Friday, June 01, 2007

Happy 40th, Sgt. Pepper

It was 40 years ago today that the most influential, and in my opinion, the greatest rock album ever recorded was released to the world: "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

It seems unbelievable that four decades have now passed since the Beatles literally wiped clean and redrew the face of pop music with a classic album that did not have one single on it at all. (Back in the mid-1960s, bands lived and died on the sales of singles, and albums were almost an afterthought to pop groups.)

Sgt. Pepper was the Beatles answer to the Beach Boys "Pet Sounds" album of 1966, which featured the great hit single, "Good Vibrations." The album featured the first lyrics ever printed on an album cover, which would become commonplace afterwards. It featured songs with sound effects, songs with some obvious drug references ("Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" for instance), and the 42-second final chord that ends "A Day In The Life." It is without doubt the most innovative album in history.

The album shook up the music world, and it earned the Beatles the Grammy Award for Best Album, the only Best Album they would ever win. Many fans are of the opinion that "Rubber Soul" or "Revolver" are greater albums, but "Sgt. Pepper" to me is still the Beatles at their absolute best. It still sounds fresh 40 years after it was recorded (and I bet will 100 years from now as well). Local station WAXQ here in New York is playing it in its entirety this noon hour, it's still such a fabulous listen.

Here is Sgt. Pepper's peerless lineup:

Side one
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" – 2:04
"With a Little Help from My Friends" – 2:46
"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" – 3:30
"Getting Better" – 2:49
"Fixing a Hole" – 2:38
"She's Leaving Home" – 3:37
"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" – 2:39

Side two
"Within You Without You" – 5:07
"When I'm Sixty-Four" – 2:37
"Lovely Rita" – 2:44
"Good Morning Good Morning" – 2:43
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)" – 1:20
"A Day in the Life" – 5:33

And it was 20 years ago today that the Sgt. Pepper CD was released, on the 20th anniversary of the album release. I was the pop/rock CD buyer at Tower Records in Greenwich Village back in 1987, and I'll never forget the day it came out. We officially began putting it on sale at midnight on June 1. People started coming in at about 11:30 PM, and we had boxes of CDs to sell. But I told everyone: "Midnight, and not before." I will never forget being on the mezzanine of the store looking at my watch as midnight was approaching. I had dozens of people looking at me to give the word to start handing out the CD (and some dirty looks as well). When my watch hit 12, I gave the word to my clerks to start. It was a great feeling of power. We sold over 100 Sgt. Pepper CDs that night.

For much more on the Sgt. Pepper album:

So, Happy 40th Birthday, Sgt. Pepper. Many you have many more.

Long may you rock.


Suldog said...

"A Day In The Life" blew me away the first time I heard it and also every time since. Amazingly structured song.

Peter N said...

I KNEW you had this post waiting to thrill and chill us! And thank you...I wrote a long comment in the comment portion of the '67 post that my friend guest-authored on my blog. But June 1, many memories. Memories that bring me back to being a kid yet again. Thanks Q! Why? For the Fountain of Youth that your words in this post helped me find. As always! Wow, 40 years, and actually 60 years before that wise man named Sgt. Pepper helped us all by teaching that once-in-a-lifetime band how to play. And wow, THEY PLAYED!

Peter N said...

And because of that, I am a better person........enough with all this seriousness...this is a day to turn up the stereo really loud, and LET IT RIP!!!! Maybe...My choice? Maybe that '67 Beatles LP? Sounds as good as it always did. Thank you for this great post, days like this make me so happy!

Peter N said...

And hi to you, too, Sul, with thoughts of that alarm clock before the break of THAT song.........and I'm smiling!

The Omnipotent Q said...

Thanks for the kind words Peter, as always. Have a great weekend...

And you too, Suldog.

Peter N said...

It's Saturday morning! I'm still in a Sgt. Pepper frame of mind. The TODAY Show just had a segment about the anniversary, but it was filled with a few untrue facts. Here's just one....the Pepper LP was the first to use Dolby Noise reduction....true. The Pepper LP was the first to use "tape loops." No way...Revolver. "Tomorrow Never Knows." Remember the cackling John Lennon birds?....and George's backwards guitar (a first) in John's "I'm Only Sleeping."
It seems Mr. Lennon was always a force before any of us could appreciate the sheer brilliace of the then 26 and 27 year old. WOW...have a great weekend!