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NOTE: I have not written this review in track-by-track format, as I don't think it is appropriate for this particular album.
Back in the hazy halcyon days of the summer of 1967, The Beatles treated the world to their best-selling album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which shot straight to no.1 in the UK in June of that year. It stayed at the top for a 23 week run, returning for one more week in November, then for a further two weeks in late December and early January of 1968. In February, it then spent another week at the no.1 spot. For at least a couple of decades, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was the best-selling album of all time, when it was taken over by Michael Jackson's Thriller.
The Beatles had already dipped their toes into the pool of experimentation, not just with their music but also with their lifestyles, and their Sgt. Pepper album took their work to a crescendo, after which they returned to their more basic pop/rock roots. Handsomely and very ably assisted by their producer George Martin, this album pushed a few barriers, yet still retainins a very listenable-to mood throughout.
The classic and immediately recognisable sleeve of Sgt. Pepper (designed by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth) shows all four Beatles dressed in colourful uniforms in front of a drum bearing the album's name, set just above the word 'Beatles' emblazoned in red flowers, with various famous and not so famous people crowded around and behind them. There are also a couple of strange figurines perched on the grass under a cloudless blue sky.
The concept of Sgt. Pepper is supposed to be that of a fictitious band, which apparently suggested by Paul McCartney, was a way of disengaging The Beatles from their previous 'mop top' image. The result was a distinctive, groundbreaking album with a very definite psychedelic flavour which was unique to The Beatles, and quite far away from the mysterious, repetitive pounding guitars of early Pink Floyd or the deep and trippy offerings from the hippie brigade which at the time was the driving force youth movement on the West Coast of the USA.
The album contains quite simple songs, such as With A Little Help From My Friends, the poignant She's Leaving Home, the cheeky Lovely Rita (dedicated to a traffic warden who used to patrol Abbey Road in London where The Beatles' recording studios were) and When I'm Sixty-Four, with more experimental offerings such as George Harrison's Indian-influenced Within You Without You, the groundbreaking A Day In The Life and the weird and wonderful Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. The line "I'd love to turn you on" in the lyrics of A Day In The Life were interpreted by many as being drug-orientated, and for that reason, the song was banned from airplay by the BBC for quite some time. Both Lennon (who wrote the words) and McCartney who largely wrote the tune would sometimes hotly deny any drug references, they claiming it to be about a mixture of Paul McCartney's youth and John Lennon's feelings after having read a newspaper article on somebody being killed in a car crash, but at other times McCartney has admitted to the song being drug-inspired.
Then, there is the now famous issue of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. Many people have always insisted that 'Lucy' is definitely drug-related, picking out the initial letters of some of the words in the title, which spell out LSD. Even right up to his death, John Lennon always firmly asserted that 'Lucy' was about a painting of a woman flying through the sky surrounded by yellow diamond shapes which his then little son Julian had created, and that when John asked him what it was, Julian answered "It's Lucy in the sky with diamonds".
I'm not sure if people who weren't around in the 1960s can pick up on the mood of Sgt. Pepper when listening to the album....I mean the whole atmosphere of what was going on at the time, but for me it overall is an exalting album, laced with a surrealism which positively screams 1967 at anybody who remembers the year and was young (or old!) enough to be influenced by the year as a whole.
Sgt. Pepper for me is an album which, even today, can spark off strange little patterns, cartoons and colours inside of my mind if I listen to it with closed eyes. Although the tracks are very different from one another, they do link beautifully together, having a perfect follow-through. By the time Sgt. Pepper was released, the mums and dads of those who were teenagers at the time, I feel had already decided that The Beatles had lost their minds, and this album simply, for those parents, confirmed their beliefs. The appreciation of the concept behind Sgt. Pepper was so far away from their world, yet it shone a sharp laser beam of light and positivity into the minds of 1960s youth, firing their imaginations and spellbinding them.
As far as my own feelings towards Sgt. Pepper are concerned, although I adore and enshrine it, it isn't actually my favourite Beatles' album (my overall favourite is their last, Abbey Road). For me, Sgt. Pepper is on a par with Revolver, but I can't compare it to any of the band's earlier works, as the band was on a fast track of rapid, mind-blowing change to the point where the music on Sgt. Pepper bears no resemblance to, for instance, that of The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night album.
I love all of the tracks on Sgt. Pepper, my overall favourite probably being Good Morning Good Morning, which is quite a jerky, fast song, written and sung by Lennon who apparently was inspired into writing it after having seen a TV advert for Kellogg's cornflakes. I can't pick a least favourite, as I don't have one, the remainder of the tracks appealing to me equally.
It would be interesting, but quite likely impossible, to hear Sgt. Pepper for the first time, yet through the ears of say somebody who is currently aged in their 20s, as I'd be fascinated to hear what they hear, and experience what vibes they picked up on it and what atmosphere it created for them.
It is my personal view that anybody's music collection is bereft without a copy of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club band, even if a CD of the album is merely there for posterity. It would also be interesting to travel 100 years forward in time, to see if it then it would still be regarded as one of the very best albums ever made, or would it by then have been shoved on the back burner or forgotten about altogether? I also wonder what Sgt. Pepper would have sounded like had The Beatles' producer been somebody different to George Martin, as he in my view, most definitely must be regarded as the fifth Beatle.
If you have never heard Sgt. Pepper, I strongly suggest you download a copy of it from a legal .mp3 site, or treat yourself to the CD....it will be well worth it, I promise you.
At the time of writing, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £8.47 to £26.90
Used: from £8.23 to £28.80
Collectible: from £8.76 to £75.00
New: from £14.31 to £34.22 (gosh, I remember when it was 32/6d, which is approx. £1.62 in today's money!)
Used: only one copy currently available @ £15.84
Collectible: only two copies currently available @ £19.99 and £34.99
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
With A Little Help From My Friends
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
Fixing A Hole
She's Leaving Home
Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite
Within You Without You
When I'm Sixty-Four
Good Morning Good Morning
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise)
A Day In The Life
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
I wasn't going to bother reviewing this, simply because I thought there was absolutely nothing else that could be said about this album that hasn't been said hundreds, if not thousands, of times already. Opinions range from total extremes, with critics pouring praise on it for being the bestest bunch of soundwaves ever assmbled, to being dismissed as an irrelevant lightweight relic of its time. Furthermore, the same things have been said about the Beatles as a band; I've read and heard some utterly ridiculous plaudits stating that they "invented every type of music ever" (no, they didn't), to that they were a bunch of illiterate devil-worshippers. Uh, sure, whatever. However, doing some research into the technical aspects of sound engineering, it struck me that there's a side of the Beatles that has been overlooked in favour of all the useless, hyperbolic rubbish spouted by journalists over the years. While Sgt. Pepper has often been cited as the most influential album ever recorded, I've come to the conclusion that it might just be, though for some very different reasons.
Unusally for a music album review, I'm not going to delve too deeply into its content, mainly because the world and his dog have heard this record and there's not much new to say about the styles of the songs or lyrics. It is largely a foray into wide-eyed psychedelia, childlike innocence and other quintessentially British things. Although it's often been called 'the first concept album', this isn't really true, as there is not real overarching concept to tie the songs together. And even if there were, The Pretty Things had already done it on 'SF Sorrow'. This is an album where McCartney dominates, with Lennon taking a back seat as songwriter. This isn't a good thing really, as I often preferred the edge of Lennon's songs over McCartney's which often got too close to being twee (especially during his career afterwards, yuck). Newly fashionable overdriven wah-wah guitars abound on the title track and its reprise, which was later revved up to 3000rpm by an impressed Hendrix. 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' and 'Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite' are playful bits of Lennon, and Harrison exposes his fascination with all things Indian on 'Within You Without You', sharing some of his newly-found Hindu philosophy to the twang of his sitar. In many ways this album is a whimsical look at the people around them - 'Lovely Rita' the girl who works as a parking attendant, 'She's Leaving Home', the girl who runs away with a car salesman, and 'Good Morning, Good Morning', which excellently describes the banality of everyday life. Even better is closing track 'A Day in the Life' is a tour-de-force, an existential run through both the mundane and the daydreams that punctuate it, culminating in an almost suicidal cacophony of sawed stings and atonal piano chords. As a soundtrack to the social upheaval of mid-60s Britain, it is a wry smile to the Beatles' own generation as the post-war baby-boomers make their own way and try to work out what the world is all about.
