It Was Fifty Years Ago Today…

Sgt. Pepper Alternate

An alternate take from the Sgt. Pepper album cover photo shoot [Photo by Robert Fraser]

Traditionally, the articles for the Ad-lib To Fade section have been short and sweet. But how often does one of the most famous rock albums turn fifty? On June 1, 1967, after spending months in the studio, The Beatles released its landmark album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Fifty years later, this album still generates lots of ink, as music journalists strive to say why it is or isn’t important. While there’s no need for me to add anything to that debate, I’m still inclined to add a personal note to the proceedings to celebrate the occasion, especially since I’m only a few months away from the same milestone birthday.

But for me, my Sgt. Pepper moment wasn’t fifty years ago, it was thirty-five. In 1982, I was a fifteen-year music fan living in Jamaica with only a rudimentary knowledge of The Beatles, who had fallen apart before I’d turned three. But I can literally remember the exact moment when I became a Beatle fan. I was over at a friend’s house playing Dungeons & Dragons for the first time, when he put on the Sgt. Pepper LP. I had heard the first side of the album before, at my brother’s college apartment in Canada, but my dad made me take it off when we got to George’s Indian-music track “Within You, Without You.” So we bailed out before I got to hear the album’s magnificent coda, “A Day In The Life”,  and it was another couple years before I got to hear that thrilling, chaotic orchestral bridge, which, to this day, still doesn’t sound like anything else I’ve ever heard. And still manages to make the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

So thank you, “Chippy” McGregor, for changing my life by playing a phenomenal four-minute song. And thank you, Beatles, for being so damn creative…

Check out what I wrote about Sgt. Pepper for its fortieth anniversary, in the June 2007 issue of Type M…



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