ARTIST: THE BEATLES
ALBUM: SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND
This Sunday (January 6th) at 9pm, you’re invited to share a listening session with some likeminded souls, wherever you might be. This can be experienced either alone or communally, and you don’t need to leave the comfort of your own home to participate. If it’s not possible to make the allotted time, hopefully you can join in at your convenience at some point during the following weeks. See update here:
Starting the year in style, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ isn’t just a classic album, but one of the great artistic statements of the 20th century - its impact and influence, on a whole variety of areas of art and culture, can’t be understated. It was released in June 1967 and was the soundtrack of the fabled ‘Summer Of Love’, when psychedelia exploded out of the underground and into mainstream consciousness via the hippie movement, with The Beatles right in the eye of the hurricane. What makes it such a major artistic statement is that it was absolutely of its time, whilst, paradoxically, remaining timeless, its aural innovation still taking the breath away over 45 years on. What makes this all the more remarkable is that the album was recorded onto just 4 channels of tape – nowadays, in the digital age, people have unlimited scope when it comes to recording, allowing infinite possibilities, whereas, at the time, The Beatles were confined to an extremely narrow canvas (although 4 track recording was state of the art back then). In order to layer the sounds in the way they did, the band, expertly guided, as always, by producer George Martin, would record various parts onto different tracks, before ‘bouncing’ them together (combining them) onto a separate track, thus freeing up space for further recording, this process continuing back and forth until they’d built up their finished soundscapes. This YouTube clip provides the perfect illustration, breaking the title track down to 3 of its individual channels, before showing all 4 tracks playing together. The drums, the bass and some guitars bounced together on the green track, more guitars and brass on the blue, vocals on red (McCartney’s lead majestic I must say), and the sound effects of the orchestra warm up and crowd noises recorded on yellow:
So much has been written about ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’, it’s a whole subject within itself, as the numerous books about it have borne out, and, given its cultural implications, very much a part of history. It’s the centre-piece of The Beatles’ career, and the key to understanding what happened back then – suffice to say that all roads lead to and from ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’, the ultimate 60’s symbol.
Growing up in the 60’s, The Beatles’ music was always around me, but I never actually got to own a copy of this album until many years later, when I was in my mid-20’s. I remember borrowing copies off a few friends here and there when I was in my early teens, but I never got around to buying it myself. This would finally be remedied in 1985, soon after I met my now wife, Tracey, following a remark I’d made to her – I’d mentioned that of all the records I owned I didn’t have a copy of one of my all-time favourite LP’s, which was ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’. I’d stopped deejaying by this point, and was happily discovering / re-discovering all sorts of music I rarely found the time to listen to when I was so embroiled in the club world – it was a musically liberating time for me. Anyhow, the next day, Tracey turned up with a copy of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’, which she’d kindly bought as a present for me, setting the wheels in motion for my subsequent trainspotter-like obsession with The Beatles, which continues to this day (albeit nothing like to the extreme it was at in the mid-late 80’s period when I greedily devoured everything I could read, see and hear about them).
Within weeks I’d bought pretty much everything The Beatles had ever recorded, and had also read my first of literally hundreds of books relating to the band and associated 60’s subjects (this was Philip Norman’s 1981 Beatle’s biography, ‘Shout!’). The more I learned, the deeper it went, and I soon understood why such a weighty term as phenomenon is attributed to the four lads from Liverpool, across the river from where I grew up, who, as the legend tells us, ‘shook the world’.
Your own thoughts are always welcomed, and, should you join us for Sunday’s session, it’d be great if you could leave a comment here after you’ve listened to the album sharing your impressions – how the music affected you, who you listened to it with, where you were, plus anything else relevant to your own individual / collective experience.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Wikipedia: