The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – Classic Music Review

Readers of this blog know the utter disdain I feel towards Rolling Stone, the magazine for self-important music reviewers and aging rock aficionados. Their 100 Greatest Guitarists List made me want to vomit, as did their cover, “The Genius of Eminem.”

Given my opinion of that rag’s agenda and its stable of pompous music critics, you could have knocked me over with a feather when I read their review of Sgt. Pepper. I actually agreed with it! Well, most of it, anyway.

As the saying goes, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

The truly self-important and hip music reviewers tend to dis Sgt. Pepper. It’s much cooler to pick Revolver as the Beatles’ best album, just like it’s more politically correct to choose In Utero over Nevermind. I’ve seen some top 100 lists where Sgt. Pepper is down in the low 40’s due to this urge to be so above it all. Even George Martin liked Abbey Road better, no doubt because he felt guilty for pulling “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” from Sgt. Pepper to satisfy EMI’s demand for a single, and miffed that McCartney used someone else to arrange the strings on “She’s Leaving Home.”

Well, I’m here to set the record straight, return the Earth to its proper orbit and ensure that the opinions of the powerful and misguided do not obliterate the truth.

Sgt. Pepper isn’t the Beatles best album. It’s the best fucking album ever recorded, by anybody, ever.

I want readers to pay attention to the precision of that statement. It says, “ever recorded,” not “made” or “created.” Sgt. Pepper is the ultimate masterpiece of the recording arts, particularly given the near-impossibility of capturing all the sounds you hear on a positively primitive 4-track system. Sgt. Pepper is an aural delight, especially when heard in original analog stereo. The sounds the Beatles and the Martin-Emerick team wheedled out of ancient 4-track technology have never been matched for sheer originality, power to delight or warm beauty.

In terms of theme, Sgt. Pepper achieves what it set out to achieve. The structure is based on a “performance” by the fictional Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, a device that allows the Beatles to divorce themselves from their moptop identities and experiment with new possibilities in music. Because they had quit touring, it was also a way to redefine “performance,” making studio performance a valid alternative to the concert hall or sports stadium. As a fundamental declaration of freedom from the restrictive insanity of Beatlemania, Sgt. Pepper was a conscious and deliberate effort by a group exceptionally gifted musicians to devote themselves primarily to music creation. Though not a concept album per se, few other works in rock musical history are so seamlessly unified. John Lennon said it best, albeit with his typical love of exaggeration: “Every other song could have been on any other album.” While it would be mental gymnastics of the highest order to imagine “Happiness is a Warm Gun” on Beatles for Sale, the songs on Sgt. Pepper do belong there and nowhere else.

However, when I look at the album’s content and consider the quality of the songs themselves, I can’t give the album the same unequivocal endorsement I give to the quality of its recording. The reason is somewhat ironic, for Sgt. Pepper is often dismissed by the more artistic types in rock music (such as David Bowie) as “Paul’s album.”

I wonder, “Were these people listening to the same record?” Paul may have had the idea for the Sgt. Pepper structure, but Paul’s songs are actually the weakest of the bunch. In terms of quality, Paul’s best album is clearly Revolver, where he consistently knocked it out of the park. The best songs on Sgt. Pepper are John Lennon’s. In the eighteen months following the release of Revolver up to the unfortunate journey to India, John was as hot as a songwriter can get. “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “A Day in the Life,” (with Paul’s assist in the middle) and “I Am the Walrus” all qualify as enduring masterpieces. I would rather have written just one of those songs than win the fucking lottery. Even his so-called lesser songs on Sgt. Pepper are compelling and absolutely delightful.

I love listening to Sgt. Pepper in a single sit-down, on vinyl. Its integrated wholeness is essential to appreciating the work, which may explain its loss of popularity in our hurried times. Sgt. Pepper is not your best choice if you’re looking for three-minute aural gratification or something to listen to while you perspire on the elliptical machine. Like Thick is a Brick or Wish You Were Here or Kid A, Sgt. Pepper is best appreciated by listening to in its entirety and giving it your full attention.

