For me, as of Friday, it will “50 years ago today when Sgt Pepper taught the band to play”.
Friday 26 May will mark 50 years since the British release of the Beatles iconic “Sgt Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band” album.
I can vividly recall my first exposure to this album, where I was and the impact it had on me. The year was 1970 and I was 11 years old. I had never heard anything like it and doubted I would ever again. I had no idea what a concept album was or that this was one.
I was just mesmerised by the music, the lyrics, the story they combined to tell and the cover art – oh the cover.
I played the record over and over and over. I studied the lyrics, interpreting and re-interpreting the words, time and time again. I was captivated by the artwork on the cover; it was all electric and eclectic, realism and abstract; it was everything and then some to this 11 year old.
Every track was unique telling its own musical and lyrical tale that all together, told a story. The music, the words, motivated imagination and the story being relayed, changed daily, weekly, depending on what your imagination was interpreting; it was never the same as it was before. The story continues to evolve to this day.
No record has made a bigger impact on me or influenced me more. Sgt Pepper gave me permission to question the conventional, push boundaries, release limitations, think and feel differently and be inspired by creativeness. It has done this for nearly 50 years, and still does.
The Brian Wilson (Beach Boys) Pet Sounds classic album inspired Sgt Pepper. Paul McCartney played Pet Sounds repeatedly during the Abbey Road recording sessions. Ironically, it was the Beatles Rubber Soul recording that provided Brian Wilson the inspiration to write Pet Sounds.
What goes around comes around.
The BBC initially banned three tracks, believing they were promoting “a permissive attitude towards drug taking”.
Specifically, it was thought the “Friends that provided a little help” were illicit substances while the “smoke” that Paul went upstairs to have in a “Day in the Life” was also a drug reference. Also, the 4000 holes Lennon sang about on the same track was interpreted as being the number of holes in the arm of a heroin user.
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was a reference to LSD, and I can see where that comes from.
It was also believed the band wanted a record that was both a “celebration and a piss - take” on the psychedelic bands popping up at the time.
There is nothing like the banning of a few songs to help sales and publicity.
Sgt Peppers was the first release by The Beatles after retirement from Live Performances. The band was under pressure from the music media, fans and their record company to demonstrate they could still be relevant without touring. There were many doubters.
Having time to explore and perfect musical output pushed all previous boundaries and released their creative brilliance. Producer George Martin was the perfect mentor, motivator and ultimately the interpreter of their ideas and ambitions.
The result was a magnificent recording that has stood the test of time and inspired many musicians and artists, contemporary and otherwise in very many artistic forms.
I am thankful for the influence it has had on this then 11 year old.
Happy 50th birthday Sgt Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band – you will live forever.