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Beatles 50th Blog

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 19, 1966

Paul McCartney has the idea for Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Paul McCartney had flown to France on November 6, 1966 and met Mal Evans in Bordeaux on November 12 before flying to Kenya for a safari holiday.

In Kenya they were joined by McCartney's girlfriend Jane Asher, and the three of them visited the Ambosali Park at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, and stayed at the Treetops Hotel in Aberdare National Park.

They spent their final night on 18 November at the YMCA in Nairobi before flying back to London on this day. During the flight McCartney had the idea for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

We were fed up with being the Beatles. We really hated that fucking four little mop-top boys approach. We were not boys, we were men. It was all gone, all that boy shit, all that screaming, we didn't want any more, plus, we'd now got turned on to pot and thought of ourselves as artists rather than just performers. There was now more to it; not only had John and I been writing, George had been writing, we'd been in films, John had written books, so it was natural that we should become artists.

Then suddenly on the plane I got this idea. I thought, Let's not be ourselves. Let's develop alter egos so we're not having to project an image which we know. It would be much more free. What would really be interesting would be to actually take on the personas of this different band. We could say, 'How would somebody else sing this? He might approach it a bit more sarcastically, perhaps.' So I had this idea of giving the Beatles alter egos simply to get a different approach; then when John came up to the microphone or I did, it wouldn't be John or Paul singing, it would be the members of this band. It would be a freeing element. I thought we can run this philosophy through the whole album: with this alter-ego band, it won't be us making all that sound, it won't be the Beatles, it'll be this other band, so we'll be able to lose our identities in this.

Me and Mal often bantered words about which led to the rumour that he thought of the name Sergeant Pepper, but I think it would be much more likely that it was me saying, 'Think of names.' We were having our meal and they had those little packets marked 'S' and 'P'. Mal said, 'What's that mean? Oh, salt and pepper.' We had a joke about that. So I said, 'Sergeant Pepper,' just to vary it, 'Sergeant Pepper, salt and pepper,' an aural pun, not mishearing him but just playing with the words.

Then, 'Lonely Hearts Club', that's a good one. There's lot of those about, the equivalent of a dating agency now. I just strung those together rather in the way that you might string together Dr Hook and the Medicine Show. All that culture of the sixties going back to those travelling medicine men, Gypsies, it echoed back to the previous century really. I just fantasised, well, 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'. That'd be crazy enough because why would a Lonely Hearts Club have a band? If it had been Sergeant Pepper's British Legion Band, that's more understandable. The idea was to be a little more funky, that's what everybody was doing. That was the fashion. The idea was just take any words that would flow. I wanted a string of those things because I thought that would be a natty idea instead of a catchy title. People would have to say, 'What?' We'd had quite a few pun titles - Rubber Soul, Revolver - so this was to get away from all that.

The Beatles began recording the Sgt Pepper title track on February 1, 1967.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 18, 1966

The Beatles were busy writing songs.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 17, 1966

Nothing newsworthy today with the Beatles, but Yoko was busy

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 16, 1966

Nothing much happened to make the news this day 50 years ago.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 15, 1966

Moustaches were catching like the flu- not only do the Fab Four grow them, Beatles assistants Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall grow 'em to.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 14, 1966

The Beatles each doing their own thing today.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 13, 1966

Nothing notable happened on this day 50 years ago.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 12, 1966

Paul McCartney meets Mal Evans in Bordeaux, France

One week after beginning his road trip across France, Paul McCartney had a rendezvous with The Beatles' roadie Mal Evans in Bordeaux.

Prior to meeting Evans, McCartney spent the night in a Bordeaux club. Wearing the moustache and glasses disguise he had prepared to allow him to travel incognito, the club staff wouldn't let him in.

I looked like old jerko. 'No, no, monsieur, non' - you schmuck, we can't let you in! So I thought, Sod this, I might as well go back to the hotel and come as him! So I came back as a normal Beatle, and was welcomed in with open arms. I thought, Well, it doesn't matter if I've blown my cover because I'm going to meet Mal anyway, I don't have to keep the disguise any longer. Actually, by the time of the club I'd sort of had enough of it. Which was good. It was kind of therapeutic but I'd had enough. It was nice because I remembered what it was like to not be famous and it wasn't necessarily any better than being famous.

It made me remember why we all wanted to get famous; to get that thing. Of course, those of us in the Beatles have often thought that, because we wished for this great fame, and then it comes true but it brings with it all these great business pressures or the problems of fame, the problems of money, et cetera. And I just had to check whether I wanted to go back, and I ended up thinking, No, all in all, I'm quite happy with this lot. McCartney met Evans at the Saint-Eloi catholic church, on Rue Saint-James in Bordeaux.

We met up, exactly as planned, under the church clock. He was there. I figured I'd had enough of my own company by then. I had enjoyed it, it had been a nice thing. Then we drove down into Spain but we got to Madrid and we didn't know anyone; the only way would have been to go to a club and start making contacts. So we thought, This is not going to be any fun, and rang the office in London, and booked ourselves a safari trip.

The pair drove from Bordeaux to Spain, making films on their journey. They had hoped to meet John Lennon in Almería, but filming for How I Won The War had ended and he had returned to England.

Instead they decided on a safari holiday and flew to Kenya. McCartney arranged to meet his girlfriend Jane Asher there, and in Seville had someone drive his Aston Martin DB5 back to London.

McCartney and Evans flew from Seville to Madrid, and from there to Nairobi. They had a 10-hour stopover in Rome, during which they did some sightseeing.

Upon their arrival in Kenya they toured Ambosali Park, overlooked by Mount Kilimanjaro, and stayed at the Treetop Hotel, the royal family's Kenyan base. The holiday came to a close on 19 November, when McCartney, Asher and Evans flew from Nairobi back to London.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 11, 1966

The Beatles each busy on their own.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 10, 1966

Mixing, editing: This Boy, Day Tripper, We Can Work It Out

Room 65, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Engineer: Peter Bown

This was the last of four mixing sessions to prepare stereo versions of Beatles songs ahead of the UK compilation album A Collection Of Beatles Oldies on December 9, 1966.

Once again George Martin was not present, so the session was led by balance engineer Peter Bown. The first song worked on was "This Boy", which was the result of a misunderstanding. During a telephone call from EMI's headquarters at London's Manchester Square,  Bad Boy was mistakenly called This Boy.

This led to stereo mixes being made from takes 15 and 17, which were edited together towards the end of the session. They were unnecessary, however, and the stereo mix of Bad Boy from May 10, 1965 was used for the album.

Day Tripper was the second song to receive a stereo mix. This replaced an earlier one made on October 26, 1965 for The Beatles' US and Australian record labels.

The third and final song was "We Can Work It Out". A previous stereo mix had been created on November 10, 1965, but was crapped on August 9, 1966.