Friday, September 2, 2011

The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Review: 39
Artist: The Beatles
Title: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Format: LP
Label: Capitol Records
Year: 1967
Songs: 12

What can I say about Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band that hasn't been said 50 times already? This record is regarded as one of the best rock albums of all time. It's complex, inventive, and full of memorable songs. It is arguably one of the first concept albums (although the extent to which it actually is a concept album is debated to this day). There are dozens of rumors surrounding it, some involving the conspiracy theory that Paul McCartney had died, others surrounding the Beatles' supposed intention to change their name to Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. More capable writers than I have tread all of this ground numerous times, so I will not.

Likewise, I'm sure that most (or all) potential readers of this blog have heard this record many times (who hasn't?) so there's no need for me to describe the songs themselves in detail. Again, there's nothing for me to say that the interested reader doesn't already know or couldn't find in one of the many books and documentaries about the Beatles. So, I will not do this either.

Instead, I'd like to share some thoughts about how this record came into my life and the importance it has held for me over the last 15 years.

When I was a teenager, as I've written already (see my review of Hey Jude), the Beatles were the band that made me want to listen to rock music. At first though, I really preferred their early stuff. My musical pallet was not very sophisticated yet, and the catchy pop-rock of the first five or so Beatles records made more sense to me than the complex and unusual sounds found on the later records I had heard, like Revolver and Abbey Road. Then in the summer of 1996 I was going to garage sales with my dad in Spokane, Washington, and came across a Sgt. Pepper LP in a $1 box. I had never heard this record yet up to this point in my life. I didn't even have a record player at the time, but my parents' friends did, so that evening I recorded it on to one side of a cassette tape. The sounds I heard on this LP as I lay next to the speakers on the floor of their basement blew me away. I had never heard anything like it. I was captivated. I lay giving it my full attention until it was over, then played it again. It was perfect pop, but mixed with some of the strangest sounds I had ever heard. It was only a few days later that I got Magical Mystery Tour on cd from the library. I recorded this on the other side of the cassette and for several weeks, it didn't leave my tape player. I just turned the tape over and over, soaking in these two records. They became deeply embedded in my musical psyche and also became the standard by which, for some years, all other music was judged, and none could live up to.

After I heard this record, I was forever converted to a fan of the later Beatles records, and started trying to find other things that sounded like Sgt. Pepper. It was not long after this that I figured out Bob Dylan, the Byrds, Simon and Garfunkel. These new sounds expanded my mental horizons and changed my worldview. It was a dollar well spent. I still own that same copy of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and I still hear new sounds each time I play it.

That wraps up the Beatles LPs. The rest of their catalogue I have on cds and a couple of 7 inches, so next time we'll be moving on to different musical terrain as I cross the 500 song line. But it will probably be a couple of weeks before I have time to post again. Starting in late September, look for a return to several posts a week.

Until then, I'll sign off with this clip from the Yellow Submarine film in which the Beatles win the day and defeat the Blue Meanies by singing "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

Total songs listened: 497

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