Tag Archives: sgt pepper

Reason #481 – My Beatle Gets Me Blues

A lot has been said about the originality of the ‘greatest band of all time.’ The influence of their inventions has been felt far and wide, exalted and referenced as groundbreaking and unequaled to this day.

Lets take a look at some of this groundbreaking work, and maybe try put it into perspective.

They were heralded as one of the most original bands ever when they released the song Twist and Shout in 1964. I’m not quite sure just what is so original about recording a cover of an Isley Brothers song. The way they performed it, with all of them singing ‘Whooo!’ at the same time?

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that aside from Brian Epstein inventing a way to shape them into something marketable, the beats pretty much played variations on the same couple of songs and covers until Rubber Soul in ’66, their first original album. Aside from some new instrumentation (George Martin) and their constant use of marijuana, what exactly was so original? It was a bunch of pretty rock songs. The same goes with the groundbreaking Revolver.

This brings us to their piece de resistance, Sgt Pepper. They spent over six months in the studio recording and mixing it, released it in ’67. There was a lot of groundbreaking equipment and technical tricks used in the studio. A lot of elaborate instrumentations and sound effects were used. Some tunes were longer than the average pop song. In the end, they had an interesting collage of songs and sounds based lyrically on drugs, leaky roofs, articles in the newspaper, circus posters, meter maids, corn flake commercials and one about spirituality. Musically they took influences from 30’s music, skiffle, rock and carnivals. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that seems more like using whats at your disposal than inventing anything. They achieved massive commercial and critical success. Whats new?

Lets take a look at something else that was happening at roughly the same time. Don Van Vliet, an up and coming R&B singer, changed his persona to Captain Beefheart and started a group named The Magic Band in ’65. They became quite popular and put out a few early singles covering blues songs to great local success. He began to form his own ideas about what music was and what it should say, and recruiting Ry Cooder on guitar they went in the studio to begin work on their first album, Safe as Milk. This was a bold, delta blues inspired work of poetry and intensity. Shortly afterwards, they were dropped from their label after the song Electricity was considered too negative. Although it didn’t reach commercial success, this album was hailed internationally, finding many fans and supporters.

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Although Lennon was hugely impressed with Safe as Milk (note the posters behind him), it appears Beefheart wasn’t quite as taken with him.

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Vliet then decided to take the band somewhere new. Holed up in his isolated home drawing on free jazz, sea shanties and blues, he sat down and began to compose on the piano, an instrument he couldn’t play, in order to avoid falling into the traps of convention and theory. He wanted to hear what was in his head, and what was in his head couldn’t conform to anything he’d heard. He ruled his band with an iron fist, demanding 14 hour practice sessions, forcing them to learn impossible chords and timings and live in virtual poverty until the album was complete. At one point he locked guitarist Zoot Horn Rollo in a shed after he was suspected of listening to a beatle song. There was to be no outside influences. He spit fire, bled poetry, lived music and the band honed its teeth for 8 months.

While Howlin’ Wolf was in England trying to wean British blues masters away from their obsession with even bar-counts, Vliet was creating his own musical language and universe. What he came out with polarized the music world, shocking people with its stunning originality and its musical ties to nothing. Its lyrics spoke of the environment, genocide, immigrants, Vietnam Vets, and poverty, among other things. The double album Trout Mask Replica was recorded in Van Vliet’s home over a period of one weekend, as opposed to the five months it took the FF to record their double album, The White Album.

Perhaps an extreme example, but this is originality as an uncompromising force to be reckoned with. You don’t have to like it, you don’t have to listen to it, just turn on your radio and you’ll be safe from the threat of ever hearing it, but you do have to acknowledge it. Wanna tell me what the FF did that was so groundbreaking again?

Don Van Vliet, retained that original spark until he retired from the music biz in 1982 after MTV rejected Ice Cream for Crow as being too weird. Also in 1982, the remaining FF continued recording generic safeness; Ringo released Stop and smell the Roses, McCartney was singing duets with Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, and George Harrison released Gone Troppo (I had to look it up too).

I’d never just want to do what everybody else did. I’d be contributing to the sameness of everything.

-Don Van Vliet

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band performing Sure ‘Nuff ‘N Yes I Do from Safe as Milk, live from Cannes in ’68.

In Comparison:

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Reason # 669 – Cult of the sacred Moustache

Througout history the moustache has adorned the faces of some of the greatest minds, artists, political and military leaders; as well as some of the worlds most infamous and horrendous mass murderers.

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Is it any coincidence that these historic individuals all had facial hair?
Its been said in hushed whispers that behind every moustache is member of a secret society, they identify each another and communicate with various strokes, brushes and twirls. This group (which shall remain unnamed) traces its origins back to the time of the Pharoh’s.

After WWII and the fall of Hitler, the moustache immediately fell out of fashion, its power contaminated by an evil and negative energy. The underground society itself shunned its use, changing its methods and biding its time until they were safe to return to the hairy fold. This left the moustache alone and unadornable, seeking out new victims with its siren song of success.

For a while the world was a safer place. That is until the fateful year 1966 when the beatles embarked on recording of Sgt Pepper. At this time John wasn’t contributing many songs, George was silenced , and Ringo was Ringo. This left Paul alone to write the majority of the album. Finally the pressure grew to be too great for the surprised looking one and he began writing songs like When I’m 64. He realized he couldn’t do it by himself. He needed help of the most evil kind.

