Today’s entry on The Beatles Bible is entitled “Paul McCartney has the idea for Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and that pretty much tells the whole story, doesn’t it? No real need to rehash the details; but then again, it’s a rainy day and there hasn’t been much to write about lately, so let’s dig in a little bit.

The event in question took place, legend has it, on an airplane carrying McCartney, Jane Asher, and Mal Evans back to London from their African holiday. Here’s Paul, quoted by Barry Miles, quoted in turn by TBB, and now by me:

We were fed up with being the Beatles. We really hated that fucking four little mop-top boys approach. We were not boys, we were men. It was all gone, all that boy shit, all that screaming, we didn’t want any more, plus, we’d now got turned on to pot and thought of ourselves as artists rather than just performers. There was now more to it; not only had John and I been writing, George had been writing, we’d been in films, John had written books, so it was natural that we should become artists.

Then suddenly on the plane I got this idea. I thought, Let’s not be ourselves. Let’s develop alter egos so we’re not having to project an image which we know. It would be much more free.

This idea may have been inspired by Paul’s recent experiments with going incognito in France — though, it must be noted, he had mixed feelings about it.

It was kind of therapeutic but I’d had enough. It was nice because I remembered what it was like to not be famous and it wasn’t necessarily any better than being famous. It made me remember why we all wanted to get famous.

But having had this Eureka moment, Paul became determined to create an alternate identity for The Beatles. The only question was what to call it. According to Bob Spitz’s The Beatles,

Paul and Mal kicked around the idea during the in-flight meal. At first they played with names for a band, mimicking the variety of groups that were just coming into vogue: the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Lothar and the Hand People. Mal, distracted, picked up the little corrugated packets of paper marked “S” and “P,” asking Paul what the initials stood for. “Salt and Pepper,” he responded. “Sergeant Pepper.”

And, scene.

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