Today's Yer Birthday: The Beatles' "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" Turns 48!


It was 68 years ago today that Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play.

It was 48 years ago that the Beatles released the now-iconic album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and changed pop music forever.

Of course, with each album prior to that, they'd also changed pop music, so, in one sense, Sgt. Pepper was very much business-as-usual for the Fab Four.

Would they have made such an album if not for the Beach Boys releasing Pet Sounds the year prior?

If they'd have been based in the U.S., where that album met with complete indifference, probably not, but the album's critical acclaim and immediate chart success in the UK was such that the Beatles could not ignore the buzz coming from all corners. Of course, Lennon and McCartney had been privy to an advance listening session prior to its release and had been impressed by what they heard, but the album's UK success was arguably a motivating factor.

Ironically, Brian Wilson had been inspired to create Pet Sounds after listening to the Beatles' Rubber Soul in '65, saying at one point, "When I heard Rubber Soul, I said, 'That's it. That's all. That's all folks.' I said, 'I'm going to make an album that's really good, I mean really challenge me.' I mean, I love that fucking album, I cherish that album."

That's probably only half true, however, as the sessions for Pet Sounds had begun five months prior to the release of Rubber Soul, but the album's impact on Wilson certainly revealed itself in the psychedelic overtones of Pet Sounds.



In the years since the release of Sgt Pepper, I have heard literally hundreds of people say "Oh, that was the album that made my parents fans of the band." This is said as if otherwise stodgy parental units finally got hip to the mop tops when, in fact, the Beatles were creating songs that were intentionally reminiscent of the songs they heard their parents listening to growing up.

"When I'm 64", "Fixing A Hole", and "Lovely Rita", among others, harken back to a time before rock & roll. albeit with the sort of extensive overdubbing that could only be performed on the new eight-track recording machines the Beatles were using for the first time. The result was an album that embraced the future as well as the past and presented it all in amazing three-dimensional stereo sound.

Even now, the album's clarity is spellbinding: Its many sonic bells and whistles saunter in and out from all angles, it seems, creating a sense of space for the lyrical events in each song to play out in the listener's mind. That, more than anything, is what makes this album such a work of genius and enables it to continue to stand as a shining example of pop song-craft and multi-track recording techniques almost 50 years after its release.



Of course, the playing's not too shabby either. These days, when there is a video clip emerges of an artist's isolated performance, it is usually to show how terrible their performance had been and how unworthy they may be of their high perch in the industry, but, in the case of the Beatles, such isolated tracks reveal further genius not so easily evident within the context of the final mix, such as the isolated bass and drums on "A Day In The Life" or McCartney's superbly tasteful bass playing on "Lovely Rita".

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