Retrospectively, things are generally seen in an overstated form of what they originally were. Instances of historical past are blown up, and bands are generally regarded more highly posthumously than they were in their heyday. In some cases, this is a negative thing, and in some cases, it is hoisted more positively. Rarely, however, does something earn universal praise for 50 years after its creation, though that’s precisely the case with the Beatles landmark 1967 album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.
Following their retirement from touring, the band set out to create an album totally anti-Beatles; conceiving the concept on a flight home, bassist/vocalist Paul McCartney wished to create an album that would be perceived as a performance from a fictitious band: cue “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. Adopting military-like regalia and alter-egos, the album was unlike anything the band had written before.
Layered with absurd amounts of overdubbing, pitch-shifted vocals, choirs and orchestras, brass and bells, the music of “Sgt. Pepper’s” was transcendent. The opening title-track is almost a forerunner to rap music, as Paul McCartney shouts his way through the bands introduction, followed by John Lennon’s rousing chants of “We’re Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, we hope that you’ll enjoy the show”, before transitioning into the Ringo-led “A Little Help From My Friends”, a mid-paced track which features a stunningly anthemic vocal performance by the drummer, Mr. Starr.
The next few tracks include the legendary “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, a psychedelic-laced anthem ushered in by John Lennon’s high-pitched and nasally coaxing of colorful and kaleidoscopic imagery, followed by three mostly McCartney-dominated tracks; “Getting Better”, “Fixing a Hole”, and “She’s Leaving Home”, the last of which chronicles the newspaper-inspired story of a young girl running away from her parents. The side closes with the circus track “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”, written and performed by John Lennon.
Side two begins with the Indian arrangement “Within You, Without You”, written and sung by the quiet Beatle, George Harrison, exploring more into the Indian culture that was most notably introduced on the previous album, “Revolver”. “When I’m Sixty-Four” and “Lovely Rita”, two McCartney tracks follow, before the animal sounds of “Good Morning Good Morning” take over. Next is the reprise of the title-track, with vocals assumed by all but Ringo, before segueing into the final track, “A Day in the Life”, perhaps one of the highest regarded songs in the Beatles esteemed and regarded catalog. The album closes with a medley of strange noises and a dog whistle, guaranteed to frustrate your pooch’s ears and cause you maybe a little discomfort, though this leaves you wishing you had all the keys to the locked doors of sound you just examined.
It couldn’t be more understated to say that the album impacted a large mass of musicians, even to this day; “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” has impacted every musician to this day. Many of the albums sounds had never been dreamt up before Lennon-McCartney dreamt them up, and even today you will still hear dreamscapey records dominated by the psychedelia and rigorous work put forth by this record; so next time you are in the mood to relax, work, space-out, or trip, do not forget to put this album first and foremost in your playlist.