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“SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (REPRISE)”
(John Lennon – Paul McCartney)
Up to this point, The Beatles would periodically re-record a previously recorded song for various reasons – most times because they thought the first version could be improved upon. Many examples exist, such as “What You’re Doing,” “Hold Me Tight” and “What Goes On,” although the early attempts at these songs have never officially surfaced or been released. Others, such as “I’m Looking Through You,” “Tomorrow Never Knows,” “Norwegian Wood” and "And I Love Her," have been.
A rarer occurrence for the group was when an early recording attempt and a later attempt were both released and initially available at the same time. This happened as early as “Love Me Do,” the song being available on the original single with Ringo on drums and the album with session drummer Andy White on drums. A similar claim can be made for the song “Help!,” the mono single version and the stereo album version differing quite dramatically. Then there is the even rarer occurrence when both an early and later attempt at recording a song were combined for its release, such as with “Strawberry Fields Forever.”
However, in the case of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise),” this was the only time a Beatles song was reworked and recorded purposely to act as a compliment to the first with the intention of both being released together. And although it appears to have been an afterthought, the results were staggeringly successful.
Paul, John and Neil Aspinall, circa 1967
Another unique fact regarding this song is that it wouldn’t have existed at all if it hadn’t have been for their road manager Neil Aspinall. “I used to share a flat in Sloane Street with Mal (Evans),” Neil writes in the book “The Beatles Anthology” “One day in February Paul called, saying that he was writing a song and asking if he and Mal could come over.” The song Neil was referring to was “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” the theme song that begins the album, which Paul and Mal Evans began to write together on that day.
Neil continues: “At my place he carried on writing and the song developed. At the end of every Beatles show, Paul used to say, ‘It’s time to go. We’re going to go to bed, and this is our last number.’ Then they’d play the last number and leave. Just then Mal went to the bathroom, and I said to Paul, ‘Why don’t you have Sgt. Pepper as the compere of the album? He comes on at the beginning of the show and introduces the band, and at the end he closes it.”
Paul evidently liked the idea and took to writing the song based on the chorus of the original theme song that he and Mal Evans had written. Based on Neil’s suggestion, Paul incorporated his closing comments from earlier Beatles performances, such as his last address to the audience at their August 23rd, 1964 Hollywood Bowl show: “This next song will have to be our last one for this evening…sorry…We’d like to thank everybody here tonight for coming along, thank you very much…And we all hope that you’ve enjoyed the show. Have you enjoyed the show? Good, great.”
“A bit later,” Neil recalls, “Paul told John about it in the studio, and John came up to me and said, ‘Nobody likes a smart-arse, Neil.’…That was when I knew that John liked it and that it would happen.”
George Martin with The Beatles in EMI Studios, circa 1967
After over four months of being virtually locked up inside of EMI recording studios, The Beatles met up once again in the studio to start and finish their final song for the “Sgt. Pepper” album. This day was April 1st, 1967, the session beginning sometime after 7 pm and lasting until 6 am the following morning.
Geoff Emerick, in his book “Here, There And Everywhere,” gives his first-hand account of the recording process on this day: “The ‘live audience’ segue between the theme song and ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ had worked out so well that we now had to come up with something equally spectacular for the end of the album, just before ‘A Day In The Life,’ which would be the obvious closer. And so it was that a full month after the ‘Sgt. Pepper’ theme was initially recorded, the four Beatles returned to the studio to reprise their performance, but with several differences. The first was that, with the end of the album in sight, everyone was really energized…and in a hurry to get it done quickly. Paul, in fact, was scheduled to fly to the US just two days later – a trip he had no intention of postponing because it would reunite him with his girlfriend Jane Asher after several months apart.”
Regarding this trip to America, Mark Lewisohn, in his book “The Beatles Recording Sessions,” states that “Paul had planned to fly out to the USA on 3 April – staying until the 12th – and the master tape had been promised to EMI in between.” It appears that EMI did not get the master tape within this time frame since the stereo mix of “Sgt. Pepper (reprise)” did not get done until April 20th, not to mention the recording of the “Inner Groove” which wasn’t recorded until April 21st, well after Paul returned from America. Also noteworthy about this trip was Paul’s idea for a “Magical Mystery Tour” film which he conceived on the return flight.
