THE STORY SO FAR:
Before Sgt. Pepper, no one seriously thought of rock music as actual art. That all changed in 1967, though, when John, Paul, George and Ringo (with “A Little Help” from their friend, producer George Martin) created an undeniable work of art which remains, after 30-plus years, one of the most influential albums of all time. From Lennon’s evocative word/sound pictures (the trippy “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” the carnival-like “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”) and McCartney’s music hall-styled “When I’m 64,” to Harrison’s Eastern-leaning “Within You Without You,” and the avant-garde mini-suite, “A Day in the Life,” Sgt. Pepper was a milestone for both ’60s music and popular culture.
|1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band|
|2. With A Little Help From My Friends|
|3. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds|
|4. Getting Better|
|5. Fixing A Hole|
|6. She’s Leaving Home|
|7. Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite|
|8. Within You Without You|
|9. When I’m Sixty Four|
|10. Lovely Rita|
|11. Good Morning Good Morning|
|12. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)|
|13. A Day In The Life|
|14. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Documentary|
During a recent TV special, it wa said that, during the time the Beatles were in the studio making “Sgt. Pepper…”, there was a lot of doubt about what they would come out with and many fans were giving up on them. As someone who was around at the time, I certainly don’t remember much of that. Of course, the Beatles always had a few doubters and detractors, but most of us were looking forward to their next record. Stories of how much time and effort were going into it only fueled our anticipation. It was like the release of the fourth Harry Potter book when “Sgt. Pepper…” finally came out. Some stores opened early and huge numbers were sold the first day of it’s release. I bought a copy that day like many others. Nor was I disappointed. Since then, I have spent many hours listening to “Sgt. Pepper…” and I expect I’ll spend many more.
To appreciate the significance of “Sgt. Pepper…” you have to understand the pivotal place of the Beatles in the culture of the time. Quite simply, they changed everything. Before the Beatles, the primary medium of pop/rock music was the 45 rpm single. The Beatles released a flood of good quality songs, many original, so that “albums” became more than just a couple of hit singles packaged with a bunch of throwaway tracks. All of the tracks were good and people began to buy albums because it was the best way to get all the music. “Sgt. Pepper…” took this a step further by making the album a more unified whole. It elevated pop/rock music to the level of art, implying an expressiveness and timelessness beyond anything rock had previously aspired to. But the impact of the Beatles went far beyond music. It entered into fashion, modes of behavior, and popular attitudes in a variety of areas. We were even fed a constant stream of news reports about what the Beatles were doing from day to day or week to week. London became, for a time, THE cultural center of the world.
“Sgt. Pepper…” itself has a timeless quality. Songs such as With A Little Help From My Friends, Getting Better, Within You Without You, When I’m Sixty-four and others have themes that people can relate to just as well today as when they were first released. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and A Day In The Life, while perhaps mored dated lyrically, are among the most interesting pieces in other respects.
For those of us who were around and listening when “Sgt. Pepper…” came out, it is more than just a record or CD. It marks the peak of a time of incredible energy and change. The decline and dissolution of the Beatles is something many of us still feel in a very personal way. Even today, we mourn the end of the Beatles and the death of John Lennon. Those events represent the passing and final end of something we treasured.
Final Score: 100% – A+