Which Is Better: 'Sgt. Pepper’s' or the Chili Peppers?

It's time to settle rock music's greatest debate.

|
Jun 1 2017, 4:14pm

Fifty years after its release, The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is widely considered to be the greatest album ever made. And while there's no doubt that it's a masterpiece album that changed popular music forever and touched countless lives, it's time to answer the question on the minds of so many music fans: Is it better than the Red Hot Chili Peppers?

Sgt. Pepper's vs. the Chili Peppers. It's a spicy question that has baffled music lovers for the ages. Sgt. Pepper's boasts an iconic set of songs and can take credit for many innovations, of course. But surely, over their 34-year career, the Chili Peppers have been able to amass a range of accomplishments that are equal to—if not better than—those on the Beatles' masterpiece.

Let's finally settle this debate once and for all by breaking down their respective merits by category to see who comes out on top: Sgt. Pepper's? Or the Chili Peppers? These are the OFFICIAL results:

Sick-ass Basslines

Can anyone even name The Beatles' bassist? Gary Something? Conversely, if you search for the word "flea" on Google, the Chili Peppers' bassist is the very first result, beating out that dumbass bug. Maybe if Gary Whatever had spent a little more time slappin' the ol' bass and a little less time doing pirate cosplay on album covers, he'd have some good-ass SEO too.

Winner: Chili Peppers

Songs

Here's the tracklist of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band:

"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"
"With a Little Help from My Friends"
"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"
"Getting Better"
"Fixing a Hole"
"She's Leaving Home"
"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"
"Within You Without You"
"When I'm Sixty-Four"
"Lovely Rita"
"Good Morning Good Morning"
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)"
"A Day in the Life"

Lots of important stuff on there. But as you may notice, it's only 13 songs, and one of them is a repeat. And it's not like you're going to sit through a whole 13 songs every time you want to listen to an album anyway. Is anyone really going to tell us that over the course of 11 studio albums, the Chili Peppers never put together, like, around 11 to 13 better songs? Here's 13 sick ones we just thought of off the tops of our heads:

"By The Way"
"Scar Tissue"
"Under the Bridge"
"Dani California"
"Can't Stop"
"Santeria"
"Higher Ground"
"Give It Away"
"The Zephyr Song"
… uhh did we say "Give It Away"? Well, put that twice, since the Beatles got to double up.
The single from the new album
"Californication"
Probably at least one other one from Stadium Arcadium

As you can see, it's really no contest.

Winner: Chili Peppers

Songs About Being Under the Bridge

As we all know, crazy shit happens under bridges. Those places are gold mines for thinking of dope lyrics. The Beatles notoriously spent all their time on Sgt. Pepper's singing about walking up stairs and fixing their ceilings and shit, which are things that, structurally speaking, have nothing to do with bridges. Meanwhile, Anthony Kiedis poured his damn soul out on "Under the Bridge," drawing so many tears from the people of the world that those tears formed a river to flow under the bridge. Doesn't get much realer than that.

Winner: Chili Peppers

Influence

Think of all the legendary bands influenced by the Chili Peppers: Crazy Town, Uncle Kracker, Sugar Ray. The list goes on. Now when have you ever heard a band that sounds like the Beatles? Never.

Winner: Chili Peppers

'The Abbey Road E.P.' cover via RHCPWiki

Members

On Sgt. Pepper's, the Beatles famously decided to invent a fictional band so they wouldn't have to deal with any expectations about their sound. So it's pretty hard to give them any points here. Meanwhile, the Chili Peppers have always had to deal with expectations about their sound… being sick as Hell! Whether you prefer the OG lineup or the groundbreaking Kiedis/Flea/Chad Smith/Frusciante combo or the period where Dave Navarro was absolutely shredding or the current Josh Klinghoffer era, one thing is certain: These dudes were and are freakin' rock stars. Name a single Beatle who could rap, for one thing. And speaking of rap, was it the actual Beatles who the Wu-Tang Clan turned to when they wanted the melody of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on their album 8 Diagrams? No way, dude! It was the dopest guitar player ever, John Frusciante. Finally, you know that Chili Peppers win this one because, while John Lennon famously said the Beatles were bigger than Jesus, they never reached the point, like Jesus did, where you could just say "John" or "Paul" and everyone knew exactly who you were talking about. On the other hand, there is only one Flea.