Geoff Emerick continues: “The second difference was that, on such short notice, George Martin had been unable to book Studio Two. Other EMI artists had been bumped for The Beatles so often that they were starting to resent it; whoever had been previously booked in had obviously refused to give up their time. As a result, we were forced to use the cavernous Studio One, which was probably the least conducive place in the Abbey Road complex to recording a high-energy rock song.”
“Finally, we all had to come in on a Saturday. As long and as crazy as the ‘Pepper’ sessions had been over the past four months, The Beatles had stuck rigidly to a weekdays-only schedule, usually working three to four nights a week. We’d all come to count on the weekends as a time to unwind and relax, and to get some distance from the intense work we were doing. But there was no choice in the matter, so we all trundled in on April Fool’s Day for what would turn out to be a momentous session.”
“The acoustics of Studio One were far too reverberant for a loud rock band, so I knew that I had to make some special arrangements in advance. First, I had Richard (Lush) and the maintenance engineer on duty gather up all the available tall screens and build a kind of hut, thus creating a smaller room within a room. Then I asked Mal and Neil to set up the drums and amplifiers very near one another so that there would be minimal delay on the signal that would inevitably spill between the mics, and I arranged The Beatles themselves in a semicircle so they could all see one another.”
“It took a lot of effort to tame that room, but it was worth it – the sound we got that day was tight and ballsy. It didn’t exactly match the sound of the rest of the album, which was almost entirely recorded in Studio Two, but it wasn’t awash in reverb, either, which is what would have happened if I hadn’t screened off one small area for them to play in. As it is, whatever reverb exists on the ‘Sgt. Pepper’ reprise is actually the sound of the huge room itself – there was no need to add any echo chamber when the tracks were mixed.”
“Everybody was really upbeat that day, and it shows. The vibe was fantastic and the energy was even higher than in the first version. It was a great rhythm track, and I could feel the excitement building from the very first moment, even in Paul’s count-in, which had a tremendous energy of its own...Ringo was pounding the hell out of his drums – he was even stomping on the bass drum pedal harder than usual. In fact, everyone was playing full-out. Considering that they’d all been cloistered in the studio for so long, pouring their hearts and souls into the album, it really was incredible how good and tight their playing was.”
The instrumentation was Paul on Hammond organ, Ringo on drums, John on electric rhythm guitar and George playing a surprisingly vibrant lead guitar part live despite his heart being “in India” during this time as he readily admits. No vocals were officially recorded during the rhythm track, only Paul’s guide vocals. Nine takes of the rhythm track were recorded, the final one being deemed the best.
'Take five' of these nine attempts is included on the compilation album "Anthology 2" which shows them in top form, but with some off-kilter guitar work which rendered this version unsatisfactory. 'Take eight' is included as a bonus track on the 50th Anniversary Editions of the "Sgt. Pepper" album which features Paul calling attention to the "98 speakers fixed to the wall of EMI Studio One that were used as part of the 'ambiophony' system, developed to lengthen the studio's reverberation time when recording classical music," as explained in the liner notes of the 2017 Anniversary album. Never having seen them before, Paul asks about "all the shapes around the studio, and all those bubbles there, the bumps there." Paul then instructs Ringo to "play the bass drum loud" and when Ringo demonstrates, Paul exclaims, "Yeah! Oh, is that what you're doing?" And then, with what appears to be Paul pounding on the top of the Hammond organ, he counts off the song. The performance is nearly perfect but one more attempt is made, and 'take nine' ended up being the "keeper."
Onto 'take nine' was overdubbed "all four Beatles chanting out the quick-paced vocals," as the book "The Beatles Recording Sessions" stipulates (apparently Ringo included). Paul's bass guitar was also overdubbed as well as Ringo playing tambourine and maracas. Interestingly, a bass guitar is heard on the rhythm track of 'take five' as heard on "Anthology 2" which seems to indicate one of two things: Paul may have overdubbed a bass onto this 'take' as well as 'take nine' thinking this one would be used for the final product or, this mix contained on "Anthology 2" had a bass part "flown in" from the finished 'take' in order for 'take five' to sound more complete to the listener (which George Martin had done to various other tracks when putting together the Anthology series). Since Giles Martin presented his bonus tracks for the 50th Anniversary Edition of "Sgt. Pepper" unadulterated throughout, it appears that Paul was indeed playing Hammond organ during these 'takes' as presented therein.
In any event, the "Sgt. Pepper" album is known for its extravagant layering of sounds, which usually called for repeated use of "bounce downs" to open up more tracks for overdubs, EMI of course still using only four-track machines at this point. Mark Lewisohn points out, however, that this was "the only song on the LP not to be 'bumper'/reduced on the four-track machine. It was a straightforward rock recording; there was no time for niceties and frills."
