Tag Archives: British Invasion

“The band you’ve known for all these years…” [June 2007 Article]

Sgtpeppergatefold

The Sgt. Pepper gatefold [Photo by Robert Fraser]

Can it really be forty years since Sgt. Pepper first taught the band to play? On June 1, 1967 in their native England (and on the following day in America) The Beatles released what continues to be the most critically-acclaimed album of the rock era, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Still, it seems hard to believe that four decades have passed since the world was first introduced to a work that has remains timeless through the years. Chalk that up to an effective combination of  the group’s creative talents with producer George Martin’s diverse musical and recording background. An innovative blend of rock with classical, jazz, Indian and avant-garde influences, Sgt. Pepper always feels like an album out of time,  evocative of its era even whilst transcending it.

I personally experienced the timeless appeal of Pepper about fifteen years after its release. Prior to listening this album in its entirety, I was merely an accidental Beatle listener, like everyone else in the ’70s that grew up within range of a radio. But after hearing the orchestral crescendo of A Day In The Life for the first time, I passed into the realm of serious Beatle fandom. So happy fortieth, Sgt. Pepper, and thanks for helping a young Jamaican music acolyte understand what the fuss was about an English group that had disbanded before he’d even made it to kindergarten…

“Someone asked me the other day would I ever have changed anything. No. I would never have changed one thing.”

— Geoff Emerick, Beatles sound engineer, on the Sgt. Pepper album [St. Petersburg Times, May 31, 2007]

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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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