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How did Sgt. Pepper become so influential?

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Wayne L.:
I think Sgt. Pepper became so influential & the most important Beatles classic rock album of all time because it defined the summer of love in all its glory for the youth in those days with music that became the soundtrack during that psychedelic haze along with an album cover which symbolized the era more so than other artists at the time like the Jefferson Airplane & the Doors while I personally think Sgt. Pepper is highly overrated it defined the times for generations of Beatles fans. 

zipp:
Sgt.Pepper didn't BECOME influential.It WAS influential right from the start.
And you don't buy an album because it defines this, that or the other.You buy it for the music.
Try explaining WHY you think it's overrated.

:
You simply had to be there.

NGM:
[quote by=Wayne_L. link=Blah.pl?b=albums,m=1085317646,s=0 date=1085317646]I think Sgt. Pepper became so influential & the most important Beatles classic rock album of all time because it defined the summer of love in all its glory for the youth in those days with music that became the soundtrack during that psychedelic haze along with an album cover which symbolized the era more so than other artists at the time like the Jefferson Airplane & the Doors while I personally think Sgt. Pepper is highly overrated it defined the times for generations of Beatles fans.

LarryG:
Here's a review of Sgt. Pepper that I posted on PC 31's Moondog Forum.  For your information and feedback......


The editors at Rolling Stone Magazine recently proclaimed Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band as the greatest rock album of all time (http://www.rollingstone.com/features/coverstory/featuregen.asp?pid=2124) -- immediately followed by Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys (an album most often compared to Pepper) and Revolver. The Beatles hold two more posts in the Top 10 as identified by Rolling Stone Mag: Rubber Soul at #5 and The White Album at #10. Abbey Road tops at #14 -- a position I would have traded with Rubber Soul, only because of the historical significance of the album. John's primal scream album, Plastic Ono Band, comes in at a remarkably high post -- #22 -- especially considering it never sold more than 750,000 copies. As for the rest of the top 500, The Beatles (group or solo) also appear in the following slots (http://www.rollingstone.com/features/coverstory/featuregen.asp?pid=2164): 39, 59, 76, 86, 332, 388, 418, 420 and 437. It's interesting to note that John appears in the top 100 twice (the second being the ablum, Imagine), while George and Paul don't debut as solo artists until the 400s. Regrettably, Ringo isn't on the list, though one would have to contend that his 1973 self-titled release would have charted merely because it was the closest the world ever came to a Beatles reunion until Free as a Bird.

Anyway, onto Sgt. Pepper. Let's start with what it wasn't: It was not a concept album, despite the best of intentions of The Fab 4 and George Martin. During the early months of 1967, The Beatles went into the studio to record the Pepper music, along with Strawberry Fields, Penny Lane and later All You Need is Love. All of those would have fit onto a concept album, under the banner heading of this Sgt. Pepper's band. Indeed, the album opens with two tracks (the title track and With a Little Help From My Friends) that give the impression that we're about to listen to a concept album. But other than the later reprise, Lovely Rita and Being the Benefit for Mr. Kite, the rest of the album is -- well, just an album. But a very special one -- and indeed rightfully placed atop of Rolling Stone's Top 500.

The reasons are many. And perhaps the many reasons (and nearly 12 million copies sold) lend to why this album inspired many covers and theatrical endeavors. Among them, on the plus side: Hendrix's live version of Sgt. Pepper (shortly after the June 1, 1967 Beatles release); Joe C's soulful rendition of With a Little Help...., and Ringo's brilliant album cover in 1973 which was inspired by those halcyon Billy Shears days in 1967. And on the negative side: Robert Stigwood's nauseating movie (with Frampton and the BeeGees) and William Shatner's bizarre spoken vocal of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Perhaps the worst movie ever made, alongside the worst studio recording ever made.

Thankfully, neither tarnished Sgt. Pepper's impact on rock music and popular culture. Ironically, not one song on the album ever charted to #1. And no DeeJay has ever played the title track without Ringo's Billy Shear vocal that followed; nor has any played a Day in a Life without the reprise. Songs inextricably linked but by the virtue of the album's aura as a concept that never was. Another irony comes with perhaps the most defining moment of the album; it occurs at the very end of the recording -- the famous crash chord (played on keyboards by Ringo, Paul, John, Mal Evans and George Martin). That crash chord is arguably the most famous chord ever recorded in rock history. Sure, there are plenty of familiar riffs in the annals of classic rock (and The Beatles delivered many of them), but none ever defined an artistic endeavor and created a statement of fact as that final note ending A Day in the Life.

