5 Historical Figures Erased from the “Sgt. Pepper” Cover

5 Historical Figures Erased from the “Sgt. Pepper” Cover

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Jesus Christ

When British pop artist Sir Peter Blake and his then-wife Jann Haworth developed the idea for a photomontage of famous people to grace the cover of “Sgt. Pepper,” Paul McCartney, George Harrison and John Lennon gave them a list of possible figures to include. (George Martin, who produced most of the group’s hits, recounted that Ringo Starr said, “You carry on, fine,” and never made a list.) “John, of course, got far-out, as usual. He put Hitler and Jesus in,” recalled McCartney in an interview published in Paul Du Noyer’s book “Conversations with McCartney.” Lennon’s picks came just months after he told a London Evening Standard interviewer that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus now.” The quote sparked little notice when originally printed in Great Britain, but it created a big stir in the United States during the summer of 1966 when it was reprinted in the American teenage magazine Datebook. Disc jockeys who thought the comment sacrilegious refused to play Beatles songs, and some radio stations even burned Beatles records and memorabilia in bonfires. Although Lennon was willing to resurrect the controversy for the album cover, it was decided to avoid the subject altogether and no cardboard cut-out of Jesus was commissioned.

Adolf Hitler

While Martin wrote in his book “With a Little Help from My Friends: The Making of Sgt. Pepper” that Lennon included Hitler “just to be a naughty boy,” the image of the Nazi leader very nearly made the final cut. “Hitler and Jesus were the controversial ones, and after what John said about Jesus we decided not to go ahead with him—but we did make up the image of Hitler,” Blake told London’s Independent newspaper in 2007. “If you look at the photographs of the out-takes, you can see the Hitler image in the studio.” While some snapshots of the photo shoot for the album cover showed the Hitler cut-out off to the side, Blake told the Independent that the Fuhrer was actually in the final cover art but obscured by the Beatles themselves. “Hitler was in fact covered up behind the band,” Blake said. “He is on there—you just can’t see him.”

Mohandas Gandhi

Lennon’s list also included Gandhi as one of the suggested faces for the “Sgt. Pepper” cover. A cut-out of the Indian independence leader was included in the initial photo shoot, but Sir Joseph Lockwood, chairman of the record label EMI, was concerned that Gandhi’s presence on the cover could be considered sacrilegious in India and jeopardize album sales there. “Take Gandhi out. We need the Indian market. If we show Gandhi standing around with Sonny Liston and Diana Dors, they’ll never forgive us in India,” Lockwood told McCartney according to Philip Norman’s book “Shout! The Beatles in Their Generation.” Honoring Lockwood’s wishes, a strategically positioned palm tree frond was used to cover up Gandhi’s image on the right side of the photomontage.

Leo Gorcey

When Lockwood initially saw the concept for the cover of “Sgt. Pepper,” he rejected the design because he feared living celebrities would object to the use of their images and sue the record company. Lockwood finally relented as long as the Beatles obtained written permissions from every living person for the use of their likenesses on the cover art and indemnified the record company for 20 million pounds to guard against lawsuits. When the Beatles contacted the celebrities for permission, only one asked for compensation—actor Leo Gorcey, who as a child starred as the leader of the Dead End Kids before appearing in the Bowery Boys movies in the 1940s and 1950s. Gorcey, who asked for $500 for the use of his image, had originally appeared in the back row on the album cover to the left of fellow Bowery Boy Huntz Hall, but the Beatles simply purged him from the final version and painted over his image with blue sky. “We thought, ‘You know what, we’ve got enough people on here!’” McCartney recollected of the group’s reaction to Gorcey’s demand in an interview on his web site.

Elvis Presley

While the image of musical contemporary Bob Dylan appears on the “Sgt. Pepper” cover along with a Shirley Temple doll wearing a sweater that says “Welcome the Rolling Stones,” there is no reference to one of the Beatles’ biggest musical influences—Elvis Presley. “I’m an Elvis fan,” Lennon once said in a television interview, “because it was Elvis that really got me out of Liverpool.” The Beatles placed Presley on such a high pedestal that they didn’t want him to be just another face in the crowd on the “Sgt. “Elvis was too important and too far above the rest even to mention,” said McCartney. “He was more than a pop singer. He was Elvis the King.”

List of images on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

The Beatles' 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band has a widely recognized album cover that depicts several dozen celebrities and other images. The image was made by posing the Beatles in front of life-sized, black-and-white photographs pasted onto hardboard and hand tinted. [1]

It was created by Jann Haworth and Peter Blake, who in 1967 won the Grammy Award for Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts for their work on it. [2] Blake has said that the intention was to show a new band surrounded by fans after a performance. [1] [3]

I suggested that they had just played a concert in the park. They were posing for a photograph and the crowd behind them was a crowd of fans who had been at the concert. Having decided on this, then, by making cut-outs, the fans could be anybody, dead or alive, real or fictitious. If we wanted Hansel and Gretel, I could paint them and they could be photographed and blown up. I asked the four Beatles for a list and I did one myself. Robert Fraser did a list and I can't remember whether Brian Epstein did one or not. The way that worked out was fascinating. John gave me a list and so did Paul. George suggested only Indian gurus, about six of them, and Ringo said, "Whatever the others say is fine by me" and didn’t suggest anyone. It's an insight into their characters. All kinds of people were suggested. Hitler was there he is actually in the set-up, but he is covered by the Beatles themselves as we felt he was too controversial. The same applied to Jesus. There were only two of their contemporaries on the cover. Bob Dylan was suggested by John and I put on Dion because he is a great favourite of mine. [4]

Full text

1 Performing a basic internet search of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), tens of thousands of hits come up. All of the hits reference the album in either of two categories: as a musical project with unsurpassed innovations, igniting huge changes in the music industry, and the second – though ultimately related – as a commodity, a symbol of the Beatles and 1960s culture. In either case, the very prevalence of this image sketches out a framework for understanding the cultural relevance of not only the Beatles, but of Sgt. Pepper itself. Of all the Beatles’ projects, this one garners more “air-time” and press than any other, perhaps because it is largely regarded as an album of “firsts”: the first gatefold sleeve, the first album to print lyrics on the cover, the first “concept album,” the first album to overtly declare involvement in the liberal psychedelia of the 1960s (Harry, 1992: 970). Whatever the reason, one thing is clear: Sgt. Pepper has become the gold standard for musicians, setting the bar high for musical innovation and distinctive cover art.

2 Any reading of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band seems to center on ambiguity. That is, the sense of confusion that pervades the 1960s has apparently seeped into analyses of its cultural artifacts. I say this because critics treating Sgt. Pepper point to the ways in which the album straddles two social positions at once: as a piece of pop culture, yet an intellectually provocative and obviously political text. When critics examine it, they tend to privilege the musical innovations over the visual elements. In “Covering Music: A Brief History and Analysis of Album Cover Design,” critics Steve Jones and Martin Sorger lament the dearth of scholarship about album covers, observing that the album cover “is never understood in purely functional terms, or as a form of graphic design” (1999: 68). Since “popular music has increasingly relied on visual style to present and sell itself” (Sorger and Jones, 1999: 68), they widely examine the conditions and production of album covers from their initial inception in the 1930s as protective coverings for the records, called “slicks,” to the proliferation of graphics and complex design elements in the 1960s. Sorger and Jones identify the development of the LP (or long-playing record) in 1948 as the moment at which album covers became important elements of the record industry. Another important factor in the emergence of the album cover’s development was the connection between early rock and the movies many popular music icons, such as Elvis Presley, were also movie stars, and the album covers used the promotional tools of the movies –primarily photographs of the stars – to enhance their design.

3 Sorger and Jones identify photography as a key element of album cover design the representational nature of the medium fits well with the purposes of the album cover, which, as Ian Inglis notes in “Nothing You Can See that Can’t Be Shown: The Album Covers of the Beatles,” were to protect the recording, to accompany the music, to advertise the band, and to serve as an object of purchase, a commodity (Inglis, 2001: 83). Photography helped sell the band and offer it up as a commodity in doing so, album covers came to “stand in” for the band and the music inside. The band performs the music, but since we cannot purchase the band itself, we purchase their representation in the form of a photograph on an album cover. Sorger and Jones note, however, that the heavy dependence on photography began to wane as the 1960s drew to a close. Once psychedelic culture led to psychedelic art, “photography followed illustration and collage in explorations of new uses and combinations. Enigmatic images replaced the informative and documentary nature of the typical photographic album cover” (Sorger, Jones, 1999: 77). They read this shift as an important one in album cover design, for it began the trend we see today (77). This trend begins in earnest with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, not only because it incorporated various visual elements in its design, but also because it did not rely on the “informative and documentary nature” of photography. Instead, Sorger and Jones claim, Sgt. Pepper depended upon subverting and changing those familiar tropes.

4 We can see how Sgt. Pepper changes the way we view photography just by looking at the crowd of people in the background. Before this groundbreaking album, photographs of the band members took center stage, both for records in general and for the Beatles. Images of the band members helped to solidify the connection between the music and the band they put a “face” to the experience of listening. They also served as a way to “brand” the music. Record buyers learned to associate the four Beatles—and their shaggy, mop-top haircuts, ankle boots, and collarless suits – with the music they produced. In some sense, album covers’ reliance on photography confused the relationship between music and image to the point of no return: it was virtually impossible not to immediately associate Paul McCartney’s charming smirk with his playfully saccharine “All My Loving.” However, Sgt. Pepper disrupts this notion by never showing a photograph of the Beatles on its cover. Though they appear in two different iterations on the cover, they are depicted as wax dummies – three dimensional representations that immediately contrast with the two dimensional photographs behind them – and the “real” Beatles themselves standing in the center of the crowd. Furthermore, the “real” Beatles are disguised as members of the fictional Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, sporting neon-colored satin jumpsuits. Both representations of the Beatles serve as distinct contrasts to the almost ghost-like cutouts of their “heroes,” and seem to suggest the limitations of photography in terms of their ability to represent reality. The photographic cutouts of heroes past and present do not offer the same kind of easy, immediate identification that the simple recognition of the Beatles permits. Rather, the Beatles themselves are almost lost in the sea of people, leaving the viewer to wonder whose record this is. The sheer complexity of the image alone requires a different kind of relationship between viewer and image, album and the band, representation and identity.