When the album begins, you’re surrounded by the sound of a concert hall filled with pre-performance chatter and a violinist warming up bow and fingers. We then hear the band kick in, but what’s interesting is what doesn’t happen before the Beatles get into gear. The band is already on stage, but the crowd pays no attention to them—there’s no welcoming applause. We know if this was a recording of the real Beatles in a real auditorium, the sound filling our ears would have been a thousand decibels of screaming girls. The fact that the band receives no welcome at all means the crowd hasn’t the slightest idea who these jokers are and probably assumes they’re just the warm-up act. Remember, the Beatles used Sgt. Pepper to escape the burden of expectations that came with being Beatles, and having the crowd completely ignore them reinforces their quest for an identity distinct from the brand.

I have to say I’ve never cared for George’s riff in the opening; it sounds a little ratty and substandard to me. That slight disappointment is soothed by the absolute commitment you hear in Paul’s opening vocal and the perfect insertion of applause, a crisp introduction from the horn section and the equally perfect placement of crowd laughter. They really hook me with the harmonies and rhythms of the verses, emphasizing the blue notes to add a little pzazz to the mix. The intensity is eased a bit when John steps to the mike for his bridge lines, but the horn-accompanied crescendo brings us to a new peak where Paul takes over. He really nails the last verse, sounding genuinely thrilled to announce “the one and only Billy Shears.” Then we hear the screams as Billy Shears arrives on stage to another thrilling crescendo.

After an understated lead-in, Ringo launches into “With a Little Help from My Friends,” the quintessential Ringo song. He is in exceptionally fine voice, singing with confidence and command. Paul’s bass part is both incredibly fluid and melodic, driving the song with superb punctuation. The use of call-and-response vocals reaffirms the presence of the Sgt. Pepper band while adding charm to the production. And isn’t it funny how often the Beatles’ most memorable lyrics make no sense at all?

What do you see when you turn out the light?
I can’t tell you but I know it’s mine.

I love that couplet and I can’t begin to explain why. I want to give Ringo extra kudos for holding that note at the end, as I know it demanded every fiber of his body, soul and throat.

Now I imagine the stage light palette changing to one of gentle swirling pastels as the enchanting sound of an organ rigged to sound like a surreal celeste introduces “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” We’ll skip the stupid “the-song-title-stands-for-LSD” controversy, a piece of hoo-hah I find deeply offensive as it detracts from what is a truly magical song that captures the unbounded innocence of a child’s imagination (enhanced with a bit of Lewis Carroll). The evocative imagery is true to the workings of a mind uncontaminated by years of formal education:

Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain
Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies
Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers
That grow so incredibly high

The soundscape painted by the Martin-Emerick team is the aural manifestation of magic. Despite the use of three different keys and two different time signatures, “Lucy” flows like a cool, clean stream with graduated intensity applied to each succeeding chorus. When we get to the final chorus, the harmonies and supporting instruments merge to bring the listener to a state of ecstasy and trigger the overwhelming urge to sing along, alternating between John’s melodic line and Paul’s high harmony. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” is a proudly triumphant and defiant song—defiant because it challenged the general perception of Lennon as the witty, cynical one. “Lucy in the Sky of Diamonds” allowed him to display his sensitive and sensuous side, one too often masked behind false bravado throughout his career.

We now get three Paul songs in a row, but it’s noteworthy that all three are placed in less-than-optimal slots on the album. And this was supposed to be Paul’s album? The first is “Getting Better,” with a sophisticated arrangement featuring an oomph-filled bass line from McCartney and perfectly-placed drone effects. It’s the one “Paul song” on the album that I unequivocally endorse, and I’m stunned that some have dismissed “Getting Better” as another happy-clappy Paul song rescued only by Lennon’s snarky insertion that “it can’t get much worse.” Do the people who propagate these myths actually listen to the songs they’re mythologizing? How on earth can anyone dismiss the lyrics on “Getting Better” as sunny side up when it contains lines like this?

I used to be cruel to my woman
I beat her and kept apart from the things that she loved
Man I was mean but I’m changing my scene
And I’m doing the best that I can

Only in a society in complete denial about domestic violence against women could someone categorize “Getting Better” as “cute.” Beating up a woman isn’t fucking cute.