The album begins with a hearkening look back: "It was 20 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play....." and ends with the essence of everything Beatles: "I'd love to turn you on." Most radio stations in 1967 actually turned off A Day in the Life because of that statement....They contended that Lennon was sending a drug message. The reality is that it was as much about drugs as was Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (LSD). The drug suggestions were frankly misplaced. John was more likely making a sexual reference in A Day in The Life -- given the many disengaged and disconnected threads in the song, John (and Paul) was storytelling -- and at the end of every good story, you go to bed. Lennon logic; not mine. And of course, with the "LSD" song, the world now knows that it was a lyrical title about a piece of artwork by Julian Lennon. (Of course, as we all know, Julian would resurface a year later in Hey Jude.) But topical debates regarding drugs and such raged then, even among the psychedelic set, which was trying to prop Pepper up as a message to and about their cult-like world. It wasn't. It was a message alright -- but it was The Beatles redefining rock music and its sensibilities -- through lyrics and through (innovative at the time) eight-track recording. This album began as a conscious effort to exploit the then-modern engineering capabilities in the studio. That was plan at the outset by The Beatles and Martin. The lyrics and the instrumentation for each song on the album (as well as Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields) were probably the height of Beatle creativity. Indeed, one could argue that Free as a Bird could have fit snugly on this album.

Pepper took 129 days to record -- a marvel at the time, especially when you consider that The Beatles used to walk into the studio and hammer out an album in less than a week. Indeed, their early works (during the days when they'd have five songs in the Top 10) were recorded that way. Pepper wasn't as much a maturation of The Beatles (Rubber Soul and Revolver were that), as it was a departure from what defined The Beatles as a band. With Pepper, they recorded an album that would be impossible to perform live in a concert. Frankly, alongside the intent to create an engineering sound marvel in the studio, John, Paul, George and Ringo were looking for an excuse not to tour. Pepper was it....and gave advent to the best studio work that was still to come from the four.

Another irony: Paul has said that The Beatles wanted to emulate Pet Sounds (released in 1966). They did more than that. Frankly, I'm surprised Rolling Stone ranked Pet Sounds as #2 because the Beach Boys actually based Pet Sounds on Rubber Soul. The album was a statement piece, and perhaps the best thing that the surfer kids from Malibu ever recorded. But the comparisons with Pepper and Soul are woefully misplaced. Pet Sounds belongs in the top 20; just not the top two. Remarkably, Zepplin and The Who don't appear until the late 20s on the Rolling Stone Mag list; at least the Mick Jagger and the Stones with Exile on Main Street squeaked in at number 7, but it should have fared better than the Beach Boys.

Anyway, a digression. The point is that other groups were starting to model even more intently the sounds that The Beatles were making. But they couldn't keep up. The Beatles, thanks to the recording brilliance of George Martin and Geoff Emerick, took a group that sounded like any other in the studio and transformed into a trend-setting cultural event. Indeed, in the summer of '67, Pepper listening parties were frequently themed. No surprise there since the album charted at number one, but even more interesting since no single song had the same fanfare.

As for the songs, there's not a clinker in the bunch. The title track and reprise is a great singalong tune, and entree for Ringo to assert more Beatle presence. Indeed his drumming on the album (particularly Getting Better, A Day in the Life, Lucy in the Sky and Mr. Kite) has never been replicated. Even on his lead vocal, no drummer (live or in the studio) has ever come close to the sexy (albeit uneven) tom tom measures that Ringo put down for the album's second track. (Of course, only Ringo could resurrect Billy Shears during his solo career [in 1973] and make him a staple of his own annual summer tours.)