“There were all sorts of nice little touches on that song,” Emerick continues. “The more you listen to it, the more you hear. I always enjoyed Lennon’s playful ‘good-bye-ee,’ ad-libbed right at the beginning, and, in the last chorus, where it sounds like Paul is off mic, that’s just leakage from his guide vocal track onto the drum overhead mic. It was just something I could never get rid of, so we ended up not worrying about it, kind of like Mal’s (Evans) count during the twenty-four-bar buildup in ‘A Day In The Life.’” The vocal leakage Geoff Emerick is mentioning, which is during the final “hearts…club…band” section of the song, is heard very prominently on the mono mix but apparently he did find a way to mask most of it on the stereo mix.
Emerick concludes, “With time pressure on, the entire song was completed – overdubs, mix, and all – in a single long session. The album release date was drawing near and in between takes, the band were going through contact sheets for the album cover and reviewing design ideas for the gateway sleeve and giveaways they were planning on including.” It took nine tries by George Martin, Geoff Emerick and Richard Lush to create the mono mix at the end of this session, overdubbing audience sounds and cheering throughout the song in the process. The ninth mix was viewed as the best and was used on the album. Note that audience cheering comes in abruptly as if they turned on the tape machine instead of fading it in to sound more realistic. Also, just before the guitars kick in at the beginning, we hear a burst of laughter from the audience as we did midway through the original “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” theme. A good amount of ADT (“artificial double tracking”) was also applied to this mono mix.
The stereo mix of the song, the last stereo mix made for the album, was made on April 20th, 1967 in the control room of EMI Studio Three by the same team of Martin, Emerick and Lush. Ten attempts were made, the last being the one used on the album. The perfect matching of the clucking hen that concluded the song “Good Morning Good Morning” and the first George Harrison guitar note of “Sgt. Pepper (Reprise)” was undoubtedly discovered and manipulated on this day. (See the review of “Good Morning Good Morning” for details.) Noticeably different audience effects were superimposed on this mix, only subdued audience noise being heard at the beginning (not cheering as on the mono mix) which is faded in gradually to sound much more realistic. Also, no burst of laughter is heard during the intro of the song this time around. Surprisingly, most everything is centered in this stereo mix, except for Ringo’s maraca and tambourine overdubs which are placed entirely in the left channel. Very little ADT (if any) was used in the making of this stereo mix.
Another mono mix was made sometime in late 1995 by George Martin and Geoff Emerick, this being the above mentioned “take five” of the rhythm track, with Paul’s guide vocal still intact, as included on “Anthology 2.”
Also, sometime between 2004 and 2006, George Martin and his son Giles Martin reconvened at Abbey Road Studios (formerly EMI Studios) to create yet another full stereo mix of the song for the soundtrack to the Cirque du Soleil production of “Love.” With the brass from “Hey Jude” still lingering in the air from the previous track on the album, this new “Sgt. Pepper (Reprise)” mix is virtually audience free except for a tiny bit of applause tacked onto the last seconds of the song. They also worked at entirely removing Paul’s vocals from the rhythm track, but a small amount still surfaced. This mix made it onto the resulting “Love” album in 2006
Giles Martin, along with engineer Sam Okell, returned to original tapes of the song sometime between 2016 and 2017 to create a new stereo mix with the 1967 mono mix as a template. This was done in preparation for the 50th Anniversary Editions of the "Sgt. Pepper" album. Aside from this excellent new mix, they also thought to mix 'take eight' for inclusion as a bonus track for certain editions of this release.
New recordings of the song were also made by Paul during various live performances, the first being part of a medley of the “Pepper” theme song and the “Reprise” as heard on both the double “Tripping The Live Fantastic” album and “Tripping The Live Fantastic: Highlights!” single disc. A new recording of the song, which was paired with the song “The End,” was included on both the albums “Back In The US” and “Back In The World.” A further live recording of the “Pepper/End” medley was included on the album “Good Evening New York City.”