5 Ian Inglis draws our attention to the intellectual complexity via the album’s visual excess. Deeming Sgt. Pepper a “decisive moment in the history of Western civilization,” (Inglis, 2001: 87) Inglis highlights its importance as a “remarkable visual-musical correspondence” (87). Aside from its other innovations, Inglis describes the cover as the first to “specifically offer itself up as an object for overt investigation and analysis identifying the figures […] featured in the tableau became a popular game and an intellectual exercise” (92). For Inglis, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’s major significance lies in the ways in which it invited the viewer/listener to enter into the album. Identifying the figures required an active gaze and scrutiny, which in turn required the viewer to have a personal stake in the image, instead of the more passive dismissal of it as accessory or accompaniment to the music it contained. In some sense, Inglis’ analysis leads us to believe that after Sgt. Pepper, album covers could become much more than accompaniments to music they became social, political, and cultural critiques that required involvement from the audience.

6 Inglis’s essay introduces three ways of reading an album cover that offer further insight into the visual innovations of Sgt. Pepper: as visual texts, as links between the visual image and the music, and as markers of influence within the musical community. Since much work has already been done on the latter two categories, I will leave them aside, and consider the album as a visual text. As such, Sgt. Pepper confers new identities on the band as members of the increasingly pervasive subcultural movements of the 1960s. Given the two depictions of the Beatles on the cover, we can understand that Sgt. Pepper marks the Beatles’ “definitive break with the pop music industry” (Inglis, 2001: 87). Seen in this light, the album cover as visual text presents a kind of auto-critique, both of itself as commodity form, and as a representation of the band’s identity.

7 The Beatles’ understanding of their own cultural identity, both as pop stars and as musical artists with working-class roots, plays a large role in understanding the value of Sgt. Pepper as visual text. To borrow Kenneth Womack and Todd F. Davis’ reading of Sgt. Pepper in “Mythology, Remythology, and Demythology: The Beatles On Film,” the “album’s cover depicts the group’s former mythological selves standing stage right of their remythologized contemporary counterparts, themselves surrounded by similarly mythologized figures from the annals of history, religion, Hollywood, music, sports, and literature” (2006: 104). Womack and Davis also note that these “remythologized” depictions “prefigure the newly mythologized identities that the group would [later] bring to life,” all the while “recognizing the constraints inherent in the mythologizing process itself” (104). When Womack and Davis refer to “mythology,” they mean the self-aware and self-conscious manipulation of particular cultural identities – whether as super icons of the pop industry or pioneers of psychedelic counterculture – for the purposes of exposing their obvious complicity and their rejection of these identities. In short, Womack and Davis suggest that the Beatles underwent three stages in which their identity was at stake, and that they actively re-framed these identities according to their projects at the time. I invoke Womack and Davis because I believe it most effectively approaches the type of criticism I wish to perform, though it falls short in that it relies too heavily on the interaction between music and album cover.

Behind the Sonics: The Beatles, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band’

The Beatles landmark Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was one of most impactful, experimental and beloved albums of all time, and a paradigm-shifter in terms of what albums could do. Most albums before that were essentially collections of singles. The idea of a concept album – in which all the songs were unified symphonically, all pieces fitting together to form a whole – was rare pre-Pepper. Sinatra’s smoky late-night In The Wee Small Hours was a nascent concept , as was Belafonte’s Calypso album. But both are exceptions.

The Beatles created a whole new kind of concept album, as they wrote all the material as well. Their songwriting, always remarkably sophisticated, and chromatic musically, expanded into new realms of lyrical brilliance, both traditionally narrative and bravely surreal. The idea was to create an album which sounded unlike anything that came before, which is exactly what they did.

Remarkably, it was made on recording equipment which, by today’s standards, was arcane and also tremendously restrictive: four-track analog. That they created a sonic masterpiece with this technology exemplifies the old adage: limitations create possibilities. Though Sgt. Pepper is often framed as The Beatles triumph despite these limitations , in fact it seems more accurate to say they triumphed because of these technical limits. What they did was not only inspired, it was ingenious. The collective creativity of the band with Martin and Emerick expanded in every direction during the making of the album. Rather than be hindered by the technological strictures, they reached a place where anything seemed possibly.

The most famous example of this is Lennon’s “Strawberry Fields Forever,” (which, along with McCartney’s “Penny Lane,” were the first two songs recorded for this project, but eventually excluded because they were released as singles), Lennon loved two separate takes of the song one was light, and the other quite heavier. He told Martin and Emerick he wanted to use half of one and half of the other. When told merging the two was impossible, John laughed and told them they would figure it out. Nothing’s impossible. And they did.

So the idea of being restricted didn’t figure into this. Several dynamics empowered them to understand this. For starters, it was the first time the Beatles were able to take a break from touring so as to focus only on recording. The studio itself became another instrument for The Beatles to use, and, working with Martin and Emerick, the production became as brilliantly colorful and new as the songs themselves.

To try to explain the impact of the technology on the art and science of recording music, and analyze how the limitations were surpassed, we spoke to several experts. These include the late 22-Grammy Award winning engineer Al Schmitt, who died last week. Given he was the king of live recording, his estimation of Pepper was especially fascinating.

“It gave me the idea that you can try anything.,” he said about Pepper. “It changed the way we thought about things.”

Here’s the full list of luminaries:

Al Schmitt (engineer-producer Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Frank Sinatra)
Steve Lukather (guitarist-songwriter Toto, Ringo’s All-Starr Band)
Nancy Wilson (guitarist-songwriter, Heart, Roadcase Royale)
Bob Ezrin (engineer-producer Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd)
Ed Cherney (engineer-producer-mixer Brian Wilson, Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton
Butch Vig (producer Nirvana, Foo Fighters)
Al DiMeola (legendary jazz guitarist)

Here’ what they had to say:

Bob Ezrin: It was the first time we truly understood the studio as a powerful instrument of composition, and not just a soundproof place that captured performances. Suddenly, those of us who were making music realized that there was a higher plane of expression available to us through creative use of technology.

Nancy Wilson: [The Beatles] were essentially inventing multi-track recording. They were so at the drawing board and creating something completely new that had never happened before. George Martin was a genius, and their muse, because he was not afraid to try all the crazy, insane, impossible things they wanted.

Ed Cherney: Before that, you had a lot of guys out in the room, and your mission was to recreate what happened out in the room. This was different. This was about bending reality, and trying to make a different dimension out of it. The first time we heard that and realized there was a studio, it opened my eyes. My goodness, there is a whole other artform to how they do that.

Bob Ezrin: It made me think of the studio as an instrument of magic. I never wanted to be a recordist, just capturing people’s performances. I always wanted to be a sorcerer, creating larger than life experiences from just music and sound.

Butch Vig: Everyone involved was at the top of their game: George Martin kept raising the bar with production and arrangements Emerick was pushing the envelope with his groundbreaking engineering prowess, and The Beatles were really hitting their peak.

Ed Cherney:
The Beatles created Sgt. Pepper knowing they would never have to perform it live, and they used that freedom as an opportunity to go beyond people’s expectations. We came from “How Much Is That Doggy In The Window,” in a very short time, to this. It was a spectacular leap in terms of artistry and courage.

Butch Vig: In this digital day and age, it is absolutely amazing to think that it was recorded on 4-track.

Ed Cherney: Using a 4-track, they would record three tracks of information, and then bounce those to the fourth track to open up more tracks. So they were constantly bouncing and mixing between the two. It’s an engineering tour-de-force by Geoff Emerick.

Al DiMeola
: Emerick and other Abbey Road technicians were masters at the transfer of tracks, the bounce. You have to bounce them at the highest level with no distortion, and that can’t be undone. And they did that masterfully.

Al Schmitt: Normally when you record on 4-track tape and do many bounces, you start to accumulate a lot of hiss. You have to have the balances perfect. Once you bounce it over and add something else, you cannot re-do it. This was amazing to us we weren’t sure how Emerick did it.

Al Schmitt at Capitol, 2017. Photo by Paul Zollo/American Songwriter

Bob Ezrin: Once something got bounced into the main master, it would have been a long way back to undo it. So they were forced to experiment first, and then decide on what worked and what didn’t with every step they took along the way.

Al DiMeola: Afforded the luxury of not having to go on the road, their daily job was going to the studio every day. Imagine having that wonderful gift. Not one other group could do that. That extra time allotted in the studio, without the pressures of the road, allowed them to experiment with sounds, to take music to another level, to places we have never heard before.

Nancy Wilson: They could not have done Sgt. Pepper while they were on tour still. When you are on the road, it is really hard to get to that elated place you need to be to make good records. It is exhausting. They had to get away from the insanity, the screaming hordes everywhere. So they wisely stepped off the road into the studio for the purpose of exploring and bringing all those masses along with them. They knew they had the ear of the world, so they worked their art really hard to bring something authentic and refreshing and new.

Ed Cherney:
Because it was recorded on 4-track, that means that all their performances were great from top to bottom. The solos, the vocals, every note, every performance, it all had to be perfect and not pieced together like we do now. I don’t know how they did it, but it affected me profoundly. “/”

Al DiMeola:
I always reflect on the enormity of the sound, largely due to the big analog sound of the four-track. When you record an acoustic guitar analog, it sounds big and has presence. The less tracks, the wider the space of the tape, the fatter the sound. Analog has a much punchier, fatter sound. Listen to the cello. There is no way anyone is going to get a cello sound that big. Or the way John’s voice sounds like it is right there with you, that big.

Bob Ezrin:
The medium gave them infinite possibilities. But it also required that they craft each part and performance to play its particular role in their overall concept. It meant having a clear intention for each song before starting out and then only committing to things that actually made the song work.

Ed Cherney:
The technology at the time sounded astounding. A lot of the equipment was hand-made, and had a specific sound that was rich and full. They got the low end to speak in a way we never heard the low end speak before. They stretched the technology more than anyone has before. I never heard drums or rhythm like that, and the bass so clear, and have it musically feel so good.

Al Schmitt:
It gave me the idea that you can try anything. Whatever worked. That was the thing that got me so much, that they experimented and picked the best of what they did. It changed the way we thought about things.

Butch Vig:
I have referenced the production ideas on Sgt. Pepper many times, consciously or unconsciously. There were so many groundbreaking studio tricks they used that are still relevant today.

Ed Cherney: In my own work, I try to fill the speakers like they did. Also, every four bars, there’s some event. You never got bored. There was always a surprise. No matter how many times you listened to it, there was something else to get your attention, to keep you entertained and to keep you in the music and the moment. It could be a tambourine coming in, it could be a wah-wah. There was always something, and you were never bored listening.

Steve Lukather: Once they gave up playing live, they knew they could do anything, because they didn’t have to perform it live. They created a new style of record making. They took the studio seriously. They were pros, and they wanted to get it right. They had an idea and they had George Martin and Geoff Emerick there to help them make it real, to realize the ultimate vision of it all. They pushed their creativity to beyond what had ever been thought of before.

Al Schmitt: I listen to it today, and it still sounds as amazing as ever, if not more. The sound of the thing – the sonics themselves – still absolutely thrill me. The magic of Sgt. Pepper is forever.

