The 10 February session for orchestral overdubs on “A Day in the Life” was staged as a happening typical of the London avant-garde scene. The Beatles invited numerous friends and the session players wore formal dinner-wear augmented with fancy-dress props. Overseen by NEMS employee Tony Bramwell, the proceedings were filmed on seven handheld cameras, with the band doing some of the filming. Following this event, the group considered making a television special based on the album. Each of the songs was to be represented with a clip directed by a different director, but the cost of recording Sgt. Pepper made the idea prohibitive to EMI. For the 15 March session for “Within You Without You“, Studio Two was transformed with Indian carpets placed on the walls, dimmed lighting and burning incense to evoke the requisite Indian mood. Lennon described the session as a “great swinging evening” with “400 Indian fellas” among the guests.

The Beatles took an acetate disc of the completed album to the flat of American singer Cass Elliot, off King’s Road in Chelsea. There, at six in the morning, they played it at full volume with speakers set in open window frames. The group’s friend and former press agent, Derek Taylor, remembered that residents of the neighbourhood opened their windows and listened without complaint to what they understood to be unreleased Beatles music.

Technical aspects

In his book on ambient music, The Ambient Century: From Mahler to Moby, Mark Prendergast views Sgt. Pepper as the Beatles’ “homage” to Stockhausen and Cage, adding that its “rich, tape-manipulated sound” shows the influence of electronic and experimental composer Pierre Schaeffer. Martin recalled that Sgt. Pepper “grew naturally out of Revolver“, marking “an era of almost continuous technological experimentation”. The album was recorded using four-track equipment, since eight-track tape recorders were not operational in commercial studios in London until late 1967. As with previous Beatles albums, the Sgt. Pepper recordings made extensive use of reduction mixing, a technique in which one to four tracks from one recorder are mixed and dubbed down onto a master four-track machine, enabling the engineers to give the group a virtual multitrack studio. EMI’s Studer J37 four-track machines were well suited to reduction mixing, as the high quality of the recordings that they produced minimised the increased noise associated with the process. When recording the orchestra for “A Day in the Life”, Martin synchronised a four-track recorder playing the Beatles’ backing track to another one taping the orchestral overdub. The engineer Ken Townsend devised a method for accomplishing this by using a 50 Hz control signal between the two machines.

The production on “Strawberry Fields Forever” was especially complex, involving the innovative splicing of two takes that were recorded in different tempos and pitches. Emerick remembers that during the recording of Revolver, “we had got used to being asked to do the impossible, and we knew that the word ‘no’ didn’t exist in the Beatles’ vocabulary.” A key feature of Sgt. Pepper is Martin and Emerick’s liberal use of signal processing to shape the sound of the recording, which included the application of dynamic range compression, reverb and signal limiting. Relatively new modular effects units were used, such as running voices and instruments through a Leslie speaker. Several innovative production techniques feature prominently on the recordings, including direct injection, pitch control and ambiophonics. The bass part on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was the first example of the Beatles recording via direct injection (DI), which Townsend devised as a method for plugging electric guitars directly into the recording console. In Kenneth Womack’s opinion, the use of DI on the album’s title track “afforded McCartney’s bass with richer textures and tonal clarity”.

Some of the mixing employed automatic double tracking (ADT), a system that uses tape recorders to create a simultaneous doubling of a sound. ADT was invented by Townsend during the Revolver sessions in 1966 especially for the Beatles, who regularly expressed a desire for a technical alternative to having to record doubled lead vocals. Another important effect was varispeeding, a technique that the Beatles used extensively on Revolver. Martin cites “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” as having the most variations of tape speed on Sgt. Pepper. During the recording of Lennon’s vocals, the tape speed was reduced from 50 cycles per second to 45, which produced a higher and thinner-sounding track when played back at the normal speed. For the album’s title track, the recording of Starr’s drum kit was enhanced by the use of damping and close-miking. MacDonald credits the new recording technique with creating a “three-dimensional” sound that, along with other Beatles innovations, engineers in the US would soon adopt as standard practice.

