John Lennon said, "Sgt. Pepper is Paul after a trip to America when the whole West Coast long-named group thing was coming in. You know, when people were no longer the Beatles or the Crickets. They were suddenly Fred and his Incredible Shrinking Airplanes. I think he got influenced by that."
Paul explained, "At that time there were lots of those sort of bands that you know, 'Laughing Joe and his Medicine Band Thank You Wham Bam Ma'am', kind of group names. 'Colonel Tucker's Medicinal Brew & Compound.' So I just thought, if there was a band, what would be a mad name for it?"
Yes, Paul must have seen something he really liked out in California when he went there with Mal Evans. Paul reportedly even attended a Beach Boys session April 11, 1967 with the likes of Rodney Bingenheimer and Charles Manson. At least that's how Rodney Bingenheimer remembers it (Thanks F). This crazy place and crazy time could have inspired The Beatles' most mysterious album, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." In fact the rabbit hole we have been looking for may be in California's Hollywood Hills.
The only problem is the timeline. Paul's California trip, as chronicled in Mal Evans' home movies took place at the beginning of April of 1967. By this time the Sgt. Pepper album was pretty much finished and the cover pictures had been shot. The thing we don't know is what all took place during The Beatles 1966 tour when their standard operating procedure included "borrowing a couple millionaires' houses." I seem to remember a mysterious character from the Laurel Canyon mafia in the shadows of a Beatles Press Conference in 1966.
A strange cast of characters congregated in the Hollywood Hills where lots of rock bands seemed to be emerging into the spotlight at the same time. Countless rumors have materialized about what was really going there. Some people interpret the song "Hotel California" to be about the excesses of the Rock and Roll lifestyle, and as Don Henley put it, "The underbelly of the American Dream." Others have put forth theories about Satanism, ritualistic child abuse, Illuminati conspiracies, and mind control.
Much of the rumor mongering was linked to two mysterious houses located in the Laurel Canyon portion of the Hollywood Hills: The Houdini House and the Log Cabin. The two houses had an interesting history. According to Dave's Web there were rumors of suspicious activity in the two houses going back to the time they were built, sometime before 1920.
The Houdini House was an imposing castle-like structure built in the early 1900s. There is some dispute over whether or not the famous magician actually lived there, but that doesn't really matter. The long history of the house includes stories of murder, seances and paranormal experiences. And since its ruins and accompanying ghost stories are recognized by the tourist industry, it will forever be linked with Houdini. Harry Houdini spent a great deal of time debunking spiritualists in his life, but he also spent a significant amount of time trying to find the bridge between the living and the dead. This practice continued after his death when the departed Houdini was the focus of numerous seances.
Another structure was originally called the Laurel Tavern, but it would become better known as the Log Cabin. Frank Zappa lived in the Log Cabin and hosted a varied cast of players. Zappa even helped make some of them famous. Interestingly, despite being at the epicenter of the artistic movement that exploded in the summer of love, I don't think Frank Zappa ever thought of himself as a flower child. In fact, his artistic response to Sgt. Pepper, was less than complementary.
But long before flower power, there were legends about hidden passages and secret caves linking the Houdini House and the Log Cabin.
When you look at the cover of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, some surprising connections with the Hollywood Hills emerge. The man in the white hat behind the wax figure of Paul McCartney is actor Tom Mix who owned the Log Cabin for a while and lived there briefly.
Harry Houdini is not on the cover of Sgt. Pepper, but guess who is. Tony Curtis played the famous magician in the movie "Houdini."
And is it really that much of a stretch to suggest that the inclusion of comedian Stan Laurel could be a veiled allusion to Laurel Canyon?
According to Dave McGowan of Dave's Web, in addition to suspicious deaths, fires are a common occurrence in the Hollywood Hills. The Harry Houdini house burned on Halloween of 1959. The Log Cabin burned on Halloween of 1981. I could not find any information on the Fireman's whereabouts on those two dates.
Like many pictured on the cover of Sgt. Pepper, Tom Mix died prematurely. He was killed in a car accident on an Arizona Highway near a military installation. The date of the crash was October 12, 1940, Aleister Crowley's 65th birthday.
Strangely, it was not the impact of the crash itself that resulted in Mix's death. As objects started flying around inside the car, Mix was plonked in the back of the head --- by a suitcase.