The Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’ Isn’t the Version of the Song That Was a Hit

The title track of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is a classic hard rock song. However, The Beatles’ version of the song didn’t become a chart success. Here’s a look at the version of the song that did chart.

The Beatles standing in a row
The Beatles | John Pratt / Stringer

Why The Beatles’ song ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ didn’t chart

The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was an extremely famous album, however, its title track was never released as a single. In the 1960s, a song couldn’t chart on the Billboard Hot 100 unless it was released as a single so the track never charted. However, that didn’t stop the song from making a cultural impact. A lyric from the song was used as the title of the Beatles documentary It Was Twenty Years Ago Today and the title of an episode of Roseanne. In addition, the Bee Gees performed it in the film of the same name.

The origin of the Paul McCartney/U2 version of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’

The hit version of the song was the result of a program called Live 8. Much like the famous Live Aid concert of the 1980s, Live 8 was designed to draw attention to political issues in Africa. According to ABC News, there was some controversy that the concert would feature many bands and artists who were not African, such as U2. Bono said activist Bob Geldof dismissed this criticism.

The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

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“He thinks it’s patronizing to put on African acts to an audience that doesn’t know their music,” Bono said. “He wants to make sure this is the most exciting, rocking, hip-hop show on Earth. And I wanted more African acts. I like African music. He said, ‘Shut up, Bono. They are all listening to hip-hop anyway.’ “

U2 and Paul performed a version of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” at the concert. It was the first time Paul performed the track with a band other than the Fab Four. Before performing at the concert, Bono was nervous, revealing Geldof had poked fun at his nervousness. “He said, ‘3.2 billion people are gonna be watching you. Does that make you nervous?’” Bono recalled. “And the answer is yeah, it does.” Bono admitted his nerves contrasted with his image. “I know, it’s ruining my image,” he quipped.

Paul McCartney and U2’s “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

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How the world reacted to the new version of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’

Paul and U2’s version of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” hit no. on the Billboard Hot 100 — which is very notable given the original version of the song was decades old by the time this cover charted. This rendition only charted for a week. However, it’s very interesting that the public embraced the track when Bono was so nervous about performing it.

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