Winner: Chili Peppers

Members' Members

Let's be honest: How hard can you really rock out if you don't have your cock out? The Beatles are most famous for playing concerts dressed in suits like a bunch of total dorkazoids. The Chili Peppers? They're most famous for playing concerts with socks over their junk (balls included) like the gnarly, rad-as-hell rockers that they are.

We can only conclude that the Beatles didn't do this because they didn't have the stuff it took to hang. Kiedis? Huge dong. McCartney? You've never even seen it. Sure, John Lennon had a naked phase, so we'll give him some points. But at the end of the day, he's only one man, against generations of naked Chili Peppers.

Winner: Chili Peppers

Overall Funkiness

Winner: Chili Peppers

Use of Sitar

There's no arguing that, while the Chili Peppers' Hillel Slovak did famously use the sitar on the band's song "Behind the Sun," George Harrison's incorporation of the instrument on Sgt. Pepper's pioneered its use in Western music. However, this is a trick category because, as we all know, every other non-Indian rock band that tried to incorporate the sitar into their music fucking sucked, which gives The Beatles negative points. Chili Peppers by default.

Winner: Chili Peppers

Having a Song That's Also the Title of a David Duchovny Show

"Californication" was such a kickass song that they made an entire show about it starring David Duchovny. Is there a song on Sgt. Pepper's called "The X-Files?" Didn't think so.

Winner: Chili Peppers

General Shirtlessness

Look at these fucking ADONISES. Look good and hard. We'd normally put a shirtless photo of the Beatles right here for a comparison shot, but why even embarrass the Fab Four like that? (Fab Four? More like the Flab Four.) There's no way the Beatles would ever be able to top these statuesque men and their taut, rippling physiques.

Photo by Gie Knaeps/Getty Images

Winner: Chili Peppers

Lyrics

Sgt. Pepper's is often praised for its savvy yet tender songwriting, and there's no doubt that classics like "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" and "When I'm Sixty-Four" are timeless entries in the songbook of history. Consider the romantic words of "Lovely Rita," for instance:

Lovely Rita meter maid
May I inquire discreetly
When are you free to take some tea with me
Took her out and tried to win her
Had a laugh and over dinner
Told her I would really like to see her again

Beautiful. Truly poetic. How touching is that? Has anyone ever painted such an evocative portrait of courtship? Uh, broheim… obviously! Try the Chili Peppers' "Suck My Kiss" for size:

K-i-s-s-i-n-g
Chicka chicka dee
Do me like a banshee
Low brow is how
Swimming in the sound
Of bow wow wow
Oh baby do me now
Do me here I do allow
Hit me you can't hurt me suck my kiss
Kiss me please pervert me stick with this
Is she talking dirty
Give to me sweet sacred bliss
Your mouth was made to suck my kiss

We can all agree that when it comes to creating the portrait of the perfect smooch, there's a clear standout here.

Winner: Chili Peppers

Production by George Clinton

George Clinton is the god of funk, and his approval means everything. Which is why it's a real blow to the legacy of Sgt. Pepper's that it wasn't produced by George Clinton. Instead, the band settled for some bargain basement replacement George… hold on, we're gonna Wikipedia this… "Martin."

The Chili Peppers made no such mistake, enlisting Clinton for the cocaine-laced recording sessions of their sophomore album, Freaky Styley. Famously, Clinton was behind on payments to his dealer, so he made it up by offering the dealer a guest vocal spot on the landmark "Yertle the Turtle." Can The Beatles say that? They don't even have a song inspired by the iconic Dr. Seuss book.

Winner: Chili Peppers

Production by Rick Rubin

Once again, big whiff-a-rooni from The Beatles, who chose George whatshisname instead of going with the guy who produced Slayer's Reign in Blood and Jay Z's Black Album, among other such incredible masterworks. The Chili Peppers, meanwhile, have six studio albums done in collaboration with the wizard of Shangri-La.

Winner: Chili Peppers

Who Did It First?