Perceptive readers will conclude that if I only care for one “Paul song,” that means I don’t care much for “Fixing a Hole,” which is true. I admire the general soundscape and the subtle chord changes you hear in the opening lines of the verses (a series of variations on F and F minor), but the song itself goes nowhere (unless you characterize repairing a leak and bitching about fans camping outside your door as a spiritual journey). “Fixing a Hole” is the part of the program where I fidget in my seat and study the faces in the crowd around me.

“She’s Leaving Home” is the part of the program where I get up and go to the ladies room. Oh, how I loathe this fucking song. Running away from home was becoming a too common and frightening occurrence during the mid-60’s as bright teenagers figured out that suburban life was death covered in stucco. Rather than approach the song from the existential experience of the runaway in a first-person narrative—which might have been very interesting—McCartney gives us a predictable soap opera with stock characters mouthing cliché lines (Lennon “helped” with the lyrics, so shame on him, too). One piece of the song I do like is the call-and-response between Paul and John in the chorus, which is well-executed and perfectly engineered. I was astonished to read Ned Rorem’s comment that “She’s Leaving Home” is “equal to any song that Schubert wrote.” As a Schubert aficionado who spent a good chunk of her teenage years practicing Schubert lieder on the piano, all I can say is “Ned, get your ears checked.”

I pop back in my seat just in time for Lennon’s “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.” Actually, I should say George Martin’s “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” for Lennon played the role of CEO telling his hired help, “George, I want to smell the sawdust on the floor” and George and Geoff took care of the rest. I love the swirling sounds and the breathy calliope, and the act of snipping up the tape with scissors, throwing the pieces in the air and reassembling them to achieve that sawdust smell is a great story that exemplifies the explorer’s spirit that pervades Sgt. Pepper.

Side two opens with the only one of George’s compositions to make it to the finals, “Within You, Without You.” The ultimate marriage of raga and rock, I wasn’t surprised when four decades later Liam Gallagher convinced brother Noel that “Within You, Without You” would make a great live rock song. Replace tambura and sitar with droning distortion and thumping drums and voilà! What I love about “Within You, Without You” is that it successfully captures the mysticism at its lyrical core while broadening and reinforcing the sound palette used on Sgt. Pepper. Its placement as the first track on side two was an inspired choice, as it soothes the senses after the intensity of “Mr. Kite” while opening new pathways in the “performance.”

Now we get to McCartney “cute.” First, let me admit that I do love the clarinet trio in “When I’m Sixty-Four,” and John and George’s backing vocals send chills of delight through my hyperactive spine. But really, this is a corny song spruced up from their Cavern days and seems too insignificant a piece to appear on Sgt. Pepper.

I also have to say I’m not much of a fan of Paul’s “Lovely Rita” either. I find the melody awkward, the story quaint and the sound effect fade rather tedious. I’m happy it’s on the album, if only to confirm my theory that no, Sgt. Pepper was not Paul’s album. Imagine what Sgt. Pepper could have been by replacing two out of three of Paul’s contributions (“Lovely Rita” and “Fixing a Hole”) with “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane.” It certainly would have meant we never would have wasted time debating which album was the greatest album in history.

Lennon comes to the rescue with “Good Morning, Good Morning,” which features a beefy brass section, appropriately dry-and-droll Lennon lyrics and vocal, and a rhythmic pattern that can only be described as “intuitive,” with expected beats and bars dropping like flies. Musicologists have studied the song intensely, mapping out the beats and measures with precision, but let us remember that this was written by a guy who couldn’t tell 5/4 from 4/4 to save his life. I can do without the animal noises at the end, except for the closing sound of the chicken that cues the Sgt. Pepper reprise, a snappier version of the opener powered by Ringo’s steady beat and George’s driving guitar.

The reprise may be the shortest piece on the album, but one of the most important. Obviously, it brings things full circle from a musical perspective, giving us a sense of overall unity. Even more importantly, the return of the audience reminds us of the basic premise of Sgt. Pepper as a performance—a performance that would have been impossible in 1967 because of the ear-shattering cacophony of Beatlemania and the vast chasm between what was possible to reproduce on stage and the more expansive sonic possibilities within the studio. The Beatles wanted to show the world what they were really capable of beyond the limitations of hero-worship and stadium acoustics, and it is more than appropriate that they reprise the intro and take a final bow near the end of what has been a truly courageous effort.