It was at this time the beatles fell under the spell of the moustache society, seen here draped in the customary ceremonial garbs, complete with pink slippers and the mystical orange fedora with green feather. Its hard to tell from this angle if John and George are performing the twin thumbs ritual of the anus on Paul, of if thats just the way he looks:

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Here’s another rare photo, taken shortly after the release of Sgt Pepper the FF is seen sending a secret message. Notice Ringo’s horrified gaze as he realizes what he’s done:

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Harnessing this ancient magic the moptops eagerly entered the studio, armed the the teeth. 129 days later, the mission was over and never again would the four wear whiskers at the same time, its power too intense too keep under control.

Even though the FF had shorn its shaggy shackles, the power of the ‘stache still held sway over this release. Critics suddenly lost their minds. The Times critic Kenneth Tynan described Sgt. Pepper as “a decisive moment in the history of Western civilization.” Geoffrey Stokes noted, “listening to the Sgt. Pepper album one thinks not simply of the history of popular music but the history of this century.”

Timothy Leary went as far as to proclaim, “I declare that the beatles are divine messiahs. The wisest, holiest, most effective Avatars that the human race has yet produced. My thesis is a simple one. It is my contention that John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Start are mutants, prototypes of a new young race of laughing Freemen. Evolutionary agents sent by god, endowed with the mysterious power to create a new human species.”

The power was truly out of control. By the thousands people heard this musical incantation and suddenly began to sprout beards, hair grew longer, women grew armpit hair, even ordinary carpets turned into shag rugs seemingly overnight. Burt Reynolds was getting work. Something had to be done.

The few remaining minds of the music community who were unscathed got together realized there wasn’t much time left, and decided there was only course of action. It wasn’t going to be pleasant, and it was going to forever alter the state of music.

To bring the world back from the brink of destruction they choose six soldiers brave and strong enough to absorb and transform the energy, dispersing it into dancing crowds in the form of endorphines, forever muting its effect.

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This is how the beatles were responsible for disco.

Reason # 4234 – Corn Flakes, Mind control, and Manipulation

John Lennon was inspired to write Good Morning, Good Morning by watching a Kellogg’s Corn Flakes Commercial. It made its way onto the hugely popular Sgt Peppers album. He found the catchy jingle irritating enough to make a song from to irritate the entire world.

Another Corn Flake inspired masterpiece came in the form of I am The Walrus.
Listen to this rare outtake as an example of how far Lennon would go to push the public in whatever direction he fancied.

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This particular version was scrapped for being much too blatant. Besides, they didn’t hold enough shares in Kellogg’s to make this pitch worthwhile. The beatles had more important things to sell, mainly themselves.

But really, advertising is the only reason this band exists today at all.

Does it strike you at all odd that when the Anthology Volumes 1 & 2 were released a few years back it made headlines internationally? Think about it, the same old shit you already own on cd, plus some outtakes and b-sides that have never been good enough to be released or played on the air to this day. That’s news?
How about the fact that to coincide with this release there was a six hour network TV broadcast on several channels?(available for purchase now) You would have to be an idiot to think this is all coincidence, goodwill, good timing, or even public interest.
It was a six hour infomercial!
If they wanted to sell you a beatle juicer and a beatle butt-plug, you would have bought those too.

This was a merciless, overwhelming assault on the general public for the sole purpose of putting more crap by these fake rock icons on the bestseller shelves. It didn’t start there, and it didn’t stop there. The entire reason for beatlemania in the first place was a well executed, well thought out, multi-billion dollar advertising blitz. Actors were paid to faint during their concerts and help incite the young crowds, their posters were hung in every record store and on every corner, their faces on the cover of every magazine, and when they travelled to the US they were already huge stars. In 1964…..WITHOUT EVEN RELEASING ANYTHING!

THEY HADN’T EVEN BEEN PLAYED ON THE RADIO YET!!!!

BEATLEMANIA WAS CREATED TO SELL MEET THE BEATLES IN AMERICA!

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Once again, if you think I’m making this up, here is a copy of the original December 1963 Capitol Records memo for sales managers and regional managers, outlining the initial “Beatles Campaign”. Click to open and read it for yourself, friends.

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I especially like the National Record News section on page two, where they describe how they created a magazine to promote the beatles with a four page spread. Here’s the excerpt:

“NATIONAL RECORD NEWS – BEATLE ISSUE”
Publicity Director Fred Martin has concocted a simply marvelous vehicle for spreading the Beatle story. It’s a four-page tabloid newspaper which looks deceptively legitimate. But of course it’s our doing, and all it contains is picture after picture and story after story on the Beatles.

You’ll be getting huge quantities of this tabloid. How to exploit it? Send bulk copies to major retailers for distribution to consumers. Offer bulks to jocks for give-away. But most important, make arrangements with local high schoolers to distribute them to fellow students after school (check with George Gerken on those arrangements).
The idea is to get as many copies of this tabloid as possible into the hands of potential Beatle buyers. Don’t, under any circumstances, end up with any large quantities of this tabloid sitting in your back room. They won’t help there!

Unless people wake up, the FF marketing campaign will never stop and the beatles will continue to exist as everybody’s favorite commodity. If you have to listen to them, at least know why you bought the albums. Love. Beatles Naked. Beatles One. Think about it, thats all I ask.

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In the words of the immortal John Lennon: “The Queen’s intelligent. It won’t spoil her cornflakes.”

Reason # 391 – Sing it Children

There are some pretty amazing covers on this album, but in my opinion nothing comes as close to perfection as this incredible cover of Sgt Pepper. There’s not much add here, I think the music speaks for itself.

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Bill Cosby Sings Hooray for the Salvation Army Band!


I discovered this album on the great Music For Maniacs Blog.