It was 45 years ago today... The Beatles' Sgt Pepper inches toward the half century mark
With the help of fifth Beatle and producer George Martin, the three of them were able to craft the single "Strawberry Fields Forever," shared as a dueling a-side single with McCartney's "Penny Lane." Both songs reflected on the Liverpudlian's life in a Northern Town, which was planned to be the concept for the new album -- that, and crediting the songs to a fictitious band. "Let's pretend we're not the Beatles," McCartney said in It Was Twenty Years Ago Today, musing on the band's desire to be rid of their mop-top iconography. "It was liberating. You could go in and work on a track and -- while before it would be 'here's Paul McCartney singing "Eleanor Rigby"' -- now it's 'Crazy Moondog is going to do the vocal.'"
Being the top-selling act at EMI, the boys were given unprecedented freedom for their next album. Deadlines, style boundaries, production costs and work hours were thrown out the window -- the Beatles were afforded a creative lifestyle in the studio that most bands of the era (with their "three sides a day" schedule) would have shaved their heads and traded their bellbottoms for.
"When the fab four began demanding the right to record through the night, it was the first indication that they were no longer prepared to toe the corporate line," wrote Clinton Heylin in The Act You've Known for All These Years. "On one level, their 'request' had an entirely practical dimension -- teenyboppers weren't likely to be hanging around the Abbey Road gates at midnight. But the change also reflected the increasingly nocturnal lifestyles of the band members. The all-night sessions certainly took their toll on one co-worker:
George Martin: "The Beatles and I have different ways of life. They're night people, and they don't like working in the mornings. Usually we start recording at seven in the evening and work through till three... That was the most arduous part of the LP for me. " Like the estrangement the boys were experiencing from their long-time manager, Brian Epstein (who would be dead from an overdose only three months after their new album dropped), the psychedelic boat that Lennon-McCartney were riding in was slowly drifting from the shore of their straight-laced producer.
"At some point during these interminable sessions, Martin would confide in Beatles publicist Tony Barrow 'that this [album] was the most indulgent thing he and The Beatles ever did,'" wrote Heylin. "He went further, stating 'We are only able to do this kind of stuff because the group is so uniquely successful that nobody among the EMI hierarchy dare challenge what we are doing.'"