2017 marks the year of the 50th anniversary of the iconic Beatles album, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
This revolutionary masterpiece changed music. Many believe that the 8th Beatles album is the best album ever released, and always will be.
This piece of art has become immortalised, living on in the hearts of the nation and managing to become my favourite album ever. In fact, I own 3 vinyl copies of this trippy voyage through music, not to mention the framed album cover on my wall (not to brag).
Sgt Pepper’s brought a very unique sound, different to that of previous Beatles albums, and transformed the way the public saw the band, who were known so well for their rock n roll sound. Its new psychedelic melodies and mystifyingly whimsical lyrics captured the attention of the world immediately after being released.
Bassist and singer, Paul McCartney, had the idea for this wacky project while on a flight back from Kenya in November 1966 after a safari holiday with his girlfriend, Jane Asher. He explained that the reason for this whole idea was based on the fact that the fab four ‘were fed up of being the Beatles’. He expressed their desire to not be themselves and instead develop alter egos in this 1967 album.
After this point, The Beatles were no longer mop-heads singing love songs and running around the streets in their matching black suits. Instead, they wore flamboyant, silk, military-style outfits in the brightest of colours. A fashion upgrade, the way I see it.
This album features extremely obscure aspects, from tangerine trees in Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ to Ringo’s questionable vocals (as always) on the second track. The enlightening Within You Without You showcases George’s Indian influence, with the inspiring sounds of the native Sitar. It’s refreshing to hear the result of Harrison’s own personal practices on the album, as he enthusiastically divulged in the culture of India, so it’s great to be able to appreciate his work.
A particular high point of the album, in my opinion, is the Lennon/McCartney composition of Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite. This magically adventurous tune was inspired by a circus poster that Lennon had bought from an antique shop. John’s vocals fit perfectly with the upbeat yet mysterious tone of the song. The instrumental midway through the song suitably creates a feeling of a roller-coaster vibe, which is achieved using a variety of instruments and the input of producer George Martin’s expertise, which helped in portraying such a carnival-like sensation.
Another impressive, alternative technique used on Sgt Pepper’s is the way that John’s voice is altered to be higher (or sound like he’s on helium) on the recording of Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. The old-fashioned production trick called VariSpeed was used. This involved recording the vocals slower and lower than usual, so when they sped the recording up it would match the key of the backing track which was higher.
The album’s ending is the most moving final-track in history. It somehow manages to capture and concisely summarise the entire album in just one song. Well, it was kind of two songs, actually; A Day in the Life. This perplexing song was written mainly by Lennon, who wrote the melody along with most of the lyrics. His song-writing partner, McCartney, then added a middle-eight section which completely contrasted with the rest of the song. The first 3 verses, written by Lennon, adapt a slow tempo and emotional lyrics, referring seemingly to someone dying in a car crash. Although, many believe it to be heavily drug-influenced. The BBC even banned the tune from their radio broadcast due to connotations of the line ‘I’d love to turn you on’, also reportedly drug-related. Unfortunately, this is a line which, nowadays, you’d expect to hear in a brain-destroying party song, repeated over and over again, although it’d probably altered slightly to be more suggestive… Oh, how music has changed.
After an enhancing orchestral climax, Paul’s section would easily trick you into thinking a whole new song had begun. The tempo picks up significantly and the song takes on a more quirky, jumpy feeling.
A masterpiece of an ending to such a masterpiece of an album.
It really is a rare and near-impossible ability to be able to create something that will not only be remembered widely, but greatly appreciated, 50 years on. Especially in the music industry, with so many different artists and bands releasing music at the same time. This just goes to show how special the Beatles were and still are. I wonder if there will ever be such a genius set of musicians again. Even still, the success of this golden album will always be a great inspiration for aspiring musicians, proving that anyone can make history- even if it’s just four scruffy lads from Liverpool.
James Lawson X