We can all picture it, the glorious moustaches across the lips of The Beatles on their iconic album Sgt. Pepper. The band were so enamoured with their hairy lips that they even included cardboard cut-outs on the LP so their fans could join in on the act and pretend to be one of the Fab Four. While Paul McCartney has always claimed that in his mind’s eye his central character Sgt. Pepper had a droopy moustache, he made sure to incorporate one. That said, the reason the band actually added the legendary facial hair was because of one late-night accident.
The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper era may be one of the most iconic images of modern music, capturing the pure inventiveness of the decade. The figures of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr dressed in their brightly coloured band uniforms and all sporting a healthy dose of Victorian facial hair is one picture that will be forever emblazoned upon the annals of history.
The concept for the LP’s cover was lifted directly from the brain of Paul McCartney as he said in a 1990 interview: “If records had a director within a band, I sort of directed Pepper.” Later when picking his favourite Beatles record in 1991 he said, “It wasn’t entirely my idea. But to get us away from being ‘The Beatles’ I had this idea that we should pretend we’re this other group.” Every detail from their outfits to their hair was considered.
It was a concept that would see one of the bands finest ever works come to fruition. But while McCartney may prefer you to believe otherwise, he decided to grow a moustache out of necessity rather than choice after a road accident in 1965 left him with a big scar. Beatles Bible reports that Macca was sharing a moped with his friend and Guinness heir, Tara Browne (the future subject of the song ‘A Day in the Life’) when they soon found themselves in a bit of bother.
“We were riding along on the mopeds,” McCartney said. “He [Browne] was behind me, and it was an incredible full moon… I suddenly had a freeze-frame image of myself at the angle to the ground when it’s too late to pull back up again: I was still looking at the moon and then I looked at the ground, and it seemed to take a few minutes to think, ‘Ah, too bad- I’m going to smack that pavement with my face!’ Bang!”
While McCartney didn’t seem particularly bothered about his injuries in the videos for ‘Paperback Writer’ and ‘Rain’. However, Cheat Sheet, suggests that the singer became embarrassed about the scar on his lip, worsened by a botched stitch-up, and decided to grow a moustache to cover it. Many people suggested it was to cover up the ludicrous Paul Is Dead conspiracy.
In the studio, it soon became a hit with the other members of the band and the group all began growing out their now-iconic moustaches. As with anything The Beatles did at the time, as soon as the members were spotted with new taches, the rest of swinging London soon jumped on board and as McCartney said, it became a “revolutionary” idea.
It may not have overthrown any governments but it sure has provided for some hilarious family photos. As taches continue to flitter in and out of fashion we can’t be sure when the next facial hair fad will arise. But what we can be certain of is that without them The Beatles Sgt, Pepper just wouldn’t look right—and all because of a moped accident and a full moon.