The sessions for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band were a time of increased experimentation for The Beatles. Having officially ceased touring in 1966, the band adopted the central alter ego of the Lonely Hearts Club Band in an attempt to get away from their normal sound as a rock outfit.
“On Pepper, it was like starting over from scratch, getting down to the individual tonalities of the instruments and changing them,” engineer Geoff Emerick explained. “They didn’t want a guitar to sound like a guitar anymore. They didn’t want anything to sound like what it was.”
The band began using non-traditional rock instruments to create their unique sounds: a Lowrey organ transformed ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ into a psychedelic landscape; clarinets were the driving melody makers for ‘When I’m Sixty Four’; western orchestras fleshed out ‘She’s Leaving Home’ and ‘A Day in the Life’, while eastern classical instruments transported the listener on ‘Within You Without You’. But The Beatles didn’t completely abandon rock instrumentation.
The opening title track featured some proto-punk fuzz, while ‘Good Morning Good Morning’ had horn blasts that would have been right at home on a Stax Records release. However, if there was one song on this purposefully non-replicable album that could have potentially been played live by the old Beatles, it would have been ‘Getting Better’.
With its twin guitar attack that hits from both sides of the stereo mix, ‘Getting Better’ features the clearest link back to The Beatles heyday as mop-top rock and rollers with a pop edge. George Harrison and John Lennon trade lines, with Harrison throwing in fluid country-style licks while Lennon hammers down on the repeated searing high notes throughout the song.
Lennon was likely using his Epiphone Casino during the sessions, while the signature quack on Harrison’s guitar parts were almost assuredly played on his ‘Rocky’ Fender Stratocaster. It’s possible that Harrison was also using his own Casino, as well as his Gibson SG, as all three guitars were rotated through during recording. Even though he’s not specifically credited on this song, Paul McCartney did play the guitar throughout Sgt. Pepper’s, and would have likely used his own Casino or his Fender Esquire. To those wanting to replicate the mid-to-late 1960s Beatles sound, the Casino is the way to go.
The sessions for ‘Getting Better’ also occurred simultaneously with Lennon’s famous LSD trip on top of Abbey Road. While the March 21 session was officially to record overdubs for the song, the band broke for an extended period with producer George Martin working on a piano solo for ‘Lovely Rita’. Martin noticed Lennon was getting dizzy, so he lead him to the roof for some fresh air. Lennon was quickly retrieved by his bandmates before any serious injuries could occur.
Check out the isolated guitars on ‘Getting Better’ down below.