If the first two songs of the album offer any indication, Pepper was a breathless listen. It moved fast; you couldn't tune out even for a moment. Interestingly enough, the tried-and-true formula for short Beatles songs were so still very much in style. (This would be the end of that though, with Hey Jude and its seven minutes of "nah, nah, nah, nah" less than a year away.) Only two songs (Within You Without You and Day in the Life) track longer than 3:35. Indeed, the album's first two songs (Pepper and With a Little Help) run a combined 4:45. That only proves that The Beatles were masterfully equipped at delivering memorable messages and music without going over the top on words or extras. (Hence, we find only few guitar or drum solos during the eight-year recording history of The Beatles -- and most of those were literally towards "The End" of their run.)

The album's true mastery comes in She's Leaving Home and A Day in the Life -- the haunting lyrics and emotional statements made in the lyrics and music of each is what every artist aspires to, but rarely achieves (unless they are Dylan with Hurricane; Springsteen with Philadelphia; the Stones with You Can't Always Get What You Want; The Who with Tommy; or Zepplin with Stairway to Heaven.) The point is most great rock artists can claim at least one moment of lyrical and musical brilliance -- or unadulterated art. The Beatles found two such moments just for Pepper, and indeed can lay claim with other works (take your picks from Abbey Road and Let it Be.) It's little wonder that the editors of Rolling Stone found through their survey of rock icons that The Beatles were the greatest musical influence of all time.

And that's what Pepper (and indeed the Fab Four who mimicked the mythical Lonely Hearts Club troupe) remains today -- an influence on nearly every genre within pop music and rock. Take for example the song Getting Better. A great ditty for Beatles fans, but not within the popular framework of most rockologists. Yet, the song (about spousal abuse of all things!) has found new life as the jingle for a light bulb commercial (thanks to Michael Jackson's commercial sellout). And then there's When I'm 64 -- which though having no lyrical relevance to the movie was the theme song to the theatrical release, The World According to Garp.

Even George's only track on the album, Within You Without You, defined acceptance for Indian and other influences into rock's offing. At the time, no one blinked when this opened side two of the album. It didn't matter that the other three Beatles weren't on board (they weren't for Yesterday either, just a little over a year earlier); and it didn't matter that the song tracked longer than five minutes. It offered listeners a meditative escape from raunchy chords that rock and roll threw at their ears -- and instead offered intriguing and captivating sounds from half a world away. Only The Beatles could get away with that....In fact, only The Beatles (thanks to Ringo's doleful inflections) could get away with beginning a song with the line, "What would you do if I sang out of tune.....?"

This was the essence of The Beatles. The band didn't worry about taking chances; they were comfortable with their creative approach and artistic zeal. For the most part, so were music critics and indeed music fans. The Beatles were a study in contrast -- with no two albums ever replicating a sound or approach (beginning with Rubber Soul that is). Pepper stands as the emblem of that.

Along those lines, in contrast to the reflective tones of Within You Without You and She's Leaving Home are the absolutely celebratory and fun-moving Mr. Kite and Good Morning Good Morning --two John fares that could have fitted nicely on Pet Sounds of all things! John would travel that road only once more -- with Everyone's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey -- but not broach that kind of territory again until he would pen Goodnight Vienna for Ringo in 1974. And Paul's primary offerings, Lovely Rita, Fixing a Hole and When I'm 64, gave listeners an early ear to some of the bubble gum music and "silly love songs" that would define his work in the 1980s -- but the difference being with these three songs in 1967, he was backed by the other three Beatles.

The collage of music was certainly predictable -- especially given the album cover collage with no less than 87 images in the photograph. The album cover itself reaffirmed that The Beatles were departing their Fab days -- take note of the four moptops in suits off to the left looking mournful. In other words, those hysteria days are gone with a new Beatles (all older and mustached) finding newer sounds and ambitions in the studio but not on a tour bus. Ironically, they would next board a Magical Mystery Tour bus to sort of explain themselves as to why you wouldn't see a Beatles tour again -- that kind of mania (as George would label it) was just too crazy and hindered the art that defined The Beatles.

And so instead of tours, we learn of the lucky man who made the grade and 4000 holes in Blackburn Lanchishire. And for a time, we also wondered if it were Paul's mind that was blown out in a car. And we speculated about drugs and psychedelia. No matter; all of that is part of "A Day in the Life" of the Beatle legacy and of the folklore that is the Sgt. Pepper record -- the greatest rock and roll album ever produced by the greatest rock and roll band ever.

What a concept....for the concept album that had no concept.

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