Anyway, where things get really interesting is in the techniques used and developed during these sessions to create the finished piece. Sgt. Pepper is a technological achievement that has its innovations stamped on almost every piece of popular music ever since, whether recorded or live. A bold statement perhaps, but I think it rings true.
By 1966, the Beatles vanished into the ivory towers of their recording studios, and I can see why. Looking at the footage of them playing live at Shea Stadium, it's a wonder they didn't all come back from the States with tinnitus from 50,000 shrieking girls drowning out their PA system. And their performances were so lousy (out of time AND out of key), the studio was the last refuge for them. Victims of their own success, they started becoming a bit insular and weird, at least as far as their recordings went. 1966's 'Revolver' had shown some peculiar and intriguing ideas on 'Tomorrow Never Knows', replete with manipulated sound effects and looped tapes and drum beats, and b-side 'Rain' had some more bizarre backwards effects and echoed vocals. With Sgt. Pepper they continued this theme of sonic experimenation, pulling amps and speakers apart, multi-tracking instruments and consulting with producer George Martin and engineers Geoff Emerick and Ken Townsend.
Sgt. Pepper was all recorded on a 4-track tape, which was the norm for most pop recordings of the day, as it was seen as unnecessary to have any more (one track for vocals, one for guitar, one for drums etc.) and for the recordings to be mixed from there. With a desire to do more, techniques were developed to wring ever last bit of potential out of those tracks to create the lavish, multi-layered aural experience that the album became. Double-tracking was developed, mainly because the band found it so tedious, as were methods for reverb, delay, echo and flange - all of which have become staple effects in modern music. In fact, if you walk into any pro-music shop and pick up a mixing unit, no matter how small, they nearly all come with these effects as standard. Even the word 'flange' entered the vocabulary of soundwave manipulation during these sessions, as Lennon threw off a typical Lennon-ism as he requested his voice sounded 'more, err, flangey' for 'Lucy in the Sky'. Given that almost every live performer will run their equipment through a mixer, as will every band in the recording studio, Sgt. Pepper's mark is a long-reaching one.
This album is one of a band turning the recording studio into their playground, unwittingly creating the template for so many different sonic effects that would become standard options for tweaking an artist's sound for the rest of pop music history. Although digital recording would come into being in the 1980s, their inventive use of multi-tracking on such a basic bit of machinery proved to be an inspiration for so many other bands wishing to break beyond the constraints of a four-piece band. This may have led directly to what some might call over-production and pomposity, chucking brass sections and strings and sound effects and tape collages into the mix, so whether that's a good thing or not depends entirely on taste. I for one think it's great, as it opened the door to a whole new arsenal of tools for artist's to play with until 16 track tapes came into existence. Less is often more though, and somebody perhaps should have told Emerson, Lake and Palmer this; the Beatles somehow manage to get away with it though, as although they have chucked everything from sitars and inaudible dog-whsitles into the mix here, they still know the importance of brevity - the songs don't meander too much beyond their welcome. Indeed they show a great deal of self-discipline for a band with the freedom to do whatever they wanted; listen to the Rolling Stones' psychedelic effort 'Satanic Majesties Request' to hear what can happen to a band locked in a studio with no guidance.
This is a technical achievement of a staggering magnitude, and like the majority of such works are collaborative efforts. I doubt very much that the Beatles would have been able to create this without the technical knowledge of George Martin and EMI's brilliant sound engineering crew. It also ended the incredibly irritating practice of record labels releasing different versions of the same album for UK and overseas markets, as the band insisted it be released in the same running order, with the same artwork.
Unless you are Mrs SWSt (who had never heard of this until I asked for it for Christmas!), almost everyone has heard of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, even if you're not particularly a fan of The Beatles.
One of the major reasons behind its widespread (and long-lasting) popularity is that it offers something very different. In today's musical world, where music is a manufactured product, Sergeant Pepper still stands out as something that dared to be different and fully deserves its cult status.
Musically, it's best described as a mish-mash of styles, but there is an underlying playfulness to much of the lyrics and music. Some will make you smile or laugh; others will have you shaking your head, wondering what on earth the lyrics mean (or perhaps, more accurately, what writers were on!); a few may even cause you to pause and think. One thing I particularly like is that many of the lyrics tell a story of sorts. It might not always be a terribly coherent story, but it shows that a lot of thought and care went into them.
Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The opening track really sets the tone with an upbeat tune is an ideal opener. The mild absurdity of both the lyrics and the tune (complete with audience applause and laughter track) captures the sense of fun which pervades the whole album and leaves the listener in no doubt that they are about to listen to something both special and different.
With a Little Help from My Friends
This might have been re-recorded by other artists many, many times, but the original is still the best. Whilst George Harrison's vocals might not be as distinctive or unique as those of Lennon or McCartney, they work very well on this track, blending perfectly with the music. This is a slower, gentler song than many of the others and on first listen it can get a bit lost amongst the more showy songs elsewhere. Don't let that deceive you, though, this is still an excellent song.
Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
Right from the opening chords, this song perfectly captures a sense of strangeness and other worldliness. Inspired by either a child's drawing or drugs (depending on who you believe), the words are surreal yet, at the same time strangely meaningful and deep. The tune perfectly complements this - the threadbare verses are accompanied only by a twanging guitar, before giving way to an exuberant, energetic chorus.
Another song which can get a bit lost, but this time it's not in the same league as Friends. Whereas other songs have a sense of energy and purpose, Getting Better just seems to meander along without ever actually achieving a great deal. It's not a terrible song by any means, but set against the other tracks on this album, it is rather forgettable.
Fixing a Hole
The mid-point of Sergeant Pepper proves that even the best albums have to have a dip somewhere and Fixing a Hole and Getting Better epitomise that. This feels much more like a traditional Beatles song, with a fairly traditional structure and sound and so lacks the sense of innovation on show elsewhere. Just like the previous track, this is a song which might have been perfectly acceptable on another album, but not here.
She's Leaving Home
A wistful, wonderful tale of how a parent's love for their child can be unintentionally suffocating. This is one of the songs that really tells a story: a sad tale of a daughter running away from home to escape her parents, who can't understand what they have done wrong. The song manages to invoke an incredible sense of emotion through its simple but effective lyrics and straightforward, but effective tune which speaks of sadness, regret and unintentional hurt.
For the Benefit of Mr Kite
I always think of this as a companion piece to Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. Although very different in style, it captures that same sense of strangeness. Through the lyrics and jerky, detached tune, it evokes images of funfairs, carnivals and sideshows. The unusual structure and the oddly off-beat percussion and instrumentation give this a sound all of its own.
Within You Without You
Heavily inspired by the Indian influences on the Beatles around this time, this is easily the weakest song on the album and just does nothing for me at all. The only song that I always skip.
When I'm Sixty Four
After all the strangeness of some of the earlier tracks, it's almost a relief to get back to a more traditional "pop" song. The words and the tune might are deceptively simple, but it's a fantastically quirky song that brings a smile to your face. Probably the most famous song on the album, it's widely regarded as a classic.
After a couple of slower/sadder songs, the sense of fun returns with this ballad (to a traffic warden, of all things!) The bouncy rhythm, catchy tune and absurd lyrics make this another fun song. It might not be mentioned in the same breath as some of the Beatles' more famous tracks, but it's still a minor classic and one that will always have you singing along, once you get to know it.
Good Morning, Good Morning
Another song which has a bouncy upbeat tempo (although one which hides a more sinister edge in the lyrics). Once again, the story-telling abilities of Lennon and McCartney come to the fore and you will spend a lot of time wondering just what the words mean, whilst tapping your toe to the catchy tune.
Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2)
And so we (almost) end as we began, with a reprise of the opening track. This is not simply a lazy repeat, however, but a different take on both the words and the tune. It's an entirely fitting conclusion to the album and (deliberately) feels like the closing piece to a concert - perhaps an old-fashioned one performed on a bandstand in the park.
