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On this day, May 26, 1967, The Beatles’ eighth album, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, was given a “rush release” in the UK. This meant that it was delivered to record stores around the country almost an entire week before its official release date of June 1.
Since then, the album has become one of their best-known pieces and includes some incredible singles such as Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, With a Little Help from My Friends and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds to name but a few. It also earned four Grammy Awards including Album of the Year and has since sold more than 32 million copies worldwide.
But the record’s inception was a tribute to a Canadian police officer who managed to keep the band out of jail.
Sgt Randall Pepper was a real-life Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer from Aurora, Ontario, Canada. The man was reportedly a strait-laced professional who was assigned to protect the band while they visited the Great White North on a brief (but intense) 24-hour trip to Toronto, Canada, in 1966.
The band played two gigs in the day at the Maple Leaf Gardens – one at 4pm and another at 8:30pm – with a press conference in between.
Sgt Pepper ensured they were safe and protected throughout the day, but he reportedly wasn’t a big fan of what they stood for.
Sgt Pepper apparently “didn’t like” their rock music or their long hair. But, as the day went on, the differences between the band and the public official collapsed and they all began getting on.
However, a crucial part of the story remains a secret to this day. The real-life Sgt Pepper’s granddaughter, Cheryl Finn, spoke out about the man and that fateful day in 2017.
She said: “My grandfather supposedly kept them out of some trouble and they wanted to recognise his good work and his kindness.”
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It is not known what kind of trouble the likes of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr got into, but it was enough for them to name their next album after him.
After returning to the UK The Beatles began working on their next record, a concept piece they titled: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – named in part after the man who “saved them” on an intense 24-hours.
But, despite being the man of the hour, Cheryl said the real Sgt Pepper was “not a Beatles fan at all”. Cheryl also noted: “He always thought they were kind of hooligans, and men in the Sixties should be clean-cut and clean-shaven.”
The album’s title wasn’t the only tribute The Beatles paid to Sgt Pepper, however.
The iconic front cover of The Beatles album includes McCartney wearing a blue army outfit with a number of patches on the chest and arms. But the most obvious is the OPP patch on his left arm.
Each member of the band were reportedly given an OPP patch when they left Canada, and McCartney decided to commemorate the help they received in the country once again.
He put the OPP patch on his suit for the album cover, leaving a more blatant connection to Ontario, Canada, for all to see.
Sgt Randall Pepper died in 1970 – the same year The Beatles split up.
While this is a huge part of the band’s musical legacy, it still isn’t very well known. Cheryl was once quoted as saying even the family didn’t make too big a deal about it.
She said: “It was just part of family folklore. We all knew about it. My mom and uncle would mention it occasionally. Mom says it got her out of a few speeding tickets. But overall, the family didn’t consider it terribly important.”
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