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ASSAULT ON PEPPER
It's only five years since the last onslaught of anniversary celebrations, barely time to sneeze, but Pepper is in the news again, enjoying a 25th birthday. You may have seen Paul being interviewed at Abbey Road in the recent TV documentary The Making Of Sgt Pepper. Here's some of what he had to say
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF APPLE CORPS
On why the Beatles gave up touring
"I think we got fed up living like that, because surely the idea is to get famous and to enjoy your life, not to suddenly enter a new pressure zone. So I think the logic of it was 'let's give up and spend more time recording, which is what we love doing best.'"
On choosing to record
"A lot of things were changing at that time. Society was changing, the psychedelic era was coming in and we were very much a part of it, and I think we really felt that it could be done better from a record than by anything else. The record could go on tour — that was the theory."
On Sgt Pepper's influences
"The single biggest influence on my thinking for Sgt Pepper was the Beach Boys' album Pet Sounds, which is still one of my favourite records. I think it's a very finely crafted record and that Brian Wilson was a great genius. It's actually very clever on any level, from a writer's point of view, from an arranger's point of view, from a bass player's point of view. We took a bit of wind out of the Beach Boys' sails with Pepper, which I was a little bit sorry for because they were one of my favourite bands at the time."
On Sgt Pepper's band
"The first thing I said to all of the guys in the band was, 'If we're interested in doing this we've got to come up with a list of all our favourite people, because we'll find out who this band is and we'll be there. It will be our alter ego and we'll make this whole album not as the Beatles, so that when we step up to the microphone it won't be John Lennon doing another vocal, or Paul McCartney, it will be so and so from Sgt Pepper's band.' And that allowed us to be very liberated. Everything about the album could be imagined from the perspective of these people."
On George Martin
"His great skill was to allow us to do what we wanted. There were other producers who would have said 'Hey now, steady on, wait a minute, we don't need an Indian song like "Within You Without You", you go and do that on your own album mate.' But George just went along with it all, which was very clever, I think. He didn't flinch and that's what, in my mind, makes him the best producer ever."
On the recording technology
"People go on about CDs and DATs and all that. Personally, I don't think it makes any difference at all. The song's still got to be great, the recording's still got to be great, the performance has still got to be great, the energy's still got to be there. It didn't really matter to us that it was recorded on four-track. You just had to be good all the time. The only thing today's 58 or 74 tracks give you is the opportunity to delay your decisions, which I think is a bad thing."
"I'm surprised how well the Sgt Pepper album has lasted, because it still sounds modern to me, it still sounds innovative. I think if you pull it apart you will find that the songs aren't the biggest Beatles songs, but that wasn't what we were doing: we were changing our method of working, it wasn't looking for catchy singles anymore, it was more like writing your novel."