The reprise also serves the necessary transition to the grand finale, one of The Beatles’ greatest contributions to the musical arts, a masterpiece quite unlike any other.

The sounds of the cheering crowd fade into the background while the spare sound of a single acoustic guitar rises to the foreground, soon to be joined by piano and bass. When Lennon sings the iconic opening line of “A Day in the Life,” he holds our undivided attention with a superbly detached vocal clearly separated from the piano and bass accompaniment in the sound field. Ringo doesn’t enter the picture until the second verse with an unobtrusive but remarkable descending progression from snare to toms that ends with a faint cymbal crash. Everything is designed to focus our attention on the lyrics and their interwoven theme of fame through death, always accompanied by the curious, faceless crowd and their mindless speculation:

I read the news today, oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well I just had to laugh
I saw the photograph.

He blew his mind out in a car
He didn’t notice that the red lights had changed
A crowd of people stood and stared
They’d seen his face before
Nobody was really sure
If he was from the House of Lords.

The laughter in the verse expresses the truth that we pay far more attention to people when they die than we do when they’re alive . . . the ultimate insult in the cycle of human depersonalization.

The second verse uses John’s acting gig in How I Won the War as the germ of the idea, but films about WWII were common fare in the two decades after the Japanese surrender. The pattern of glorifying a bloody past through film is coming to an end (even the crowds are tired of it), and new possibilities present themselves to those who choose to open their minds and “turn on.”

I saw a film today, oh boy
The English army had just won the war
A crowd of people turned away
But I just had to look
Having read the book
I’d love to turn you on.

At this point, the underlying madness of a society spinning out of control is depicted in the dissonant orchestral crescendo passage—the sound of life-as-we-know-it becoming unhinged, an ever-expanding accumulation of modern anxieties. We are surrounded by this force constantly, but choose to ignore it through the narcotic effects of the daily news, of films, of music . . . of what we believe constitutes “normal.” And while our daily routine reinforces the façade of predictability, the line between consciousness and the unconscious is both thin and fragile:

Woke up, fell out of bed,
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup,
And looking up I noticed I was late.

Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat
Found my way upstairs and had a smoke,
Somebody spoke and I went into a dream.

The last verse features greater syncopation through a more active piano and complementary percussion. You will rarely find a clearer expression of the absurdity of modern human activity than that depicted in the third verse of “A Day in the Life.” We seem to have become a species obsessed with the pursuit of useless knowledge, of faux wisdom passed on by an invisible “they”:

I read the news today oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.
I’d love to turn you on.

One more maddening crescendo leads us to the crashing E-chord, extended for forty-five uncomfortable seconds as we attempt to process the meaning of it all—the words, the music, our lives. “A Day in the Life” simply had to end the performance, because really, what on earth could follow it?

While I have bemoaned the inclusion of a few tracks, Sgt. Pepper must be evaluated holistically. In that light, Sgt. Pepper is completely engaging, deeply satisfying and capable of amazing the listener again and again. I often talk about the necessity of commitment in the arts, and there is no question that the Beatles, George Martin and Geoff Emerick gave this everything they had—their hearts, their souls, their imaginations. Today, your average moke could probably do a fair approximation of Sgt. Pepper’s soundscape on Garage Band, but no one will ever be able to reproduce the feeling of ecstatic creative energy you hear in the Beatles’ masterwork.

37 responses

  1. I am very late to the game here, but enjoy your reviews immensely. Couldn’t agree more on the White Album review (Recently, I took flak on social media for suggesting it would be a much better album if one removed all the songs about animals).

