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Paul McCartney Speaks on the Origin of 'Sgt. Pepper' Album Title

In an episode of Paul McCartney: A Life in Lyrics, McCartney and poet Paul Muldoon discuss how the title came to be.

Source: © KCS / MEGA

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In a recent podcast, Paul McCartney acknowledged the origin of the title of the Beatles album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, crediting it to a conversation he had with their road manager and friend Mal Evans.

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Source: MEGA

The Beatles at the press launch for 'Sgt. Pepper,' May 1967.

In an episode of Paul McCartney: A Life in Lyrics, McCartney and poet Paul Muldoon discuss how the title came to be.

"I was with our roadie Mal [Evans], a big bear of a man," McCartney said. "I was coming back on the plane, and he said, 'Will you pass the salt and pepper?' And I misheard him. I said, 'What? Sergeant Pepper?' He said, 'No, salt and pepper.'"

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Source: Fair Use

Mal Evans and McCartney arriving back from their trip to Kenya, Heathrow Airport, London, November 1967.

The backstory: The Beatles had finished up their last tour performance at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on August 29, 1966. After a short stay, McCartney flew to France on November 6 on a plane ferry with his brand-new Aston Martin DB6, drove to Paris then down to Bordeaux where Evans met him on November 12. They had decided to drive to Carnoneras, Spain to visit John Lennon who was filming Dick Lester's satirical anti-war film How I Won The War.

Along the way they discovered that Lennon had already returned home. As reported by Evans in the Beatles Monthly Book:

"That’s torn it," exclaimed Paul. "OK, how about a safari as compensation?"

"Spain isn't really safari country, Paul," I replied blankly. "No, but Kenya is!" came the prompt reply.

The duo, silent Super-8 cameras in hand, met up with McCartney's then-girlfriend Jane Asher and made their way to Nairobi, visiting the Amboseli Reserve at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, staying at the Treetops Hotel and then at a YMCA. It was on the plane ride back to London, as Evans and McCartney were talking about songwriting that McCartney relayed this origin story to his biographer Barry Miles in 1997's Many Years From Now:

"Me and Mal often bantered words about which led to the rumour that he thought of the name Sergeant Pepper, but I think it would be much more likely that it was me saying, 'Think of names.' We were having our meal and they had those little packets marked 'S' and 'P'. Mal said, 'What’s that mean?' 'Oh, salt and pepper.' We had a joke about that. So I said, 'Sergeant Pepper,' just to vary it, 'Sergeant Pepper, salt and pepper,' an aural pun, not mishearing him but just playing with the words."

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qsgt peppers cover
Source: Capitol/EMI

The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

McCartney had been fermenting with the idea since their last concert of having the Beatles adopt a new persona and move away from the tired mop-top approach they had embodied since 1962. He had already been sketching ideas with the band and when he was with Evans, was able to finalize a concept that they would all assume alter egos in the studio. Nobody knew it at the time, but when they re-entered EMI Studios on November 24, 1966, they would not emerge until April 1967, handing out what was to become the defining moment in pop culture and modern music history.

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Source: YouTube

(Dec 20, 1966) The Beatles - Interview "Reporting `66" Abbey Raod Studios, London, England

Season 2 of McCartney: A Life In Lyrics, a co-production between iHeart Media, MPL and Pushkin Industries, is available to stream on multiple platforms.


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