Artistic experimentation, such as the placement of random gibberish in the run-out groove, became one of the album’s defining features. Sgt. Pepper was the first pop album to be mastered without the momentary gaps that are typically placed between tracks as a point of demarcation. It made use of two crossfades that blended songs together, giving the impression of a continuous live performance. Although both stereo and monaural mixes of the album were prepared, the Beatles were minimally involved in what they regarded as the less important stereo mix sessions, leaving the task to Martin and Emerick. Emerick recalls: “We spent three weeks on the mono mixes and maybe three days on the stereo.” Most listeners ultimately heard only the stereo version. He estimates that the group spent 700 hours on the LP, more than 30 times that of the first Beatles album, Please Please Me, which cost £400 to produce. The final cost of Sgt. Pepper was approximately £25,000 (equivalent to £483,000 in 2021).

Band dynamics

Author Robert Rodriguez writes that while Lennon, Harrison and Starr embraced the creative freedom afforded by McCartney’s band-within-a-band idea, they “went along with the concept with varying degrees of enthusiasm”. Studio personnel recalled that Lennon had “never seemed so happy” as during the Sgt. Pepper sessions. In a 1969 interview with Barry Miles, however, Lennon said he was depressed and that while McCartney was “full of confidence”, he was “going through murder”. Lennon explained his view of the album’s concept: “Paul said, ‘Come and see the show’, I didn’t. I said, ‘I read the news today, oh boy.'”

Everett describes Starr as having been “largely bored” during the sessions, with the drummer later lamenting: “The biggest memory I have of Sgt. Pepper … is I learned to play chess”. In The Beatles Anthology, Harrison said he had little interest in McCartney’s concept of a fictitious group and that, after his experiences in India, “my heart was still out there … I was losing interest in being ‘fab’ at that point.” Harrison added that, having enjoyed recording Rubber Soul and Revolver, he disliked how the group’s approach on Sgt. Pepper became “an assembly process” whereby, “A lot of the time it ended up with just Paul playing the piano and Ringo keeping the tempo, and we weren’t allowed to play as a band as much.”

In Lewisohn’s opinion, Sgt. Pepper represents the group’s last unified effort, displaying a cohesion that deteriorated immediately following the album’s completion and entirely disappeared by the release of The Beatles (also known as the “White Album”) in 1968. Martin recalled in 1987 that throughout the making of Sgt. Pepper, “There was a very good spirit at that time between all the Beatles and ourselves. We were all conscious that we were doing something that was great.” He said that while McCartney effectively led the project, and sometimes annoyed his bandmates, “Paul appreciated John’s contribution on Pepper. In terms of quantity, it wasn’t great, but in terms of quality, it was enormous.”

In November The Beatles returned to the studio for the first time after they had decided to stop touring. They were generally fed up with their lives. They’d had a lot of aggro in that past year, coupled with Brian Epstein worrying that they were going down the pan. He thought that it was the end of The Beatles, and there were all sorts of signs of that in 1966. There was the Philippines disaster, and the falling attendance in some of their shows, and they were fed up with being prisoners of their fame.

We started off with ‘Strawberry Fields’, and then we recorded ‘When I’m Sixty-Four and ‘Penny Lane’. They were all intended for the next album. We didn’t know it was Sgt Pepper then – they were just going to be tracks on The New Album — but it was going to be a record created in the studio, and there were going to be songs that couldn’t be performed live.

George Martin – From “The Beatles Anthology” book, 2000

When I first started in the music business, the ultimate aim for everybody was to try and recreate, on record, a live performance as accurately as possible. But then, we’realised that we could something other than that. In other words, the film doesn’t just re-create the stage play. So, without being too pompous, we decided to go into another kind of art form, where we are devising something that couldn’t be done any other way. We were putting something down on tape that could only be done on tape.

George Martin – From “The Beatles Anthology” book, 2000

On Sgt. Pepper, we had more instruments, and instrumentation, than we’ve ever had, and more orchestral stuff than we had ever used before.

Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles Anthology” book, 2000

The big influence was Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys. That was the album that flipped me. The musical invention on that album was, like, ‘Wow!’ That was the big thing for me. I just thought, ‘Oh dear me. This is the album of all time. What the hell are we going to do?’ So, Sgt Pepper eventually came out, basically, from the idea that I had about this band. It was going to be an album of another band that wasn’t us. We were going to call ourselves something else, and just imagine all the time that it wasn’t us playing this album. So, I had this song written of ‘Sgt Pepper’, who, twenty year’s ago today, taught us to play and we’re his protégés and here we are.

Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman, 2008

We didn’t think it was fair game for the people who had already spent their pounds on buying the ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Penny Lane’ single to have it included on an album. We thought that we should give them virgin stuff on an album and so we excluded the tracks from the Sgt Pepper album. I wish we had left them in actually, we could have made an even better album than it was.

George Martin – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman, 2008

They were free to think of any idea they could lay their hands upon. They would come to me and say, ‘We don’t quite know what we want, but we’ll try and indicate to you.’ It was my job to get inside their minds and find out what kind of noises was inside their brains and translate it into practical terms. My involvement with Pepper was enormous, but I was no longer dictating to them my ideas, on the contrary, I was trying to get out of them their ideas and mould them. It really was a partnership. Pepper grew of its own accord. I don’t think they really knew what they were doing on it, and I didn’t have a great deal of an idea either, but somehow, some magic hands did and started doing something.

George Martin – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman, 2008

The current Beatles recording sessions are producing some very trendy clothes as well as some forward-looking songs. The variety of musical instruments in the studio is only equalled by the varying styles of The Beatles’ suits, jackets, ties and shoes. Paul zipped into the studio wearing a lemon-yellow jacket, set off by a brightly striped tie. George strolled in with his Civil War moustache, but minus beard. A long, black, Mississippi gambler’s jacket and black moccasins set off his moustache. Ringo and John arrived together in John’s mini, with blacked-out windows, of course. The new moustache and sideboards suit Ringo very much, but curiously, they are much blacker than his medium-brown hair. So much that people say that he’s stuck them on. John’s Chinaman type moustache topped a neckerchief, held together at the throat with badge, inscribed with the words, ‘Down With Pants’. The contact lenses have now been discarded and he’s wearing the steel-rimmed spectacles that he had made for the film How I Won The War. There’s no truth in the rumour that these spectacles are going to be blacked out in the near future, to match his car windows.

From The Beatles Monthly Book – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman, 2008

Geoff, can you tell me about the recording equipment you used at Abbey Road for Sgt. Pepper’s?

Geoff Emerick: There was no modified equipment: It was basically the standard EMI REDD desk, eight in and four out— and a couple of faders on those would accept an auxiliary input. We used Studer 4-track tape machines. Prior to that it was EMI’s own machines.

EMI were quite strict, like the BBC, on their technical specifications. Certainly the role of the engineer then was to work within those specifications—there were certain things you could do and certain things you couldn’t do. If something went into the red [on an input meter on the desk] you’d probably have to re-take something—and I know these days that sounds a bit silly. But with The Beatles we could be more flexible than with most people. I tried out various different mic techniques, for example, but we still had to be careful.

I remember we had a letter from EMI about the bass-drum mic’ing—they hated the idea of a mic being so close to an instrument that gave out such high-velocity air pressure, and they said it would probably destroy the mic capsule.

Geoff Emerick – 1987 interview – From Recording Sgt. Pepper’s: Unpublished Conversations with | Reverb News

How did the sessions work in those days, Geoff?

The Beatles would normally start a session with a song idea. Normally we would finish a song, then go on to the next. But sometimes we would take something to a certain point, then, if we didn’t know what the solo was going to be, or there wasn’t a verse written, we’d leave it and move on to some other song.

The general procedure was that we’d start laying down the basic rhythm track—we’d start late in the afternoon, say 3 or 4 p.m., until 2 or 3 in the morning. That was unusual for EMI at the time—and so we’d be on our own then. We’d just do everything to get the master rhythm track, and keep doing takes until that one. Which probably meant going back on the reel of tape to take one again. The earlier stuff would have been take three or take four normally, but we’d go up to take 20 if we needed to.