    The beauty of Sgt. Peppers, as a whole, is there IS a theme: lonely hearts. Every character in every song is undergoing a very personal journey, marked by either sadness or detachment. I have yet to read any reviews of the album that capture this consistency (nor have I seen any Beatle claim that this was purposeful, though it seems so obvious, once you see it). Outside of the title track & reprise, which declare and summarize the theme:

    – With a Little Help from My Friends: a lonely guy in his room at night recognizes he can’t survive on his own
    – Lucy in the Sky: a solitary daydreamer living vicariously through someone else
    – Getting Better: obviously, a wife beater has some issues
    – Fixing a Hole: captures the doldrums of the working man. Can AltRockChick see the similarities here with the spirit of many Kinks songs?
    – Mr. Kite: he must be in some sorry shape, if they’re throwing a benefit for him
    – Within You: you don’t need other people… but they don’t need you, either
    – When I’m 64: maybe there’s hope for me in the future, even though today sucks
    – Lovely Rita: an obsessive observer doesn’t know how to approach his true love… a lonely heart, if there ever was one
    – Good morning: nothing to do to save his life… he’s done

    And, of course, A Day in the Life, the melancholy and is-that-all-there-is of life, which you captured so eloquently in your review.

    Am I crazy to see this? I don’t think it’s a reach.

    As for Revolver, some great songs and originality for its time, but I don’t see how it has become so revered. It’s an incredibly important stepping stone, and a good listen, but not better than Peppers. Maybe not even better than Rubber Soul, which was an equally or possibly more important stepping stone.

    Thanks for the reviews!

  2. I unequivocally agree with you 💯

  3. It was a terribly unfortunate decision to gut Sgt Peppers by making two truly great songs (Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields) a single rather than preserving them for the album. But for that, Sgt Pepper would preserve its reputation, rather than diminishing in importance over time. A great album still, but some of the songs are lumpen and leaden (the chorus of LSD, the arrangement of Good Morning). Revolver remains my Beatles album of choice, a suite of generally strong songs without the pretence of an overall concept. It was all down hill from here (although you make a good case for the US compilation, MMT).

  4. Interesting that you would open this post with raves about Sgt. Pepper’s and then continue slamming it. How is it that the best album ever recorded contains so many filler, boring songs that make you fidget in your seat, look around, even go to the ladies room! Really?

    I think that Sgt. Pepper’s might be one of the best albums ever, but in order to experience how great it really is, you need to hear it properly. I remember how excited I was back in 2009 when they cleaned up and remastered the Beatles catalog. I immediately bought the stereo box set, and of course, the first thing I did after opening it was sit down and listen very carefully, with baited breath, to the freshly remastered Sgt. Pepper’s. And then — flop!

    I remember being seriously underwhelmed by the experience. This is it? I was expecting a miracle, but I just couldn’t get into the groove; I felt that Sgt. Pepper’s had aged badly, and that now it’s merely a period piece.

    Fast forward to the present time, where I have made a switch from listening to digital music to listening to vinyl. I made sure to get a really good, high quality gear. But I didn’t stop there — I also spent some money on getting a good record cleaning machine (RCM). Then I went back and thoroughly cleaned my old Sgt. Pepper’s LP. Set down for a listen and wow! Totally blown away!

    That record is a real masterpiece, but you need to make an effort to really hear it on a high quality stereo system. Listening to it in a digital format (CD, or FLAC) is like trying to enjoy a Van Gogh or Rembrandt painting that is displayed under some pale, coloured lighting. Of course you’d walk away unimpressed. It is only under natural lighting that you can truly appreciate those masterpieces.

    So in that light, I can now claim that there isn’t a weak song on that album. All Paul’s songs are magnificent, there isn’t a single boring second on the entire LP. It is an amazing kaleidoscope that needs to be heard on good vinyl pressing to be fully understood. If I now go back to listen to the CD version, my heart breaks, because it really sounds like a stillborn baby. So forget about digital version of Pepper and go to the very source of wisdom — a good old pressing of the album, thoroughly cleaned and played on high quality stereo.

    1. I’ve never heard the digital version of Sgt. Pepper. My father, in an unusual act of foresight, bought five copies of Sgt. Pepper the day it came out. He’s on his fourth copy (one is still wrapped) and that’s the one I used to write this review.