Creating the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover

Hitler on the left (a joke by Lennon to shock), later just lifted out when cooler heads prevailed. Gandhi on right, airbrushed out of the final photo when EMI thought their Indian markets would be offended at trivializing him on a pop album.

I always thought it was just a collage. Thats amazing they shot it like this.

The back wall is a collage, from the looks of the photo. Seems they made a collage and posed actual people in front of it!

Don’t know if it’s their best work, but it definitely gets overshadowed these days by Revolver, Abbey Road, the White Album, etc. At some weird point it became uncool to like it because it was so popular maybe?

Contains A Day in the Life, my all-time favorite Beatles song.

I wish there was a way to get the original cover with characters that were later erased because of complaints and stuff

I can remember when college girls threw their affections at boys who were seen with the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover art. Who like me had history with a San Francisco Summer of Love 'happening'. I only found my vehicle front end painted with purple prose. Hello ?


In early 1967, a rumour circulated in London that Paul McCartney had been killed in a traffic accident while driving along the M1 motorway on 7 January. [1] The rumour was acknowledged and rebutted in the February issue of The Beatles Book, a fanzine. [1] McCartney then alluded to the rumour during a press conference held around the release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in May. [2] [ better source needed ] By 1967, the Beatles were known for sometimes including backmasking in their music. [3] Analysing their lyrics for hidden meaning had also become a popular trend in the US. [4] In November 1968, their self-titled double LP (also known as the "White Album") was released containing the track "Glass Onion". John Lennon wrote the song in response to "gobbledygook" said about Sgt. Pepper. In a later interview, he said that he was purposely confusing listeners with lines such as "the Walrus was Paul" – a reference to his song "I Am the Walrus" from the 1967 EP and album Magical Mystery Tour. [5]

On 17 September 1969, Tim Harper, an editor of the Drake Times-Delphic, the student newspaper of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, published an article titled "Is Beatle Paul McCartney Dead?" The article addressed a rumour being circulated on campus that cited clues from recent Beatles albums, including a message interpreted as "Turn me on, dead man", heard when the White Album track "Revolution 9" is played backwards. Also referenced was the back cover of Sgt. Pepper, where every Beatle except McCartney is photographed facing the viewer, and the front cover of Magical Mystery Tour, which depicts one unidentified band member in a differently coloured suit from the other three. [6] According to music journalist Merrell Noden, Harper's Drake Times-Delphic was the first to publish an article on the "Paul is dead" theory. [7] [nb 1] Harper later said that it had become the subject of discussion among students at the start of the new academic year, and he added: "A lot of us, because of Vietnam and the so-called Establishment, were ready, willing and able to believe just about any sort of conspiracy." [7]

In late September 1969, the Beatles released the album Abbey Road as they were in the process of disbanding. [9] On 10 October, the Beatles' press officer, Derek Taylor, responded to the rumour stating: "Recently we've been getting a flood of inquiries asking about reports that Paul is dead. We've been getting questions like that for years, of course, but in the past few weeks we've been getting them at the office and home night and day. I'm even getting telephone calls from disc jockeys and others in the United States." [10] [11] Throughout this period, McCartney felt isolated from his bandmates in his opposition to their choice of business manager, Allen Klein, and distraught at Lennon's private announcement that he was leaving the group. [12] [13] With the birth of his daughter Mary in late August, McCartney had withdrawn to focus on his family life. [14] On 22 October, the day that the "Paul is dead" rumour became an international news story, [15] McCartney, his wife Linda and their two daughters travelled to Scotland to spend time at his farm near Campbeltown. [16]

On 12 October 1969, a caller to Detroit radio station WKNR-FM told disc jockey Russ Gibb about the rumour and its clues. [7] Gibb and other callers then discussed the rumour on air for the next hour, [17] during which Gibb offered further potential clues. [18] Two days later, The Michigan Daily published a satirical review of Abbey Road by University of Michigan student Fred LaBour, who had listened to the exchange on Gibb's show, [7] under the headline "McCartney Dead New Evidence Brought to Light". [19] [20] It identified various clues to McCartney's death on Beatles album covers, particularly on the Abbey Road sleeve. LaBour later said he had invented many of the clues and was astonished when the story was picked up by newspapers across the United States. [21] Noden writes that "Very soon, every college campus, every radio station, had a resident expert." [7] WKNR fuelled the rumour further with its two-hour programme The Beatle Plot, which first aired on 19 October.

The story was soon taken up by more mainstream radio stations in the New York area, WMCA and WABC. [22] In the early hours of 21 October, WABC disc jockey Roby Yonge discussed the rumour on-air for over an hour before being pulled off the air for breaking format. At that time of night, WABC's signal covered a wide listening area and could be heard in 38 US states and, at times, in other countries. [23] Although the Beatles' press office denied the rumour, McCartney's atypical withdrawal from public life contributed to its escalation. [24] Vin Scelsa, a student broadcaster in 1969, later said that the escalation was indicative of the countercultural influence of Bob Dylan, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, since: "Every song from them – starting about late 1966 – became a personal message, worthy of endless scrutiny . they were guidelines on how to live your life." [7]

WMCA dispatched Alex Bennett to the Beatles' Apple Corps headquarters in London on 23 October, [25] to further his extended coverage of the "Paul is dead" theory. [22] [26] There, Ringo Starr told Bennett: "If people are gonna believe it, they're gonna believe it. I can only say it's not true." [25] In a radio interview with John Small of WKNR, Lennon said that the rumour was "insane" but good publicity for Abbey Road. [27] [nb 2] On Halloween night 1969, WKBW in Buffalo, New York broadcast a program titled Paul McCartney Is Alive and Well – Maybe, which analysed Beatles lyrics and other clues. The WKBW DJs concluded that the "Paul is dead" hoax was fabricated by Lennon. [29]

Before the end of October 1969, several record releases had exploited the phenomenon of McCartney's alleged demise. [22] These included "The Ballad of Paul" by the Mystery Tour [30] "Brother Paul" by Billy Shears and the All Americans "So Long Paul" by Werbley Finster, a pseudonym for José Feliciano [31] and Zacharias and His Tree People's "We're All Paul Bearers (Parts One and Two)". [32] Another song was Terry Knight's "Saint Paul", [22] which had been a minor hit in June that year and was subsequently adopted by radio stations as a tribute to "the late Paul McCartney". [33] [nb 3] According to a report in Billboard magazine in early November, Shelby Singleton Productions planned to issue a documentary LP of radio segments discussing the phenomenon. [35] In Canada, Polydor Records exploited the rumour in their artwork for Very Together, a repackaging of the Beatles' pre-fame recordings with Tony Sheridan, using a cover that showed four candles, one of which had just been snuffed out. [36]

Proponents of the theory maintained that, on 9 November 1966, McCartney had an argument with his bandmates during a Beatles recording session and drove off angrily in his car, crashed, and was decapitated. [22] [37] To spare the public from grief, or simply as a joke, the surviving Beatles replaced him with the winner of a McCartney look-alike contest. [22] This scenario was facilitated by the Beatles' recent retirement from live performance and by their choosing to present themselves with a new image for their next album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. [38]

In LaBour's telling, the stand-in was an "orphan from Edinburgh named William Campbell" whom the Beatles then trained to impersonate McCartney. [7] Others contended that the man's name was William Shears Campbell, later abbreviated to Billy Shears, [39] and the replacement was instigated by Britain's MI5 out of concern for the severe distress McCartney's death would cause the Beatles' audience. [40] In this latter telling, the surviving Beatles were said to be wracked by guilt at their duplicity, and therefore left messages in their music and album artwork to communicate the truth to their fans. [40] [41]

Dozens of supposed clues to McCartney's death have been identified by fans and followers of the legend. These include messages perceived when listening to songs being played backwards and symbolic interpretations of both lyrics and album cover imagery. [42] [43] One frequently cited example is the suggestion that the words "I buried Paul" are spoken by Lennon in the final section of the song "Strawberry Fields Forever", which the Beatles recorded in November and December 1966. Lennon later said that the words were actually "Cranberry sauce". [44] [45]

Another example is the interpretation of the Abbey Road album cover as depicting a funeral procession. Lennon, dressed in white, is said to symbolise the heavenly figure Starr, dressed in black, symbolises the undertaker George Harrison, in denim, represents the gravedigger and McCartney, barefoot and out of step with the others, symbolises the corpse. [19] The number plate of the white Volkswagen Beetle in the photo – containing the characters LMW 28IF – was identified as further "evidence". [7] [46] "28IF" represented McCartney's age "if" he had still been alive (although McCartney was 27 when the album was recorded and released) [24] while "LMW" stood for "Linda McCartney weeps" or "Linda McCartney, widow". [47] [nb 4] That the left-handed McCartney held a cigarette in his right hand was also said to support the idea that he was an impostor. [22]

On 21 October 1969, the Beatles' press office again issued statements denying the rumour, deeming it "a load of old rubbish" [48] and saying that "the story has been circulating for about two years – we get letters from all sorts of nuts but Paul is still very much with us". [49] On 24 October, BBC Radio reporter Chris Drake was granted an interview with McCartney at his farm. [16] McCartney said that the speculation was understandable, given that he normally did "an interview a week" to ensure he remained in the news. [50] Part of the interview was first broadcast on Radio 4, on 26 October, [51] and subsequently on WMCA in the US. [50] According to author John Winn, McCartney had conceded to the interview "in hopes that people hearing his voice would see the light", but the ploy failed. [50] [nb 5]

McCartney was secretly filmed by a CBS News crew as he worked on his farm. As in his and Linda's segment in the Beatles' promotional clip for "Something", which the couple filmed privately around this time, McCartney was unshaven and unusually scruffy-looking in his appearance. [52] His next visitors were a reporter and photographer from Life magazine. Irate at the intrusion, he swore at the pair, threw a bucket of water over them and was captured on film attempting to hit the photographer. Fearing that the photos would damage his image, McCartney then approached the pair and agreed to pose for a photo with his family and answer the reporter's questions, in exchange for the roll of film containing the offending pictures. [53] In Winn's description, the family portrait used for Life ' s cover shows McCartney no longer "shabbily attired", but "clean-shaven and casually but smartly dressed". [52]

Following the publication of the article and the photo, in the issue dated 7 November, [52] the rumour started to decline. [7] In the interview, McCartney was quoted as saying:

Perhaps the rumour started because I haven't been much in the press lately. I have done enough press for a lifetime, and I don't have anything to say these days. I am happy to be with my family and I will work when I work. I was switched on for ten years and I never switched off. Now I am switching off whenever I can. I would rather be a little less famous these days. [54]

