Friday Night Jazz Classic Rock: ‘Sgt. Pepper’

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released by The Beatles 40 years ago today (well, to be precise, it was 4 decades ago this past Sunday) June 3, 1967 in the US; the UK got the disc 2 days earlier.

I was 6 when Sgt Peppers came out. 

When I was a kid — a teenager — me and my friends had 2 Beatles albums — the Red Album 1962-66 and the Blue 1967-70. Each was a double LP greatest hits of sorts, the early years (red) and the later years (blue).

It was a revelation when I discovered the actual LPs years later — Abbey Road, The White Album, Revolver, Rubber Soul and Sgt Peppers — were all revelatory muscial experiences for me, as I’m sure they were for other music fans.

In fact, the Beatles ruined alot of of other "marginal" pop music. It was too easy to turn your nose up at so much other crap on the radio when this was your musical frame of reference . . . 

I find this hard to imagine, but prior to Sgt. Pepper, no one thought of rock music as actual art. This was the disc that changed the perception of recorded albums forever — or at least for the ensuing 40 years or so.

There has been so much written about this disc, I am not sure I can add much; all I hope to do is remind of a disc you should already be quite familiar with: The #1 album on The Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Writing about certain albums is, to steal a phrase, like dancing about architecture. While I have some small set of skills when it comes to waxing rhapsodically about CPI or NFP, I am in over my head with so important a topic as Sgt Peppers. So rather than risk abject misery and failure, I will opt instead to excerpt the New York Press’ Russ Smith:

When "Sgt. Pepper" appeared, it was as if a massive
block party had appeared outside your window. I was nearly 12 years old
at the time and when one of my four older brothers came home with the
highly anticipated new Beatles record, we listened to it over and over,
marveling at the sheer audacity of songwriters John Lennon and Paul
McCartney. Doug, overwhelmed by enthusiasm and hyperbole, declared,
matter-of-factly, "The band has changed its name forever and rock ‘n’
roll will never be the same."

Pepper_lpAnd it wasn’t just the music. The album cover itself
was breathtaking, a puzzling and colorful collage by Peter Blake that
showed the band, in gaudy mock-military costumes, presiding over the
burial of the "old" Beatles, with scattered mug shots of high and low
cultural icons hovering in the background. You’d go cross-eyed trying
to figure out just how many notables were depicted — a mass of pop art
that included Marilyn Monroe, Karl Marx, Aldous Huxley, Marlene
Dietrich, Sonny Liston, Laurel and Hardy, Oscar Wilde, Marlon Brando,
Leo Gorcey, Bob Dylan, Lenny Bruce and Mae West.

The presentation was a triumph of packaging, and
included for the first time the printing of lyrics on the back cover.
That the group had reached this point a mere three years after the
first rush of "Beatlemania" was astonishing, and the songs simply
ratcheted up the sense of momentousness provided by the record sleeve.

Relieved from
the pressure of performing live, the Beatles were able to record songs
that were, even in a relatively primitive studio, filled with overdubs,
backward tape loops, snippets of orchestral crescendos, a cowbell here,
a tin horn there, creating a sound and style that was quickly, for
better or worse, aped by the band’s peers and imitators. Aside from the
technical innovations, the 13 songs ushered in yet another phase for
the Beatles, one that was far more introspective, grandiose and
certainly informed by their recreational use of drugs.

Not much more than that needs to be said.

If you are somehow unfamiliar with the album, then go buy it. Get comfortable — pour a glass of Pinot Noir, roll up a fattie, do whatever it is that gets you in the mood to absorb sounds for 45 minutes — then sit back, drop the needle onto the groove — and enjoy.



It Was 40 Years Ago Today
With ‘Sgt. Pepper,’ the Beatles indulged their whims — and changed rock forever
WSJ, May 19, 2007; Page P1

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Beatles
Rolling Stone, Nov 01, 2003 12:00 AM

The RS 500 Greatest Albums of All Time  (1-500)
Rolling Stone, Nov 18, 2003 12:00 AM

It’s Beatlemania on all-time-best rock album list
Edna Gundersen
USA TODAY, 11/17/2003 4:13 AM

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