A Day in the Life
A rather downbeat final track. Both the tune and the words convey an air of melancholy which after the joy and exuberance of earlier tracks is something of a surprise. Yet, (in a way I can never quite define), this is the perfect song with which to close. Come the final, magnificent orchestral chords that end the piece, you will feel that you have truly been taken on a very special journey by this album.
Packed with excellent, catchy tunes which will have you singing along, it's hard to fault Sergeant Pepper. Even allowing for a couple of weaker songs, this is still a very special album.
Since the album is so enduring, it has also held its price rather well. If you want a new copy on CD, it will cost around £8.
© Copyright SWSt 2012
Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was an entirely unique experience. Simply by picking up the LP cover the
listener could sense that this was no ordinary album. The sleeve contained a collage of famous characters, many from popular entertainment including Laurel and Hardy, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Dylan and, yes, the Fab Four. The fact that the Beatles were included illustrated the point being made that this was a record performed by another group, the fictitious Sgt Pepper. The LP came in a gatefold cover, which in itself wasn't unusual, the difference this time, however, was that this wasn't a double album. So why use a cover normally reserved for housing two
records? All was soon revealed. One sleeve contained the vinyl, whilst in the other could be found a piece of cardboard displaying pictures ready to be cut out. How many people snipped out their moustache, picture card, military stripes, badges and stand-up picture of the Sgt Pepper Band will never be known, but it can be
imagined that caught up in all the excitement, thousands of scissors sliced in to cardboard during the hazy summer of '67.
'A splendid time is guaranteed for all' - it said so on the back sleeve. From the opening chords by an orchestra tuning-up through to the eternal fading away of the final track, Sgt Pepper delivered its promise.
The presence of chemical assistance to generate this pleasure became obvious, with laughable public attention focusing on Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (LSD). It presumably had taken tremendous imagination or 'something' to devise a vision of strange coloured trees and skies, but can we imagine a world today
without this song's imaginative lyrics? It made for a nice story to believe that this stunningly original composition was inspired by hallucinogenic activity, but Lennon admitted it was a child's painting that provided the cue for enigmatic lyrics.
Drug references, nevertheless, were found elsewhere and in abundance - Fixing A Hole, for example, left little to the imagination. A Day In The Life with its mind-blowing inferences clearly dwelled on a drugged existence. For a while, radio stations around the globe felt uneasy about broadcasting the song, more concerned about upsetting their regular listeners than appreciating the greatest track on an album that changed everything. That the
pivotal man in the story may have come from the House of Lords, only added fuel to the growing controversy.
For those that understood the plot, Sgt Pepper was acknowledged for the quality of many innovative songs, advanced production techniques and for its brave ambition to push the limits. Many, slow in realising the enormity of the occasion, failed to comprehend, wanting nothing more than for the group to resume singing simplistic tunes. For them, a return to the innocence of She Loves You wasn't to be. The days of the Beatles touring and writing snappy pop odes were gone forever. A brave new world had been born and the Beatles were the chief instigators.
This album is considered by many to be the Beatles finest album and most influential from song writing, technological and social points of views. It is a concept album which was a brave move for the band as this meant that the band had to be more specific in their writing style and not venture too far from the concept of the album.
"However broadly speaking there are two genres of concept album: those that were essentially thematically-linked song cycles such as which did not claim a storyline, The Beatles- SGT. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and those that presented a narrative story that threaded the songs - such as The Who's Tommy". (Reveloution of the head (the Beatles and the sixties), by Ian Macdonald, page 206)
The writing style of this album was obviously to me influenced by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, with the emphasis on the drug culture quite present on the album. Also the shouting like vocal style of the verses of song of the same name lended its self more to being influenced by Hendrix than any one else of the time. This along with the heavy drum, bass and guitar sounds "Became the prototype for which became known as "Heavy Metal", this genre was founded on LSD, high amplification, and a more prominent Rhythm section" all of which is present throughout this record.
The recording techniques throughout the records where innovative at the time but have since become standard practice in the recording studio. These techniques include Dampening of drums and rooms where recording was being done, close-miking on instruments. This meant that the room ambience had less effect on the sound of the recorded instrument so that effects could be added later at the mixing stage.
13 tracks on the disk including:
1. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
2. With a Little Help from My Friends
3. Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
4. Getting Better
5. Fixing a Hole
6. She's Leaving Home
7. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite
8. Within You, Without You
9. When I'm Sixty-Four
10. Lovely Rita
11. Good Morning, Good Morning
12. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
13. Day in the Life
Firstly before I say anything about the actual album, this is the Beatles, it is going to be good.
As a teenager who has only discovered The Beatles in the past year, this album astounded me, it is brilliant. If you are going to buy any Beatles album, please make Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The original idea behind this concept album was to create a fictitious group, lead by Billy Shears (Ringo), that could tour for the group (They had recently stopped touring themselves). This doesn't come through to strongly during the album, but no matter.
Away from the history and onto the songs, there are some really spectacular ones on here. "A Day In The Life" is rightly regarded in huge esteem by many Beatles fans, some calling it their greatest work. The Orchestra and the scope of the song is huge. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "Getting Better", the title song and "When I'm Sixty-Four" are my favorites from the album, but in truth there is not one weak song.
If you already own the original CD I would recommend purchasing the remastered version, I enjoyed the history that came with the album and the sound quality is superior.
All in all, brilliant album, brilliant group. A must buy for anyone.
The 1960s saw many musical greats emerge and compete with each other, but there was one cross-continent battle that seemed to serve only to give us better and better music as they went on. Following the Beatles' successful album Revolver, the Beach Boys then went and developed their iconic Pet Sounds. This involved a lot of decision making in what the Beach Boys were doing, such as moving away from their usual 'surfer' influenced music and main writer Brian Wilson stopping touring. This is reported to have spurred the Beatles on to making a similar decision of their own, and it was to have a brilliant effect.
Up until this point, and including the release of Revolver, the Beatles had been known as a touring band. However, with a change much needed as Beatlemania lost its instant appeal, they too decided to stop touring, and immerse themselves in the studio. I have stated in my previous Beatles review, of Revolver, that I am not so lucky as to have been around at the time of the Beatles' heyday, and it's something I would have loved to have seen. It is easy to cast aspersions on what they and the Beach Boys did, but listening to the albums in that order (Revolver, Pet Sounds, Sgt Pepper) you can almost hear evolution in the making from one to the other.
Revolver had seen George Harrison emerge a bit more as a solid songwriter and not just an 'also ran' with the band, and Sgt Pepper features more of his influences, particularly those he acquired with the time he spent in India. The distinct sitar sounds are prevalent in 'Within You Without You', which Harrison performs on his lonesome, with help from a gathering of musicians outside of the band. Indeed, there are many external influences on this album, and you can see that they had time to write this and think about it, as its construction does something different and thoughtful.
The differences come in the challenges they have set themselves on here. While Revolver was considered a breakthrough of maturity for them, Sgt Pepper is like a storybook in terms of how it is presented and extends the new things the previous album had brought in. Harrison's sitar is one such challenge, as is the introduction of things such as the wah-wah pedal, and further use of reverse playing, which they had done in small part on Revolver. The band present themselves here as different characters, therefore acting at the same time as singing, going to show that they were able to see how making music was much like being an actor: you have to perform and not just play, in order to entertain.
The start of the album is almost like a circus as you emerge through the side of the ring to take your seat, with a bustling crowd then emerging into a rather heavy guitar sound for the title track, 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' to kick us off. It's an introductory track that has crescendo elements to build up the whole show, and by the time Paul McCartney's 'yell' vocals come in towards the end of the short, 2 minute track, you're well and truly in the mood for a show! This track serves as an intro for Ringo Starr's character, Billy Shears, who then sings the next track, the well covered 'With A Little Help From My Friends.' Starr is often left by the wayside due to Lennon & McCartney's stardom and Harrison quirkiness with new sounds, but here he is given a chance to show off his vocal talents (which he does very well by the way) to show that the man behind the drums has just as much vocal ability as the rest of them. The song is rather down beat, but then his rather relaxed spoken voice suits this style of music very well. Fans of the spoken Thomas the Tank Engine series will vouch for this, as he does the narration.