In November 1969, Capitol Records sales managers reported a significant increase in sales of Beatles catalogue albums, attributed to the rumour. [55] Rocco Catena, Capitol's vice-president of national merchandising, estimated that "this is going to be the biggest month in history in terms of Beatles sales". [22] [55] The rumour benefited the commercial performance of Abbey Road in the US, where it comfortably outsold all of the band's previous albums. [56] Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour, both of which had been off the charts since February, re-entered the Billboard Top LPs chart, [22] peaking at number 101 and number 109, respectively. [57]

A television special dedicated to "Paul is dead" was broadcast on WOR in New York on 30 November. [21] Titled Paul McCartney: The Complete Story, Told for the First and Last Time, it was set in a courtroom and hosted by celebrity lawyer F. Lee Bailey, [31] who cross-examined LaBour, [21] Gibb and other proponents of the theory, and heard opposing views from "witnesses" such as McCartney's friend Peter Asher and Allen Klein. [22] Bailey left it to the viewer to determine a conclusion. [22] Before the recording, LaBour told Bailey that his article had been intended as a joke, to which Bailey sighed and replied, "Well, we have an hour of television to do you're going to have to go along with this." [21]

McCartney returned to London in December. Bolstered by Linda's support, he began recording his debut solo album at his home in St John's Wood. [58] Titled McCartney, and recorded without his bandmates' knowledge, [59] [60] it was "one of the best-kept secrets in rock history" until shortly before its release in April 1970, according to author Nicholas Schaffner, and led to the announcement of the Beatles' break-up. [61] In his 1971 song "How Do You Sleep?", in which he attacked McCartney's character, [62] Lennon described the theorists as "freaks" who "were right when they said you was dead". [63] The rumour was also cited in the hoax surrounding the Canadian band Klaatu, [64] after a January 1977 review of their debut album 3:47 EST sparked rumours that the group were in fact the Beatles. [65] In one telling, this theory contended that the album had been recorded in late 1966 but then mislaid until 1975, at which point Lennon, Harrison and Starr elected to issue it in McCartney's memory. [64]

LaBour later became notable as the bassist for the western swing group Riders in the Sky, which he co-founded in 1977. In 2008, he joked that his success as a musician had extended his fifteen minutes of fame for his part in the rumour to "seventeen minutes". [66] In 2015, he told The Detroit News that he is still periodically contacted by conspiracy theorists who have attempted to present him with supposed new developments on the McCartney rumours. [67]

Author Peter Doggett writes that, while the theory behind "Paul is dead" defied logic, its popularity was understandable in a climate where citizens were faced with conspiracy theories insisting that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 was in fact a coup d'état. [68] Schaffner said that, given its origins as an item of gossip and intrigue generated by a select group in the "Beatles cult", "Paul is dead" serves as "a genuine folk tale of the mass communications era". [8] He also described it as "the most monumental hoax since Orson Welles' War of the Worlds broadcast persuaded thousands of panicky New Jerseyites that Martian invaders were in the vicinity". [8] In his book Revolution in the Head, Ian MacDonald says that the Beatles were partly responsible for the phenomenon due to their incorporation of "random lyrics and effects", particularly in the White Album track "Glass Onion" in which Lennon invited clue-hunting by including references to other Beatles songs. [3] MacDonald groups it with the "psychic epidemics" that were encouraged by the rock audience's use of hallucinogenic drugs and which escalated with Charles Manson's homicidal interpretation of the White Album and Mark David Chapman's religion-motivated murder of Lennon in 1980. [69]

During the 1970s, the phenomenon became a subject of academic study in America in the fields of sociology, psychology and communications. [70] Among sociological studies, Barbara Suczek recognised it as, in Schaffner's description, a contemporary reading of the "archetypal myth wherein the beautiful youth dies and is resurrected as a god". [8] Psychologists Ralph Rosnow and Gary Fine attributed its popularity partly to the shared, vicarious experience of searching for clues without consequence for the participants. They also said that for a generation distrustful of the media following the Warren Commission's report, it was able to thrive amid a climate informed by "The credibility gap of Lyndon Johnson's presidency, the widely circulated rumors after the Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy assassinations, as well as attacks on the leading media sources by the yippies and Spiro Agnew". [8] American social critic Camille Paglia locates the "Paul is dead" phenomenon to the Ancient Greek tradition symbolised by Adonis and Antinous, as represented in the cult of rock music's "pretty, long-haired boys who mesmerize both sexes", and she adds: "It's no coincidence that it was Paul McCartney, the 'cutest' and most girlish of the Beatles, who inspired a false rumor that swept the world in 1969 that he was dead." [71]

"Paul is dead" has continued to inspire analysis into the 21st century, with published studies by Andru J. Reeve, Nick Kollerstrom and Brian Moriarty, among others, and exploitative works in the mediums of mockumentary and documentary film. [40] Writing in 2016, Beatles biographer Steve Turner said, "the theory still has the power to flare back into life." [39] He cited a 2009 Wired Italia magazine article that featured an analysis by two forensic research consultants who compared selected photographs of McCartney taken before and after his alleged death by measuring features of the skull. [39] According to the scientists' findings, the man shown in the post-November 1966 images was not the same. [39] [72] [nb 6]

Similar rumours concerning other celebrities have been circulated, including the unsubstantiated allegation that Canadian singer Avril Lavigne died in 2003 and was replaced by a person named Melissa Vandella. [73] [74] In an article on the latter phenomenon, The Guardian described the 1969 McCartney hoax as "Possibly the best known example" of a celebrity being the focus of "a (completely unverified) cloning conspiracy theory". [73] In 2009, Time magazine included "Paul is dead" in its feature on ten of "the world's most enduring conspiracy theories". [41]

There have been many references to the legend in popular culture, including the following examples.

Devil Music: A History of the Occult in Rock & Roll

On June 1, 1967, the most famous musicians in the world released a new long-playing record whose jacket depicted a gallery of unconventional personalities and one individual whose unconventionality was infamous. The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was a widely anticipated album that confirmed the band’s status as the defining tastemakers of their time. It was the soundtrack to the blissful “Summer of Love,” it firmly established the primacy of psychedelic rock music, and it was hailed as a musical breakthrough that offered a mass audience a representation of the marijuana and LSD sensation in sound. Today Sgt. Pepper is remembered as the classic album of the classic rock era, notable for its pioneering recording techniques and enduring Beatle songs (“With a Little Help From My Friends,” “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” “A Day in the Life”), although the group’s earlier and later music has aged more successfully. Even the album’s cover is considered a landmark in the field of record packaging from the years when music was actually presented on physical discs in physical sleeves and millions of fans studied the jacket photo and the puzzling assembly of figures it depicted.

Photographed by Michael Cooper, the Sgt. Pepper cover shot had taken place on March 30, 1967. The Beatles, innovating with every step, decided on a layout that broke with their habit of simply posing the quartet alone in a single portrait. Designer Peter Blake, a rising star in London’s Pop Art world, later recalled conferring with the Beatles and art gallery owner Robert Fraser on a different approach to the design: “I think that that was the thing I would claim actually changed the direction of it: making a life-sized collage incorporating real people, photographs, and artwork. I kind of directed it and asked the Beatles and Robert (and maybe other people, but I think it was mainly the six of us) to make a list of characters they would like to see in a kind of magical ideal film, and what came out of this exercise was six different sets of people.”

The result was a group shot of almost seventy people, with the four costumed Beatles as the only live bodies in the picture. Among the selections picked by the Beatles, Blake and Fraser were admired contemporaries Bob Dylan and writer Terry Southern movie stars Fred Astaire, Laurel and Hardy, Tony Curtis, Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe and a number of artistic and literary outlaws Edgar Allan Poe, William S. Burroughs, Aubrey Beardsley, Dylan Thomas, and Oscar Wilde. And in the top left corner of the collection, between the Indian yogi Sri Yukteswar Giri and the nineteen-thirties sex symbol Mae West, glared the shaven-headed visage of a man once known as “the Wickedest Man in the World.” His name was Aleister Crowley.

Most accounts name Paul McCartney as the Beatle who picked Crowley, although the foursome’s more controversial choices of Adolf Hitler, the Marquis de Sade, and Mahatma Gandhi were dropped from the collage. What McCartney knew of Crowley was probably superficial his subsequent life and work makes no reference to Crowley whatsoever, but in 1967 the Beatle was highly attuned to the prevailing vogues of young Britain and America and the burgeoning counterculture. At the same time, Peter Blake’s specialty was in “found” pictures from decades past: the Pop sensibility of exhibiting rediscovered advertising and newspaper illustrations with a distancing layer of irony. Together the musician and the designer were sensitive to the revival of Victoriana that characterized British graphics and style in the later sixties (seen, for example, in the uniforms of the Sgt. Pepper bandsmen and the circus poster that inspired the lyrics to the album’s “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite”), and Aleister Crowley, born in 1875, was part of that revival. The Crowley photo used by Blake had been photographed by Hector Murchison in 1913 and, thanks to its promotion by the Beatles, became the most recognizable image of him. Like three of the other cover subjects, the “decadent” artist Aubrey Beardsley, the proto-surrealist author Lewis Carroll, and the scandalous writer Oscar Wilde, Crowley’s reputation was gradually being rehabilitated for a more tolerant time. He was no longer an affront to Britannic majesty but a martyr to moral hypocrisy.

Born into a brewing fortune and raised in a fanatically religious household, Edward Alexander Crowley was, in some ways at least, a typical product of his class. He was wealthy enough to avoid regular employment from youth onwards studied at Cambridge and travelled broadly (sometimes on perilous climbing expeditions in Britain, Europe, and Asia) wrote and self-published prose and poetry adventured sexually with women and men and freely partook of alcohol, stimulants, and opiates. Had this been all there was he might have been remembered as just another fin-de-siècle libertine, but Crowley had another pursuit that was not merely the vice of a privileged dandy but an all-consuming passion. Such was his irreverence and appetite for transgression, obvious even as a child, that his mother labeled him as “the Great Beast,” taken from the apocalyptic Book of Revelation. For the remainder of his life Crowley adopted and sought to live up to the designation, preaching and practicing his abiding tenet: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of law.”

Aleister Crowley’s earthly exploits were a story of substantial literary gifts and metaphysical scholarship in service to an arrogant and abrasive personality. He could both impress with his brilliant mind and intimidate with his vicious head-games. “I took an immediate dislike to him,” recounted the novelist Somerset Maugham of his meeting Crowley in Paris in the early 1900s, “but he interested and amused me. He was a great talker and he talked uncommonly well… He was a liar and unbecomingly boastful, but the odd thing was that he had actually done some of the things he boasted of. Crowley told fantastic stories of his experiences, but it was hard to say whether he was telling the truth or merely pulling your leg.” Maugham would go on to base the villainous title character of Oliver Haddo in his The Magician on Crowley.

