Tuesday, September 8, 2009

LP Love: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

As I'm out of the country until September 15, my normal song-a-day listening schedule is being put on hold. Instead, rediscover your love for the LP format by enjoying a complete Beatles album per day. Try to keep your finger away from the "shuffle" or "skip" buttons for the ultimate retro experience! See you in September to wrap up the Beatles' catalog song by song, remastered-style.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Release Date: June 1, 1967

Although Revolver might, from a historical standpoint, seem to be the Beatles' magnum opus, at the time of release Sgt. Pepper was much more of an event. As soon as it hit the radio, it seems, it was hailed as pop music's greatest masterpiece yet, and stations tended to like to play the whole album nonstop so that listeners could more fully appreciate it. And that's the key to the uniqueness of Sgt. Pepper-- it asks you to listen to it as an album. Sure, we've seen Beatles albums grow more cohesive as they develop since at least Rubber Soul (which, like Sgt. Pepper, has its own signature sound). But Sgt. Pepper goes down in history as the first "concept" album. Paul's idea of the Beatles pretending to be another band was pretty radical at the time. After the band finally stopped touring, Paul had the idea to put out an album that could go on tour for them-- and then thought it would be even funnier for them to "tour" under a different moniker.

Even though the concept is pretty loose, it's the unified feel to the sound production that makes Sgt. Pepper so cohesive. The straight-up rock songs-- "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," "Lovely Rita," "Good Morning Good Morning"-- are all produced with a sense of dazzle that also informs the more experimental tracks like "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" and "A Day in the Life." Even songs as different as "Within You Without You" and "When I'm Sixty-Four," which sit right next to each other, sound as though they're sprung from the same collective intelligence. And under all the layers of production, these are some of the most catchy, clever songs the Beatles have ever written-- "She's Leaving Home"'s high melodrama and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"'s surrealism, and "With a Little Help from My Friends"'s relatability are all transformed into fantastic sing-alongs. And "A Day in the Life," a multi-layered, endlessly interpretable ode to the everyman, is widely recognized as probably the single best song the Beatles ever did. As mind-blowing as it was in 1967, there's still never been anything quite like Sgt. Pepper.

High Points: "With a Little Help from My Friends," "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "She's Leaving Home," "A Day in the Life"

My Secret Favorite: "Good Morning Good Morning"

The Song I'm Not Supposed to Love So Much But Totally Do Anyway: Again, I think we're supposed to love all of these. But, "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"

Track Listing:



  1. My own secret favorite: Getting Better. The song I love maybe more than some other people: Fixing a Hole. And my prediction: There's going to be new appreciation for this album, maybe more than any other, starting tomorrow.

  2. I'm looking forward to hearing this on the remastered versions myself. I've read that the Sgt. Pepper reprise sounds amazing on the remasters.

    Secret favorites: Getting Better. She's Leaving Home. Fixing a Hole. (That last one just sounds like it's floating on air.)

    The part of Lovely Rita I adore: John singing "Lovely Ree-ta Mee-ta Maid."

    The song I usually skip: Within You, Without You. Sorry George.

  3. Interesting; we're all over the board on this one. My faves are Day in the Life, and With a Little Help from My Friends.