June marks the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles’ experimental masterpiece. To mark the occasion, a new box set is hitting stores. The collection features 34 previously unreleased tracks, including outtakes from every song on the record. The new material will no doubt provide fascinating insight into the making of the landmark record, as this just-released outtake from the title track proves.
The meat of the song is all there, including Paul’s vocal cadence. Much of the track sounds almost exactly like the finished version, without the eventual brass instruments and George Harrison’s blistering lead licks. Near the end of the recording, though, something interesting happens. The band attempts a little vocal breakdown after the second verse. It meanders for a moment, then drops off. You can hear the band commenting on taking a bit longer to work on this bit. Eventually, they lost it altogether, instead using the opening song to directly transition into Ringo’s “With a Little Help from My Friends.”
It’s a very brief look at the making of the album but this track proves just how much tinkering went into making Sgt. Pepper’s. This is a band frustrated with live performance, devoted to creating something entirely unique in the studio. The Beatles’ latter day albums are often impossible to replicate with a simple four-piece band because of how much they play with format, song structure and recording technique. This outtake reveals an attempt at a more cnventional outtro to the opening song before they got a little more fanciful. What a difference a few more takes make.
The Sgt. Pepper’s 50th anniversary reissue arrives May 26.