Intelligent and cultured yet selfish and domineering, Crowley had joined the Order of the Golden Dawn mystical sect but fell afoul of its leadership and formed his own circle, the Order of the Silver Star his “Great Operation” was the transcription of The Book of the Law, as dictated by the spirit Aiwass through his wife Rose in Cairo in 1904. A succession of spouses, lovers, disciples and intimates passed through his life. He exiled himself to America during World War I, formed a ragtag cult of believers at a Sicilian abbey in the early nineteen-twenties, and lost a much-publicized libel suit in 1933. At his height he was a figure of international notoriety for the diabolic excesses of his lifestyle and his gleefully blasphemous writings and art (he even signed his name with an unmistakably phallic A), but his money and press appeal gradually ran out. Crowley’s voluminous treatises on yoga, chess, poetry, Tantric sex, mountaineering and the lost arts of what he always called “magick” drew a steady audience of devotees, yet by the end of his life only a few remained committed. He died in a boarding house near Hastings, England, in 1947, addicted to heroin and largely forgotten by the countrymen he had once so shocked. To one witness, his last words were, “Sometimes I hate myself.”

But it was Crowley’s “Do what thou wilt” that the youth of 1967, both the members of the Beatles and the group’s countless listeners across the globe, most appreciated. To them, Crowley was not a wicked man but one well ahead of his time, who anticipated the later generation’s rejection of outmoded pieties of duty and restraint. What Crowley stood for, ultimately, was self-gratification: no mere aimless indulgences but the healthy and liberating pursuit of one’s deepest will and desires against the soulless and shallow expectations of authority. Crowley’s elaborate credo of Thelema (Will) gave young people’s enjoyment of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll a dimension beyond their immediate pleasures from a Crowleyan perspective, such joys could be considered sacred.

“We suppress the individual in more and more ways,” ran Crowley’s 1938 introduction to The Book of the Law. “We think in terms of the herd. War no longer kills soldiers, it kills all indiscriminately. Every new measure of the most democratic and autocratic governments is Communistic in essence. It is always restriction. We are all treated as imbecile children.” These sentiments underlay the complaints voiced by the marchers and demonstrators of the sixties. Though Crowley is but a footnote in the Beatles’ legacy, it was inevitable that many of the buyers who scooped up Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and gazed through expanded minds at its cover would investigate his biography and apply his teachings to their own circumstances. If Aleister Crowley had incidentally also conducted animal sacrifice, vociferously denounced Christianity, and claimed to have called up demons out of the nether worlds, well, those too became part of his legend. That baleful face on the jacket of a milestone collection of popular music was to be the one which launched a million trips.

The Beatles’ nearest rivals in rock ’n’ roll were the Rolling Stones. It was the Stones who really seemed to symbolize the dangerous glamour of the genre and the time. They had no need to put Aleister Crowley on a record cover when they already seemed to live by his dicta. From their earliest successes they had been cast as a dirty, brutish counterpoint to the happy and lovable Beatles their music was more aggressive and more obviously derived from the snarling grit of American blues. The month of Sgt. Pepper’s release, three Stones (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Brian Jones) were in London courtrooms on drugs charges, and by the end of 1967 their psychedelic equivalent of the Beatle album had been released, its title a sneering parody of the royal preface on British passports: Their Satanic Majesties Request. It was only a pun, but it was the first time the Prince of Darkness had been named on a major pop record.

Over the next couple of years the Rolling Stones became more associated than any other entertainers with a personal depravity that surpassed that of just hard-partying rock stars. There had been mavericks, bad boys and tough guys in show business before, but the Stones took those prototypes to a deeper level of outrage. Much of this, certainly, was projected on them by critics and fans who wanted to ascribe to the group more significance than the members themselves wished. And some of their aura really came from their friends and hangers-on, who were already basking in the Stones’ outlaw status and adding their own personal predilections into the mix. “There were a lot of Pre-Raphaelites running around in velvet with scarves tied to their knees… looking for the Holy Grail, the Lost Court of King Arthur, UFOs and ley lines,” recalled Keith Richards in his 2010 memoir, Life. Jaded aristocrats, bored Euro-trash, and striving Americans, the guitarist recalled, all showed off “the bullshit credentials of the periodùthe patter of mysticism, the lofty talk of alchemy and the secret arts, all basically employed in the service of leg-over.” It was the famous Rolling Stones, not their lesser-known supplicants, who took the heat for this.

That said, the musicians were infected with the intellectual fashions of the counterculture, and suffused as they were in drug experimentation, they made willing ventures into some of the growing body of Occult literature then in currency: everything from the Taoist Secret of the Golden Flower (read by Mick Jagger while making Their Satanic Majesties Request) and collections of Celtic mythology, to the American Charles Fort’s compendium of reported natural aberrations The Book of the Damned (1919) and Louis Pauwels’ conspiracy-tinged The Morning of the Magicians (1960). All such work played to the prejudices of the young, the disaffected, the hip, and the stoned. They confirmed their views that the establishment was lying, middle-class morality was a sham, reality was subjective, and the world could be a magical place if you only knew where and how to look.

The Rolling Stones’ next album, Beggars’ Banquet, took the implications of Satanic Majesties even further, with its hypnotic and tribal single, “Sympathy For the Devil.” This longtime favorite, which remains a Stones anthem to this day, originated with Mick Jagger’s reading of Russian novelist Mikhail Bulgakov’s allegorical The Master and Margarita. The literate and sensitive Jagger was given the book (written in 1939 but not published until the mid-sixties) by his then-girlfriend Marianne Faithfull. “He devoured it in one night and spit out ‘Sympathy For the Devil,’” Faithfull remembered in her own autobiography of 1994. “The book’s central character is Satan, but it has nothing to do with demonism or black magic… Mick wrote a three-minute song synthesized out of this very complex book.” Now considered one of the great Russian novels, The Master and Margarita is a wild satire of life in the darkest days of the Stalinist USSR, with echoes of the Faust legend and appearances by Pontius Pilate and St. Matthew.

With a working title of “The Devil is My Name,” “Sympathy For the Devil” was recorded by the Rolling Stones in the spring of 1968 (the sessions were filmed by Jean-Luc Goddard and incorporated into his eponymous film) and released in December. Jagger sang his classic first-person narrative of Satan’s presence at crucial points in history including the crucifixion of Christ, the Russian Revolution, the Nazi Blitzkrieg and even the assassinations of John F. and Robert F. Kennedy, with the lyrics retouched to reflect the latter’s death on June 5. It was a compelling song that, in a violent and tumultuous year, further stirred up an already fraught cultural mood. Yet, as Marianne Faithfull pointed out, Jagger’s devilish act was completely affected. “The only reason that the Stones were not destroyed by the ideas they toyed with is that they never took them as seriously as their fans,” she recalled. “Mick never, for one moment, believed he was Lucifer.” No, but plenty of others were far more credulous.

The Rolling Stones’ link to the Occult did not end with “Sympathy For the Devil.” Keith Richards’ partner, Anita Pallenberg, was a wickedly beautiful German model who, herself caught up in the vortex of drugs and debauchery in the band’s orbit, was rumored to be a practitioner of the dark arts. Faithfull again: “Anita eventually took the goddess business one step further into witchcraft. There were moments, especially after Brian [Jones, original Stone] died, where she went a little mad.” It didn’t help that she was cast with Jagger in the film Performance, in which a London gangster (played by James Fox) changes identities with a decadent rock star (Jagger, naturally). Keith Richards considered the director, Donald Cammell, “a twister and a manipulator whose only real love in life was fucking other people up,” but Pallenberg appeared to enjoy her nude scenes with Jagger and another member of their threesome, Michelle Breton. It made for a twisted atmosphere of jealousy and orgiastic dissipation which, whether Pallenberg really was or thought of herself as a sorceress, definitely made the rumors plausible.

Still the Occult links deepened. The American underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger was in London and, via his connections with gallery owner and socialite Robert Fraser, approached the Rolling Stones to play in his latest project, Lucifer Rising. Anger was older than the Stones and their followers (he was born in 1927), a one-time Hollywood child actor and author of the vitriolic tell-all Hollywood Babylon, and not least of all a devout student of Aleister Crowley. His low-budget shorts Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Scorpio Rising and Fireworks were unintelligible cinematic collages of Occult motifs, sadomasochism, pop appropriations, and gay male erotica. Anger described himself as a warlock and was deadly serious about his work he corralled Mick Jagger into doing an abstract synthesizer soundtrack for one of his efforts, Invocation of My Demon Brother. He also needed money and the attention the presence of the world-famous rock group would lend to Lucifer Rising. “All the roles were to be carefully cast,” Anger said later, “with Mick being Lucifer and Keith as Beelzebub… The Occult unit within the Stones was Keith and Anita, and Brian. You see, Brian was a witch, too. I’m convinced. He showed me his witch’s tit. He said, ‘In another time they would have burned me.’ He was very happy about that.”

But the Rolling Stones, as they did with so many, were only toying with Anger as long as he tickled their druggy fancy. Their real occupation was recording and performing their own music, and they saw earnest outsiders like Anger as disposable nuisances, trying to ride on their coattails and absorb some of their marketability. “Kenneth Anger they thought laughable,” wrote Marianne Faithfull. “Mick and Keith were utterly contemptuous of his satanic hocus-pocus.”

The quintet’s reputation grew yet blacker in 1969, when the deaths of two men were popularly attributed to them. Brian Jones was discovered drowned in his Sussex swimming pool on July 26th. Though he had founded the Rolling Stones, and chosen their name from a Muddy Waters song, Jones had never been able to cope with their fame and the consequent sexual, alcoholic, and chemical license afforded them. He was, in fact, a very vulnerable personality and suffered bouts of asthma on top of his heavy drinking and drug use his suspiciously convenient arrests for drug possession at the hands of a head-hunting Scotland Yard did little to help his state of mind. Jones was no more involved in the Occult than anyone in the Stones or their circle (his witch’s tit notwithstanding), but now the band appeared not just dangerous but potentially lethal. The band was definitely lethal for Meredith Hunter, a San Franciscan concertgoer who was killed by Hell’s Angels at the Stones’ December 6 concert at the Altamont Speedway in California. Again, the cause of death was more banal than demonic the weather was cold, the crowd was ugly, facilities were lacking, the show was late, the Angels were brutal and hallucinogens were everywhere. But Hunter, stabbed while the Stones played “Under My Thumb,” was another casualty for fans and foes to take in.

After the Altamont tragedy the Rolling Stones seemed to leave much of their recklessness, or in any case much of their sixties spiritual naivety, behind them. With their next public appearances in 1972, they had entered a jet-set materialism and were no longer considered by their young fans to be minstrels of an imminent revolution. Their 1973 record Goat’s Head Soup did open with the seductive riff of “Dancing With Mr. D,” which described graveyard trysts, fire and brimstone, and the whiff of voodoo, but by then such references from the Stones were not as inflammatory as they had once been. During this decade other rock ’n’ roll acts had taken to spreading the Occult message, and spreading it more widely, and more loudly, than ever.

