Beatles

Paul McCartney has done a Q&A with PaulMcCartney.com (of course!) answering some fan questions about The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The 50th Anniversary edition of the album, in numerous formats, is out now.

Thankfully (sigh of relief!) Sir Paul doesn’t say much to contradict Gibson.com’s 50 Fun Facts About Sgt. Pepper feature, but he expands on a few long-standing stories and rumors. Well, of course he does – he was actually there!

In the site’s You Gave Me The Answer special, McCartney says that the name originally came from a mishearing. Although a real Sgt. Pepper police officer is rumored to have been assigned to The Beatles on a mid-’60s Canada visit, McCartney says the name came to him when...

“I was coming back from a trip abroad with our roadie, Mal Evans, just the two of us together on the plane. And we were eating and he mumbled to me, asked me to pass the salt and pepper. And I misheard him. He said [mumbles] ‘saltandpepper’. I go, ‘Sergeant Pepper?’ I thought he said, ‘Sergeant Pepper. I went, ‘Oh! Wait a minute, that’s a great idea!’ So we had a laugh about it, then I started thinking about Sergeant Pepper as a character. I thought it would be a very interesting idea for us to assume alter egos for this album we were about to make.’

Of when he approached his fellow Beatles about his general concept of an “alter ego band”, McCartney recalled: “I said, ‘It will mean, when I approach the mic, it’s not Paul McCartney. I don’t have to think this is a Paul McCartney song’. So it was freeing. It was quite liberating.

“So, you know, we didn’t keep that idea up all the time, but that was the basic idea that we would make something that was very free. Something that this other band might make, instead of doing something that we thought The Beatles ought to make. It originally came from that mishearing of salt and pepper!”

McCartney talks a lot about the contributions of the late George Martin, the shooting of the album’s cover, why the band grew moustaches, and also notes again how fans read too much any of “meaning” of the whole Sgt Pepper concept. But one thing he remains sure about: he didn’t mind the album being preceded by the double A-side Beatles single of “Penny Lane”/”Strawberry Fields Forever”.

“We always liked to release things fresh,” McCartney says. “We had just made those tracks, so the thought of waiting until we had completed the whole album would not have appealed to us. You know, we liked that as soon as it’s made, at the nearest point to the actual making of the song and the record, we would like to put it out. So I was glad how we did it and it was like a fanfare, that single. Another thing we liked about it was it was simple value for money. You really got two A-sides. But it kind of heralded what was to come.”

Read the whole Paul McCartney interview at PaulMcCartney.com. And read Gibson’s (confirmed truths/received wisdom/educated guesses!) 50 Fun Facts About Sgt Pepper.