      The distinction between recording quality and song quality is not an unusual distinction. Many albums today are recorded well from a technical perspective, but are filled with crappy songs. Muswell Hillbillies has great songs but is poorly recorded. As stated in the review, I feel that Paul’s songs are simply not as strong as those on Revolver, and you’re more than welcome to disagree. I don’t think it’s necessary to like all the songs on an album to consider it a great album; I don’t like all the songs on Revolver, but it’s certainly one of the greatest records ever made.

      1. Perhaps it’s better that way — hearing a digital version might break your heart.

        Another question I’d ask is: have you properly cleaned, vacuumed, rinsed, vacuumed again etc. your copy before playing it? Deep cleaning makes a world of difference. My initial listening to the old Sgt. Pepper vinyl was kind of underwhelming. But then I lovingly cleaned it, and my god, the difference was literally night and day!

        Additional question: would you care disclosing your analog chain? Which cartridge are you using, on which tonearm, which turntable, which platter, any platter mats you’re using, record clamp? Also, which phono stage etc.? Those are all quite important in contributing to the full bodied experience when evaluating those songs.

        It’s important to keep in mind that the Beatles (the hardest working folks in the whole of show business) spent months perfecting the sounds they were recording and mixing on Sgt. Peppers. All that insanely intricate, hard work is all but lost if we listen to it on some crappy turntable. So if I was to review their songs, I’d make sure to go out of my way to get not only the best possible pressing (which I’d fully clean before playing it), but also to play it on the highest quality equipment I could get my hands on.

        Same as you, I used to think that “When I’m 64” and “Lovely Rita” were lame write-offs, until I heard them the way they were supposed to be heard. Those songs are awesome, certainly in the same bracket (if not even higher) as “Good Day Sunshine” or “For No One”.

        And just so that you or anyone else don’t think that I am annoyingly gushing and mindlessly praising this creation, here is my opinion on what’s the only downside on this brilliant album — “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite” (gasp!) Definitely the weakest song on the album. Why do I say so? That song is an oddball in the entire Beatles catalog, simply on the fact that it was the first (and the last time ever) that the Beatles have recycled one of their older melodies. One thing that is remarkable about the Beatles is how they never ever repeated themselves; they stand alone in the entire musical cannon with that outstanding feature. So why they chose to recycle the not-so-great melody they recorded on “It’s Only Love”, I’ll never know.

  5. Matheus Bezerra de Lima | Reply

    When McCartney wrote She’s Leaving Home, he played the song to Brian Wilson, that cried and loved the song. Even if the lyrics are not the cleverest ever, still the song have great melody (it is McCartney) and great and beautiful vocal performances and harmonies. The song always strike me with the greek chorus “Sheeeeeeeeeeeee’s”.

    1. I will grant you that—John’s background call-and-response vocals on the chorus are outstanding. I need to note that in my review. Thank you!

  6. Matheus Bezerra de Lima | Reply

    It is interesting to see, even if you don’t agree with all the results.

    1. I don’t believe in rankings. I think the whole idea is silly.

      1. I saw a site in web that made a list of 1000 best albums ever made. Their list was notable because of two things: diversity and because they choiced did not rank the 1000 albums, they just put them in alphabetical order. I will try to find this list and post hereAnyway, it is interesting the ranking of that link that I send before because it was made by Beatles fans and also because many positions in the ranking aren’t common in the specialized list.

  7. “Little Richard plus Chuck Berry plus The Everly Brothers
    Equals The Beatles ” ARC June 2015
    That observation is very true

    The joy that music brings to our lives
    And that shines through Sgt Pepper is true as well.

    My footnote is if you were growing up in NYC in the early seventies
    One could watch a local PBS show called Roundtable ,
    Hosted by Esquire Harold Hayes.
    And once every two weeks he had Critics Corner
    Alexander Cockburn , editor Jack Beatty , writer Jack Richardson , Ned Rorem
    And others commented on everything and anything.