One overlooked musician whose music made emphatic allusions to Aleister Crowley was the British rhythm ’n’ blues keyboardist and vocalist Graham Bond. Unlike Mick Jagger or Keith Richards, Bond was no dabbler in the Occult. He actually believed himself to be Crowley’s illegitimate son — Crowley’s acknowledged daughter died in childhood and he left no legal heirs — and his albums Holy Magick and We Put Our Magick On You listed songs with titles including “The Pentagram Ritual,” “The Magician,” and “The Judgement.” Though Bond never scaled the peaks of fame and wealth as many of the contemporaries he influenced (his band the Graham Bond Organization became best-known as the source of the bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker in the superstar trio of Cream), his life and works are explicitly linked with the Occult. Drug and career problems, combined with mental instability, drove Graham Bond to kill himself under the wheels of a London train in 1974.

In 1968 the former studio guitarist and member of the Yardbirds Jimmy Page formed his new quartet Led Zeppelin. Signed to the major label of Atlantic Records and abetted by the loyal and fiercely protective management of Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin quickly gathered a large following in the United Kingdom, Europe, and especially the United States, where their histrionic and very heavy brand of electric blues appealed to the restless post-Sgt. Pepper student cohort. Led Zeppelin bothered little with the typical promotional tactics of earlier rock ’n’ rollers and their record and ticket sales suffered not at all, but what emerged from Page’s infrequent interviews was his dedicated study of the Occult. “[Y]ou can’t ignore evil if you study the supernatural as I do,” he told a journalist in 1973. “I have many books on the subject and I’ve also attended a number of seances. I want to go on studying it.”

Throughout the seventies Led Zeppelin was at or near the apex of the rock world, and Page, as leader, guitarist, and producer of the group, was dominant in the band’s Occult reputation. Indeed the other players Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham had no affinity whatsoever for Page’s tastes, but each became, in varying degrees, tarnished by association. In 1970 Page, now with ample Zeppelin concert and royalty money flowing in, had moved from collecting Aleister Crowley books and other artifacts to purchasing a one-time Crowley home, the Boleskine House, on the shores of Scotland’s Loch Ness. That same year Page and engineer Terry Manning inscribed the first vinyl pressings of the album Led Zeppelin III with Crowley’s adjurations “Do what thou wilt / Shall Be the Whole of Law” on the runoff tracks, instead of the usual serial numbers.

In 1971 Led Zeppelin’s fourth album was given no formal title but an identifying quartet of runic or alchemical symbols that were later displayed by all four band members in concert Page’s was an unreadable sigil resembling the word “ZoSo,” which was eventually traced to the Renaissance Italian astrologer and mathematician Girolamo Cardano (c. 1490–1565) and two nineteenth century texts from France, Le Triple Vocabulaire Infernal and Le Dragon Rouge. Plant’s symbol of an encircled feather stood for the purportedly lost Pacific kingdom of Mu. The gatefold of this album was illustrated with an adaptation of the Hermit card from a well-known 1910 edition of the Tarot deck.

In 1974 Page purchased a London Occult book shop called The Equinox, in addition to architect William Burges’s lavish neo-Gothic Tower House in the city’s exclusive Kensington district. When Led Zeppelin founded a boutique record label Swan Song, also in 1974, launch party invitations with the heading “Do What Thou Wilt” were distributed, and strippers dressed as nuns were part of the festivities. The company’s logo was a stylized rendering of the mythical winged Icarus or, by other interpretations, Lucifer, the fallen angel. In 1975 and 1977 Page performed concerts in a black stage costume embroidered with astrological symbols, the ZoSo sigil, and a full-length twisting dragon. In the 1976 Led Zeppelin film The Song Remains the Same, a solitary Page was shown on the wooded grounds of his English home as he turned to the camera, his eyes were made to glow with an otherworldly light. Before Zeppelin’s outdoor Knebworth gigs in 1979, Page investigated the Occult antiques stored at the nearby mansion once home to Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Earl of Knebworth.

Trouble was brewing in the Led Zeppelin camp, however: singer Plant and his wife were seriously injured in a 1975 car accident, and Plant’s young son died of an infection in 1977, shortly after John Bonham, Peter Grant, and two other members of the group’s road crew were arrested for assault backstage at an Oakland concert. By that time Jimmy Page himself, like many rock stars of the period, was caught up in a serious cocaine and heroin habit. Page had also met Kenneth Anger at an auction of Aleister Crowley collectibles, where the rich guitar hero outbid the struggling cineaste, and Page had agreed to compose gratis a soundtrack for Anger’s ongoing Lucifer Rising project. The two fell out, however, as Anger complained about Page’s delays in delivering usable music, while Page was annoyed that Anger had set up an editing room in the basement of his Tower House and was offering visitors unauthorized tours of the premises. Anger publicly broke with Page in 1976, telling journalists of Page’s drug issues and threatening, “I’m all ready to throw a Kenneth Anger curse!” Anger finally screened Lucifer Rising in 1980, with assorted shots of himself, Page, a heavily drugged Marianne Faithfull, and Mick Jagger’s brother, Chris. The official soundtrack was credited to Bobby Beausoleil, an incarcerated murderer and member of the Charles Manson family.

Led Zeppelin formally disbanded in December 1980 after John Bonham drank himself to death in a binge at Page’s Windsor home three months earlier, a year after another young friend of the band was found dead of an accidental overdose in Page’s Sussex residence. In the band’s last years, and for well beyond them, both fans and American anti-rock religious zealots claimed to hear subliminal “messages” in Led Zeppelin’s famous “Stairway to Heaven” when the epic composition was played in reverse. Among the audible sounds therein, it was said, were the following phrases:

There is no escaping

Whose path will make me sad, whose power is Satan

He will give you 666

Here’s to my sweet Satan

By then the tabloid press in Britain and rock publications in America had begun to print stories of “the Zeppelin curse” that had wrought such misfortune on the quartet. In addition to the “backward masking” rumors that attended “Stairway to Heaven” — which reached as far as a committee of the state legislature of California in 1982 — more conjectural whispers held that Page had actually sold his, Robert Plant’s, and John Bonham’s souls to the Devil in exchange for Led Zeppelin’s enormous popularity. John Paul Jones, the low-key musician’s musician of the ensemble, refused to sign the infernal contract (so went the story) and thereby avoided the deaths and afflictions that struck the others. These tales reflected Led Zeppelin’s enigmatic album covers, their loud, dramatic records and shows, Plant’s mystical lyrics, and the players’ notoriously profligate personal lives and violence-prone security backup, but they originated with Jimmy Page’s admitted interest in the Occult.

Yet as early as 1976 Page was backing away from the most speculative reports. “I do not worship the Devil,” he asserted in a Rolling Stone interview that year. “But magic does intrigue me. Magic of all kinds.” He went on to tell his interviewer, journalist Cameron Crowe, “I’m not about to deny any of the stories… I’m no fool. I know how much the mystique matters. Why should I blow it now?” After the death of Plant’s child and the “curse” myth that sprang up, Page was more adamant: “The whole concept of the band is entertainment,” he told the U.K. music paper Melody Maker. “I don’t see any link between that and ‘karma,’ and yet I’ve seen it written a few times about us, like ‘Yet another incident in Zeppelin’s karma’… It’s a horrible, tasteless thing to say.”

Page has never denied his interest in Aleister Crowley and is believed to be a practicing Thelemite and still affiliated with Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis (Order of the Temple of the East), but he told Guitar World magazine in 2003, “It’s unfortunate that my studies of mysticism and Eastern and Western traditions of magic and tantricism have all come under the umbrella of Crowley. Yeah, sure, I read a lot of Crowley and was fascinated by his techniques and ideas. But I was reading across the board… It wasn’t unusual [in the sixties] to be interested in comparative religions and magic.” Long after Led Zeppelin’s demise and entering retirement, Page has had to dispel the scurrilous curse and backward masking libels that arose during the seventies. “I don’t want to get into too many backlashes from Christian fundamentalist groups,” he was quoted in 1995. “I’ve given those people too much mileage already.” In 2000 he took legal action against a London magazine that published a story suggesting he had cast Satanic spells over John Bonham as the drummer died the story was retracted and Page was paid damages, which the millionaire musician and Occultist donated to charity.

Allegations around Led Zeppelin came gradually during the group’s life and into its formidable posthumous influence. But in 1969 the up-and-coming Zeppelin had shared bills in Los Angeles with another act that caused a much greater, if briefer, scandal with a flurry of controversial records and sensational concerts in the early years of the next decade: Alice Cooper. Initially a collective promoted by the master rock satirist Frank Zappa, the Alice Cooper band fused the raucous teenage energy of electric boogie music — simpler and less expertly played than Led Zeppelin’s — with a ghoulish theatricality that was eventually labeled “shock rock.” The singer was a young Vincent Furnier, a willing participant in the ploy, who soon became identified as Alice himself the name, he maintained, was taken from a Ouija board session where he learned he was in fact the reincarnation of a seventeenth-century witch of that appellation.

Cooper wore makeup and women’s clothes on stage, performed with a live boa constrictor, destroyed baby dolls before audiences, appeared to hang and/or decapitate himself in climactic noose and/or guillotine rituals, sang songs titled “Dead Babies,” “Halo of Flies,” “Under My Wheels,” “Only Women Bleed,” “I Love the Dead,” “Black Widow,” “Is It My Body,” and the necrophiliac “Cold Ethyl,” and put out albums called Love It to Death, Killer, Welcome to My Nightmare, and Alice Cooper Goes to Hell. A persistent folk tale held that Cooper had won an onstage “gross-out” contest with Frank Zappa, which (depending on the storyteller) involved the public production and ingestion of bodily wastes. Parental groups and mainstream commentators were outraged, while the press lapped it up.

In 1971 Albert Goldman, music critic for Life magazine, wrote that “The advance publicity for Alice Cooper almost turned my stomach… It’s a frightening embarrassment… What gets everybody uptight is the sacrifice he makes of shame.” For a few short years, Alice Cooper was the ne plus ultra of rock ’n’ roll ugliness: “We are the group that drove a stake through the heart of the love generation,” he told eager reporters.