I suppose they weren't to know these first two would become instantly recognisable and celebrated, nor could they imagine the recognisability of the chorus of the third tune, and possibly the most controversial one, 'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds'. The controversy comes with the words in the title supposedly being a code for the drug LSD, and if you believe the rumours (and the interviews), then the Beatles had drugs right at the heart of their influences. This is something else that relates them to the Beach Boys, with Brian Wilson reported to have written some of his best music when high as a kite. The track itself is memorable, with the chorus, mainly repeating the title track, upbeat and the verses the opposite, perhaps indicating the effects such drugs can have on you. The track is decent, and one that's easy to sing along to.
More clinical sounds tend to come out of this album than any of their others that I have listened to, and the stories continue for with the remainder of the tracks. The experimentation side of the band was never really going to just go away even with the patience and studio time that this album got, and the stranger side of things is all over, with 'Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite!' confusing me lyrically whilst impressing me at the same time. I found the construction in the middle of the album, with tracks such as this and the previous 'She's Leaving Home', didn't flow quite as well as at the beginning and the end, but that is probably just because the presence of the title track at both ends makes it like a book with chapters. Each track is a chapter, and they do blend into one a bit. The unmistakeable musical sound of a Beatles track is present in them all, with Lennon and McCartney's vocals managing to sound so similar yet so different once any higher or lower notes emerge.
Finishing off with a quick reprise of the title track and then Day In The Life definitely makes me think it's all about a story. The characters the four portray come through with the performance, and you wonder if they really had to put themselves in someone else's shoes to get this recorded. The production side of things certainly took long enough, with 9 months from entering the studio in 1966 to its release the following year. The result, though, is like a tennis shot. The Beatles served up a nearly unreturnable shot with Revolver, before the Beach Boys' excellent return in Pet Sounds. This album is like the brave passing shot that then emerges into a brilliant rally with the Atlantic as the net, the two bands dominating the next couple of years before the pressure started to build and cracks started to appear.
The album artwork needs a quick mention, too. It pictures the four Beatles in their characters' costumes, complete with moustaches and beards and longer hair that they had recently started growing. They are standing in front of a whole host of celebrity faces (70 or so, I believe), and as much as this denotes the influences they drew upon for this album's creation, it also serves to make a statement ab out just how big they were at the time, that they were in front of all these well known people, who just about deserved a place among the faces on the front of the latest hit album. Drugs or no drugs, these guys knew what they were doing, and exploited the power their music exuded to the limit.
This is a great album, that will get you thinking if you look into it enough. This is perhaps clever thinking by the band, making you think THEY must have thought lots about it if it took so long to make. The fact is, the four of them were a classic ensemble, and knew how to make musical magic. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is something that doesn't sit on my shelf for long: it spends too long being played!
1 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
2 With a Little Help from My Friends
3 Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
4 Getting Better
5 Fixing a Hole
6 She's Leaving Home
7 Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite
8 Within You, Without You
9 When I'm Sixty-Four
10 Lovely Rita
11 Good Morning, Good Morning
12 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
13 Day in the Life
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is not just an album; it is a force of a nature, an irresistable slice of musical history that is difficult to fight against. It is now over forty years old, and you need only look at the consistent 5-star reviews on here to see both how beloved it is, and how superbly well it has stood the rest of time.
The track list is just brilliant from start to finish, and it's hard to do the songs and their larger context justice in a short review. A Day In The Life is one of the early standout tracks, and one that many consider to be among the best songs in The Beatles' entire corpus of work. The album is also a cultural touchstone with regard to setting precedents for censorship in the UK, for the BBC curtailed a few songs from the album and wouldn't play them because of what they percieved as references to drugs. Probably the most famous instance is that of the brilliant Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, a song surely referencing LSD, but to which Lennon virulently attested was just a coincidence.
What I love about the album is how diverse and yet how coheren it is at the same time: the songs each have a separate identity, but they are all immaculately produced, evoking a unique sound that is going to live on forever. McCartney in particular shines with his bass work on a lot of the tracks, but everyone is as tight as usual, even Ringo and Harrison, who people so often forget are in the band! It also has very memorable cover art that has numerous dead celebrities gathered together.
Often hailed as the zenith of popular music, perhaps not quite that good, but nonetheless among the most important & influential albums recorded.
Originally conceived as a concept album about the band's childhood, Pepper was originally set to open with the 1-2 punch of 'Strawberry Fields Forever' & Penny Lane. However after EMI felt it best to release those tracks as a Double A Side, the childhood theme was abandoned, yet the album maintained a theme & sophistication previously unheard in pop records.
From the chiming pop of 'Lovely Rita' through to Lennon's mellow musings in 'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds', the songs all fit together & provide probably the last real team effort of the Beatles career.
The album closes with perhaps the high water mark of the Beatles career - the otherworldly 'A Day in the Life', a song so good, 42 years after it's release, popular music still hasn't caught up with it.
Let me say this right off the bat - I'm a massive Beatles fan. Not just a passive, casual, 'enjoy them in the background' sort of listener, i have all their albums, lots of books etc and enjoy them all BUT
Sgt Pepper is one of the worst Beatles album - There i said it
Dont get me wrong, it is dusted with greatness (A Day in the Life, She's Leaving Home), but the dusting is a little light when you compare how much filler there is on this - Good Morning, Benefit of Mr Kite, Within You Without You, Fixing a Hole - These would have been b-sides in their pomp
Even some of the better songs could be classed as 'throwaway' (When im Sixty-Four, Lovely Rita Meter Maid) and whilst the production still stands up today, it doesnt have the same hynoptizing effect as im sure it did in the 60's
Dont believe the hype - Buy Abbey Road/Revolver/Rubber Soul instead
This may hurt some poeple that read this, but it is my opinion and i will voice it, Sgt. Pepper's was not the best Beatles album. For me the classic tracks have been masterpieces, but it still doesn't beat the White Album in my book. But this is a spectacular album and if it is not in your collection now, i would hope that after this review it will be.
The premise behind the album is well known, the Beatles had grown tired of there constant concerts full of creaming fans and wanted to make an album free from that atmosphere and hype. Thus they came up with the idea of the alter ego idea and the album was born. Although it didn't come out as quietly as they had intended, it was never going to and i am glad that its songs have been sung.
The album starts in the style of a live concert, with the band appearing to warm up and introduce themsleves as the eponomous band of the album. The title track itself is nice and marks a historic opening, but it doesn't stand up as a track of it own and shouldn't be considered that way.
Then comes 'Billy Shears' With a Little Help from My Friends, which is the best ringo starr vocal song that he did. The song itself has been covered many times over, but none come quite up to this original, which sits as a minor masterpiece on this album of greats.
You may have noticed by now that there is no pass between the tracks (If you are listening to it), which is a continuation of the live concert feel, helping to free up some of the songs. And the track that follows is one of the Beatles' best, Lucing In The Sky With Diamonds, which i am sure anyone who is reading this will already know.
Next we have two McCartney penned tracks that are a bit more ambiguous in there lyrics than some of his previous songs, helping them to step up to the new style of the group and ideal as mid-way album tracks that are neither too heavy on the mind or too light to consider classics as they are.
She's Leaving Home is another track that is not quite what you would have expected from the early Beatles, but this track tells the parents dismay at their daughter's leaving home, and i believe tries to show the fans of their old material that their new style is for the best and not to fret so much over it.
Within You, Without You is one of Harisson's best tracks and one of his most well known of the Beatles' era, which is rightly given, as this psycadelic track follows on from the style of Tomorrow Never Knows, and provides a more in depth track thatn the last three.
When I'm Sixty-Four is another classic off the album and is so well known that it would be silly to comment on it, but this is a good laid-back track that shows some of McCartney's best writing.
Lovely Rita for me is one of the lesser appreciated tracks that is both comic and engrossing, telling the story of how the singer tries to get with the Meter Maid Rita. This is a good fun track that builds on the other tracks on the album.
