June 1, 2015

Boomer Anthems: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

It was 48 years ago today......


From This Day in History: June 1st- Sgt. Pepper:

‘Sgt. Pepper is the one. It was a peak. Paul and I were definitely working together.” – John Lennon

After years of touring and relentless media attention, the Beatles felt frustrated creatively. They were tired of wearing matching suits in front of throngs of screaming girls. None of them came to hear the music. They could listen to their Beatles’ records at home. They went to a Beatles concert to worship their heroes and shriek at the highest decibel level possible, and sometimes throw Jelly Beans at them.

By the fall of 1966, the Beatles decided to focus their efforts on writing and recording. They entered Abbey Road studios with producer George Martin in November. Freed from the pressures of the road, the band’s creativity hit even loftier heights, and they urged George Martin to challenge the accepted limits along with them. What they managed to achieve using four-track equipment should shame the Pro-Tools generation of today.

It wasn’t just the music that was colorful, fresh and innovative. The way it was presented was also groundbreaking and inventive, which raised the bar for every other band’s album artwork for decades to come. The cover by Michael Cooper featured the now-iconic gathering of cardboard cut-out characters posing class picture-style, with the group dressed in old-timey band uniforms standing in the forefront. The Beatles had morphed into Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. Still the Beatles, only – trippier.

Sgt. Pepper’s was the first concept album. As the orchestra tunes up and the audience hushes, we’re introduced to the band. They then take us through a musical journey spanning from English vaudeville to Indian mysticism until the band bids us farewell, and we’re left with the closing masterpiece “A Day in the Life”. You’re left mesmerized by “the chord that lasts forever” and you’re left wishing the whole album would do the same.

It’s no exaggeration to say this record changed people’s lives and changed the way their fellow artists approached the art of album making. After Sgt. Pepper, everybody and their brother had a go at making a concept album. The Stones were one of the first to follow with “Their Satanic Majesties Request”. (They wisely returned to roots rock with their next album.)

Paul McCartney plays down the Beatles as the “Pied Pipers of a generation” theory insisting that “the mood of the album was in the spirit of the age, because we ourselves were fitting into the mood of the time” and “the Beatles weren’t the leaders of the generation, but the spokesmen.”

Even almost half a century later, fans still remember the effect Sgt. Pepper’s had on them during that long ago summer of love.

NPR’s “All Songs Considered” host Bob Boilen said, “What I remember most about that first listen and that first look was how mysterious it all was. The artful montage on the front, the Sgt. Pepper cut outs that came inside, there was the cut-out mustache, the stripes and badges of the Sgt. Pepper uniform and of course there were the lyrics. To this day it’s my favorite album not just because I love the songs, but because it was, for me, the first album that held mystery, whose cuts flowed effortlessly from song to song — and those songs changed each time I heard them. They still do.”


For the full, uncropped cover.....


Posted by gerardvanderleun at June 1, 2015 12:19 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Still my favorite album of all time. It really was remarkable for its time, and remarkable in its staying power after all these years. I hear those tuning notes, the audience sounds, and then the opening crashing chords, and I am transported back to high school all over again.

Posted by: bfwebster at June 1, 2015 12:46 PM

Sorry, I'm from the "Dark Side of the Moon" generation.

Posted by: smitty at June 1, 2015 4:52 PM

It's hard for me to adequately describe how the word pictures and unfamiliar instruments and moods and album art broadened us...adults, teens and children, too.

My recollection is that the album appeared June, 1967, making this 48th yr anniversary. My brother was graduating from high school that night. He bought it on the way home from school and he and I were mesmerized. I was ending my 8th grade yr, full of anticipation for high school. Let's just say that we were threatened with great bodily harm if our listening pleasure made us late.

Posted by: KarmasPellet at June 1, 2015 5:01 PM

The word "twee" hadn't been invented yet, but it encapsulates how I felt about SgtP at the time. I haven't changed my mind.
There's a couple of good songs on it, but I prefer Benny Hill's version of Brit Music Hall.

Posted by: bud at June 1, 2015 5:16 PM

I was a high school kid dumpster diving behind the local discount department store in the summer of '67. Pulled out a bag that contained the Sgt. Pepper album plus Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow, and the Buffalo Springfield album. All three LPs were unopened. Cool score.


Posted by: jwm at June 1, 2015 5:26 PM

It WAS 48 years, Karmas..... Fixed now.

Math is hard.

Posted by: Van der Leun at June 1, 2015 5:52 PM

Meh. I'm with Smitty -- "Sgt. Pepper" is not a *bad* album by any means, and I heard it a lot when I was growing up (I was born in '62), but the album that got my attention was Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon". I don't know why, really -- it just reached out and grabbed me, for some reason. I had it on 8-track, and it would play over and over and over again as I worked my way through Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, circa 1981. To this day, I can't open the books without hearing the album, or hear the album without being transported to Middle Earth.

Hale Adams
Pikesville, People's still-mostly-Democratic Republic of Maryland

Posted by: Hale Adams at June 1, 2015 6:09 PM

June 19th, 1974, I was working on a concrete construction job in SW FLA in the screamin hot sun and not enjoying it. Lunchtime, sitting in my Camaro eating a sub and drinking a beer with DSOTM on the Craig stereo and at a certain point I said, "Fuck this shit.", threw the sub out the window, fired up the ride and laid rubber and never went back. The next day I joined the army.