Before long, though, Alice Cooper (the individual) began to downplay the shock rock label. He didn’t disown his music or his stage routine, but he made it pretty clear that what he was doing was no more than a gimmick that had caught on with America’s frustrated teenagers and their worried moms and dads. Cooper hobnobbed with old-time show business figures Groucho Marx and Bob Hope, and was seen competing in very non-shocking celebrity golf tournaments. Behind the scenes, he was not a Satan-crazed drug addict but a minister’s son from Phoenix, Arizona and functioning alcoholic. Casual observers naturally linked him to the cresting Occult wave, given his garish spectacle and horrific lyrical themes, but insiders knew better. Journalist Bob Greene followed the Cooper band on an American tour and noted how unmoved the vocalist was by his own hype. “He was aware that much of America took his sick, blood-soaked image very seriously indeed, which made him all the more willing to laugh at himself,” Greene wrote in his 1974 chronicle, Billion Dollar Baby. “Alice was proud of his intelligence and his sense of irony, and in the studio he did all he could to show that the job of playing the Alice Cooper role was just that, a job. [H]e was always eager to demonstrate once again that he was not mistaking himself for the dangerous wretch named Alice Cooper that was being sold to the public.”

During his reign as the king of shock rock, one of Alice Cooper’s opening acts was the east coast American band Blue Öyster Cult. Unlike the headliner, the Cult did not go for blatant scenes of transvestitism or public execution they had a similar heavy rock sound but with subtler material that retained some air of mystery. The group’s lyrical themes were often tongue-in-cheek, as was the slightly ridiculous group name, but they were delivered with an intensity (laser beams and exploding flash pots were onstage staples) that made them a popular draw in the mid-seventies. Much of this was down to their producer, manager, and co-songwriter Sandy Pearlman, a university graduate and occasional music critic who has been credited as the first to use the term “heavy metal” in describing aggressive guitar-based rock music. Keyboardist Allen Lanier himself formed a curious link between the crunching stadium rock of Blue Öyster Cult’s genre and the cerebral bohemianism of his one-time partner, punk singer Patti Smith.

Blue Oyster Cult | photo: Legacy Recordings

Following the Led Zeppelin model, BÖC devised a series of unfathomable album covers that implied Occult significance, with the M.C. Escher-esque graphics of their self-titled 1972 debut and the next year’s Tyranny and Mutation, followed by the Luftwaffe jet fighter on 1974’s Secret Treaties, while 1975’s On Your Feet or On Your Knees pictured a sinister black limousine in front of an old church set against a storm-tossed sky. Each of these tableaux featured a cryptic logo said to stand for the scythe of Cronus, leader of the Titans of Greek mythology, as well as being the alchemical symbol for the heaviest of metals, lead. Like Jimmy Page’s ZoSo, the BÖC design virtually became an Occult trademark which millions of fans adopted onto their own clothes and other accessories. Use of the umlaut in “Öyster,” pointless though it was, began a long trend of employing the intimidating Germanic accent in other heavy metal group names: Mötley Crüe, Motörhead, and so on. The band’s songs further suggested a vaguely science-fiction or transgressive aesthetic, including favorite numbers like “Dominance and Submission,” “Subhuman,” “Tattoo Vampire,” “Career of Evil,” “Astronomy,” “I Love the Night,” “Nosferatu,” “Flaming Telepaths,” “ETI [Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence],” and the Tokyo-destroying monster riff of “Godzilla.”

Blue Öyster Cult’s biggest hit record became one of the best-known rock singles of its day, and one of the spookiest. Composed by guitarist Donald Roeser under his far cooler pseudonym Buck Dharma, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” was a ghostly minor-key ballad of a lovers’ suicide pact that hinted at the lurking presence of Death himself just outside the curtained window and the candlelit room. The morbid verses fit perfectly with the whispery arpeggios and remains, like Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” an anthem of shadowed passions and Gothic power. It was quoted in a variety of later cinematic and literary works, including Stephen King’s end-of-the world epic The Stand and a televised version of Norman Mailer’s nonfiction book about murderer Gary Gilmore, The Executioner’s Song. The album it highlighted, 1976’s Agents of Fortune, again featured the Cronus logo and the arcane imagery of Tarot cards (as well as lyrics contributed by Patti Smith). For the legions of young rock ’n’ rollers who learned the tunes on their guitars or who played the tracks on their bedroom stereos, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” and other BÖC works were entries to the world of the Occult: accessible yet indecipherable, catchy yet confounding.

The Beatles Sgt. Pepper 50th Anniversary reissue

For the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in June 2017, The Beatles released a deluxe anniversary edition featuring a wide variety of outtakes from the recording sessions.

Upon its release on June 1, 1967, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band initially spent 148 weeks in the British chart, including a total of 27 weeks at number one. During its first U.S. chart run, the album held the number one spot for 15 of the 88 weeks it appeared in the Top 200. ‘Sgt. Pepper‘ won four GRAMMY Awards®, including Album of the Year, and it remains one of the most influential and bestselling albums of all time. In 2003, the U.S. Library of Congress selected ‘Sgt. Pepper‘ for the National Recording Registry, recognizing the album as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” ‘Sgt. Pepper‘ tops Rolling Stone magazine’s definitive list of the � Greatest Albums of All Time.”

This is the first time Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has been remixed and presented with additional session recordings. To create the new stereo and 5.1 surround audio mixes for ‘Sgt. Pepper,’ producer Giles Martin and mix engineer Sam Okell worked with an expert team of engineers and audio restoration specialists at Abbey Road Studios in London. All of the Anniversary Edition releases include Martin’s new stereo mix of the album, which was sourced directly from the original four-track session tapes and guided by the original, Beatles-preferred mono mix produced by his father, George Martin.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Anniversary Edition releases include:

A CD featuring the new ‘Sgt. Pepper‘ stereo mix, complete with the original U.K. album’s “Edit for LP End” run-out groove.

Deluxe: Expanded 2CD and digital package features the new stereo album mix on the first CD and adds a second CD of 18 tracks, including previously unreleased complete takes of the album’s 13 songs, newly mixed in stereo and sequenced in the same order as the album. The second CD also includes a new stereo mix and a previously unreleased instrumental take of “Penny Lane” and the 2015 stereo mix and two previously unreleased complete takes of “Strawberry Fields Forever.”

Deluxe Vinyl: Expanded 180-gram 2LP vinyl package features the new stereo album mix on the first LP and adds a second LP with previously unreleased complete takes of the album’s 13 songs, newly mixed in stereo and sequenced in the same order as the album.

Super Deluxe: The comprehensive six-disc boxed set features:
CD 1: New stereo album mix
CDs 2 & 3:
– 33 additional recordings from the studio sessions, most previously unreleased and mixed for the first time from the four-track session tapes, sequenced in chronological order of their recording dates
– A new stereo mix of “Penny Lane” and the 2015 stereo mix of “Strawberry Fields Forever”
CD 4:
– Direct transfers of the album’s original mono mix and the “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” singles
– Capitol Records’ U.S. promotional mono single mix of “Penny Lane”
– Previously unreleased early mono mixes of “She’s Leaving Home,” “A Day In The Life,” and “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” (a mix thought to have been erased from a tape in 1967, but discovered during archive research for the anniversary edition)
Discs 5 & 6 (Blu-ray and DVD):
– New 5.1 surround audio mixes of the album and “Penny Lane” by Giles Martin and Sam Okell, plus their 2015 5.1 surround mix of “Strawberry Fields Forever”
– High resolution audio versions of the new stereo mixes of the album and “Penny Lane” and of the 2015 stereo mix of “Strawberry Fields Forever”
– Video features: 4K restored original promotional films for “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Penny Lane,” and “A Day In The Life” plus The Making of Sgt. Pepper, a restored, previously unreleased documentary film (broadcast in 1992), featuring insightful interviews with McCartney, Harrison, and Starr, and in-studio footage introduced by George Martin.

(See FULL Track Listing below)

Just as many ideas are sparked by chance, ‘Sgt. Pepper‘ first sprang from a conversation between Paul and Beatles roadie Mal Evans on an airplane, when Mal’s request to pass the salt and pepper was misheard by Paul as “Sgt. Pepper.” The concept of who such a figure could be took root in Paul’s mind, blooming with the imagination of The Beatles as an Edwardian era military band — “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The Beatles’ creative wellspring for ‘Sgt. Pepper‘ also flowed from such myriad sources as The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album, a Victorian circus poster (“Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!”), a TV commercial for breakfast cereal (“Good Morning Good Morning”), a picture drawn by John’s young son, Julian (“Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”), a teen runaway reported in the news (“She’s Leaving Home’), and Hindu teachings (“Within You Without You”).

Using the standard four-track tape recording equipment of the day, The Beatles collaborated with producer George Martin to achieve “the impossible,” as they dubbed it, to go as far out as they could with arrangements and new technology to realize their collective vision for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. As George Martin described it, “We were into another kind of art form where you were putting something down on tape that could only be done on tape.” The Beatles clocked more than 400 hours in Abbey Road’s Studio 2 to record the album, wrapping sessions in April 1967.

The album’s vibrant artwork, including its extravagant Pop Art cover which finds The Beatles surrounded by a crowd of heroes in a 3D collage, was created by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth in collaboration with the band. The original artwork is showcased across the suite of Anniversary Edition releases, including the album’s pull-out sheet of ‘Sgt. Pepper‘ cutouts.

Housed in a 12-inch by 12-inch box with lenticular artwork and two bonus posters, the six-disc Super Deluxe set is presented with a 144-page hardcover book. The book includes new introductions by Paul McCartney and Giles Martin, and chapters covering comprehensive song-by-song details and recording information, the design of the cover, the album’s musical innovations and its historical context by Beatles historian, author and radio producer Kevin Howlett composer and musicologist Howard Goodall music producer and writer Joe Boyd and journalists Ed Vulliamy and Jeff Slate, illustrated with rare photographs, reproductions of handwritten lyrics, Abbey Road Studios documentation, and original ‘Sgt. Pepper‘ print ads.

