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:
"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
"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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sgt._Pepper
So, Happy 40th Birthday, Sgt. Pepper. Many you have many more.
Long may you rock.