The frequency of The Beatles’ albums seems startling now but as ten months passed between the release dates of Revolver in August 1966 and the next LP on 1 June 1967, there was much speculation about what was seen as a long gap. The wait was the result of The Beatles pursuing a new direction. They had decided that their concert at Candlestick Park, San Francisco on 29 August 1966 would be their last. Touring had become musically frustrating and too dangerous. In December 1966, Paul explained: ‘We feel that only through recording do people listen to us, so that is our most important form of communication. We take as much time as we want on a track, until we get it to our satisfaction.’

With Sgt. Pepper, The Beatles and producer George Martin showed the world what could be achieved with this approach. Their experimental and painstaking work meant that around 400 hours were needed to complete the LP - an astonishing total at that time. Unusual studio techniques were applied throughout Sgt. Pepper. Artificial Double Tracking, or ‘phasing’ as it was nicknamed, was used to alter the true sound of an instrument or a voice. There was also the speeding up and slowing down of tapes during recording and mixing, which changed the tempo and pitch of a voice, instrument or whole song.

No singles were released from Sgt. Pepper, although it includes two of the best known Lennon/McCartney hits - ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ and ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’. The songs range across styles from the poignant ballad ‘She’s Leaving Home’ to the jaunty music hall pastiche ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ and the giddy fairground atmosphere of ‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!’. The album ends with ‘A Day In The Life’ - a composition seamlessly combining two distinct ideas originating from John and Paul. The most radical aspect of its arrangement was the superimposition of an orchestra building to a cacophonous climax. George Harrison’s ‘Within You Without You’ introduced pop fans to the unfamiliar sound of an Indian ensemble trading licks with a classical string section. However, it is not only the exotic instrumentation on the album that dazzles, listen for the soulful drum fills, exciting guitar flourishes, elastic bass lines and characterful vocals.

As the sessions for Sgt. Pepper progressed, George Martin recognised the commercial risk he and the group were taking: ‘As it was getting more and more avant-garde... there was a slight niggle of worry. I thought, “Is the public ready for this yet?”’. It was.
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