WHY IS SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND SUCH A BFD?
Posted January 6, 2004
As anyone who wasn't there might, fellow Blogcritic Mark Boudreau wonders what the big deal is about Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band?
Fair enough- there is quite a bit of carrying on about this thing. After all, it's just an album.
Let me take a humble crack at explaining it.
Sgt. Pepper had a unique impact somewhat apart from the specific content. There are a few albums in rock music that are as good or perhaps even marginally greater [though it'd be hard to be MUCH greater than this classic]. There are at least three or four different Beatle albums that you could argue were the greatest.
All votes for Revolver will be counted. It may be more consistent. You might reasonably argue that there were maybe a couple of songs on Pepper that were merely quite good, not immortal classics. "Getting Better" and "Good Morning" come to mind.
Sgt Pepper, however, was a special moment, the Beatles official coming out as artistes. They were rapidly becoming more sophisticated and experimental over their last couple of albums, but Pepper took this meta-idea to another level. It's not just that it had some good songs, but some combination of things here changed the way a lot of people thought about music like very few other albums have.
As to being a "concept album," Pepper was certainly that. It would be problematic to come up with a simple sentence to communicate the concept though, because the concept is not a simple story line. Nor would that necessarily be an impressive concept.
Pepper does, however, have some kind of unique cohesion and sound. It sounds like Pepper, not like Rubber Soul or Abbey Road. They had a unique combination of sounds and influences here, even within the Beatles own work. They mixed in particularly a lot of odd reflections of the English music hall/vaudeville types of songs and archaic old-timey sentiments. "When I'm Sixty-Four" of course is always cited, but consider also the sad sentimentality of "She's Leaving Home" as well. "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" plays into that general old time show biz feel.
There were people making cohesive album statements before the Beatles. Frank Sinatra comes to mind, for starters. In the Wee Small Hours, for example, rates as at least as much of a concept album as anything the Beatles did.
Nonetheless, the Beatles brought a new type of consciousness to all this. In some odd way, the release of Sgt Pepper's initiated a kind of paradigm shift in popular music, different expectations about what music could sound like and still be popular. Before SP, popular music was fun stuff for the kids. Afterwards, it was ART. After this, it was not enough to say that a record had a good beat and you could dance to it. Not that that was always a good thing, but there it was.
Partly that might be giving the album a bit more credit than it deserves on the direct artistic merits. Why this and not Pet Sounds, say? Partly the Beatles were lucky here with being in the right place with the right album at the right time. They were making this big statement when the world was ready to hear it.
On the other hand, who would deserve such a historic recognition for so changing the popular consciousness more than the Beatles? I don't know how much of it was this particular album, but the Beatles overall certainly did more than anyone else in their generation to change the way the public overall thought about music, what it was even supposed to be about or try to accomplish.
BEATLES PICTURE COLLECTION - 100 pages PAGE 1 PAGE 2 PAGE 3 PAGE 4 PAGE 5 PAGE 6 PAGE 7 PAGE 8 PAGE 9 PAGE 10 PAGE 11 PAGE 12 PAGE 13 PAGE 14 PAGE 15 PAGE 16 PAGE 17 PAGE 18 PAGE 19 PAGE 20 PAGE 21 PAGE 22 PAGE 23 PAGE 24 PAGE 25 PAGE 26 PAGE 27 PAGE 28 PAGE 29 PAGE 30 PAGE 31 PAGE 32 PAGE 33 PAGE 34 PAGE 35 PAGE 36 PAGE 37 PAGE 38 PAGE 39 PAGE 40 PAGE 41 PAGE 42 PAGE 43 PAGE 44 PAGE 45 PAGE 46 PAGE 47 PAGE 48 PAGE 49 PAGE 50 PAGE 51 PAGE 52 PAGE 53 PAGE 54 PAGE 55 PAGE 56 PAGE 57 PAGE 58 PAGE 59 PAGE 60 PAGE 61 PAGE 62 PAGE 63 PAGE 64 PAGE 65 PAGE 66 PAGE 67 PAGE 68 PAGE 69 PAGE 70 PAGE 71 PAGE 72 PAGE 73 PAGE 74 PAGE 75 PAGE 76 PAGE 77 PAGE 78 PAGE 79 PAGE 80 PAGE 81 PAGE 82 PAGE 83 PAGE 84 PAGE 85 PAGE 86 PAGE 87 PAGE 88 PAGE 89 PAGE 90 PAGE 91 PAGE 92 PAGE 93 PAGE 94 PAGE 95 PAGE 96 PAGE 97 PAGE 98 PAGE 99 PAGE 100
Jody Rosen on Sgt Pepper
Commissar Pepper's Behavioral Think Tank Band
The Beatles Are Masters of the Universe
Music Sustains the Soul
Culpepper Log [updated frequently]