Good Morning, Good Morning is another slightly comic tracks that tries to tell the story of one man's early mornign walk about in town, with added animal sound effects at the end that make this a fun listen before the finale.
The reprise of the title trakc is a heavier more powerful version that hides the fact that what you are about to here next is one of the best tracks ever.
And here it is, arguably the centrepiece of the album that shows us why the Beatles are considered the best band of all time. The track is a bit more ambigous and obscure in its lyrics, but that should not put anyone off as they are genius and deserve to be heard by anyone who has ever taken even a passing fancy towards music.
This is considered one of the best albums of all time, and comes when the group was at its most joined and together building on their previous albums and an album that should make everyone's album collection.
The recent tendency for critics to discount this album in favour of the vastly inferior 'Revolver' as the best Beatles lp really smacks of contraryism to me.
For me this represents the peak of The Beatles as an act who were actively trying to break new ground, and it's immense success is probably what destroyed them as a creative unit. There was nowhere else to go! From the first track, it's obvious that they were trying something different- with the sounds of an orchestra tuning up, and an audience settling into their seats. I'm not going to claim that the following songs are PERFECT, but barring the laclustre 'lovely rita' and the pointless pastiche that is 'when I'm sixty four', they all fit together in a pleasing manner, and the production is nothing less than stellar throughout.
For me, two bad songs in a Beatles album is pretty good going, as I normally find them quite filler laden! Things would only get worse from here. Having achieved the massive success that this album represents on an artistic and fiscal level- they turned their hand to an embarrassing tv movie that lacked good songs, and then proceeded to affect a 'not trying very hard' attitude that dogged them for the rest of their career.
Forget the rest- where they had grown complacent and self satisfied, and enjoy this album- the last time The Beatles went out of their way to be good, and still felt competitive!
Usually seeing myself as a rock/indie music kind of fan, definitely in tune with many unheard of American or Canadian artists from across the pond, it might seem a shock to some that I even gave this album a chance; I vaguely remember listening to some of the Beatles material as a young girl, my parents citing them as one of the best - if not the best - bands of all time.
When 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' was announced as the best pop record of all time earlier this year, I was sceptical to say the least; an album of 40 years of age ranking that high up? I did briefly wonder who had actually voted in the first place and whether they were in tune with more contemporary music!
None the less, my curiosity got the better of me and one night I decided to dig out the album for my own listening, not expecting the reaction I gave the album at all...
Track 1: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2.02)
Starting us off is the albums title track. This song brings back fond memories of the Live 8 event a few years ago, as Paul McCartney bursts in song. This is really a good opener - gritty yet refreshing guitars and crowd like sound effects give this track a very 'real' effect.
Marks out of 10: 8.5 - some of the lyrics in the second verse could be seen as a little corny. All in good humour though!
Track 2: With a Little Help From My Friends (2.44)
Drummer Ringo Starr steps up to the microphone for this next track. With the song reaching number one in the British charts on three separate occasions (once with the Beatles, once with Joe Cocker in 1968 and with Wet Wet Wet twenty years later) this one is a favourite with fans and artists alike.
Marks out of 10: 8 - Ringo's voice may not be the best out of the band but seems a perfect fit for this tune. A song about friendship with comes to life with the backing vocals.
Track 3: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (3.28)
This in my opinion is one of the bands greatest songs. Obviously some speculation surrounded the song, especially with the initials (LSD), John Lennon stated that the song was written about a 'surreal landscape' drawn by his son, Julian. 'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds' is a song that should be celebrated without drug speculation.
Marks out of 10: 9.5 - powerful lyrics that you can see in your minds eye, Lennon's voice helps to make this track haunting yet brilliant.
Track 4: Getting Better (2.47)
The album takes a turn for the worse in my opinion after such a great song. Contrary to the title, I thought this was one of the weaker songs on the album. The lyrics were a little bland to me but I think that the music - especially the guitar riffs - really saved this one. However, since then, this track certainly has grown on me and is strangely addictive!
Marks out of 10: 8 - Not one of my absolute favourites but good none the less!
Track 5: Fixing a Hole (2.36)
This one has a good baseline that you can really hear if you listen to the album through headphones. Apparently written about someone fixing a hole in the road by Paul, this is one of the more bizarre but intriguing Beatles tracks, speculated once again for its cryptic, drug like references.
Marks out of 10: 7.5 - it does come across as a bit dreary and isn't the albums greatest assets but still a good track.
Track 6: She's Leaving Home (3.35)
I remember this one from a concert that I went to about five or six years ago when I went to see Paul McCartney live. Even then I liked the arrangement and dramatic orchestra like instruments and I now think that the lyrics help tell a very good story about a girl who had left home never to be found.
Marks out of 10: 8.5 - a little sombre but well sung by both Paul and John. Based upon a true story to embrace its true melancholic state.
Track 7: Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite (2.37)
Strange but enjoyable to listen to, this sounds like it was intended to; a carnival and you can almost see a kite floating through the air. It seems a great shame that this one was banned from certain stations due to its supposed reference to drugs.
Marks out of 10: 8.5 - very realistic sound dubbing make this one of the most memorable tracks on Sgt. Pepper's. Unique.
Track 8: Within You Without You (5.05)
Handing the mic over to George Harrison, 'Within You Without You' had absolutely no input from any of the other band members but instead with a group of Indian musicians. This song changes the pace of the album quite dramatically, the sound actually being quite relaxing and soothing.
A mark out of 10: 8.5 - my only one reservation with this track is that perhaps it drones on for a bit too long. None the less, very original and unusual to have on a British pop record, especially for the 1960's.
Track 9: When I'm Sixty-Four (2.37)
A song written by Paul McCartney when he was just 16, this tracks very simple both musically and lyrically, at least to listen to. Now-a-days this track is surrounded by irony considering a rather messy, media fuel divorce by the lead singer. Bless!
Marks out of 10: 8 - enjoyably naff with undercurrents of important, age concerning questions. I love the olden day type speech to which is well placed within the context of the song.
Track 10: Lovely Rita (2.42)
One of the lighter tracks here, lyrically quite clever and well sung. Some conspiracy theorists claim there is evidence here for the whole 'Paul is Dead' scenario. I doubt it because of its overall good natured tone.
Marks out of 10: 8 - an easy track to listen to and very amusing!
Track 11: Good Morning Good Morning (2.41)
With the sound of a cockerel and 'Good morning, good morning!' repeated, the effect of early morning and an alarm like alert is presented very well. The inspiration apparently came from a Kellogg's cornflakes commercial! (nothing wrong with that!)
Marks out of 10: 8 - With a combination of the catchy chorus and saxophone, this one gets stuck in your head a little too easily but isn't one of the best tracks on here. It seems a bit generic lyrically compared to some of the other gems.
Track 12: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - Reprise (1.18)
This track helps to bring to life the essence of the album and the band taking on the roles of 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'. However, this wasn't too explicit in the album but the Reprise could be seen as just a filler.
Marks out of 10: 8 - musically, very energetic and gears you up for the more reflective last track.
Track 13: A Day In The Life (5.33)
Quite melancholic, the inspiration was apparently from the death of one of the Beatles' friends. This is one of the songs that is sung and played to really show you effectively the full extent of the Lennon/McCartney writing duo as this was a combination of two separate songs. I just love the change of pace midway through to emphasise both parts!
Marks out of 10: 10 - a very good way to end the album.
The album boasts one of the most iconic pieces of artwork of any album. With many then past and present famous faces including Marilyn Monroe, the Beatles' personas of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band come to life before the albums even been played. The song lyrics and various random pictures are included in the sleeve, which I personally like. I'm not sure how much a copy can be obtained for as my parents got this CD many years ago - I simply borrowed it!
However, at the minute, you can get your copy for the following prices:
Amazon.co.uk - £8.47 (eligible for free super saver delivery)
Play.com - £11.99 (free delivery)
HMV.co.uk - £8.99 (free delivery)
The vinyl copy of this album is simply amazing; it really makes you sit back and think of this fine piece of musical evolution in its truest and most remarkable sense.