The Deluxe 2CD digipak is slipcased with a 50-page booklet abridged from the box set’s book, and the 2LP Deluxe Vinyl is presented in a faithful reproduction of the album’s original gatefold jacket.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Anniversary Edition

(‘Sgt. Pepper‘ 2017 Stereo Mix)
1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
2. With A Little Help From My Friends
3. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
4. Getting Better
5. Fixing A Hole
6. She’s Leaving Home
7. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!
8. Within You Without You
9. When I’m Sixty-Four
10. Lovely Rita
11. Good Morning Good Morning
12. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
13. A Day In The Life

CD 1: ‘Sgt. Pepper‘ 2017 Stereo Mix (same as single-disc CD tracklist, above)

CD 2: Complete early takes from the sessions in the same sequence as the album, plus various versions of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane”
1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band [Take 9]
2. With A Little Help From My Friends [Take 1 – False Start And Take 2 – Instrumental]
3. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds [Take 1]
4. Getting Better [Take 1 – Instrumental And Speech At The End]
5. Fixing A Hole [Speech And Take 3]
6. She’s Leaving Home [Take 1 – Instrumental]
7. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! [Take 4]
8. Within You Without You [Take 1 – Indian Instruments]
9. When I’m Sixty-Four [Take 2]
10. Lovely Rita [Speech And Take 9]
11. Good Morning Good Morning [Take 8]
12. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) [Take 8]
13. A Day In The Life [Take 1 With Hummed Last Chord]
14. Strawberry Fields Forever [Take 7]
15. Strawberry Fields Forever [Take 26]
16. Strawberry Fields Forever [Stereo Mix – 2015]
17. Penny Lane [Take 6 – Instrumental]
18. Penny Lane [Stereo Mix – 2017]

CD 1: ‘Sgt. Pepper‘ 2017 Stereo Mix (same as single-disc CD tracklist, above)

CD 2: Complete early takes from the sessions, sequenced in chronological order of their first recording dates
1. Strawberry Fields Forever [Take 1]
2. Strawberry Fields Forever [Take 4]
3. Strawberry Fields Forever [Take 7]
4. Strawberry Fields Forever [Take 26]
5. Strawberry Fields Forever [Stereo Mix – 2015]
6. When I’m Sixty-Four [Take 2]
7. Penny Lane [Take 6 – Instrumental]
8. Penny Lane [Vocal Overdubs And Speech]
9. Penny Lane [Stereo Mix – 2017]
10. A Day In The Life [Take 1]
11. A Day In The Life [Take 2]
12. A Day In The Life [Orchestra Overdub]
13. A Day In The Life (Hummed Last Chord) [Takes 8, 9, 10 and 11]
14. A Day In The Life (The Last Chord)
15. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band [Take 1 – Instrumental]
16. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band [Take 9 And Speech]
17. Good Morning Good Morning [Take 1 – Instrumental, Breakdown]
18. Good Morning Good Morning [Take 8]

CD 3: Complete early takes from the sessions, sequenced in chronological order of their first recording dates
1. Fixing A Hole [Take 1]
2. Fixing A Hole [Speech And Take 3]
3. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! [Speech From Before Take 1 Take 4 And Speech At End]
4. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! [Take 7]
5. Lovely Rita [Speech And Take 9]
6. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds [Take 1 And Speech At The End]
7. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds [Speech, False Start And Take 5]
8. Getting Better [Take 1 – Instrumental And Speech At The End]
9. Getting Better [Take 12]
10. Within You Without You [Take 1 – Indian Instruments Only]
11. Within You Without You [George Coaching The Musicians]
12. She’s Leaving Home [Take 1 – Instrumental]
13. She’s Leaving Home [Take 6 – Instrumental]
14. With A Little Help From My Friends [Take 1 – False Start And Take 2 – Instrumental]
15. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) [Speech And Take 8]

CD 4: ‘Sgt. Pepper‘ and bonus tracks in Mono
(Tracks 1-13: 2017 Direct Transfer of ‘Sgt. Pepper‘ Original Mono Mix)
14. Strawberry Fields Forever [Original Mono Mix]
15. Penny Lane [Original Mono Mix]
16. A Day In The Life [Unreleased First Mono Mix]
17. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds [Unreleased Mono Mix – No. 11]
18. She’s Leaving Home [Unreleased First Mono Mix]
19. Penny Lane [Capitol Records U.S. Promo Single – Mono Mix]

DISCS 5 & 6 (Blu-ray & DVD)
Audio Features (both discs):
– New 5.1 Surround Audio mixes of ‘Sgt. Pepper‘ album and “Penny Lane,” plus 2015 5.1 Surround mix of “Strawberry Fields Forever” (Blu-ray: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby True HD 5.1 / DVD: DTS Dolby Digital 5.1)
– High Resolution Audio versions of 2017 ‘Sgt. Pepper‘ stereo mix and 2017 “Penny Lane” stereo mix, plus 2015 “Strawberry Fields Forever” hi res stereo mix (Blu-ray: LPCM Stereo 96KHz/24bit / DVD: LPCM Stereo)
Video Features (both discs):
The Making of Sgt. Pepper [restored 1992 documentary film, previously unreleased]
– Promotional Films: “A Day In The Life” “Strawberry Fields Forever” “Penny Lane” [4K restored]

“It’s crazy to think that 50 years later we are looking back on this project with such fondness and a little bit of amazement at how four guys, a great producer and his engineers could make such a lasting piece of art,” says Paul McCartney in his newly-penned introduction for the ‘Sgt. Pepper‘ Anniversary Edition.

“‘Sgt. Pepper‘ seemed to capture the mood of that year, and it also allowed a lot of other people to kick off from there and to really go for it,” Ringo Starr recalls in the Anniversary Edition’s book.

John Lennon: vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, piano, Hammond organ, cowbell
Paul McCartney: vocals, electric guitar, bass, piano, Lowery organ
George Harrison: vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, harmonica, tambura, sitar, maracas
Ringo Starr: vocals, drums, harmonica, tambourine, maracas, congas, bongos, chimes
George Martin: Hammond organ, Lowery organ, piano, pianette, harpsichord, harmonium, glockenspiel
Mal Evans: harmonica, Hammond organ, piano, alarm clock
Neil Aspinall: harmonica, tambura
Erich Gruenberg, Derek Jacobs, Trevor Williams, José Luis Garcia, Alan Loveday, Julien Gaillard, Paul Scherman, Ralph Elman, David Wolfsthal, Jack Rothstein, Jack Greene, Granville Jones, Bill Monro, Jurgen Hess, Hans Geiger, D Bradley, Lionel Bentley, David McCallum, Donald Weekes, Henry Datyner, Sidney Sax, Ernest Scott: violin
John Underwood, Stephen Shingles, Gwynne Edwards, Bernard Davis, John Meek: viola
Dennis Vigay, Alan Dalziel, Reginald Kilbey, Allen Ford, Peter Beavan, Francisco Gabarro, Alex Nifosi: cello
Cyril MacArthur, Gordon Pearce: double bass
Sheila Bromberg, John Marston: harp
Robert Burns, Henry MacKenzie, Frank Reidy, Basil Tschaikov, Jack Brymer: clarinet
Roger Lord: oboe
N Fawcett, Alfred Waters: bassoon
Clifford Seville, David Sanderman: flute
Barrie Cameron, David Glyde, Alan Holmes: saxophone
David Mason, Monty Montgomery, Harold Jackson: trumpet
Raymond Brown, Raymond Premru, T Moore, John Lee: trombone
Alan Civil, Neil Sanders, James W Buck, Tony Randall, John Burden, Tom (surname unknown): French horn
Michael Barnes: tuba
Tristan Fry: timpani, percussion
Marijke Koger: tambourine
Unknown musicians: dilruba, svarmandal, tabla, tambura

The Beatles’ eighth UK album caused a seismic shift in popular music. Recorded in over 400 hours during a 129-day period, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band helped define the 1967 Summer of Love, and was instantly recognised as a major leap forward for modern music.

The mood of the album was in the spirit of the age, because we ourselves were fitting into the mood of the time. The idea wasn’t to do anything to cater for that mood – we happened to be in that mood anyway. And it wasn’t just the general mood of the time that influenced us I was searching for references that were more on the fringe of things. The actual mood of the time was more likely to be The Move, or Status Quo or whatever – whereas outside all of that there was this avant-garde mode, which I think was coming into Pepper.

There was definitely a movement of people. All I am saying is: we weren’t really trying to cater for that movement – we were just being part of it, as we always had been. I maintain The Beatles weren’t the leaders of the generation, but the spokesmen. We were only doing what the kids in the art schools were all doing. It was a wild time, and it feels to me like a time warp – there we were in a magical wizard-land with velvet patchwork clothes and burning joss sticks, and here we are now soberly dressed.

Even more so than its predecessor, Revolver, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band saw The Beatles pushing boundaries within the studio, creating sounds which had never before been heard. They made extensive use of orchestras and other hired musicians, and combined a variety of musical styles including rock, music hall, psychedelia, traditional Indian and Western classical.

From the fairground swirls of ‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!’ to the animal stampede that closes ‘Good Morning Good Morning’, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band signalled to the world that The Beatles were no longer the loveable moptops of old, unwilling to sing simple love songs and perform for crowds who were more interested in screaming than listening.

At the core of Sgt Pepper is the sound of The Beatles’ English background, with tales of runaway girls, circus attractions, Isle of Wight holiday cottages, domestic violence, home improvements, Daily Mail news stories, memories of school days, and favourite childhood literature – far from the riches they enjoyed as the most famous foursome on the planet, but remembering times past and wondering what the future would hold.

Prior to the release of Sgt Pepper, however, many commentators believed The Beatles to be over as a group. They had ceased touring and largely retreated from public view, and ‘Penny Lane’/‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ had failed to top the UK singles chart after its February 1967 release.

5 Pink Floyd's Real Backward Message

Putting backward messages into music (also known as "backmasking") was all the rage back in the 80s -- and by "all the rage" we mean "the subject of congressional inquiries." Bands such as Judas Priest and Led Zeppelin were accused of including subliminal satanic mind-control messages in their songs, in what was undoubtedly one of the stupidest moral panics in American history.

The "satanic messages," of course, were complete horseshit, because it's practically impossible to purposefully sing or speak something that is intelligible both forward and backward. This is why most of the alleged messages sound like the singer is having a seizure. But backmasking has been used intentionally by bands like The Beatles . mostly because it sounds cool. They never meant to hide anything: it was done for purely aesthetic reasons.

In 1979, Pink Floyd became the first popular band to include a reversed message that was actually intended to be hidden. On the first half of their classic album The Wall, the song "Empty Spaces" contains what sounds like mumbling when heard forward, but is actually muffled speech that reveals itself when reversed. Any concerned citizen desperate to find something to be outraged about must have gotten pretty excited when he reached that part . until he heard what it says (turn your speakers way up):

"Hello, hunters. Congratulations. You have just discovered the secret message. Please send your answer to Old Pink, care of the Funny Farm, Chalfont--"

. and then the speaker is interrupted by a female voice saying someone is on the phone. Not exactly "DELIVER YOUR ANUS UNTO SATAN." We're afraid that's about as exciting as real instances of backmasking get -- unless you count grunge band Ash hiding an entire song on their debut album, Trailer. When reversed, pitch-shifted and sped up, the noise at the end of Track 5 actually turns out to be a demo track of another song on the album. What's so neat about that? The album was released in 1994, when the cost of the audio equipment and/or software to hear the song would have put it out of the reach of the vast majority of listeners. That's several layers of hidden. This would all be a whole lot more impressive if anyone actually knew or cared who Ash was.

Watch the video: WATCHMYSOUNDTRACK Anarchic Harmony


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