On “Lovely Rita” they were stuck for a solo, and I suggested they do a piano solo. I can’t remember whether George or Paul played it—I think Paul. They were fed up putting guitars on for solos. I used to use a tape delay into the echo, recorded onto tape, and then delayed into the echo plate, but at the same time I was wobbling the tape and putting a high amount of wow and flutter on it, so the signal was going into the echo chamber and going up and down in pitch. That was done as an overdub.

But basically the procedure would normally be to record bass, and drums, and guitar or piano. We usually replaced the bass part afterwards as an overdub, because at least with four tracks we had the luxury of putting the bass on a separate track. All the drums would go on one track—there were no stereo drums. Guitar and piano on one track. Then we would go back and maybe drop in guitar and piano parts all on the one track, and maybe even mix the guitar, piano, and drums to one track, which would give us three tracks, including one for the bass replacement overdub. The vocals would go on the fourth track.

I remember recording the bass guitar—we always loved the bass-end of records. It always seemed to be the bass-end that was the backbone of the record, and to get the best bass sound ever was always a challenge. Every record we recorded, I remember, we were always going to get “the best bass sound.” One of the theories we had was that instead of using a microphone to record the bass, we’d use a loudspeaker. A loudspeaker can push it out, so it must be able to take it in as well. Which we did, putting another loudspeaker in front of the bass stack. It sounded pretty good actually, though we didn’t pursue using it.

Geoff Emerick – 1987 interview – From Recording Sgt. Pepper’s: Unpublished Conversations with | Reverb News

As we were making Pepper, people were asking me, ‘How’s it coming along?’ And I would say, ‘Fine.’ But, I must confess, as it was getting longer and longer into the album, and more and more avant-garde, I was beginning to wonder whether we were being, a little, over the top, and, a little bit, maybe pretentious. There was a slight niggle of worry. I thought, ‘Is the public ready for this yet?’

George Martin – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman, 2008

Towards the end of doing the album, we were getting a bit overwhelmed, I mean, we weren’t losing our tempers or anything, it was just that we couldn’t see it ever coming to an end. So, whenever things started slowing up, we’d play ‘A Day In The Life’ to cheer us up.

Geoff Emerick – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman, 2008

The biggest memory I have of Sgt Pepper is that I learnt to play chess on it.

Ringo Starr – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman, 2008


By the time you see these pages the Beatles’ first 1967 LP album, “SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND”, will be ready and in your local record stores. So we’re going to devote all our space this month to telling you most of the things you’ll want to know about each recording.

“SGT. PEPPERS LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND” was recorded at the EMI Studios at Abbey Road, St. John’s Wood, North London, between December 1966 and Sunday April 2, 1967. The Beatles worked to that particular deadline because Paul had arranged to fly to America on Monday April 3. In fact there were just a few things left to do when he went away. Some strings had to be added to the accompaniment on “She’s Leaving Home” and George had to get together with George Martin over some final production points in connection with his solo track “Within You Without You”. What’s more the actual running order for all the recordings had to be worked out and The Beatles took a close interest in supervising the very elaborate design of the LP sleeve, making sure the photographs were just the way they wanted.

Before we start going through the whole “Sgt. Pepper” programme track by track, here are a few more general points. The record is not split up into individual tracks — not “banded” as they say. There’s only a fraction of a second’s silence between the end of one song and the beginning of the next. In a couple of cases there isn’t even that much gap and one number runs straight on into another. It’s a bit like listening to Radio London but without jingles, commercials and a deejay. There’s no Weather Word either!

On an LP disc the bit between the end of the last track and the label in the centre is called the “run-out” groove. Even the “run-out” groove is put to use on “Sgt. Pepper”. If you have a non-automatic record player, don’t take the LP off as soon as the last recording finishes. If you have a dog in your house this is his/her special bit of “Sgt. Pepper”. There’s a special sound for dogs recorded on the first part of the run-out groove. It’s a high-frequency note pitched at 18 kilocycles which is above the general limit picked up by the human ear. But your dog will hear it quite plainly. If YOU hear it you’ve got very unusual ears because most humans can’t hear any sound pitched above a 17 kilocycle limit. That’s all a bit technical — hope you know what we’re trying to say.