Although I may not say this is the best pop record of all time, I can fully understand why other's may say it is just that; innovation from the Beatles was certainly at its finest on this album - along with the one before it in 'Revolver' - and I'm sure Sgt. Pepper's will be celebrated for many years to come.
If it isn't, then the world's music taste has certainly gone mad!
(Note: Updated from a previous review written and displayed by myself MizzMolko on Ciao).
There is probably little left that could be said about the Beatles that hasnt already been told. Billions of words have been written about them. Over one billion of their records have been sold world wide and that number still to this day, continues to grow. They have been honoured with the titles of honouree founder members of the rock and roll hall of fame (1960s) and will forever be donned with the title world most successful group.
The word group has a very definitive meaning within this particular album. Only their eighth album but yet in the group category, it was certainly to be their last. In 1968, they released the controversial White Album. Some praised it as their masterpiece, whilst most said it was the most embarrassing album they could ever record due to its misshapen, un collaborated feel. It was an album that consisted of competitiveness and head bashing against irritated walls. The White Album lacked the enthusiasm of and excitement of a band playing and working together. That is why, this album, Sgt.Pepper, was to me, their last album as a group..
1967 was a year not just when the most diverse album was released but also the Summer of Love. I doubt there are many readers out there reading this who remember it first hand, but as a general guide, it was a year that suddenly bloomed with colour. Because of the years after the War were under a blanket of monochrome, so much that even rock and roll had failed to lift it entirely, The Beatles, had come along and thrown a universal rainbow across the world. It was the year of experiment, surrealism and everything that people had not dared to think about. Suddenly dreams could come true, people found their voices and spoke about things in their minds when they couldnt before. Then of course, there was drugs, which, yes, people did take, but it was because of drugs that they gave people the wings to fly and the imaginations to play with.
Sgt. Pepper was accused by the media and the stiff previous generations of middle classes for inciting young people to experiment with hallucigenic substances. The media hurled themselves down upon the band, tossing insults at their creative lyrics and play on words within their songs.
For four ordinary lads from Liverpool, who had never really wanted world fame, they had come up with the revolutionary idea of creating a different persona for the group. Tired, strained and exhausted from media attention on themselves, they devised a concept album where they could create an album in the same way as an author creates a novel. One produces the characters, they are given names, characteristics and personalities, and they become real. McCartney thought that this idea would alleviate the pressure from the whole Beatles persona. In only a few short years, the expectations of the young men had become massive, and The Beatles were now starting to feel the pressure of having to do something always better than the last. This had been enough to tip them over the edge, so the concept of imagining a fictional band was greatly received. In actual fact, the idea was that if the album was to be a flop, they, cheekily, could not blame it on themselves .
On the first of June 1967, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band was released onto the world and unsuspecting ears. It was only another few days, and they would be celebrating their fifth anniversary since their first recording session with EMI. The Beatles had always been the fore runners of changing music since 1962, and here they were, again, but , this time, changing music on a global scale, they were to become enormous influences on bands from then on.
The cover was put together with such work that the cover in itself was said to be more expensive to create than most other entire albums of the same era. Made up of famous and infamous faces from past and present it also gives us a little insight to the personal acquaintances who had stepped through the Beatles own lives. Notably, number thirty five, (the inside page gives the outlines of the same collage of faces from the front and numbers each head and notes their names to the correct numbers) is the face of Stu Sutcliffe, once, very best friend of John when attending Art college. The fifth Beatle, an accomplished artist played bass. He couldnt play a note, but he looked good and he was a friend so he was in. However, he chose to stay in Hamburg after a tour of the clubs on meeting a German girl.. He died of a brain haemorrhage in early 1962.
The original vinyl copy had been a craft in itself. The very first copies sold, were bought with free cardboard cut outs. Like a simple childrens toy, this was probably an album that was going to appeal to the very young, yet at the same time, discussions were forming between university professors of music and arts across the country.. Huddled around the gramophone, they delighted themselves in analysing and applauding the very genius of this unreal album. The simple fact was, it was a collection of songs that were born from even simpler every day things around them. John, had always seen the world in a surreal light. Being a avid fan of The Goon Show, he humoured on life and the way people reacted to everyday scenarios. Even Spike Milligan was invited on several occasions to sit in on recording. Being a close friend of John and the producer George Martin (now knighted), John had felt that there was someone around who was on the same wavelength as him. Milligan had once said that as soon as John met Yoko Ono, every changed. Even the contact between himself and John had been dropped. Apparently, practically overnight.
To analyse the truth behind the concept of the worlds most extraordinary album has been a task that I have had an urge to complete. However, this task was always going to be a difficult one as there is so much that one could easily miss out. The album, through my thoughts as well as some facts read here and there is probably the best way to display this account.
The introduction to this compelling album is also the ending of it. The first track we here on this CD version is simply titled Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Strangely, it would seem, that apart from tracks one and twelve, the Sgt. Pepper name is not mentioned at all in the other tracks. There is only one mention of a band member named Billy Shears who is introduced at the beginning of the second track, A Little Help From My Friends. Billy, who is played by Ringo Starr, the voice of the lead vocal.
The idea of the introductory track was to primarily create a feeling of something that was typically English. One can imagine cucumber sandwiches at the Pavilion after a game of county cricket. Being that the band was predominately a brass band, this concept works rather well. The idea of these strange, colourfully dressed types trumpeting away on a band stand around the turn of the last century, gives the impression of something that is very much the epitome of traditional English country life. The backing track of rhythm guitars and percussion allows the sound of the sixties to gently make its way through so as not to create something that sounds too stiff and too old fashioned. This intro dominates the album in such a way that any listener could appreciate the quality of the music; from old age pensioners to the wondrous hippie flower children of that time. We are led straight away into a show, a little open air concert. They come on, pick up their instruments, we hear the audience settle into their seats and even the band warm up briefly. They invite us into sitting back and enjoying the show. Recorded in stereo, the idea , then, was to have the vocals coming out of one speaker and the music coming out of the other. If the listener only had one speaker, it was rather like listening to a karaoke version of the entire album. They warm our hearts immediately with saying how they would love to take us home with them. With incidental hand clapping and our favourite, canned laughter, it gives the strong impression of the listener having front seat tickets. This album wastes no time and launches straight into track two where Billy Shears is introduced in the bridge from one track to the next as at a concert of sorts, one would expect this. It is touches like these that perfects this album. Time had been taken to polish this album immaculately into the concept that it was created for.
A Little Help From My Friends, to many Beatle fans, will tutt and presume that this is the statutory one Ringo track that on every album, he has been allowed to do. This track had already got into a record book before it was even recorded. A reporter was invited to sit in and witness the great Lennon and McCartney at work on a song. This had never been attended before and it was on this track that they were working on, both sitting at the piano. Originally titled Bad Finger Boogie it was written especially for the drummer. It was always meant to be a jolly song, the type that would attract childs ear. This again, another touch added to adapt the album to appeal to all ears of all ages. Its simple and unassuming lyrics were guaranteed not to offend anyone. Each line starts with a question, then the second is the answer. No one could have fronted these songs any better, with addition to this, Ringo didnt have the worlds greatest voice, he couldnt have been given a song of a serious nature, he never did, we only have to think of Yellow Submarine ..
