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Deconstructing The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"

Some of you might remember an ad that appeared in guitar magazines in the late Eighties or early Nineties.

It showed a photo of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Hearts Club Band LP propped up against a shiny new four-track recorder (possibly a Tascam, but who knows at this point?). The slogan that appeared above the photo was something along the lines of "A Couple of Four-Track Masterpieces."

Although its goal was to sell a ton of multi-track recorders (and to lodge itself in a dusty corner of my brain for a few decades), the ad also served as a reminder to the average, non-Beatles-obsessed human that the band's game-changing 1967 masterpiece was, in fact, recorded using a mere four tracks.

Below, you can check out a handy video that demonstrates how the album's iconic title track came together. The video shows the final four-track mixdown of the song. First each track is played alone, then all at once.

It's kind of awesome.

The song was recorded February 1 and 2 and March 3 and 6, 1967, at Abbey Road Studio Two with engineer Geoff Emerick at the helm and George Martin producing.

GREEN LINE: On February 1, the band recorded nine takes of the rhythm track, although only the first and last takes were complete. They tracked drums (Ringo Starr), bass (Paul McCartney) and guitars (McCartney and George Harrison).

BLUE LINE: In early March, John Burden recorded his French horn part, and some brass parts were overdubbed. McCartney also tracked his lead guitar part (NOTE: The band's traditional roles had essentially dissolved by that point, and there really was no single lead guitarist; be sure to check out McCartney's brilliant guitar solos on "Taxman" and "Good Morning Good Morning").

RED LINE: On February 2, McCartney, who wrote the song, recorded his lead and harmony vocals, and John Lennon and Harrison added their harmony vocals.

YELLOW LINE: They also added the overdubbed crowd noises in March.

For more of this sort of thing, be sure to check out Eric Clapton's isolated lead guitar part from the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."


Damian Fanelli

Damian is editor-in-chief of Guitar World magazine. From 1998 to 2014, he was one third of Mister Neutron, an instrumental rock act that toured the universe and elsewhere and released three albums via Austin-based Deep Eddy Records. These days he performs with several New York City-area bands and can often be spotted with one of his many, many, many B-bender-equipped guitars. In past lives he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor – and he still can’t believe he got to write the liner notes for the latest SRV box set.