Friday, June 01, 2007

It was 40* years ago today...

You'll be reading the above headline on many an article today as we mark the 40th anniversary of the release of one of the greatest, and most talked about albums in pop music history, the Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Talked about? How about obsessed over? From Rolling Stone:

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is the most important rock & roll album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock & roll group of all time. From the title song's regal blasts of brass and fuzz guitar to the orchestral seizure and long, dying piano chord at the end of "A Day in the Life," the thirteen tracks on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band are the pinnacle of the Beatles' eight years as recording artists. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were never more fearless and unified in their pursuit of magic and transcendence.

From the comments section comments section:

To remove Sgt. Pepper from the context in which it was originally released can only hurt it’s reputation. The Beatles put together albums full of stronger songs both before (Revolver) and after (Abbey Road) it’s release, but Sgt. Pepper has to be their masterpiece simply because nothing else approaches the ambitious, sweeping, sonic majesty of it all.

From the opening murmurs of an expectant crowd on the title track to the crashing piano chord at the end of ‘A Day in the Life’ thirty nine minutes later, the album pays tribute to almost every musical influence Paul McCartney ever had and John Lennon ever dreamed (from english dance hall on ‘When I’m 64′ to LSD hallucinations on ‘Lucky in the Sky with Diamonds’).

Calling it a ‘failed’ concept album (Lennon said they stopped caring about ‘Sgt. Pepper’ by track three), is missing the point. An album that should be taken as a whole, not a couple hit songs plus filler, was the point. And it was understood immediately, as Sgt. Pepper was the first album radio stations played in full.

The Beatles took everyone who ‘bought the ticket’ to places where popular music was never intended to go. A symphony for a young girl leaving home. Making the boredom of the morning a frantic mix of guitars and animals. An ode to a meter maid.

It was new and different, and because of that it was taken up as a representation of the social and political changes of the sixties, even though all it was and all it intended to be was a great set of tunes.

Or this from the Washington Post:

A hundred years from now, musicologists say, Beatles songs will be so well known that every child will learn them as nursery rhymes, and most people won't know who wrote them. They will have become sufficiently entrenched in popular culture that it will seem as if they've always existed, like "Oh! Susanna," "This Land Is Your Land" and "Frère Jacques."

But whatever your take on what RS named as the greatest album of all time (and I suppose your take may well be generational depending on whether you're a boomer of a member of generations x, y, or z), the tunes still sound great.

*And by the way, as a correction to all those headlines, it would be 60 years ago today that Sgt Pepper taught the band to play as the band was putatively 20 years old when the album was released.


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