Monday, February 24, 2014

Significant Albums: The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

File:Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.jpg

The 1st vinyl record I ever bought. I have a vague yet certain memory of buying this album on vinyl LP in the year 1987, likely in the Summer. And after I bought it, which I am guessing was at the old 'Great American Music" store at Harmar Mall (or possibly Rosedale). My parents and I went to dinner after that, at I think the Green Mill at Rosedale

It was around that time I had seen "Complete Beatles" which my folks had recorded on VHS tape off I think the local PBS affiliate in the Twin Cities, Channel 2. And of course that documentary spoke glaringly about this album. I recall there was one guy whose title was "musicologist" praising it to no end. I remember after seeing that title, wondering what a "musicologist" was exactly, and how does one become a musicologist. How much money could a musicologist make? etc.

"Within You, Without You" in my 2nd or 3rd revisiting/renewal of my love for The Beatles music, was the song I became the most in awe of. Some of the best Beatles songs are the one's where they incorporated spiritual and middle eastern elements.

Try to realise it's all within yourself
No-one else can make you change
And to see you're really only very small,
And life flows within you and without you.

When you've seen beyond yourself-then you may find, peace of mind,
Is waiting there-
And the time will come when you see
we're all one, and life flows on within you and without you

A therapeutic and meditative track, that I love the call and response between Lennon's vocals and the sitar played by George Harrison, which I'll fully admit, I use to assume was Ravi Shankar.

The triippy nature of "Being for the Benefit of Mr.Kite" I also have probably appreciated more recently than back in 1987. The *circus* atmosphere Lennon wanted-to and more or less created is wonderful. It's 1 of those tracks, like "Tomorrow Never Knows" or "Strawberry Fields Forever", that is a head rush that I can't help but love. And I can't even imagine how it influenced a lot of psychedelic rock that came after it.

And actually the same could be said about "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" which I know received more notoriety (and airplay), for one reason alone, just the whole LSD thing with the title. That tune I distinctly remember hearing as a kid and liking. I think maybe even more than the trippy odd tones coming from the music, the lyrics told a story to me. "The girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes"..the 11 or 12 year old me found that freaky. But I also remember picturing a tale of 2 younger people sort of in love. The different adjectives and references, honestly may have been the 1st time I'd heard them. "Marmalade" I remember once hearing in a kids story, that was British, because I came to often associate that word and food with the UK.

Cellophane Flowers and Marshmellow Pies? yeah, I don't think I had been exposed to those before hearing this tune.

Getting Better, When I'm 64, Lovely Rita, the title track and the reprise, A Little Help From My Friends were all kind of Beatles staples I got to know about, I think on the compilation record my folks had they would play. And songs like She's Leaving Home and Fixing a Hole also add to the charm of this album.

And then you have "A Day in the Life," which to many is the quintessential Beatles tune. It seems like an experiment of studio technique and little movements that worked perfectly. "I heard the news today Oh Boy"..which leads And then the McCartney voiced

Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up I noticed I was late
Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat
Found my way upstairs and had a smoke
And somebody spoke and I went into a dream

 to that trippy moaning from Lennon.

So relate-able at first, the whole rush in the morning (which maybe the fact there is a song titled "Good Morning" was made or influenced this song, or vice-versa). But the way the lyrics talk about "a dream" this song and maybe the album as-a-whole is meant to be kind of a dream.

Like Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz (or even The Secret Life of Walter Mitty even..the whole idea of a DAY DREAM). I mean this by many is regarded as the 1st *concept album* of sorts. So it sort of tells a story, but fictional. The ending of A Day in the Life kind of wraps up the experiences of the album and offers where the story of the band or just one person.

I have no idea if the band intended it to be that way, or if the songs just seemed to go well together lyrically and musically. Even down to the cover art, with all the famous people and what not. It's almost like this fictional band, Sgt Pepper's, is taken or takes you, to a world where all those famous people are. Whether they were alive in the real world The Beatles themselves were in, or not.

I guess I haven't read boat loads of material about the analysis of this record to know if many others interpret it in a storybook almost fantasy or scifi way, but it wouldn't surprise me. A Day in the Life though, is just one of those songs that included a ton of ideas, from dynamics, to sampling, to like I mentioned before, some clever, original studio tricks.

Sgt Pepper's is historically a highly praised record, and by many, The Beatles peak. I'm not sure if I feel that way entirely, but the influence it had on not only on so much music I love, but just personally myself I can't deny. Even for the fact there was a period in the 90's, I came to shun The Beatles, I suppose due to hearing bands like Rush and thinking much of their music was too simplistic and overrated. My best friend from High School felt similarly (probably more so), and used to criticize them frequently. But I came to realize how naive I became in that thinking (whether I ever feel the same about bands like Nirvana or Radiohead, I dunno, I have my doubts though).

But no, Sgt Pepper's is a work of art, a very experimental/forward thinking record that I still honestly am marveled by for nostalgia sake and for just the quality of the songs, production and historic importance of. I might even say in some ways, it was my 1st favorite album, even though I wasn't so into "albums" when I was 10 or 11 years old. Thriller and Purple Rain, I think I mainly think of the singles 1st, but Sgt Pepper's still was then and still is an *album* greater than the sum of its parts. And it really set the standard for the millions or more artists to make *albums* as opposed to just a bunch of songs.