June 1, 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ album “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.” On his website www.PaulMcCartney.com, McCartney recounts how the title came to be:
PaulMcCartey.com [PMc]: Do you remember coming up with the cover and band concepts? We understand that the original concept came from you doing a doodle on a plane based around an Edwardian military band?
Paul McCartney [PM]: Yeah! Well, what really happened was I was coming back from a trip abroad with our roadie, Mal Evans, just the two of us together on the plane. And we were eating and he mumbled to me, asked me to pass the salt and pepper. And I misheard him. He said [mumbles] “saltandpepper”. I go, “Sergeant Pepper?” I thought he said, “Sergeant Pepper”. I went, “Oh! Wait a minute, that’s a great idea!” So we had a laugh about it, then I started thinking about Sergeant Pepper as a character. I thought it would be a very interesting idea for us to assume alter egos for this album we were about to make.
So that’s what we did. And yeah, I started doing drawings of how the band might look. I sort of got this military look thing going and one of my ideas was that they were being presented by the Lord Mayor of some Northern town in a park. And in the old days they used to have floral clocks, they called them. It was like a clock that was made out of flowers. So I did drawings of the floral clock and then, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band”, AKA The Beatles, getting an award. So they’ve got a big cup and they’re getting some sort of award from the town.
So that’s where the idea came from and then I just talked to all the guys and said, “What do you think of this idea?” They liked it and I said, “It will mean, when I approach the mic, it’s not Paul McCartney. I don’t have to think this is a Paul McCartney song”. So it was freeing. It was quite liberating.
So, you know, we didn’t keep that idea up all the time, but that was the basic idea that we would make something that was very free. Something that this other band might make, instead of doing something that we thought The Beatles ought to make. It originally came from that mishearing of salt and pepper!