News

Hum takes, ‘Lucy In The Sky’ on acoustic and R&B influences: Dive into the unheard outtakes of the ‘Sgt. Pepper’ sessions

Last week we shared the announcement that for the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper, the Beatles are releasing an epic reissue of the album featuring a new stereo mix plus a slew of previously unheard studio outtakes.

sgt pepper

Hum takes, Lucy In The Sky on acoustic and R&B influences: Dive into the unheard outtakes of the ‘Sgt. Pepper’ sessions.

A Beatles fan’s dream, the anniversary edition’s second disc will include 33 extra recordings from the Sgt. Pepper sessions including an unreleased instrumental take of Penny Lane and two unreleased takes of Strawberry Fields Forever.

There will also be an Indian instrument-only version of Within and Without You, a hum version of A Day In The Life and an acoustic version of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. 

Rolling Stone were allowed an exclusive first listen of the deluxe edition, plus access to Giles Martin’s (George Martin’s son who remixed the issue) insights.

Read their 10 favourite moments below:

1. “A Day in the Life”: the “hum” session

The original ending, with the Beatles humming the famous final chord before they decided to do it with pianos instead. As Martin says, “They recorded ‘A Day in the Life’ without the ending — they knew they were going to resolve on the E chord, but their first plan was to have a choir humming.” The Beatles gather on the microphone to hum that final chord together, as John tells everyone, “Have you got the note? Stop freaking out!” They overdub the voices into a full choir humming the chord — but as Martin says, “They realized it wasn’t a very good ending.”

2. “A Day in the Life”: the piano takes

The epic final piano crash required a number of takes, with the Beatles and their mate Mal Evans manning every piano at Abbey Road. Paul calls out, “Have you got your pedal down, Mal? The righthand one?” They try to crash all the pianos together as Paul counts in the 1-2-3 (“I won’t say four — just imagine it”). It takes a few attempts — until they nail the instantly recognizable chord that ends the album.

3. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

The theme song begins as a long, raw guitar jam, stretching out at the end as Paul rants, “I feel it, I feel it, oh baby I feel it, I feel freeeee now, gotta get freeee now.”

4. “Penny Lane”

“Penny Lane,” of course, was the second song recorded for the Pepper sessions in November 1966, but got dropped from the final album after it appeared as a February 1967 single along with “Strawberry Fields Forever.” The new versions include a lavish Pet Sounds-style version led by Paul’s piano and harmonium, but the best is a backing vocal track that’s all Paul and George doing handclaps and harmonies that didn’t make the final version. The duo offer commentary on the music as it builds, with George making his suggestions. (“Should I do that harmony?”) At one point, George quips, “That’ll have a backwards drumbeat on that there.” Paul replies, “Forwards drum beat.”

5. “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” Take One

In the first take, John leads the song on acoustic guitar — “a diiie-rect injection,” as he calls it — while Paul follows on the electric keyboard. John’s raw-power vocal is a world away from the ethereal dreaminess of the final version.

6. “Within You Without You”

An early version where George gives verbal instructions to the Indian musicians about how he wants them to play (“OK, the main thing is the timing”) and they give him their feedback. Says Giles Martin, “My dad said George was like watching someone make a carpet, thread by thread, thinking about each bit.”

7. “Getting Better”

The first take is a totally different approach to the song — Paul leads on Wurtlitzer keyboard for a more aggressive attack. John gives him some suggestions on the lead vocal: “Sing it, you know, ‘I gotta admit’ and all that — properly, if you can sing it.”

8. “With a Little Help From My Friends”

An early take with Paul leading on piano, backed by John on guitar and George on cowbell. The famous bass line is yet to come; halfway through, Paul really begins freestyling on piano. “You can tell when Paul gets bored with the take,” Giles Martin says. “When he gets to the point where he realizes it’s not the final take, that’s when he starts trying out ideas for the next take.”

9. “Fixing a Hole”

Much more rocking than the album version, with Paul trying an R&B approach to the harpsichord and Ringo cutting loose on drums. As on so many of these alternate versions, Ringo’s inventive drumming is a revelation. (And people thought this was just the album where Ringo spent the sessions learning to play chess.) The band vamps until Paul announces, “And that’s it.”

10. “Sgt Pepper (Reprise)”

They recorded this at Studio One, instead of their usual Studio Two, one of the reasons it was always the Pepper track with the most spontaneous live-band feel. Paul marvels at the new surroundings — “all the shapes around the studio, and all those bubbles there and bumps there” — as you can hear all four musicians jump into the by-then-rare challenge of jamming together. “It’s just boys in a room making noise,” as Giles Martin quips — but like all these Pepper outtakes, it’s a landmark of how innovative and inspirational that noise could be.