Song Structure and Style
This short but rollicking song doesn’t fit any of the criteria set out in the existing Beatles catalog up to this point, but then again it fills a role like none other in their cannon. It was meant to bookend, as it were, the entire album up to that point as different acts on the “Sgt. Pepper” stage show, hence the return of the audience sound effects. And, as the crowd fades away at the end, it sets off the final track, “A Day In The Life,” as a personal artistic achievement from The Beatles themselves and not this fictional “club band.” Nowhere before in pop music had we heard a reprise of a title track on an album, since albums were usually viewed up to this point as collections of songs not good enough to be released as singles. This album was meant to be taken as a whole and listened to in its entirety, a complete listening experience. Without the usual space between each song, the listener even found it quite difficult to place his record needle properly to listen to a particular individual song.
With this in mind, the usual song structure was out the window in favor of simply ending the “Pepper” façade and getting back to reality. The format, then, winds up being just two verses (aa) of different keys (F major to G major) which brought them to the designated key of the already completed “A Day In The Life,” whether intentional or not. Adding in a straightforward count-off from Paul and a simple rocking introduction and you have all the ingredients you need.
After a quick preliminary guitar note from George, we enter into a ten-measure introduction which comprises a slightly audible tapped out first measure, presumably on Paul's Hammond organ, followed by Paul’s count-off that accounts for the second measure. Ringo then fills out the next four measures with a vibrant but standard rock beat along with overdubbed tambourine and maracas. After a short bass glissando, another four measures follow with guitars, bass and organ kicking in.
Just after an audible “woah” by Paul from the guide vocal is heard in the final measure of the introduction, the first verse comes in which is twelve measures in length. The added element here is the harmonized Beatles vocals which begin immediately in the first measure. After they say “we hope you have enjoyed the show,” the audience expresses their approval by their beginning to cheer in the fourth measure while George adds an accented guitar fill and Ringo slightly alters his drum pattern. The eighth measure has George bring in a higher register guitar run while Ringo puts in a drum fill. The same thing also happens in the twelfth measure as the chords segue into a higher key for the upcoming second verse.
This next verse is actually seventeen measures long due to it also including the song's dramatic conclusion. The same instrumentation continues in this higher key while George continues to fill the vocal gaps with guitar runs in the fourth and eighth measures, Ringo adding another drum fill in the eighth measure as well. An interesting alteration in the melody line occurs in the fifth and sixth measures with the words “one and only lonely hearts club band” to take away a little of the monotony of the lyrics. The finality of the song becomes evident in the twelfth measure when the vocalists stretch out the words “hearts…club…band” with bleed through of Paul’s indecipherable yelling from the rhythm track in the background.
The fourteenth through seventeenth measures comprise a simple chord-changing pattern while George displays some final guitar runs and Ringo expresses himself with some final drum fills while the audience applauds in appreciation for the splendid time they’ve all just had. Paul’s final “wooo” in the fifteenth measure shows that Pepper’s band enjoyed the show as much as they had.
As Geoff Emerick described above, all four Beatles put in a cohesive and exuberant performance on this track. They were excited that the past four-and-a-half months in the studio were over, being happy to add the celebratory final track to their masterpiece.
June 2nd, 1967 was the first release date of the song on the US version of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The vinyl edition of this album has continued to be reissued in the US throughout the years. As the eight-track tape format became popular, however, an interesting manipulation of “Sgt. Pepper (Reprise)” needed to be made to fill up the space of the fourth “program.” After the second verse concludes (immediately after Paul’s “wooo”), the previous seven measures are repeated which then take you to the end of the song and a quick fade out of the audience cheering. This also becomes the end of the album instead of “A Day In The Life” as The Beatles wanted, that song moved ahead to “program” three. This was done to divide up the music into four equal sections on the tape, but in the process dramatically rearranged the order of the songs.
The next release of interest is the picture disc of the “Sgt. Pepper” album, this being available for a limited time starting sometime in 1978. This picture disc was then re-released on December 15th, 2017 on 180 Gram vinyl using the new Giles Martin stereo mix.
Two interesting US vinyl reissues of the “Sgt. Pepper” album were released as "Original Master Recording" editions produced through Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab. The first edition released in September of 1982 (with matrix # UHQR "Ultra High Quality Recording" 1-100) listed for $40 per copy, more than five times the cost of the standard version, and was limited to 5000 sequentially numbered copies that weighed 200 grams (double the weight of conventional vinyl at that time) and were packaged between layers of protective foam rubber in a thick box. The second edition from Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab was released in June of 1983 similar to the rest of the Beatles catalog released within their series. Both of these were prepared utilizing half-speed mastering technology from the original master tape on loan from EMI. These versions of “Sgt. Pepper” were only available for a short time and are quite collectible today.
