They taught the band to play

1 06 2009

pepperOn this date in 1967, the Beatles masterpiece (one of a handful) Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released. Like a rocket from a launching pad, Sgt. Pepper’s blasted the so-called “summer of love” into the stratosphere of history.

There’s been no shortage of attention given to this “crazy quilt of rock and roll.”* Its reputation certainly exceeds the album’s quality as either a “concept album” or as a collection of individual songs. It’s at the same time a mind-boggling creative achievement and also somewhat typical of Beatles output. It’s overrated and simultaneously the most important album ever made. It’s not the Beatles’ best LP, just the album that cast the longest shadow. Without Sgt. Pepper’s, the 60’s wouldn’t have been the 60’s and the music we listen to even today would be completely different (perhaps for better or worse.)

I thought I had read or heard all there could possibly be to know about this album and how it came to be. Today I learned one interesting little tidbit I’d never heard. The piano chord outtro to “A Day In the Life” was, at one point, conceived as a chorus of hums. The famous piano fade, followed by a whistle inserted especially for animal friends, thankfully won out over the humming.

Twenty-two years ago we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s and its release on CD. I was just a high school kid but I had been a Beatles fan all my life. I remember wondering at that time whether or not Sgt. Pepper’s or the Beatles in general would matter at all twenty years later. The Fab Four seem to be almost as popular as ever. Fans my age were the second generation of Beatles fans, our parents having bought the original albums and screamed and passed out in the excitement of Beatlemania. Now our children ask us to play the Beatles in the car on long trips. They’re begging us to get Beatles Rock Band when it comes out in September. It’ll be fascinating to see in another twenty-some years whether our grandchildren are looking back on the 60-something anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s. Time will tell but I’d put money on the Beatles mattering.


*I wish I could remember whose quote that was.




5 responses

4 06 2009

Almost as important as the music, was the album cover, with its catalog of people . . . including Lenny Bruce.

This album really was the culmination of their career, and the slow beginning of the end, perhaps the last time they performed on the record as a cohesive entity, unless you count MMT and the rooftop performances of LIB.

Thanks for the reminder.

4 06 2009

Agreed, Blue. Even though they worked as a unit on this album — compared to something like the White Album — I don’t think too many of the songs, even the backing tracks, were recorded live so to speak. I think there was a lot of tracking and overdubbing going on, which explains why Ringo said he was “bored” for much of the album and “learned to play chess.”

But, yeah, there was a great deal of cohesion in terms of the writing and creative aspects of the album. “A Day in the Life” is a great example of that.

4 06 2009
16 06 2009

Sgt. Pepper is my favorite album of all time. I think the album is incredible. I don’t think it will be matched ever. I can’t wait for the remastered version this September. I would imagine it will sound even better. “Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite” is the song I played the most.

16 06 2009

Thanks, Mike. I agree. SPLHCB is an amazing album, one of the best in rock history.
I, too, am anxious to hear the remasters.

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