There’s other stuff on the run-out groove that you WILL be able to hear. Just a bit of jabbering conversation by The Beatles mixed up and distorted. Translated, it might well mean something like “Thank you for listening. That’s all for now. Please come to our next LP — you’re all invited”. Well, something like that anyway!

Now let’s go through all the tracks in programme running order…


Recording started February 1. Lead Vocal by PAUL. PAUL sings solo in the verses but the others join in the chorus. There are audience sound effects. The Lonely Hearts Club Band consists of four horns played by session musicians brought into the studio for that purpose. Ringo’s number is actually introduced at the end of this track (who IS Billy Shears anyway?) and George Martin plays the organ that links the two songs together.


Recording started March 30. Lead Vocal by RINGO. The Beatles started work on this one the same day that the special photographs were taken for the “Sgt. Pepper” LP sleeve. Everyone left the studio to go to Michael Cooper’s place in Chelsea — complete with all the colourful military-type gear you can see in the finished pictures! PAUL plays piano on this number and JOHN and PAUL join in the vocal with RINGO. This song was originally entitled “Bad Finger Boogie” — which appears at the top of the first hand-written version of the lyrics which John and Paul worked out.


Recording started March 2. Lead Vocal by JOHN. John got the title for this from his son! Julian brought home a painting he’d done at school and his father asked him what it was supposed to be. “It’s Lucy in the sky with diamonds” explained Julian. PAUL and GEORGE join in the chorus and supply with vocal backing. Starts with PAUL playing Hammond Organ — using a special organ stop which gives a bell-like overchord effect which makes it sound like a celeste.

“GETTING BETTER” (Lennon — McCartney).

Recording started March 9. Lead Vocal by PAUL. GEORGE plays a tamboura or tampura, (whichever you prefer to call it) — an enormous instrument which stands on the floor, looks a lot like a sitar, has four strings and produces a droning, resonant note. You can’t play actual tunes on it. JOHN and PAUL do the harmony backing. George Martin plays the piano — but he’s heard striking the actual piano strings and not the keyboard.

“FIXING A HOLE” (Lennon — McCartney).

Recording started February 21. Lead Vocal by PAUL. PAUL plays the harpsichord, the guitar solo is by GEORGE. Nothing else to say about this one except it’s a right up-tempo do-it-yourself. Don’t you agree?

“SHE’S LEAVING HOME” (Lennon — McCartney).

Recording started March 17. Lead Vocal by JOHN AND PAUL. JOHN and PAUL sing this as a QUARTET — in other words their two voices are recorded twice to make four. The Beatles are not heard instrumentally on this one. A harp and strings — scored by Mike Leander form the accompaniment.


Recording started February 17. Solo Vocal by JOHN. John’s lyrics for this one are based on the wording he found on an old poster advertising a special benefit performance of a travelling show. The guitar solo is by PAUL and to give a sort of fairground effect there’s a quartet of harmonicas played by RINGO. GEORGE and yours truly (NEIL & MAL). John wanted to use the authentic sound of an old steam organ but there isn’t one anywhere in the world which can be played by hand—all existing models work on punched cards like a pianola works from a long roll which has holes punched in it. Instead George Martin played Hammond Organ and built up an electronic tape to give the effect John had described — using various organ recordings speeded up, slowed down, electronically distorted, played backwards and dipped in a bottle of coke. Or something. Anyway it worked.


Recording started March 15. Solo Vocal by GEORGE. GEORGE wrote this and he’s the only member of the group heard on the recording. The playing time of this track is 6 seconds over 5 minutes which means it’s the longest of the “Sgt. Pepper” titles by just a few seconds. GEORGE’S voice is heard very far back, blending into the instrumental sound of something called a dilruba. That’s an Indian bowed instrument, a bit violinish and a bit sitarish, played by an Indian friend of George. Other friends supplied the following Indian accompaniment — three tambouras (including one played by GEORGE and one by NEIL), one tabla (sort of mini-bongo drums), one swordmandel (hope that’s the right spelling — it’s a zither-like Indian table harp played by GEORGE and you heard it on “Strawberry Fields Forever”. If you listened carefully.) In addition there were session musicians brought in to add the sounds of three cellos and eight violins.

