Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, released on June 1, 1967, was an immediate commercial success, spending 22 weeks at the top of the albums chart in the UK and 15 weeks at number one in the U.S. Time magazine declared it ‘a historic departure in the progress of music.’ It won four Grammy Awards in 1968, including Album of the Year, the first rock LP to receive this honor.
In August 1966, the Beatles permanently retired from touring and began a three-month holiday from recording. During a return flight to London in November, Paul McCartney had an idea for a song involving an Edwardian era military band that would eventually form the impetus of the Sgt. Pepper concept. Sessions for The Beatles eighth studio album began in November in Abbey Road Studio Two, with the original intention to record an album of material that was to be thematically linked to their childhoods. Among the first tracks recorded for the project were “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane,” but after pressure from EMI, the songs were released as a double A-side single and they were not included on the album.
In February 1967, after recording, “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,” McCartney suggested that the Beatles release an entire album that would represent a performance by the fictional Sgt. Pepper band. This alter ego group would give them the freedom to experiment musically. During the recording sessions, the band endeavored to improve upon the production quality of their prior releases, adopting an experimental approach to composition, writing songs such as “With a Little Help from My Friends,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “A Day in the Life,” knowing that they would not have to perform the tracks live. Producer George Martin's innovative recording of the album included the liberal application of sound shaping signal processing and the use of a 40-piece orchestra. Recording was completed on April 21, 1967.
The cover, depicting the band posing in front of a collage of celebrities and historical figures, was designed by the English pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth based on a sketch by Paul McCartney.
Sgt. Pepper was the first Beatles album to be released with identical track listings in the UK and the U.S.
All songs written and composed by Lennon–McCartney except “Within You Without You” by George Harrison.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
With a Little Help from My Friends
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Fixing a Hole
She's Leaving Home
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
Within You Without You
When I'm Sixty-Four
Good Morning Good Morning
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
A Day in the Life