Tonight The Beatles gathered on Abbey Road to listen to an acetate of the nearly completed Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. I’ll let Bob Spitz, eloquent as always, take up the story from there:

It had been predetermined that “A Day in the Life” would close the album. There was a finality to the song, effectively bringing the curtain down, that made perfect sense in its placement. But what to do about that climactic piano chord? It just hung there like a last pregnant gasp and, then… scratch, scratch, scratch… the tone arm slid rudely into the record’s run-out groove. How annoying! the Beatles grumbled. Wasn’t there something they could do to reduce the offensive noise? It remains a mystery who actually proposed filling the groove with gibberish, but the decision to do it was fervent and unanimous. Their reasoning behind it was basically this: if people were too stoned to get up and turn off the record, even if the needle stayed in the groove for a few stagnant hours, the nonsense talk would take the form of a mantra.

Had they wished, The Beatles could have used this power to program an entire generation to do anything they wanted. But they had no particular agenda that we know of; they recorded a bunch of gibberish that ended up sounding like “never could be any other…” repeated over and over. Legend has it that if you play this backwards it says “We’ll fuck you like Superman.” Does it? Judge for yourself:

To me, it sounds more like “We’ll fuck you like you’re Superman,” which is a whole different thing. (Might as well say “We’ll fuck you like Lois Lane.”)

Adding this to the runout groove of the record was apparently quite technically complicated, but of course our boys didn’t care about that; they wanted it, they got it. A lot of us in this country, though, never heard it until Sgt. Pepper was issued on CD in… the late 80s, was it?… because Capitol Records omitted it from the U.S. vinyl pressing.

And to be perfectly honest, I prefer the album that way, ending with the slow fade of that last piano chord. The chattering voices get on my nerves, even in the relatively short time you hear them on a digital version. I can only imagine falling asleep with them endlessly looping on my turntable; seems like that would drive a person insane. I wonder if it ever happened to Charlie Manson, and/or Mark Chapman?

But that’s not the only mindfuck tacked onto the end of Sgt. Pepper. According to Mark Lewisohn,

Across the spiral of the run-out groove — after the end of the piano chord but before the concentric nonsense — John Lennon suggested that they insert a high-pitch whistle especially for dogs, 15 kilocycle.

Lord only knows what they’ve been telling the dogs all these years.

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