“WHEN l’M 64” (Lennon — McCartney)

Recording started December 10. Lead Vocal by PAUL. PAUL plays piano as well as bass. JOHN plays guitar. JOHN, PAUL and GEORGE sing a wordless chorus which goes with the backing sound of two clarinets plus a bass clarinet which are played by session musicians. This number was recorded after The Beatles had finished “Strawberry Fields Forever” and before they did “Penny Lane”.

“LOVELY RITA” (Lennon — McCartney).

Recording started February 22. Solo Vocal by PAUL. This is lovely Rita, a meter maid. In other words a female traffic warden. Paul got the idea when an American visitor he was with in London remarked “Oh. I see you’ve got meter maids over here these days”. PAUL plays the piano and George Martin adds the honky tonk piano solo. JOHN, PAUL and GEORGE supply backing voices and use comb-and-paper to get special sound effects.

“GOOD MORNING, GOOD MORNING” (Lennon — McCartney).

Recording started February 16. Lead Vocal by JOHN. This begins with a cock crowing which was achieved by using the sound of a cock crowing! JOHN and PAUL sing the main choruses together. PAUL has an electric guitar solo. The front-line instrumentalists from SOUNDS INC. were invited to the session to play three saxophones, two trombones and a French horn. At the end you’ll hear an assortment of various animal noises including the sound of a chicken clucking. The clucking blends into the final guitar note — which, in turn, becomes the first note of the next recording!


Recording started March 29. Vocal by EVERYBODY. Now we’re back in the auditorium where this album started — so there are audience sounds again. “Sgt. Pepper — Mark II” has different words with everyone singing together. And there are no horns on it this time. Merges straight into the final song…

“A DAY IN THE LIFE” (Lennon — McCartney).

Recording started January 19. Vocal shared between JOHN and PAUL. This is the one which has the much-written-about 41-piece orchestra to accompany it. The first and last segments are sung by JOHN, the middle bit by PAUL. The full orchestra sound was added on February 10. This is the second longest “Sgt. Pepper” item and it plays for just over 5 minutes. JOHN plays the guitar passage at the very beginning. You might hear a voice counting just before the first big burst from the orchestra. It belongs to MAL. A bit later on it’s MAL again when you hear somebody chuckling in the background. At the end all sorts of things are happening with three pianos being played by RINGO, PAUL, MAL and JOHN plus a harmonium being played by George Martin. George says the final drawn-out chord lasts all of 42 seconds’.


And that’s “Sgt. Pepper” from beginning to end. Of course we haven’t mentioned every instrument you hear all the way through — just the extra sounds. Otherwise The Beatles use their own instruments and we haven’t jotted that down each time.

So far as recording date information is concerned we’ve just shown the day when work was started on each title. On average each song took about a week of recording sessions to complete — but in most cases the week’s work was spread over a longer period. In other words The Beatles would do a bit on one song, start another and then come back to the first one.

Out of the eleven songs, three were 50-50 collaborations with John and Paul contributing an equal share of the lyrics and tune. Another four contain ideas which are, for the most part, Paul’s whilst John had the main say in the final four. So, over all, each has been responsible for an equal part of the total so far as composing is concerned. And, of course, George looked after his own special item from start to finish. And a good time is guaranteed for all!


From The Beatles Monthly Book, June 1967


THE current Beatles recording sessions are producing some very trendy clothes as well as forward-looking songs. The variety of musical instruments in the studio is only equalled by the varying styles of the Beatles suits, jackets, ties and shoes.

The new album will also be surely one of the most expensive ever produced. Messrs. Lennon, McCartney, Starr and Harrison, together with road managers, Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans, not forgetting recording manager, George Martin, plus engineers, doormen to keep out intruders, etc., have been spending every weekday night in E.M.I’s No. 2 studio for the past month and there were dozens of sessions in earlier months too. The results, so far, have been “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane”, their recent single, plus six additional tracks for the new album, which means that they are about half-way through.

I estimate that the new LP will eventually cost something like £25,000 to produce! That’s a lot of lolly, far more than any normal LP costs to produce, but we’re talking, after all, about the princes of pop, and any Beatles album must sell at least a million, if not several, all over the world.

