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Old Jul 29, 2012, 10:16 AM   #1
SilverBeatle
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I apologize if this has been discussed before, but I find nothing when I search the forums. My question is: What did John mean by the line "So Sgt. Pepper took you by surprise?" I get the rest of the lyrics, pretty obvious. But I was wondering what he meant by that particular line. Any ideas?
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Old Jul 29, 2012, 11:00 AM   #2
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dont know a actual meaning of that line but to PiDers its a clue considering the cover had so many clues.

what so do i think he meant. probably referring to the fact that sgt.pepper is were the started to get really different yes they were difrent in rubble soul and revolver but sgt pepper on the other hand
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Old Jul 29, 2012, 11:53 AM   #3
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Wow, I just went back to read those lyrics. What a hatchet job he does on McCartney. My suspicions are Sgt Pepper is a nom de plume or pseudonym for somebody real. "You better see right through that mother's eyes". While John and George were recording How Do You Sleep, they kept referring to "Beatle Ed". Who was making a pig of himself. That was obviously McCartney. I suspect Sgt Pepper is a name for someone else and it's a personal reference that only that circle of folks know. Maybe only Paul knows exactly what he was talking about.
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Old Jul 29, 2012, 03:10 PM   #4
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Funny I've been giving this one a bit of thought lately too and almost started a discussion on it in a writer's group. (Might still do that). the first two lines of HOw Do YOu SLeep don't make sense to me at all. I used to think 'mother' was a reference to Linda as it is later in the song, but now I wonder if the first use was a reference to Paul's mother Mary (Who was dead and the next line was about Paul being dead though the line after that, about his head, seems to me to be a comment on his mental health which we know was not good at that time for several years)
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Old Jul 29, 2012, 08:06 PM   #5
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I used to think 'mother' was a reference to Linda as it is later in the song, but now I wonder if the first use was a reference to Paul's mother Mary
I don't know what the first line means, though I tend to believe it was just a line that sounded good to John and didn't necessarily mean anything specific... but I do think the 'mother' reference is just shorthand for motherf----r. Who the mofo is exactly, I've no idea...
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Old Jul 30, 2012, 07:00 AM   #6
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"So Sgt. Pepper took you by surprise", means Paul was not expecting the leap forward The Beatles made. Just like "The only thing you done was Yesterday", John though Paul was not ready for Sgt Pepper, that he lacked imagination.
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Old Jun 15, 2016, 01:40 AM   #7
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Wow, I just went back to read those lyrics. What a hatchet job he does on McCartney.
... the released version is almost nothing, compared to some of the lines he had when running through the song with the other musicians, in "Imagine", the film.
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Old Jun 15, 2016, 03:08 PM   #8
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First, I thought it was pretty clear that HDYS is directed at Paul. John has said so himself although later self-analysis made him reflect that he probably actually wrote about himself using his animosity towards Paul as a base.

And no, I don't believe there's any connection between LSD and the Sgt Pepper line. In fact, I don't understand the confusion. Paul originally saw Sgt Pepper as a concept album but, except for a few songs, it really isn't. The end result probably took Paul by surprise. The public's overwhelming response to it probably also took him by surprise. To this day, slap it if you must, it's still considered one of the greatest albums of all times.