The incredibly controversial and the most discussed Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, still lies in the back of our minds even today. The worlds greatest thinkers still havent got their heads around the nature of the song. Probably one of a handful of laughs that Mr Lennon took to the grave with him. One cant help but believe that the genuine story behind this unusual song is actually the truth that just happened to stumble across the initials of LSD. One of four tracks from this albums that were considered to be about the taking of drugs and the experiences that one is exposed to, the birth of the song came about with little four year old Julian Lennon arrived home one day from play school with a picture he had done that day of his friends Lucy ODonnell. He would show everything to his father, things he had painted and made at home or at school. He exclaimed, Ive called it, Lucy in the sky with diamonds! Like all the best things in the world, it stuck in Johns head. Of course, at the time, Julian didnt realise the impression he had made and the young, unknowing Lucy didnt really fathom out until she was thirteen that the idea of the song surrounded her. She had admitted that she only vaguely remembered little Julian at school. Being deep in the mind of John Lennon would have been an exploration of the century. His mind was incredibly gifted. He thought up plays on words, which he loved as well as his fascination for surrealism. He conducted a imaginative world not unlike Alice In Wonderland. This genius was unique. For the first time, The Beatles had devised an album to be listened to, explored for not just its music, but the wondrous creation of the lyrics. Starting with a simple handful of notes across a keyboard, Johns voice, somehow different, he had made his voice turn surreal itself and transparent.. Clear and mysterious he allows his voice to swarm around lyrics of tangerine tress and marmalade skies. In all honesty, I really dont think even drugs could have taken you places as fantastic as the ones that Lennon describes. The chorus pleads to be shouted, an interlude of the psychedelic dream state, it shows its power within the repeat of the tracks title.
Its Getting Better has a affectionate tale behind it. As a recognition to once, stand in drummer for The Beatles when Ringo was off sick during a tour in 1964, Jimmy Neil would say, when asked how he was doing behind the drum kit during songs on stage, its getting better! He apparently would say very little else on stage, so this always stuck and was mentioned here and thee throughout their careers as an in joke. On a darker side, and this track does have one, John wanted to admit a few things. He had always been a troubled youngster. The lines, I used to get mad in my school, the teachers that taught me were uncool. this was Johns way of freeing ghosts in his own life. He used the line its getting better because he wanted to personally change his violent temper. In another verse, the lines are, I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved.. This perhaps was a mention of his troubled marriage to Cynthia, which, sadly due his meeting with Yoko Ono, was on the rocks and would shortly end. An up beat song, one doesnt suspect until the lyrics are listened to properly. its a hopeful song, simple and straight forward in its musical theme, we here intermittent clapping and lots of la las, still keeping in with the complete St.Pepper traditional theme, the album doesnt sway from this once throughout. Each track is very different except for this underlying English tea and cakes anthem.
Fixing A Hole is another track supposedly about drugs. The media hype that surrounded this innocuous track tried to dictate that the theme of it was that the fixing of the hole, was one fixing a hole in ones arm due to over usage of needles. Quite ridiculous, I thought. The story actually relates to a derelict property in the remotest part of Scotland that Paul bought. A farm that even the locals couldnt figure out where it was, was a desired getaway house for him and his one time girlfriend, Jane Asher from all the hustle and manic life of London and all that reminded him of the hysteria surrounding the Beatles. The song, was literally about fixing a hole in the roof of the house. Not frightened of a spot of DIY, the decided to tackle the job himself. The song, and if listened to the lyrics carefully, he describes the job in hand very therapeutic, Im fixing a hole where the rain gets in and stops my mind from wondering.. A gentle track, that only McCartneys songs were, soulful and full of thought and pensiveness, the song is accentuated by backings ooos and arrs giving the feeling of lonesome deep thinking in process whilst fixing the hole.
Shes Leaving Home is the sad and sombre element to this album. Based, as usual on fact, it came from a newspaper article about a young girl from an affluent part of London running away from home. Some of the words were changed, not to protect the girl and her family, but simply because they didnt fit. She didnt run away with a man from the motor trade, nor did she leave first thing in the morning. Melanie Coe, was one of thousands of young things running away from their stiff, old fashioned parents due to the electrified psychedelic era. Freedom was beckoning for these young teenagers to drop their educations and become free spirited travellers in search of something deeper and a better life.
The song tells a story of her leaving, quietly turning the back door key, stepping outside she is free. The chorus is a double layer of Jon and Pauls vocals singing lines almost in answer to each other, playing the part of the worried parents on finding their daughter gone. A beautifully pieced track that only enhances the desire for the young girl to leave and yet at the same time, the grief and anxiety that she leaves behind her. Using woeful violins and a harp sweeping across from beginning to end, these instruments engage in a musical accompany to compliment each line. Sung in voices of the Beatles unheard of before by the public, they sound almost operatic. A recognition to the hippie movement that wasnt all colour and love, but sadness and despair from parents who couldnt understand. On a lighter note, Miss Coe, thankfully, not due the song though, returned home eventually, safe and well.
Track Seven, is the very clever titled Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite. Whilst filming somewhere near Sevenoaks for a film to promote Strawberry Fields, John spotted a framed Victorian poster denoting a travelling circus visiting Rochdale. He promptly walked into the antique shop and bought it. He had been so captured by its beautiful, ornamental design and its pieces, wonderfully wording each act that was to appear, that he decided to write a song based around the poster. It was advertising Fanques Circus Royal, 1843. He used the over fanatical descriptions of the acts and devised a circus theme musically to enhance the lyrics. This piece uses a multitude of instruments, not used on a pop record before, but now known for their experimental desire, they asked the famed diverse George Martin to put together this exhilarating circus theme. They incorporated circus organs, the ones that were wheeled around on wheels and played by themselves, normally with a monkey dressed as a clown sitting on top clashing cymbals together. The poster wording at the top started out, saying, For The Benefit Of Mr Kite who incidentally was the son of the circus proprietor. A piece in the middle of this track is supposedly to introduce Henry the dancing horse, a swirl of a strange instrument whirls around up and down the scale to depict this peculiar creature dancing a waltz round and round. The whole track is a maze of sounds and image using instruments that I couldnt possibly list. A traditional circus is captured here, no need for anything visual to relate to. This tracks can simply carry the listener away.
Within You, Without You. Here is a piece written and performed by George Harrison. Since coming back from a private holiday to the far East, he had been drawn to the religions as well as the wonderful instruments used in these countries. He studied the religions and whilst there, studied the sitar, a traditional Eastern instrument, under the teachings of Ravi Shankar. Totally dedicated to the Eastern music, this piece is a creation and a personal recognition to the Eastern way of life. The lyrics, although hard to here are actually a conversation talking firstly about the Western way of life and the power of individualism within it. A track that only the deepest listeners may be able to understand, for the rest of us, sadly, its way beyond our level of thinking, ahead of its time, no doubt, it is lost within the ears of the average listener, but as a piece of Eastern praise, it is inspired and a personal dedication to the teachings of the Eastern civilisation.
The song, When Im Sixty Four came as another idea after Pauls father had had a recent birthday during the recording of Sgt. Pepper. In total respect and deep love for his father (the man who encouraged Paul to pick up a guitar to help cope with his mothers death) he wanted to write a song that his father would approve of. Using a style of music that was simple and pleasant and a little of an old jazz band style, it was actually a track that Paul had written as a teenager. A tribute about getting old and retiring and the joys that could come with it with any luck. A song about a man proposing to a young girl if she will stay with him, will she still love him when he is sixty four. A rooty toot theme as it was called, it was almost written as a letter about the simple pleasure of getting old and that one wasnt going to charge around, but sit, have a boat perhaps and grandchildren on your knee. A pretty song, catchy and one to bring a smile to the face. A song that we can all relate to. There is a nice backing using a clarinet, again, a traditional instrument, used a lot within this album.
The theory behind the writing of Lovely Rita was a simple one. A friend of Pauls came to visit from the States and noted that we had meter maids after spotting a rather stern looking woman dressed in a traffic wardens uniform. Apparently, Paul went away and then thought up the name Rita only because it rhymed. There is a very clever usage of a complicated line. Made her look a little like a military man. is a lyric than had to be squashed to the point of being unpronounceable These lines crop up from time to time in this track. A steady, plodding back track, it appears with a jazzy piano interlude. Sounds from John like a chuffing train can also be picked up in the background. The Beatles were not shy of using alternative instruments, even themselves! This track is a very good example of this, and brings into the song, an element of humour.
Good Morning Good Morning was a mickey take from John. He was nagged at by others through recording that he wasnt doing anything. This had turned out to be an album where John had not had as much writing input as in previous albums. He had had enough of the others moaning so he wrote this track about doing nothing. Ridiculed for only writing about things close to the arm chair; TV programmes and newspaper articles, he wrote this track in a view that he thought the others were seeing him. A silly song containing a selection of animal sounds and horns blowing. A guitar riff that will certainly have the listener reaching for the volume knob half way through. After such an amusing track, I would have thought that the other members would have stopped moaning.