So E.M.I. are hardly likely to begrudge the Beatles studio time. Gone are the days when a track would be run through, rehearsed, arranged and a master tape recorded, all in two hours. Now they frequently arrive at the studio with only a vague theme or rough set of lyrics, which they then proceed to play about with, for hours, or often days.

Three guitars and a set of drums are all old hat and apparently considered incapable of backing a new Beatles song.

Experiment is everything. The night I was in the studio. George Martin spent half an hour, before the Beatles arrived, dropping spoons, pennies, and any other object he could think of, into a large cauldron of water. The bottom of the cauldron was lined with plastic sponge, so that just the resulting splonks, gesplashes and plops would be recorded by the microphone.

Then the fashion display began. Paul zipped into the studio, wearing a lemon yellow jacket, set off by a brightly striped tie. With only a pause to shake hands, he was behind Ringo’s drum kit. demonstrating that if ever the other three Beatles decided to retire, he could do the whole job, songwriting, singing. harmonising with himself on the vocals, playing lead guitar, bass guitar, piano, organ, trumpet and drums.

Then George strolled in. with his Civil War moustache, but minus beard. With that beard he reminded me of an Afghanistan sheep-herder, but the illusion is now gone. His moustache was set off by a long. black, Mississippi gambler’s jacket and black moccasins.

Ringo and John arrived next, having driven up together in John’s Mini — with blacked-out windows, of course. The new moustache and side-boards suit Ringo very much, but curiously they are much blacker than his medium-brown hair. So much so that some people say that he’s stuck them on. John’s Chinaman-type moustache topped a neckerchief, held together at the throat with a badge inscribed with the words, “Down with Pants”. The contact lenses have now been discarded and he’s wearing the steel-rimmed spectacles that he had made for the film “How I Won The War”. There’s no truth in the rumour that these spectacles are going to be blacked out in the near future, to match his car windows.

No Beatles session is complete without a host of famous visitors. A silent Indian admirer, who turned out to be Ravi Shankar’s brother, sat by George. Hollie, Tony Hicks, strolled in soon after the boys had arrived to let them know that he had finished. What it was that he had finished, no-one revealed. A short while later, Dave Crosby of the Byrds arrived.

This particular session was concerned with completing the vocal by Paul, John and George over a backing track, and they soon disappeared into a large sound box in one corner of the studio, to work on the tracks after they had completed the lyrics. This took Paul and John about half an hour, huddled together with Mal and Neil in one corner, whilst they worked on words and phrases. The Byrd arrived during a break, and after the greeting, was invited into the box by Paul, to help with the vocal.

The Beatles are very much more relaxed these days. During the earlier years of their stardom, in ’63 and ’64, everything was one mad rush. There never seemed to be any time for them to sit and think. The demand for personal appearances was voracious. and no matter how hard they tried to satisfy it, they could never hope to do so. Brian Epstein used to be inundated with a constant stream of telephone calls and letters wanting to know why the Beatles “couldn’t just appear in their town, surely it’s a very small thing to ask?” In between the incredible round of exhausting touring that they undertook, they also appeared on numerous television shows to promote new releases, appeared in two films, wrote dozens of hit songs, arranged and finally recorded them.

It all had to stop, or at least slow down sometime, and, in my opinion, what made the Beatles put an end to the backbreaking touring round the world, more than anything else, was the realisation that very few audiences heard even 10% of what they sang and played on stage. And they are very conscious of what they can do, and so there was one simple answer-stop knocking yourself out for the half a million or so people who can see you personally on a tour in any one country, and concentrate on recording and making films, which can be seen by anyone who wants to, anywhere.

These present recording sessions are the ultimate in any pop star’s life. Superb studio and equipment at their command and unlimited time to use it in. It’s difficult to fault the new combination. No star ever fell because he produced bad records. On the other hand, if the Beatles ever do produce bad records, then they have only themselves to blame.

From Beat Instrumental – April 1967
From Beat Instrumental – June 1967
From Record Mirror – April 15, 1967
From Twitter – Lennon/#McCartney EMI Studios, London, March 1967

Last updated on April 21, 2024

Exit mobile version