How did AM Top 40 stations of 1967 deal with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? No single was released from the album in the States; “Penny Lane” backed with “Strawberry Fields Forever” had been released in February, and “All You Need Is Love” would come out in mid-July. But pop-music stations in the summer of 1967 could not ignore this titanic release, even without a single to push.
The first song on the album to show up at ARSA is “A Day in the Life.” The earliest entry is from KRLA in Los Angeles, which shows it as “A Day & A Life” on their survey dated April 19, six weeks before the album’s release. Speculation at the Steve Hoffman forums is that somebody at the station got an acetate from Paul McCartney or Beatles publicist Derek Taylor. But the song also shows up on a survey from WFIL in Philadelphia dated April 24, and at KYNO in Fresno and KELO in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on the 29th, as well as WBAM in Montgomery, Alabama, on May 10, so the acetate theory may have a hole it it. (Plenty of time in there to mail tapes of an acetate, I suppose.) In June, “A Day in the Life” shows up in Seattle, Minneapolis, Jacksonville, San Bernardino, Calgary, Worcester and others. British pirate Radio London had it at #1 for the week of June 11. (ARSA shows 25 total entries for “A Day in the Life,” the most for any Sgt. Pepper song, nosing out “When I’m Sixty Four” with 23.)
At KJR in Seattle, “A Day in the Life” was merely the first Sgt. Pepper song to chart. It debuted on June 2; “She’s Leaving Home” and “When I’m Sixty-Four” joined it on June 9. On June 16, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” debuted. (Which one, the opener or the reprise, is not clear.) The four songs ran the chart together until the week of July 7, when both “A Day in the Life” and “She’s Leaving Home” departed and “Lovely Rita” debuted. During the week of July 14, “Lovely Rita” was the lone Sgt. Pepper song left on the KJR Fabulous Fifty, and the new non-album single “All You Need Is Love” debuted. The two songs ran the chart together until “Lovely Rita” dropped off after August 11.
At WORC in Worcester, Massachusetts, the survey dated June 10, 1967, shows eight of the album’s 13 cuts: the “Sgt. Pepper” reprise, “She’s Leaving Home,” “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” and “When I’m Sixty-Four” all in the Top 10, with “A Day in the Life,” “Lovely Rita, “With a Little Help From My Friends,” and “Good Morning Good Morning” further down. (WORC billed its surveys as “Worcester’s Official Request Survey,” which helps explain the heavy Beatle-ization during that June week.) A complete run of WORC surveys is not available at ARSA; the next one available, dated July 29, shows the “Sgt. Pepper” reprise and “A Day in the Life” still on, along with “All You Need Is Love” and its B-side, “Baby, You’re a Rich Man.”
What about the country’s two largest markets? During the week of June 17, WABC in New York showed “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and “Getting Better” as hitbound. But because WABC didn’t publish their entire rankings every week (as you’ll see if you look here), it’s not possible to know if the station stayed on either song longer than the single week they appear at ARSA. Neither WLS nor WCFL in Chicago charted any Sgt. Pepper songs, although surely they must have played some.
Also in New York, WOR-FM listed the entire album on its singles chart starting June 17 and stayed on it at least until July 8, the last date for which a survey is available. There are 88 listings at ARSA with the whole album as one entry on various stations’ singles charts. WBZ in Boston put it at #1 on its survey dated June 3 and kept it there until the week of July 8. (WBZ had previously charted Beatles VI, Rubber Soul, Yesterday and Today, and Revolver on its singles chart, and would do the same with Magical Mystery Tour.) WRKO in Boston showed the Sgt. Pepper album at #5 for the week of June 15 before moving it to #1 the next week. Several other stations in New England followed suit within a few weeks. Stations as far-flung as Los Angeles, Orlando, and Atlanta also charted the entire album as one entry, although without placing it at #1.
In the download era, non-single songs from an album frequently chart. In the vinyl era, when 45s ruled, and before there was such a thing as album-rock radio, these statistics about Sgt. Pepper further illustrate what a groundbreaking release it was.