We come into the final section of the album. Mentioned on the album sleeve as the reprise of the first track, it takes a different slant musically. This is a very different track from the rest of the album. The backing reminds us of backings that bands have been using in recent times to their tracks. The Beatles were the front runners in many respects. Musically, they were ahead of their time, particularly with this album, they had invented certain backings involving tambourines and a steady, yet not hard, drum beat. Artists years later took this sound and produced it on drum machines. Groovy Train by The Farm springs to mind. I am sure you could think of some other examples of early Beatle influences on todays bands. This track is simple and says a farewell to the crowd and a thank you for listening. Including a round of applause it very quickly flows into a piano piece, a an inspired two song track. A Day In The Life, is the result of two very different songs written by John and Paul, separately and unfinished. Put together by a whirl of an orchestra all playing something different from the next person, it is added onto Pauls song, and in all honesty, I hadnt got a clue about this until finding out now. John sings a couple of sombre lines in the first of factual newspaper articles he had read. The line about a car crash, he blew his mind out in a car, he didnt notice that the lights had changed was actually about a friend, Tara Browne, a young Irish man. A slow, drifting track with a soft guitar tune in the back ground and shaking maracas, that throws itself into a crescendo of mass musical hysteria. Woke up, got outa bed is where Pauls song starts off. Johns song continues again towards the end and to finish. A record that was banned in certain countries because of its lyrics. The words smoke and I want to turn you on were seen as too suggestive .how times have changed! This piece was the most talked about track in music history. Noted for its diversity, musical orgasmic tumble of four two instruments all screaming at the same time, it was to become the epitome of the album and of the generation.
The most talked about album in the history of recording albums for its suggestive lyrics, the double meanings perhaps relating to drug taking but I have this thought in the back of my mind that I dont think that the Beatles, if wanting to compose an album about drugs would have been that obvious. The album, in conclusion should be not just heard but listened to and respected as a moment in human history when someone had created sounds and words that no one had ever heard before. Yes, now, perhaps amusing to the younger generation who thought that the Beatles had lost it or were spaced out when they wrote this, but I feel that this album was revolutionary, simply because what they did, hadnt been done before was on one was ever to do again.
John Lennon would have rolled over laughing if he had thought that anything the Beatles had done was being taken seriously. It was all a big joke as far as he was concerned, well in that case, the laugh was certainly on the Beatles this album has still, almost forty years later, got us talking about it ..
Bought duty free in Paris, around twelve years ago, paid at least twenty quid! Any high street shop will stock this album at around the ten pound mark I would have thought.
I have many Beatles albums in the house and "Sgt. Pepper?s Lonely Hearts Club Band" is one that holds many fond memories. When I was younger, my parents had an eight track cassette in the car, and this was one of the albums that was played a lot, during our family holidays and days out. Sgt. Pepper?s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in 1967, and the cover of the album is instantly recognisable. The four members of The Beatles are dressed in band costume, standing behind a large drum with the title of the album written on it. Alongside and behind the band stand waxworks of many famous people, including The Beatles themselves and Diana Dors. The artwork for this cost $100,00 which back in 1967, was an incredible amount of money. However, this was the first album in history to contain the lyrics to the songs within its packaging. The difference between this and other Beatle?s albums, is on this offering the band were not ?The Beatles?, but were ?Sergeant Pepper?s Lonely Heart?s Club Band? and the band is almost a tribute show. The album is available for £16.99 from HMV, although I am sure there are cheaper places to buy it. The album begins by the sound of an orchestra or band, tuning up their instruments, and in the background the sounds of people?s voices can be heard. The album then opens with ?Sgt. Pepper?s Lonely Heart?s Club Band? which tells the story of the Band, and introduces all of the members to the audience. The track is accompanied by the sound of audiences laughing and shouting. ?With a little help from my friends? carries straight on from the first track with no break. It begins with the whole group singing ?Billy Shears? followed by drums and guitars. The song explains that anything is possible if you have friends and a lot of the song consists of Ringo singing a question and the rest of the group replying with the answer or the other way round. A feel good track, showing that if friends play a
n important part in your life, anything is possible. I?m sure everyone has heard the rumours about ?Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds? supposedly representing the drug LSD. The lyrics certainly seem to substantiate the rumours, seeming to describe the results of a hallucination. However, there is evidence to suggest that the track was actually written, after John?s son Julian drew a picture. The song starts of with an almost sitar like instrument and sounds quite Eastern. John sings this track, and after the first verse, the tempo quickens, with the introduction of the drums and guitars. ?Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies? ?Getting Better? starts with the urgent playing of guitar, before the introduction of crashing drums, interspersed with some great cymbal playing. A happy song, which tells of a bad period in a life, that has now been overcome. This is probably my least favourite track on the album, as the song seems to be a bit of a mish mash, with practically no tune. ?Fixin a Hole? is a catchy track and has an oriental feel at the beginning, before the drums and the echoing guitars make their appearance. The song is sung by Paul McCartney and although slightly nonsensical, does give the clear message of contentment. ?She?s leaving home? tells the story of a mother and father who wake one morning to discover that their daughter has left home. Whenever I hear the words ?Daddy our baby?s gone? it always sends a shiver through my body, despite having heard this song countless times throughout my life. The song starts off very quietly with Paul?s voice sounding quite melancholy, and a harp in the background. The harp is the only instrument played, through the entirety of the track, which only adds to the sad, distressing feel to the song. ?Standing alone at the top of the stairs She breaks down and cries to her husband Daddy our baby's gone? ?A Day in the Life? is a song about a typical day in the life of many people. After the first part of the song, which is backed by a wonderful orchestral sound, and sung by John the mood changes completely, and the second half sounds as though they?ve all had a joint, before carrying on. There is a huge crash and the music changes completely. It is almost as if the song is in two halves, each written by different people, although it somehow all comes together and actually works. This is a great track and I have to say my favourite on the album. It begins with just the piano for accompaniment before the introduction of the guitars and drums. ?Woke up, fell out of bed Dragged a comb across my head? ?When I?m sixty four? is a thought provoking song, asking if when we all get old and grey, will our partners still feel the same way about us as they did when the relationship first started. The beginning of the song starts with clarinets and sounds like a children?s show theme tune with Paul McCartney taking the lead vocals. The track also has a music hall feel about it, and one can quite imagine this being sung along to in the Thirties! It?s strange to think that when this track was written and sung by Mr. McCartney, that he was then a fresh faced love god. Now he is approaching that 64 milestone in his life, and is just about to have his first baby with his wife, Heather Mills. ?I could be handy, mending a fuse When your lights have gone.? ?Lovely Rita? is a nonsensical song about a traffic warden and a man?s attempts to woo her. For it?s day, I would imagine that the song was quite daring, in that it described a fumbled attempt at foreplay. It?s a catchy, quirky track, that will leave you singing along. It starts of with John singing ?aaahh? and then kicks in with the drums and guitars. There are so many different style of song on the album. ?For the Benefit of Mr. Kite? focuses on an entertainer and a circus type
act, and has a carnival air about it. Close your eyes and you are transported to ?The Big Top? and half expect clowns on unicycles to be in the room when you open them. The cymbals are played but deadened in the track, whereas ?Within you Without You? has George Harrison as the lead vocalist and has a very Eastern feel to it and uses a sitar as the main instrument. From the quirky, to the downright wacky, to the corny, this album has stood the test of time and still sells well today, probably due to the huge difference in the tracks contained on it. My original copy was on vinyl, then tape and now on CD. I never get bored with listening to it and The Beatles sound as fresh today, as they did all those years ago. The Beatles at their very best.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
2 With a Little Help from My Friends
3 Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
4 Getting Better
5 Fixing a Hole
6 She's Leaving Home
7 Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite
8 Within You, Without You
9 When I'm Sixty-Four
10 Lovely Rita
11 Good Morning, Good Morning
12 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
13 Day in the Life