It was 20 {+20} Years Ago Today

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Years Ago Today

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20 + 20 = 40.  It was forty years ago today that Sgt. Pepper was released.  Revolver had been a cool concept album, a bit of a departure from the 12-tune norm. At that time it was somewhat bold, a little daring, but they were The Beatles, the most popular music group on the planet. They wanted to try something different, spread their creative wings, and so they did.  A worldwide fan base awaited their every release.  Rubber Soul was even more of a creative leap than Revolver, with producer George Martin working closely with the band to enhance, to a welcome degree influence and advance their musical endeavors.  His training in Classical music, orchestration and arrangement became a part of the Beatles' works.  Add to that the superb talents of the studio engineers and technicians he assembled for their Abbey Road Studios sessions, and The Beatles were in musical territory few others had ever tread.

But nothing could compare to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Clubs Band.  Song by song, a continuous stream of music and lyrics and audio production elements unlike any album ever released.  And all those cool items along with the album: cutouts, badges, pictures, and then countless premiums followed.  The only precedent even close to this sort of breakthrough pop music album was The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds.  In one of the most circular referential discussions of influence, legend has it that Brian Wilson credits listening to Rubber Soul as the catalyst and creative impetus that resulted in Pet sounds.  Paul McCartney is often quoted as saying that listening to Pet Sounds was a major creative influence on Sgt. Pepper.  Here's a quote from the Wikipedia entry on Pet Sounds:

The album's meticulously layered harmonies and inventive instrumentation (performed by the cream of Los Angeles session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew)
set a new standard for popular music. It remains one of the more
evocative releases of the decade, with a distinctive strain of
melancholy and nostalgia for youth. The album is still widely regarded
as a classic of the rock era. Among other accolades, Paul McCartney
has named it one of his favorite albums of all time (with "God Only
Knows" as his favorite song). McCartney has frequently said that it was
a major influence on the Beatles' album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, similar to Brian Wilson stating he was inspired to make Pet Sounds upon listening to The Beatles' Rubber Soul. Despite the critical praise it received, the album was poorly promoted by Capitol Records
and failed to become the major hit Brian had hoped it would be (only
reaching #10). Its failure to gain wider recognition hurt him deeply.

Sgt. Pepper defied all existing constraints.  The album cover was an original work of art.  To this day there is discussion, argument, rumor and folklore based solely on the cover art.  A good who's who legend of the characters on the cover can be found here.  But note: there are many who still to this day argue or question whether all the names are actually correct. The original artwork is not only a pop culture classic; it shows the Beatles' as participants in the mood of the day, as well as members of pop culture who pay respects and tribute to influences, cult stars, their fellow celebrities, and how they could do so with respect and a sense of humor.

Yes, that <span style=IS Murray The K in the picture.

The gatefold design (because originally the Beatles had anticipated that it would be a double album . . . which, for those reading this entry who might have no clue re the old days of vinyl, meant two discs would be required to contain all the cuts) had artwork created (see below) with the Beatles in Sgt. Pepper costume.  Larger sized photographic reproduction meant higher production costs.  But this was The Beatles.  Sgt. Pepper was the total package: artwork inserts, badges.  The first album ever to include all the lyrics to all the songs, boldly displayed on the back cover.  They took the concept of a concept album to the Nth degree.

Those Pepper duds were excellent!<br />

Tunes from Sgt. Pepper have been swirling around my head all day.  No radio, no cd, mp3, or record playing.  Just knowing today is the 40th anniversary of the stateside release of Sgt. Pepper has been enough.  Pet Sounds and  Sgt. Pepper have that sort of impact, albums of such note and so timeless that the mere knowledge of the release date anniversary is enough to fill the inner ear with the music.  There are others in this category, though none so much for me as Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds.  Graceland comes to mind, as does Tommy, and then some other classics;  Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of The Moon, Miles Davis' Kind of Blue (although for many Miles fans both In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew are held in equally high esteem), Coltrane's My Favorite Things and some others also hold near-equal footing.  A few Zappa (with and without the Mothers of Invention) albums are also in this category, plus, of course, Steely Dan's Aja.

It is interesting to note that the late keboard player Billy Preston played on many of the albums noted above, and toured on the road with a good many of the musicians.  He is an interesting common bond.

Among my favorite photos of The Beatles is this shot taken during a pre-release party for Sgt. Pepper.  It was May 19, 1967, at the house of Beatles manager Brian Epstein.  You can look at it and then look at the gatefold picture.  Note the same hair length and styles.  It seems almost as though they were shot on the same day.  What a wonderful time it was for music, for The Beatles (look how happy they seem in the picture, all dressed up in psychedelic mod gear!), and how lucky people at that party must have been, getting an early glimpse into the finished Sgt. Pepper.

The Beatles,  April 1967.  At a pre-release party for Sgt. Pepper.<br />

There are countless links to interesting Beatles and Pepper miscellany.  Here's a good one.  Here's a link to learn 20 facts you most likely didn't know about Sgt. Pepper.  And apparently it took until September of 1967 for Time Magazine to publish a review of what was referred to as an LP Album by The Beatles.