Music Memories, Insights and Analysis

June 1, 2017
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The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Sgt. Pepper It seems fitting to start a new blog about music with one of the true pillars of music for the past 50 years. Since it was released by The Beatles on June 1, 1967, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band has consistently been among the highest rated albums in the rock era.

Certainly The Beatles are the most acclaimed rock and roll band of all time. In the US, they had 20 #1 singles and 19 #1 albums. Their influence and notoriety are unmatched. Of course, some will claim that they were more of a pop band and some will argue that the Rolling Stones were the best rock and roll band of all time, but that's quibbling.

Oddly Sgt. Pepper doesn't actually contain any of those #1 songs. In fact, no single was released from the album upon its original release. "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" were recorded during the sessions but were released as a double A-sided single prior to the album's release and then subsequently left off the album.

It's interesting to note that Elton John's cover of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" was a big hit (#1 in the U.S. in 1975) while the Beatles' own version wasn't released as a single. The same is true for Joe Cocker's version of "With A Little Help From My Friends." (#1 in the U.K. in the 1968)

In spite of the lack of hit singles, Rolling Stone called it "the most important rock & roll album ever made... by the greatest rock & roll group of all time." In 2005, the album was placed at number one on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time".

But the fact is that there are plenty of people out there who will tell you that Sgt. Pepper is not even the best Beatles album, much less the best album of all time.

So what makes this album so great?

Sgt. Pepper showcases The Beatles at their creative and artistic peak. Their next true studio album, The Beatles (White Album) is a mix of individualized efforts that show the band was splitting off into different directions. Sgt. Pepper is the band's last cohesive effort and arguably their most influential. The solid and creative songs and pop sensibilities are mixed with innovative instrumentation and decisively original orchestration for a rock and roll album of that time. The extensive use of classical instruments (courtesy of producer George Martin) expanded the horizons for rock and roll (as did The Moody Blues' Days of Future Passed which was released later the same year).

Sgt. Pepper 2While not the first concept album, Sgt. Pepper led to the popularity of concept albums for years to come. John Lennon and Paul McCartney never agreed that Sgt. Pepper was a true concept album and maybe it wasn't. Certainly it isn't as cohesively a conceptual album as The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, The Moody Blues' Days of Future Passed or The Who's The Who Sell Out, which were released around the same time. But as usual, the Beatles had a way of being viewed as leaders and trendsetters, even when they weren't entirely original.

Where previously, the central music format was the single, Sgt. Pepper solidified the album as being the music industry's standard format for the next 20 to 30 years. Not only was a hit single unnecessary, but the album's artwork was unparalleled for the times in its scope and artistic creativity. Where in the years prior, it had been the single that garnered the attention, in future years it would be the album. After Sgt. Pepper, album artwork was an integral part of this at least until it was reduced to a fraction of its size with advent of cassettes and CDs as media and virtually lost with the onset of digital downloading and storage. (The loss of album packaging and design will be the subject of a future blog.)

Sgt. Pepper is as much a central pillar of the times as any political or social movement of the day. It was among the leading forays into the psychedelic movement as much as The Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow in the San Francisco scene and The Doors debut album earlier the same year in Los Angeles.

Yet, it really comes down to the extraordinary original music. Maybe it doesn't contain the hit singles, but Sgt. Pepper is an exceptionally strong batch of songs that still hold up well today. It's a particularly enjoyable and cohesive album to listen to. Finally, "A Day in the Life" -- set as an epilogue to the album, coming as it does after the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)" -- is one of the greatest Lennon and McCartney collaborations of all time. One cannot listen to the extended final note without that feeling of having just finished something quite extraordinary.

© June 1, 2017 -   •   All Rights Reserved.


Past Blogs:

June 1, 2017 - Sgt Pepper

Complete Blog History

Recent and Related Releases:

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band [4 CD/DVD/Blu-ray Combo](Super Deluxe Edition)

Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years (Blu-Ray Deluxe)

The Beatles Stereo Vinyl Box Set

Paul McCartney: Live Kisses (Blu-ray video)

George Harrison: Living In The Material World (Blu-ray video)

Magical Mystery Tour Deluxe Box Set
(Blu-ray/DVD/double-vinyl EP)

Ringo 2012 (CD+DVD Version)

Recommended Reading:

The Beatles Anthology (Illustrated) by The Beatles
October 2000 official release by The Beatles

The Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz
One of the better written of the hundreds of biographies on the band

The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions by Mark Lewisohn
Introduction by Paul McCartney

Recommended Blogs:

DATAMUSICATA by James Lee Stanley
Tips, hints, clues and info for the artist in us all

First in music analysis

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