Chatter at the beginning of the record. First two songs morph into eachother. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," features the fictional or 'costume' band introducing themselves and their featured performer (Billy Shears), who sings the second song. Very high production value, bigger, lusher sound than Revolver. Reverberant sound quality that makes you feel like you're at a concert. Tuning sounds/chatter at the beginning of the album creates a sound world for a record.
Coy, contrived, baroque, overwrought, overdone, overproduced, fantastic idea for an album. Has drawn long-lasting praise, citations of influence, as well as serious criticism. (predecessors: Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, and Frank Zappa's Freak Out). What does it mean to be rebellious? Beatles up to this point have always been class clowns/ cheeky, doing such an eclectic album with lots of orchestral arrangements, experimental songs, ideas drawn from lots of different places as a sort of provocation for a rock n' roll band. (notice that there are no straight forward 'rockers' on this album.
Recorded from Nov 1966 - April 1967, following The Beatles' first period of extended vacation from each other. Each member starts defining themselves as individual artists. Does this signal the beginning of the end? Length of the recording process causes issues, especially for the record companies, who have been expecting a continuation of the back to back releases that the Beatles had been spinning out since '62.
Production cost ~25,000 pounds. (roughly translates $500,000 in 2017 currency)
First Beatles album to feature the same tracklist across the pond.
22 weeks at #1 in the UK, 15 weeks in the USA.
First time a rock album shocks the system in this way of absolute dominance for an extended period of time. Timing couldn't have been more perfect: Pepper served as an unofficial soundtrack of the "Summer of Love"
First time (maybe the last time) that the western world, for a moment, are all listening to one album together. (some radio stations would just play it on repeat all day long)
One of the first "concept" albums, with a loose concept of a fictitious band performing a concert. Very loose concept that goes for the most part after "With a Little Help from My Friends," but reemerges at times. Not exactly cohesive. Really unabashedly explored variety. Only makes stylistic sense by being consistently eclectic. No straight-forward rock n' roll songs. (even the opening tune has a brass band!!).
First record without "banding" (continuously running tracks). No space between tracks meant it was hard to drop the needle to play a specific song. This invited the listener to hear the whole album as one piece of art.
First record liner that was not plain white. (crazy pink graphics). Also came with cardboard cut-out badges, mustache, and bandstand (?!)
Extravagant, costly production. In addition to the extended and costly recording sessions, an unprecedented amount of money spent for the cover art (by Peter Blake, about 3000 pounds vs the usual 50 pounds).
Many people The Beatles admired were featured in the album cover tableau, such as Bob Dylan, Laurel and Hardy, Albert Einstein, Gandi (who was painted over due to political realities of '60s India; record cover couldn't have been printed there), Leo Gorcey (actor, also painted over, because he asked for royalties for the inclusion of his likeness), Edgar Allen Poe, Marilyn Monroe, Karlheinz Stockhausen (German avant grade composer; tape techniques + electronic music, aleatoric/orchestral work may have influenced "Day in the Life" swell?), Oscar Wilde, etc. Many of these icons have since been dropped from the cultural consciousness, but the cover serves as a kind of time capsule. John wanted to include Jesus and Hitler, was clearly overruled.
Paul felt like it would be fun to reimagine themselves as a different band for a while. John lets Paul take the lead, as John was very into LSD in these days, not taking a leadership role at all. George is totally uninterested in being a Beatle at this time, spending time in India, studying Sitar etc. Ringo is along for the ride. He describes that during the Pepper session, he learned Chess as he was waiting around all the time. Paul's leadership role creates problems going forward.
Unusual detail about the album is that it came with full printed lyrics. In the lyric sheet photograph, Paul is facing his back to the camera. Coincidence? Album art for Sgt. Pepper's is not just an accompaniment, but becomes an art object and signifies an art experience, of flipping through the materials/staring at the lyric sheet as the music plays. Invites the listener into a world surrounding the music.