  8. A wonderful appreciation of Sgt. Pepper , The Beatles ,
    And the joy that music brings to our lives.

    The rewrite amplifies ARC comments from June 14 2015
    “Little Richard plus Chuck Berry plus the Every Brothers equals The Beatles”

    The small reference to Ned Rorem lets me make this observation…
    Many ….many years ago the local PBS station gave the long time
    Editor of Esquire magazine Harold Hayes his own interview show called
    Hayes , who brought writers like Vidal , Mailer , Wolfe to a popular audience
    Gave time once every two weeks for a special edition show, where
    He had Critics Corner…Alexander Coburn , Jack Beatty , Jack Richardson ,Ned Rorem
    and others would sound off……it was my first introduction to these people.
    Really opened up my teenage eyes and mind.

    I have enjoyed the blog , and felt you have been on the mark more often
    Than not with your take on music and our culture.

    As I wrote earlier , not easy putting yourself out there.

  9. This is one of those rare cases where I don’t agree with your assessment, and I realize I’m in the minority on this one but… I love the music of 1967. It really was my year of awakening to music, and songs like Good Vibrations, Penny Lane, and Higher and Higher (what a GREAT song!) are among my first radio memories. There were so many fantastic songs and groups at their peak that year. Of course, my older brother bought Sgt.Pepper when it first came out and I’ve probably heard it over 1000 times. Truly, it was quite the record of 1967, and it’s reputation has grown to legendary proportions since. Almost all artists active that year couldn’t stop praising it. I don’t love Sgt. Pepper. Personally, I find at least half of the album uninteresting with songs that do not measure up to the Beatles’ best; there is SO much more music from 1967 that I enjoy more. Sgt. Pepper’s first 3 tracks are top notch, but Fixing a Hole and Getting Better, though OK songs, are filler when compared to most Beatles’ songs of the era. I’ve always thought She’s Leaving Home and, especially, Within You Without You were and are monumentally boring songs. I could imagine Davy Jones singing When I’m 64, and, frankly, I prefer Cuddly Toy (also from 1967) in every way. The album finishes better, but even a Day in the Life tries my patience a bit. I think the over-indulgence of the Beatles in the studio began with Revolver and was already becoming distracting with Sgt. Pepper. I guess I like my Rock and Roll with two guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards, with the occasional horns. I will take Rubber Soul (American version) any day for pure musical enjoyment over Sgt. Pepper. Magical Mystery Tour (American album), though far from perfect, benefits greatly from the era’s singles and is a better listen. I enjoy both of the movie albums (British versions) better than Sgt. Pepper. Hell, I even like the songs on Yellow Submarine better (they use mostly the best songs from Sgt. Pepper and Revolver). Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but this isn’t some revisionist history – I have always felt this way about Sgt. Pepper. I’ve never felt a warm and fuzzy connection to the Beatles (like I do, in general, to the music of 1967), which may explain my lack of willingness to indulge them.

  10. You talked me out of my preference for Revolver in the top spot. The overall structure to Sgt Pepper is wonderful, which puts it up. But I hate “She’s Leaving Home”. It just seems so corny. Lennon’s ghostly echo verses work well, except for their content. I guess I’m looking at the song with hindsight, knowing how so many of these runaways had BAAD experiences.

    I also used to dislike “Within You, Without You” but it has grown on me over the years. I got over thinking of the sitar music as dated sixties kitsch and now just accept it. A great track.

    The song on Revolver (my former top album) that irritates me the most is Dr Robert, the naive infatuation with the drug dealer drives me batty because Lennon was so cynical about almost everything else. I’m fine with the rest of the album. You’re right about the Harrison song being weak, but I still like it better than Dr. Robert.

    The Beatles song that makes me want to put a fork in my eye for relief is Mr Moonlight, which is on neither of these albums. That and “Run for Your Life,” which is just vile, and also not on either Sgt Pepper or Revolver.

    1. Those two are definitely on my worst Beatle song lists!

      1. I’ll go with When I Get Home as among the worst Beatles tracks.

        As for the Revolver vs. Pepper debate, I’m staying with Revolver. Lucy In The Sky is probably a better song than anything on Revolver, but Within You Without You is tedious (if I need Beatles sitar, I’ll listen to The Inner Light), and I’ve always skipped She’s Leaving Home; if you want strings, Eleanor Rigby is far superior. Taxman grabs you first with that otherworldly count in, then grabs you by the throat with the guitar and never lets up. Paul’s lead is among the best ever recorded. I’ll take it over anything Hendrix ever recorded.

