Yesterday, on my weekly Saturday afternoon jaunt to Grimey’s, I was greeted by the familiar sounds from the ALBUM pictured below (you really do need the album on this one because of the a-freaking-mazing cover). Of course, considering it was Grimey’s, they were playing a Japanese import version. but all in all, the effect was terrifically transcendental.
(More below the art…)
Ok, I’m going to be boring. I was there. Really. Before the album was officially released, WKDA (rock and roll 1240 on yer AM dial) got a promo version that they played in its entirety at midnight on whatever day they received it. I was 15 years old and owned a cheap tape recorder. I stayed up and taped every song. Soon afterwards, my family went on one of our many trips to the Smokies (we camped in Elkmont every time), and that tape player became an important part of the trip.
My parents quickly tired of Sgt Pepper, while also quickly figuring out that drugs were involved (‘I get high with a little help from my friends’ is not exactly the ‘enigma’ code). I didn’t care if they wanted to toss the tape off the side of Mt. Laconte (where I had a close encounter with a brown bear, but that’s another story..), I literally listened to the tape until it fell apart (not kidding).
If you hear Sgt. Pepper today, you still hear some wonderful tunes, clever songs, and instrumentation that holds up for the most part rather nicely. What you don’t hear is the world changing note by note by note. Nothing the Beatles did beforehand, and nothing in the realm of pop music prepared any of us for Sgt. Pepper. Not just the multi-tracking, the orchestral swells, the animal noises, the not-so-veiled references to LSD, but the whole concept..the package, the derring-do. It was a giant in-your-face to every band in the world who thought they could capture the magic.
Sgt Pepper did beget a lot of flatulence from other so-called art bands following, and the Beatles actually recorded a better album (Revolver), but if you were alive in 1967 and you heard ‘A Day in the Life’ pastiche for the first time (through the 1,000th time), you knew the tectonic plates had shifted. The limits changed overnight.
Thanks again to John, Paul, George and Ringo. Happy 40th, Sgt. Pepper. You DID teach the band to play…