Sgt. Pepper's image featuring Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison of the Beatles. McCartney is wearing an Ontario Provincial Police badge in this photo.
Photo Credit: Instagram / The Beatles

Sgt. Pepper: It was 50 years ago today…

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the iconic Beatle’s album is being celebrated today on the 50th anniversary of its release.

It coincided with, or perhaps heralded, what became widely known as the “the summer of love” in many places around the world.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; a segment of one of the most studied album covers ever. ©

“A nice little Canadian connection”

Certainly in Canada, with the celebration of Expo ’67 in Montreal, it was a summer filled with great memories for many older Canadians.

Piers Hemmingsen is a Beatles scholar and the author of The Beatles In Canada — The Origins Of Beatlemania!

He says Expo ’67 was the scene of the North American premier of the album. Hemmingsen recounted the story today. on the CBC Radio program ‘Q‘.

It took place at the very popular Youth Pavillion at Expo, he said. One of the employees, Gilles Gougeon, in an enterprising move, knew of a flight attendant for Air Canada.

Gougeon and a friend got her to buy the album on a stopover in London, and it was on a turn-table at the pavillion by three that afternoon.

“Normally there were hundreds of people at the pavilion but on that day there were upwards of four thousand kids listening to this record and taking turns looking at the jacket. They propped up the jacket in the window where the record player was and kids could take turns listening, or looking at the jacket while they listened to the record.”

Hemmingsen says what was key for him was the fact that “this was probably the first time the album was played publicly in North America, not just Canada, North America!”


The insignia of the Ontario Provincial Police force, the OPP, on Paul McCartney’s sleeve, clearly visible on the inside cover photo, became part of the “Paul is dead” lore.

As Piers Hemmingsen explained, people misconstrued the OPP badge, reading OPD, and translating that to “officially pronounced dead” in support of the conspiracy theories.

According to Hemmingsen, it was most likely Corporal Glen Hickingbottom, an OPP officer assigned to the Beatles security detail in 1964, that gave the band the badges.

“Somehow, four of these OPP badges got into somebody’s pocket. They would have sat on somebody’s dresser for up to three years before they were, before this one badge was used on Paul’s blue Sgt. Pepper’s suit, But definitely it does give a nice little Canadian connection to the Sgt. Pepper’s album.”

There is a new anniversary edition of the album available. With 6 discs, it includes previously unreleased songs and stereo mixes of the songs, Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields.

The work was done by Giles Martin, son of George Martin, the man known as the “Fifth Beatle”. He produced and mixed the original album.

“Shouldn’t every summer be the summer of love?”

The new release is winning rave reviews and today Giles Martin tweeted, “Shouldn’t every summer be the summer of love?”

The anniversary edition sells for $149.98 (US) which is about $203 (Cdn) today.

(With files from CBC)

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