In 1967 The beatles released Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was instantly hailed as a musical milestone. We have no choice but to agree. Just as the Edsel was a milestone for cars, Betamax was a milestone for home video, Enron was a milestone for corporate investment and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was a milestone for video games, so was Sgt Peppers a milestone for music. Unfortunately for us, the beatles didn’t have the foresight to crush and bury this disaster in a New Mexico landfill like the creators of ET did with their abomination.
In previous articles we’ve discussed how the worlds first concept album wasn’t the first, or even a concept album. We’ve discussed it in historical Context in the article My Beatle get me Blues. Due to a recent wave of spontaneous beatleagoguery, in part by it’s release as a downloadable album for Rock Band, we’ve decided to revisit this classic album.
As noted by the few lucid critics of the past 40 years unhampered by nostalgia or burnt out on LSD:
Sgt. Pepper’s was a McCartney album; a pop confection, full of cute noises and neo-music-hall pop, recorded while the drug-addled Lennon was lost in a half-conscious haze.
It’s continuing popularity and notoriety amongst fans seems to be based on the assumption even though it’s just as poppy, it didn’t have any hit singles, yet was still their best selling album. This means it’s deeper and less sugary than the rest of albums in their catalogue, so it must be also the best. This album is also where the ‘Paul is Dead’ rumors began, a great incentive for people like us to take interest.
It would be interesting to find out if it’s even possible for fans to hear the music anymore; the album is so buried in myth and blinded by hype that it’s completely impossible to listen to these songs as what they are – a collection of songs, as opposed to earth shattering, life altering flecks of incomparable brilliance.
For example: during the stirring introduction of ‘Lovely Rita’ do fans close their eyes and let the powerful lyrics wash over and transported them to another dimension where meter maids are all named Rita?
hip, hop, a hippie to the hippi-dee hip hip a hop, a you don’t stop the rockin’ till the bang man n-the-boogie up jumped the boogie to the rhythm of the boogity beat?
Or do their minds start vomiting out inane facts like:
Recorded at Studio Two, Abbey Road, February 23 & 24, and March 7 & 21, 1967. The album version is mixed from take 11. A percussive, kazooey effect was official EMI toilet paper blown through a comb, and Ringo shouts, “You’d better believe it” or “They’ll never believe it” in the very final moments of the song, although it’s also been suggested that the voice is John’s …(We ain’t making this up, folks).
John Lennon himself was quoted as saying the album was “a load of crap.” We usually tend to agree with Lennon, although in this case the words ‘festering turd’ also spring to mind.
The FF spent over six months in a state of the art recording studio, overdubbing and mixing a lavish production orchestrated and arranged by George Martin, engineered by studio wizard Geoff Emerick, and crammed full of the best session musician’s (including a 40 piece orchestra) money could buy. It cost an astronomical $25,000 in 1967, (roughly $100,000 USD today). During this time a great number of groundbreaking techniques, studio tricks, and recording innovations used on the sessions. A lot of elaborate instrumentations and kooky sound effects were used.
In the end, a couple of tunes were slightly longer than the average pop song. They had an interesting collage of ditties based lyrically on leaky roofs, articles in the newspaper, circus posters, meter maids, corn flake commercials, one either about drugs or a drawing by a child, and one about spirituality. Musically, they combined influences from 30’s music, skiffle, rock and carnivals. In other words, they took advantage of the tools at their disposal to cobble together a collection of half-baked ideas with the help of anybody they could hire.
Sgt Peppers is essentially a shiny, well produced turd. It may appear to be a fully functional crap, but when you clear away the diamond crusted corn nuggets you’ll find the truth of the poop is in the tasting. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein: Turd is a Turd is a Turd is a Turd.