The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017 vs. 1967)

For the 50th anniversary of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Beatles released a completely remixed version of the album. We compared it with a German pressing from the release year 1967.

Beatles Sgt Pepper 2017 Front
The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)
Beatles Sgt Pepper HZ Front
The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Some quick facts about The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

In 1967, when Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released, the Beatles were not yet interested in stereo. For the mono mix John, Paul, George and Ringo took several weeks. When the stereo mix was created, they were already on vacation.

Obviously the stereo version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in the famous Beatles stereo always sounded a bit strange and fell short of its possibilities. Authentic, the way the musicians wanted it, was really only the mono mix (which we will compare in another post).

So when Giles Martin, son of Beatles producer George Martin, created a new Pepper stereo mix, he took his cue from the mono original. The result was supposed to get everything possible out of the original recordings in terms of sound. Only in stereo and cut for modern record players at Abbey Road Studios in half speed mastering and carefully pressed on 180g vinyl.

What stands out about Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 2017?

The sound quality of the 50-year-old recordings must have been excellent. Pepper was recorded on a four-track machine. To create space on the tape for the many overdubs, “reduction mixes” were performed again and again. This means that up to three tracks were mixed together into one in order to free up tracks for further overdubs. With modern technology, the instruments could be separated again afterwards and remixed on individual tracks. The result is really first-class in terms of sound.

How is Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band equipped?

The German pressing from 1967 already included the cutout board with the fake mustache of Sgt. Pepper as well as the epaulettes and the tape stand – everything to cut out yourself. Everything is still included. Apparently the previous owner (her name is on the label) had no interest in such tinkering. There is no trace of the original red and white striped inner sleeves here.

And the new one? Cut out board, red patterned inner sleeves like the original and a four page very informative booklet. The second disc includes alternate versions, studio conversations and allows the listener a shoulder view of the recording process. All known from bootlegs – but here in better sound quality.

How is the sound quality of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 2017?

Giles Martin isolated the instruments on separate tracks and completely reassembled the mix. His goal: a stereo mix with the volume ratios of the mono mix while creating a stereo experience with width and depth staging. And all in the best possible sound. (See video at end of post).
This really succeeds impressively in tracks like Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, Getting Better or A Day In The Life. Even Within You Without You, none of my favourites before, blossoms in the new guise. The fact that the changes in some other songs are not immediately noticeable rather shows how carefully Giles Martin proceeded with his mixing. However, if you listen intensively, you will notice clear sonic improvements on every track, even on vinyl.

And the original German version from 1967? The “Beatles stereo” with the band and the lead voice in one channel and the choirs in the other makes the stage fall apart completely in parts. At least the sound effects provide some cohesion. The Beatles couldn’t have wanted that. With greater track angle error towards the end of side 1, the distortions increase. My record is just more than 50 years old and has obviously been played a lot. Not everything is better on vinyl.

Wie unterscheiden sich Pegel und Frequenzgang der Pressungen von 1967 und 2017?

Wellenform-Diagramm für A Day In The Life
Waveform-chart for A Day In The Life

The most important difference between the 1967 edition and the 1967 remix can be seen in the handling of compression. The most obvious is in the two orchestral crescendos at about minute 2 and minute 4 (arrows). Here the 1967 original goes right up to the limiter’s stop and the level peaks form an almost straight line. The 2017 remix leaves more room here and only increases the volume at the very end of the passage.

The left arrow, a verse (text passage: “… the english army had just won the war”) is different. Here Ringo’s drum interjections stand out much more in the 1967 version than in the remixed 2017 version.

Frequency-chart for A Day In The Life
Frequency-chart for A Day In The Life

The frequency spectrogram shows two differences between the 1967 mix and the 2017 one. On the one hand, the orchestra was mixed much more midrange- and treble-heavy during the 1967 crescendo. This can be seen in the larger yellow and orange areas during the corresponding passages (arrows). On the other hand, the 1967 version had a much broader bass and fundamental range with lots of energy in the region between about 70 and 300 hertz. The 2017 remix instead focuses on a frequency range of about 70 to 200 hertz. This can be seen in the yellow and orange-red areas between the dashed lines that I’ve included for clarity.

Which version of The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band sounds better?

I understand that traditionalists are very skeptical about changes to the Beatles’ work. Here the case is clear for me: The remix sounds miles better than the stereo original. And probably the remix takes into account the artistic intent of the Beatles far more than the stepmotherly treated stereo mixes of 1967. The progress is much more noticeable here than, for example, the also remixed White Album or Abbey Road.

Titles

Side 1

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  • A Little Help From My Friends
  • Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
  • Getting Better
  • Fixing A Hole
  • She’s Leaving Home
  • Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite

Side 2

  • Within You, Without You
  • When I’m Sixty-Four
  • Lovely Rita
  • Good Morning, Good Morning
  • Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
  • A Day In The Life
The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)
The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)
The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)
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The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)
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The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)
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The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)
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The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)
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The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)
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The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)
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The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)
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The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)
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Das Hörzu-Logo lässt die deutsche Pressung von 1967 erkennen.
The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
... wurde von der Erstpressung für die Neuauflage originalgetreu übernommen.
1967
... bei der Neuauflage in sehr guter Qualität reproduziert.
1967
... hier am oberen Rand gut zu sehen.
1967
... 1967 war es schon dabei.  Später nicht mehr.
1967
1967 prangte das Hörzu-Logo gleich zweimal auf dem Label.
1967
Es war auch nicht unüblich, dass der Besitzer seinen Namen aufs Label schrieb.
1967
ArtistThe Beatles
TitleSgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band
LabelParlophoneOdeon/HÖRZU
Released20171967
Catalogue numberPCS 7027SHZE 401
Format2×12“12“
Revolutions/minute33 1/333 1/3
TypeAlbumAlbum
CoverGatefoldGatefold
Add-onsCut out Board, bedruckte Innenhüllen, BookletCut out Board
Lacquer cut byMiles Showell
Pressing plantPressed in GermanyNot specified
Matrix-RunoutBH71657-01 A1 Miles Abbey Road ½ Speed 5745539 x ᴧ ᴧ
BH71657-01 B1 Miles Abbey Road ½ Speed 5745539 x ᴧ ᴧ
SHZE-401-A-1 SHZE 401-B-2
Edition/Limitation
Consecutive number
Country of manufactureGermanyGermany

Giles Martin explains the stereo mix of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The music passages are muted for licensing reasons.

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