My hunch is the song's being over-analyzed. As said, the lyrics are such a hack job. We do know that some of them were changed considerably before the song ended up on the album. Toned down to avoid libel suits and the like. That mother's eye line have the feel of being altered, which generates special problems in song lyrics where you want the lines to rhyme. So whatever written had to work with the 'surprise' in the preceding line, although 'mother's eyes' isn't a very good one - except for having the required number of syllables.
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Old Jun 16, 2016, 01:30 PM   #9
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Thanks for your thoughtful reply hibgal. But I really don't see how you can say that Pepper surprised Paul. He was supremely confident that Pepper was going to amaze everybody, as indeed it did.
And I think that for Paul (and a hell of a lot of other peple) the concept worked fine. The criticism of the concept not working came from Lennon in his 'tell all' interviews and is now applied in hindsight. At the time everybody accepted that the concept worked. It was a psychedelic show put on by an imaginary group with an intro, a middle and an end and even an amazing unexpected encore.
As far as I can see you have no explanation for the 'mother's eyes' line but surely Lennon must have had a good idea of what he was saying here. The rest of the song is very, very clear.
If you do have an explanation then please tell us!
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Old Aug 01, 2012, 09:43 AM   #10
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I like the LSD analogy. I also believe he's addressing Paul in every line of that song.
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Old Aug 01, 2012, 01:14 PM   #11
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PS: suuuuuuuch a vicious song!
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Old Aug 01, 2012, 08:38 PM   #12
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Yes I like the LSD angle, makes sense that he was telling Paul "So LSD knocked you for a loop, eh?" And then maybe he's saying you better realize how square and old-fashioned you are. I know John liked to knock Paul for being uncool sometimes and I think being hip and all that was important to them back then.
Thanks for all the replies, I enjoy reading all the different ideas.
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Old Jun 11, 2016, 08:29 AM   #13
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Does anybody have any new ideas on this? I've been talking about it on another site and it still seems to puzzle a lot of people.

How many of you think that Sgt Pepper here is really LSD?
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Old Jun 20, 2016, 02:56 AM   #14
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I don't agree with higbal's theories as you might be overthinking it. To me "You better see right through that mother's eyes" just means "Don't be fooled by Paul's charm and pretty looks - see beyond it". i.e "I can see right through that motherf***er"

I also didn't initially buy into the LSD theory but when you read the quote from Macca via Barry Miles it does seem to fit very well. He even mentions looking into each others eyes and Lennon asking how he can sleep so there is a double meaning to both phrases. The "How Do you sleep" line also relating to Macca taking the others to court.

It also contains references that only those two would have understood at the time so would have made a real connection with Paul.

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Old Jun 20, 2016, 06:29 AM   #15
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I don't agree with higbal's theories as you might be overthinking it. To me "You better see right through that mother's eyes" just means "Don't be fooled by Paul's charm and pretty looks - see beyond it". i.e "I can see right through that motherf***er"
Thanks for that Kerouac. At the moment I'm trying to clarify hibgal's interpretation to try and see if I can agree with it.

I agree with you though when you say this is a very direct song and there's a danger of overcomplication.After the first two lines the song is really easy to understand. No puns or word play apart from the Yesterday/Another Day jibe.

When you say "Don't be fooled by Paul's charm" this implies that the YOU in the second line (YOU better see...) is the listener not Paul.Is that right?

Does this mean that you think the YOU in the first line (So Sgt Pepper took...) is also directed at the listener and not Paul?
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Old Jun 21, 2016, 04:17 AM   #16
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I think YOU in the second line is referring to the listener. But YOU in the first line (if the LSD theory is correct) would refer to Paul. Now that I've said that it does sound odd that he would address Paul and then the listener.

Another theory would be that "Sgt Pepper took the public by surprise because they underestimated Paul/The Beatles". But this doesn't really add up to an attack on Paul as it's more of a compliment so I don't know.
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Old Jun 21, 2016, 05:46 AM   #17
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I think YOU in the second line is referring to the listener. But YOU in the first line (if the LSD theory is correct) would refer to Paul. Now that I've said that it does sound odd that he would address Paul and then the listener.
As I said, I agree that we shouldn't overcomplicate things. I'm still hoping hibgal will confirm that I've understood correctly what he/she said.

Personally I think the first two lines address the listener.

To me John is saying : OK Paul was behind Sgt Pepper and that was a great success that took everybody by surprise but don't let that blind you to the fact that he's really a nasty piece of work.

And after that the song becomes a direct attack on Paul.

I'm willing to be convinced otherwise concerning the first two lines, but none of the other possiblities (LSD, Paul Is Dead, cherishing mother's eyes or whatever) have ever really convinced me.
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Old Jun 21, 2016, 05:47 PM   #18
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