Whenever we read into the histories and motivations behind the songs by the Beatles, we’re opened up to a labyrinth of their memoirs of life. Before them, it was uncommon for musicians to make songs out of their own life experiences. But, there were no better trendsetters than the fab four themselves. And their one album that influenced the music industry the most for all times to come was ‘Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’. It’s a serious contender for being the greatest album of all time. But, did you know that Paul McCartney wrote a song from this album because he was just tired of being a part of the Beatles? It’s true!
How Sgt. Peppers freed the Beatles from being the Beatles!
Many people don’t know this, but there was a time before the breakup when the Beatles were just tired of being themselves. After the craziness that was the Beatlemania, they were done touring. And if that wasn’t enough, there were some serious controversies too, like the comment John Lennon made that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. And after Brian Epstein’s death, the fab four were simply done being the center of attention for the world as “the British boy band”. They wanted to disassociate themselves from this identity. And so, Paul McCartney thought, why not try leaving the burden of the Beatles as a concept in a song?
And that’s when the first song of the famous Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’ album came into being. It was the first song that came to McCartney’s mind as he was thinking of the band’s next album. John Lennon said:
“Sgt. Pepper’ is Paul after a trip to America and the whole West Coast long-named group thing was coming in. You know, when people were no longer the Beatles or the Crickets— they were suddenly Fred And His Incredible Shrinking Grateful Airplanes, right? So I think he got influenced by that and came up with this idea for the Beatles.”
Paul McCartney wanted the band to lose their identities for a moment!
It’s like living a dream for a moment, pretending to be someone else. That is all that McCartney wanted from his bandmates. Of course, a lot of it was fueled by LSD trips (Hence, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds). However, the best way to just escape being the Beatles was to imagine alternate identities of yourself! Paul McCartney recalls:
“It was an idea I had, I think, when I was flying from L.A. to somewhere. I thought it would be nice to lose our identities, to submerge ourselves in the persona of a fake group.”
And it’s an understandable sentiment; to imagine one as not being a part of the Beatles. It was, after all, the only band that Paul McCartney had ever been in since he was 17. Therefore, it felt liberating for Paul to free himself from that persona, even if it was for one album. And it seemed like a sentiment common in Ringo Starr, George Harrison, and John Lennon too. McCartney recalls:
“We would make up all the culture around it and collect all our heroes in one place. So I thought, A typical stupid-sounding name for a Dr. Hook’s Medicine Show and Traveling Circus kind of thing would be ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.’ Just a word game, really.”
In 1994, Paul McCartney was a lot less discreet in explaining how tired he was of the band, saying:
We were fed up with being Beatles. We really hated that fucking four little mop-top boys approach, we were not boys, we were men.
Alternative identities were the way to go for the Beatles, according to Paul McCartney
It is very rare for Paul to defend his position so abruptly. But, that was the predicament the Beatles were in. With Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’, the fab four got a way to let go of the burden that came with being a Beatle, as Paul McCartney said:
“It was all gone, all that boy shit, all that screaming, we didn’t want anymore, plus, we’d now got turned on to pot and thought of ourselves as artists rather than just performers… 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.’”
And as a result, the first concept album was born. The pursuit of shedding that burden led to one of the greatest and most influential albums of all time. It just goes to show how creative the Beatles were!