        And if that hasn’t pissed off more than a few readers, I’ll also say that It’s All Too Much is The Beatles most underrated song and definitely is on my top 20 Beatles list.

        Happy Saturday.

      2. Someday I’m going to have to grit my teeth and do “Yellow Submarine” for “It’s All Too Much” and “Hey, Bulldog”. I don’t know, perhaps I’ll discover something fascinating in George Martin’s score.

      3. Yes, two killers.

        Have you seen this?

      4. And this is incredible:

      5. Matheus Bezerra de Lima

        I don’t understand this hate for She’s Leaving Home. The song is a perfect theme of the summer love and hippie movement. The effects, vocals and strings are beautiful! The melody is wonderful! I believe that people have problem with prejudices against hippie, but I doubt that someone disliked the track. And the track is not boring. People that think this must be the same that think that albums like In The Wee Small Hours and Only The Lonely, masterpieces with deep and slow songs, are boring.

    2. Matheus Bezerra de Lima | Reply

      I don’t understand this hate for She’s Leaving Home. The song is a perfect theme of the summer love and hippie movement. The effects, vocals and strings are beautiful! The melody is wonderful! I believe that people have problem with prejudices against hippie, but I doubt that someone disliked the track. And the track is not boring. People that think this must be the same that think that albums like In The Wee Small Hours and Only The Lonely, masterpieces with deep and slow songs, are boring.

    3. Matheus Bezerra de Lima | Reply

      John Lennon also hated Run For Your Life, especially because of the stupid lyrics and he deeply regreted writing the song.

    4. I have no doubt that you look at She’s Leaving Home with hindsight. It is a beautiful, lovely song and when I show this songs for non-Beatles fans or non-rock fans, they frequently love it.

  11. I can’t wrap my head around the idea of declaring one album as the best ever recorded. Your review of Sgt. Pepper’s did do one thing for me though. I now need to listen again to this catalog jewel.

    1. I should have chosen my words more carefully and less hyperbolically. I rarely use “best” to describe anything, usually using “my favorite” instead.

  12. I agree 100% this is one of the best albums ever, amen.

  13. […] Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band […]

  14. Wow, you REALLY can write! You’re the female Nick Kent (although much better looking). Curious about what you’ll say/have said about Queen’s A Night At The Opera, which IMO is the Sgt. Pepper of the Seventies.

    1. No chance of seeing a review on Queen—can’t stand them.

      1. Matheus Bezerra de Lima

        But Freddie Mercury at least was a spectacular singer!

    2. You need to look at the list in this post for artists I simply do not care for and will likely never review:

    3. Anyone’s better looking than Nick Kent!

  15. […] the end of the year. To recap, I’ve already published reviews of Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The White Album. I’ll be publishing the rest in order of release date, beginning with […]

  16. I agree completely, although if I HAD to choose, I’d take Revolver over Pepper. But your take on the power of the Pepper tunes as an integrated whole is so right on.

    I bought Pepper in a record store in Berlin on the day it was released. I remember the Bahamian guy who worked there telling me in an island-accented mix of German and English that my life was about to change forever…and being skeptical as he walked me to the glass-walled listening booth. He played side one, I was knocked out, and looking back of course have realized he was right. The album art, the gatefold cover, the inclusion of the lyrics (a first), but mostly the SOUND of it–other-worldly, hypnotic, transcendent…weird.

    AltRockMama, there are master tapes of four of the Pepper tracks floating around the net and elsewhere. They popped up around the time of LOVE, the Vegas thing. You ain’t heard nothin till you’ve heard these four individual tracksthat make up these four songs. Listening to them is almost as revelatory and exhilarating as was listening to the album the first few times. You have my email–for further discussion, if interested, I’m around.

    1. I’m doing Revolver next; it should appear some time in November, so you can make your case then (as you’ll see, it’s a squeaker for me, too). I’ll also try to get Rubber Soul and Abbey Road in before the end of the year. I’ll check out those tapes; right now I’m re-reading Geoff Emerick’s book so the tapes would be a great complement to my reading.

      1. If you can’t find them, email me.

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