Sgt. Pepper 50th anniversary edition track listing:

CD
(Sgt. Pepper 2017 Stereo Mix)
1. ” Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
2. ” With A Little Help From My Friends”
3. ” Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”
4. ” Getting Better”
5. ” Fixing A Hole”
6. ” She’s Leaving Home”
7. ” Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!”
8. ” Within You Without You”
9. ” When I’m Sixty-Four”
10. “Lovely Rita”
11. “Good Morning Good Morning”
12. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)”
13. “A Day In The Life”

Deluxe [2CD, digital]
CD 1
Sgt. Pepper 2017 Stereo Mix

CD 2
1. ” Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” [Take 9]
2. ” With A Little Help From My Friends” [Take 1 – False Start And Take 2 – Instrumental]
3. ” Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” [Take 1]
4. ” Getting Better” [Take 1 – Instrumental And Speech At The End]
5. ” Fixing A Hole” [Speech And Take 3]
6. ” She’s Leaving Home” [Take 1 – Instrumental]
7. ” Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!” [Take 4]
8. ” Within You Without You” [Take 1 – Indian Instruments]
9. ” When I’m Sixty-Four” [Take 2]
10. “Lovely Rita” [Speech And Take 9]
11. “Good Morning Good Morning” [Take 8]
12. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” [Take 8]
13. “A Day In The Life” [Take 1 With Hummed Last Chord]
14. “Strawberry Fields Forever” [Take 7]
15. “Strawberry Fields Forever” [Take 26]
16. “Strawberry Fields Forever” [Stereo Mix – 2015]
17. “Penny Lane” [Take 6 – Instrumental]
18. “Penny Lane” [Stereo Mix – 2017]

Deluxe Vinyl
LP 1
Sgt. Pepper 2017 Stereo Mix

LP 2 (Complete early takes from the sessions in the same sequence as the album)
Side A
1. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” [Take 9 And Speech]
2. “With A Little Help From My Friends” [Take 1 – False Start And Take 2 – Instrumental]
3. “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” [Take 1]
4. “Getting Better” [Take 1 – Instrumental And Speech At The End]
5. “Fixing A Hole” [Speech And Take 3]
6. “She’s Leaving Home” [Take 1 – Instrumental]
7. “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!” [Take 4]

Side B
1. “Within You Without You” [Take 1 – Indian Instruments]
2. “When I’m Sixty-Four” [Take 2]
3. “Lovely Rita” [Speech And Take 9]
4. “Good Morning Good Morning” [Take 8]
5. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (Reprise) [Take 8]
6. “A Day In The Life” [Take 1 With Hummed Last Chord]

Super Deluxe [4CD/DVD/Blu-ray box set]
CD 1
Sgt. Pepper 2017 Stereo Mix

CD 2 (Complete early takes from the sessions, sequenced in chronological order of their first recording dates)
1. “Strawberry Fields Forever” [Take 1]
2. “Strawberry Fields Forever” [Take 4]
3. “Strawberry Fields Forever” [Take 7]
4. “Strawberry Fields Forever” [Take 26]
5. “Strawberry Fields Forever” [Stereo Mix – 2015]
6. “When I’m Sixty-Four” [Take 2]
7. “Penny Lane” [Take 6 – Instrumental]
8. “Penny Lane” [Vocal Overdubs And Speech]
9. “Penny Lane” [Stereo Mix – 2017]
10. “A Day In The Life” [Take 1]
11. “A Day In The Life” [Take 2]
12. “A Day In The Life” [Orchestra Overdub]
13. “A Day In The Life” (Hummed Last Chord) [Takes 8, 9, 10 and 11]
14. “A Day In The Life” (The Last Chord)
15. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” [Take 1 – Instrumental]
16. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” [Take 9 And Speech]
17. “Good Morning Good Morning” [Take 1 – Instrumental, Breakdown]
18. “Good Morning Good Morning” [Take 8]

CD 3 (Complete early takes from the sessions, sequenced in chronological order of their first recording dates)
1. “Fixing A Hole” [Take 1]
2. “Fixing A Hole” [Speech And Take 3]
3. “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!” [Speech From Before Take 1; Take 4 And Speech At End]
4. “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!” [Take 7]
5. “Lovely Rita” [Speech And Take 9]
6. “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” [Take 1 And Speech At The End]
7. “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” [Speech, False Start And Take 5]
8. “Getting Better” [Take 1 – Instrumental And Speech At The End]
9. “Getting Better” [Take 12]
10. “Within You Without You” [Take 1 – Indian Instruments Only]
11. “Within You Without You” [George Coaching The Musicians]
12. “She’s Leaving Home” [Take 1 – Instrumental]
13. “She’s Leaving Home” [Take 6 – Instrumental]
14. “With A Little Help From My Friends” [Take 1 – False Start And Take 2 – Instrumental]
15. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” [Speech And Take 8]

CD 4 (Sgt. Pepper and bonus tracks in Mono)
1-13: 2017 Direct Transfer of Sgt. Pepper Original Mono Mix
14. “Strawberry Fields Forever” [Original Mono Mix]
15. “Penny Lane” [Original Mono Mix]
16. “A Day In The Life” [Unreleased First Mono Mix]
17. “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” [Unreleased Mono Mix – No. 11]
18. “She’s Leaving Home” [Unreleased First Mono Mix]
19. “Penny Lane” [Capitol Records U.S. Promo Single – Mono Mix]

DISCS 5 & 6 (Blu-ray & DVD)
Audio Features (both discs):
– New 5.1 Surround Audio mixes of ‘Sgt. Pepper’ album and “Penny Lane,” plus 2015 5.1 Surround mix of “Strawberry Fields Forever” (Blu-ray: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby True HD 5.1 / DVD: DTS Dolby Digital 5.1)
– High Resolution Audio versions of 2017 ‘Sgt. Pepper’ stereo mix and 2017 “Penny Lane” stereo mix, plus 2015 “Strawberry Fields Forever” hi res stereo mix (Blu-ray: LPCM Stereo 96KHz/24bit / DVD: LPCM Stereo)
Video Features (both discs):
The Making of Sgt. Pepper [restored 1992 documentary film, previously unreleased]
– Promotional Films: “A Day In The Life;” “Strawberry Fields Forever;” “Penny Lane”

[This content originally appeared on Rolling Stone]