The Beatles release Sgt Peppers
The 1st of June 1967 AD
Still for some the greatest rock album of all time, Sgt Pepper changed popular music almost overnight, though it did take well over four months to record. It has since been regularly voted the most significant, best, most innovative and whatever other plaudits you can think of album ever.
The album was of course the product of its time and the circumstances surrounding it. George Harrison was becoming ever more fascinated by Indian music. The band was sick of Beatlemania, and determined to be a studio band in future. Abbey Road studios, increasingly sophisticated technically, were at their command, and the band had the power to demand whatever instruments they fancied using and whatever backing musicians they and George Martin required.
In terms of content too, the pervasive drug culture of the day is reflected in some of the music, and the flower power era is heard – and seen too in the famous sleeve designed by Peter Blake working with his wife Jann Haworth along with art director Robert Fraser and photographer Michael Cooper, cardboard cut-outs and waxworks of the Beatles and their heroes in a colourful and zany scene.
Although others will claim the title of world’s first concept album, Sgt. Pepper was the first such enterprise to gain massive recognition. Initially it was to be about childhood, but it became a somewhat vaguer but still thematically joined project.
In the end it is the power of the songs that made the album great: from the conventional beauty of She’s Leaving Home and Getting Better to the weird Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite via the sentimental When I’m Sixty-Four and With a Little Help from My Friends to the climax of A Day in the Life, arguably the most distinctive and innovative song on the album. It even of course very famously included a run-out groove that Lennon intended to annoy dogs, pitched very high, but that became the subject of fevered debate – was it a subliminal message? Was it obscene? No, it was just a joke, but like everything the Beatles did at that time it was new and news.
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