Today is the 40th anniversary of the day the Beatles released their 8th studio LP Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The album did nothing more than revolutionize popular music and kick start 1967’s Summer of Love. It proved that the Beatles were more than just a boy band relying on good looks and charm and even more than just a great rock and roll act, but true innovators. A loose concept album, the Beatles were able to push the envelope by taking on the persona of another band and leaving the Beatles behind.
I, of course, was no more than a gleam in my father’s eye when the album was released. The 20th anniversary of the album in 1987 was my first introduction when media hyped the whole “It was twenty years ago today…” angle. I knew and liked the Beatles but never realized their full impact in creating an album. The first time I heard Sgt. Pepper was not the optimum situation. My mother was a member of a group for singles and divorce people and they had a Labor Day outing at a campground where all the members brought their children. I shared a platform tent with several other boys, one of whom spent the entire weekend in the tent listening to Sgt. Pepper and singing along in a loud, nasal voice. To this day I still think of him when I hear the songs I’d never heard before like “Fixing a Hole” and “Getting Better.”
Oddly, despite topping the all time lists of best albums and being remembered for its innovation, I have to say that Sgt. Pepper is not my favorite Beatles album (Rubber Soul, Revolver, The Beatles and Let it Be all vie for that title). While many Beatles’ songs have a timeless quality to them, there’s something about Sgt. Pepper that screams “SIXTIES PSYCHEDELIA!” There are still some masterpieces though: the title track leading into “With A Little Help From My Friends,” John’s dreamy and childlike “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and the orchestral work of “A Day in the Life.” Some great experimenting with world music on “Within You, Without You” and just all sorts of instrumentation and lyricism on “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.” I can live without the shrieky “Good Morning, Good Morning” and “When I’m Sixty-Four” is far too overplayed.
Happy 40th Anniversary Sgt. Pepper (or I guess it’s actually 60 years since he taught the band to play). We could use another summer of love this year.