Sergeant Pepper Re-visited; Invitation to a Phantom Feast

Remember last summer? Remember "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"? If you don't you should, because what else was there all winter but that record to drown out the snowstorms and the academic storms and the political storms outside? One wandering spirit, dreaming of sunlit beaches, spent all of the winter reading period attempting to crack the Beatles code. The startling message he discovered in the album buried in the lyrics, the recording and the record jacket, we now present for your amazed perusal.

The possibility of there being a cryptogram was first brought to my attention when a friend showed me a letter from Bryn Mawr. It revealed that the Beatles' record "Sgt. Pepper" was one big cryptogram. Subsequent discussions led us to believe that the cryptogram idea was hotly discussed in the Philadelphia area in the summer of 1967 but no details were immediately available, so we started with only the information contained in the letter.

The girls not only believed in the existence of a cryptogram but they had formulated a rather complete solution to it. The Beatles were inviting everyone to a party. Why? They were lonely. When? Valentine's Day, 1968. Where? 10 Somerset Street, Cowes, Isle of Wight, England. How do we let them know we are coming? Send them the postcard that comes with the cutouts in the album. How do we get there? Meet a maid Wednesday morning at 5 o'clock (Valentine's Day was on a Wednesday). She takes you there by boat, train, and taxi. "A splendid time is guaranteed for all."

This is all quite plausible, believe it or not. There is a city named Cowes on the Isle of Wight. (The Isle of Wight is, of course, mentioned as a haven in When I'm 64.) Is there a Somerset Street? The people in the map room at Lamont were very helpful. They found the British Geological Survey maps of the famous Isle, but there are no street maps of any of the towns on the Isle of Wight.

The girls derived Cowes from the shrubbery on the cover which is shaped like a guitar. If you turn the record over, this shrubbery makes the letters COW, and then over on the right side, that is, the left side, if you turn the record back frontwards again, there is an S. An ingenious hunch but a little difficult to believe.

The ultimate usefulness of the Bryn Mawr "theory" was to make us aware of the phenomenal number of proper names and of specific day, time and place references in the lyrics of the album. Our attack follows two lines of reasoning: checking out the names in order to make verbal contact with a planted clue, and comparing the song motifs to see if a specific time and place was delineated.

There are three specific people named: Sgt. Pepper, Billy Shears, and Mr. Kite. Sgt. Pepper himself has provided no clues. Billy Shears, on the other hand, has lots of possibilities. One night last February we tried to call him. The transatlantic operator was very friendly, but refused to place the call unless we could give her an exact number. A conversation with her lasting thirty minutes produced the following information. 1) There was a number listed for a Mr. Billy Shears in London. 2) She knew what it was, but wouldn't tell us. 3) At that time there were approximately twenty calls placed every night to Billy Shears. 4) Some of the people placing calls gave the correct number. 5) Those calls that did get through heard only a recording which said something about the office being closed, won't you please call again during business hours.

This led us to believe that somehow the various numbers listed on the album could be used to derive the proper telephone number. For example, "ten to six" would mean 1026. English telephone numbers consist of an exchange, which gives three letters, and four digits. We felt that the intent of the unhelpful recorded message was to tell us that if the call were placed at the proper time, a more enlightening message might be given. There are several times mentioned on the album: Wednesday 5am, Friday 9 am, Saturday 5:50pm, etc. (Transatlantic time and day changes would have to be taken into account.)

Mr. K of Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite is the disc jockey Murray the K. He is now broadcasting for CHUM radio, Toronto. A reliable source indicated to us that Murray the K, when asked if he was the "celebrated Mr. K" of Sgt. Pepper's, replied, "yes, but I can say no more." George Harrison is a possible Mr. H. Look at the large pictures on the inside of the album. The strange box hanging around George's neck seems to have a face on it. Another reliable source told us he had made a blow-up of this photograph and identified the face as that of Murray the K.

In the early spring of this year Murray the K was supposed to have been in England acting as MC at a show in the Bishopsgate theatre district of London. That fact has not been thoroughly researched.

We started carefully examining the words to some of the songs, to find out whether specific references could be analysed to provide a time and place of contact. There would have to be some way to positively identify the contact; and some sort of password system, so the contact would know that we were worthy of further information. By reducing the phrase "Meter Maid" to "Meet a maid" the Bryn Mawr girls had provided a profound insight. Given that you could get to the right place at the right time, the contact could be identified as a "maid," that is, a girl. There are two ways to make a maid-girl distinctive: She could be wearing a maid's uniform; or she could wear medieval clothes, like Maid Marion of Robin Hood fame.

The password system we came up with was as follows:

You: (Ask the maid some trivial questions)

She: I'm sorry, but I can say no more!

You: (Responding to her cue line) Please say no more. (Go see Help again if you don't follow)