Then came the first compact disc release of the "Sgt. Pepper" album on September 21st, 1987 which was then remastered and re-released on September 9th, 2009. March 18th, 1996 was the release date for the compilation album “Anthology 2” which, as stated above, includes an interesting peek at an earlier take of the rhythm track ('take 5') with Paul’s guide vocals and the mysterious Hammond organ part.
The newly mixed version of the song for the Cirque du Soleil show, as detailed above, was released on November 20th, 2006 on the album entitled “Love.” This platinum-selling album won two Grammy Awards in 2008, for “Best Compilation Soundtrack Album” and “Best Surround Sound Album.”
The rare mono mix of the song was made available in the US initially when the album was released, but they discontinued production shortly afterwards because of the growing popularity of the stereo format. It was finally made available again as part of the box set “The Beatles In Mono,” also released on September 9th, 2009. Since the most difference between the stereo and mono mixes of the album can be heard on “Sgt. Pepper (Reprise),” this track garnered a lot of attention when this box set was released.
On May 26th, 2017, the 50th Anniversary releases of the "Sgt. Pepper" album hit the market in various different forms. All editions included the newly mixed "Sgt. Pepper (Reprise)," while both the "2 CD Anniversary Edition" and the "Super Deluxe Edition" box set also featured 'take eight' in all its glory.
The American releases of Paul McCartney live albums that include the song are “Tripping The Live Fantastic” (released November 5th, 1990), “Tripping The Live Fantastic: Highlights!” (released November 12th, 1990), “Back In The US” (released November 11th, 2002) and “Good Evening New York City” (released November 17th, 2009).
Although The Beatles never performed the song live, Paul definitely took advantage of it throughout his live career. In fact, every concert tour he’s done from September 1989 to June 2011 has included “Sgt. Pepper (Reprise),” whether in a medley with the “Sgt. Pepper” theme song or in concluding the show as a medley with “The End.” He then revived the song six years later for the 2017 leg of his "One On One" tour (from April 25th in Tokyo, Japan to December 16th in Aukland, New Zealand) as well as his extensive "Freshen Up" tour (from September 17th, 2018 in Quebec City, Canada to July 13th, 2019 in Los Angeles, California).
Two noteworthy performances of the song include June 3rd, 2002 at the "Party At The Palace" event in London during the "Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II" with the Queen herself in attendance. Paul chose to combine "Sgt. Pepper (Reprise)" with "The End" on this occassion. Then, on July 13th, 2019, Ringo joined Paul on stage at Dodger's Stadium in Los Angeles, California during his "Freshen Up" tour to perform this song during his finale.
The Who, circa 1969
Most reviewers fail to comment much on this track due to realizing that its only intended purpose was to quickly tie the album together, giving the illusion that the album was a "concept album" of sorts. As an album, “Sgt. Pepper” doesn’t easily fall into the category of "rock opera" or "concept album" as does “Tommy,” “Quadrophenia” or the endless others that have graced the musical landscape over the years, successfully or otherwise. However, “Pepper” predates all of these and has played a notable role in paving the way for The Who and many others to feel compelled to take the intended idea to a far greater level.
Therefore, we can credit the inclusion of “Sgt. Pepper (Reprise)” as the glue that keeps the "concept" illusion real for the listener, reminding us that tracks like “She’s Leaving Home,” “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!” and “Within You Without You,” as well as the others, were all various acts taking the stage on this extraordinary show. And, lest we forget, the exuberant performance they displayed on the song. Credit where credit is surely due!
“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)”
Written by: John Lennon / Paul McCartney
Song Written: February, 1967
Song Recorded: April 1, 1967
First US Release Date: June 2, 1967
US Single Release: n/a
Highest Chart Position: n/a
Key: F major to G major
Producer: George Martin
Engineers: Geoff Emerick, Richard Lush
Instrumentation (most likely):
Paul McCartney - Harmony Vocals, Organ (Hammond RT-3), Bass Guitar (1964 Rickenbacker 4001 S)
John Lennon - Harmony Vocals, Rhythm Guitar (1965 Epiphone Casino ES-230TD)
George Harrison - Harmony Vocals, Lead Guitar (1965 Epiphone Casino ES-230TD)
Ringo Starr - Harmony Vocals, Drums (1964 Ludwig Super Classic Black Oyster Pearl), tambourine, maracas
Written and compiled by Dave Rybaczewski
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