Nov 1974, I'm sitting in a squad bay at my first permanent duty station in Wildflecken Germany and DSOTM was playing LOUD from a big Pioneer stereo. A roomate walked in and handed me a lit bowl of black and white hash and unlike jethro klintin I inhaled deeply, several times. Then set back with a stupid grin on my mug mesmerized with the 6' colorful streamers coming out of the front of the speakers.

Me and DSOTM have a long history, Same with SPLHCB, and it continues.....

Posted by: ghostsniper at June 1, 2015 7:04 PM

Some of the music from back in that time frame triggers unpleasant memories for me.
It's not all good. I guess that's why I like polka music.
Never sadness or negativity or dysfunction. No sedition or anarchy or profanity or glorification of crime and drug use.
Won't hear no polkas on the boom boxes, uh uh. All in all happy music, happiness being something which we can use more of these days.
Experts agree that polka people have divorce rates far below the national norms.

Posted by: chasmatic at June 2, 2015 2:29 AM

Its overrated like all Beatles stuff but a good album anyway.

Posted by: Christopher Taylor at June 2, 2015 8:38 AM

I am proud to say that I never bought a Beatles album, nor do I feel any nostalgia for the period. Not that I wouldn't mind being younger for other reasons.

Posted by: chuck at June 2, 2015 12:54 PM

Much to the horror of my peers, I never was much of a Beatles fan. After they broke up, I liked some of George Harrisons stuff, but even then...I'm like Chasmatic, those days were not pleasant for me. I still will listen to something now and then, but it often brings back very unpleasant memories.

Posted by: Will at June 2, 2015 2:10 PM

I was always a Stones man myself. The Beatles? Meh. I found I had a natural immunity to Beatlemania, which I think helped me better appreciate those relatively few songs of theirs that I did like.

Posted by: waltj at June 2, 2015 2:31 PM

Well, I'll speak up as a Beatles fan...

While I think Sgt. Pepper's is a good album, I'm more impressed with the engineering on it than anything else. It sounds way too self-indulgent to my ears ("Look what we can do!"). Granted, it was some trip stuff for the times. But then I think "Revolver" (the British version, not the U.S. version) already covered the same ground regarding songwriting and performance, plus did it better. Not the usual outlook, I'm sure, but there it is.

Now...as a cultural item...that's completely different. I don't think Sgt. Pepper's can be overstated on that front.

Posted by: dwinnorcal at June 2, 2015 5:27 PM

My uncle Louie "Letsgo" Lozko, he raised bantam chickens.
Being a leader in his field, voted Bantam Chicken Rancher of the Year two years in a row by a panel of his peers he was always ahead of the curve.
It was his collaboration with dairy farmers that led to Big Dairy playing music when the cows were being milked.
He found that polka music achieved the best results with his chickens, as did classical music for the cows.
Acid rock had no place in any of those music programs.
Imagine being stuck on an elevator with "Yellow Submarine" being played over and over again.
As you read the words I bet you're humming a few bars of it to yourself.
If I pressed the issue and got it stuck in your head you'll have it on a short tape loop for hours.

Neil Diamond is the only known cure for Beatles music stuck in your cabeza.

Posted by: chasmatic at June 3, 2015 6:38 AM

Yo, chas....

This'll help clear out some of that racket....


Posted by: Rob De Witt at June 3, 2015 3:29 PM

Rob, a dose of scatological and pretentious humor doesn't do it for me.

I'd rather see Amos & Andy or Bob and Ray.

An interesting observation is that without the aid of psychotropic drugs and with the nearly fifty years passing of time the Beatles and many other groups lose their appeal.
I suppose grade schoolers might find the records amusing.
I sure don't want to turn the clocks back; the Age of Aquarius didn't do jack shit for me.

Posted by: chasmatic at June 4, 2015 6:33 AM

I came to the party late, not discovering this until the 70's.

It's still an astonishing record, but it's astonishing for the same reason the other Beatles' albums from '65 on are astonishing: the sheer musical variety contained therein.

Posted by: Cameron at June 4, 2015 9:51 AM

I agree with dwinnorcal, Revolver covered much of the music previously.

And the author of this piece seems to be unfamiliar w/ the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" which was a concept album that had a great influence on Sgt. Peppers.

Posted by: DrTorch at June 4, 2015 11:06 AM

Though I like Sgt. Peppers, I agree that Revolver did cover much of the same music.
I read in an interview with John Lennon after the breakup that he thought Revolver and Rubber Soul were their best efforts.
For my money as regards music from that time, I'm a Cream fan. It was a good thing the Beatles had given up touring cause Cream would have blown them off of the stage.

Posted by: Tim P at June 4, 2015 6:16 PM

"... Revolver and Rubber Soul were their best efforts."

I agree.

And Sgt. Rutters was even better http://www.rutles.org/rpix/srodcb.jpg

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at June 5, 2015 11:17 AM

I agree with dwinnorcal, Revolver covered much of the music previously.

Posted by: wikigurus at June 5, 2015 12:53 PM