It's the question that always comes up when comparing musical pioneers: Who did it first? Blur or Oasis? Pearl Jam or Nirvana? The Beatles or the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Beatles have a commanding lead in this category, having launched their career over two decades before the Chili Peppers. In fact, they started two years before Chili Peppers singer Anthony Kiedis was even born. But one of the many, many things the Chili Peppers have taught the world is that you've got to expand your mind, man. What even is time? For anyone who's ever gotten lost in one of John Frusciante's mind-warping guitar solos, "time" is nothing but a social construct used to divide our unifying truth. So, while a case could be made for the Chili Peppers coming before the Beatles on this heavenly plane of existence, we suppose the Beatles technically edge out the Chili Peppers on the Gregorian calendar.

Winner: Sgt. Pepper's (on a technicality)

Logo

The Beatles have an apple as their logo. That's not even a beetle! They failed to even represent their band name in their logo. And, sure, the Chili Peppers don't have a chili pepper in their logo, per se, but, like, their logo is just sweeter. Let's compare the two side by side:

If you saw someone with a tattoo of the Beatles' logo, you might mistake them for some sort of Steve Jobs megafan. But if you saw someone with the Chili Peppers' logo, there ain't a single shred of uncertainty that they are DTPB (Down to Party, Bro).

Winner: Chili Peppers

Use of Wah Pedal

Did the Beatles ever use a wah pedal on Sgt. Pepper's? Maybe. If we sat and listened to the whole thing, we might hear one. Did the Chili Peppers ever use a wah pedal? Uhh, fuckin' hell yeah! No need to bother even looking it up. Game, set, ma-wah-wa-w-atch.

Wah-w-wah-winner: Chili Peppers

Live Performance

Fun fact: The Beatles wrote Sgt. Pepper's because they were getting so boring in concert. They could, in the words of John Lennon, "send out four waxworks ... and that would satisfy the crowds. Beatles concerts are nothing to do with music anymore." We can all agree that the Chili Peppers do not have a wax-like presence. Cut from MARBLE, maybe, yeah. But not wax.

Winner: Chili Peppers

Grammy Wins

Sgt. Pepper's has won a prestigious SIX Grammy awards. Impressive, but let's tally up how many Grammys the Chili Peppers have amassed over their long, illustrious career. They won one for "Give It Away" in '92. Then they won TWO at the 2006 Grammys. Hell yeah, that's three, baby. And then… let's see… uh…hm, that seems to be it. Wait, they must've won one for "Scar Tissue"... They did not. Man, they didn't win one for "Under the Bridge" either? That's some bullshit. Fuck this.

Actually, scratch that, this category sucks, nevermind.

Winner: Void

But I Don't Ever Wanna Feeeeeeeeel Like I Did That Day

Take me to the place I loooooooove.

Winner: Chili Peppers

Ability to Go, Like, "Bee-bah-doo-bah-doo-bah"

When it comes to the pure, unadulterated ability to go all "bee-bah-doo-bah-doo-bah" all over a track, no one could do it like Kiedis. You honestly think Paul could step up to the mic and bee-bah-doo-bah-doo-bah along to some funky basslines? Doubtful. You can't even say that in a British accent without sounding like Hugh Grant falling down the stairs. Point, Chili Peppers.

Winner: Chili Peppers

Having a Drummer Who Looks Exactly Like Will Ferrell

Ringo Starr has accomplished many things. But one thing he has never been able to do is pass for the star of such movies as Step Brothers and Elf. Chad Smith, on the other hand, not only looks like Will Ferrell but has competed in a drum-off with the Old School actor himself! On live television! And then Flea showed up! And the rest of the band! And they played a song with Will Ferrell, like in the skit. Can anyone say "more cowbell?" The Beatles sure can't!

Winner: Chili Peppers

Socks on Dicks

Winner: Chili Peppers

Final Tally

Chili Peppers: 20, Sgt. Pepper's: 1

Conclusion

The Beatles put up a good fight, but clearly, the Chili Peppers won this hard-fought battle. There's no shame in it. The Beatles can still hold their heads high, knowing they lost to the best. This takes nothing away from Sgt. Pepper's, of course, which is still a very nice little album in comparison to the sock-swingin', bass-slappin', bee-bah-doo-bah-doo-bahin' shirtlessness of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.