The Beatles‘ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which Rolling Stone named the best album of all time, turns 50 today. In honor of the anniversary, and coinciding with a new deluxe reissue, we have presented a series of in-depth pieces – one for each of the album’s tracks, excluding the brief “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” reprise on Side Two – that explore the background of this revolutionary and beloved record. Revisit all 12 stories below.
1. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
How Paul McCartney’s Travels in France and Kenya Inspired the Title Track
“How about if we become an alter-ego band?” McCartney would recall asking the group following his French road trip and Kenyan safari in late 1966.
2. “With a Little Help From My Friends”
How the Band Rallied Around Ringo on “With a Little Help From My Friends”
A “touching show of unity” among the band members led to the drummer’s sole lead-vocal turn on the album.
3. “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”
Remembering the Real “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”
A drawing by John Lennon’s three-year-old son inspired his psychedelic masterpiece.
4. “Getting Better”
John Lennon’s Accidental “Getting Better” Acid Trip
Lennon swallowed the wrong pill the night he was supposed to record backing harmonies for the song. Weirdness – and male bonding – ensued
5. “Fixing a Hole”
When Jesus Dropped by the “Fixing a Hole Sessions”
Paul McCartney brought a strange guest to the studio in February 1967.
6. “She’s Leaving Home”
Meet the Runaway Who Inspired “She’s Leaving Home”
Melanie Coe looks back on her teenage days as an unlikely Lennon/McCartney muse.
7. “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”
How “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” Grew Out of an Old Circus Poster
“Everything in the song is from that poster,” John Lennon said of 1843 ad he picked up in a Kent antique shop.
8. “Within You Without You”
How George Harrison Found Himself on “Within You Without You”
Inspired by Ravi Shankar and fed up with being “fab,” the band’s youngest member composed a hypnotic ode to higher consciousness
9. “When I’m Sixty-Four”
How Paul McCartney’s Dad Inspired “When I’m Sixty-Four”
McCartney wrote the “tongue-in-cheek” song on his father’s piano at age 16.
10. “Lovely Rita”
When Pink Floyd, David Crosby Visited the “Lovely Rita” Sessions
Read how parking-meter antagonism, a very high Byrd and a certain psychedelic group on the rise played into the Paul McCartney classic.
11. “Good Morning Good Morning”
How a Corn Flakes Ad Inspired “Good Morning Good Morning”
“It was about his boring life at the time,” Paul McCartney later said of song that summed up John Lennon’s domestic ennui.
12. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)”
13. “A Day in the Life”
Remembering the Doomed Socialite Behind “A Day in the Life”
Read how Guinness heir Tara Browne’s untimely death inspired the album’s epic final track.