The Rewind Button – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Beatlesby LefebvreDave on Mar 14, 2012 • 9:17 pm 3 Comments
This is the coolest assignment I’ve ever been given (bear in mind, I’ve been either a hard news tv reporter or a communications hack my entire professional career so the bar is set pretty low). Still the assignment via my friend Rebecca Stevenson (www.rebstevenson.com) challenges a bunch of bloggers to review the Top 40 Albums on Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Greatest Albums. We’re calling it “The Rewind Button”. It’s a working title and could change.
The timing couldn’t be better. I just happen to have wasted an entire night last week going through the list and listening to select albums to see where I stood on it. Guess what? I disagreed with a bunch of choices! There’s a shock – music doesn’t lend itself to unanimity…Stop the presses!
Still there’s something about this assignment that takes me back to my days in high school – stealing away on my spare and driving to Dalhousie in Quebec (15 minutes from my hometown) to drink beers underage at 10 in the morning while pumping the jukebox with quarters (yup, I’m that old), and listening to the entire Doors album while playing pool. The afternoons at school were a boozy, hazy mess after that.
Anyway, I’ve introduced the idea behind this enough, so let’s begin – Exibit A on the Rolling Stone’s Greatest Albums of all time: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – the Beatles.
I just attended a Pecha-Kucha event in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago, so I figure I’ll do this post in that style (20 photos and 20 seconds per photo – or in this case eight photos, a video and a couple of written lines). Oh, and if you don’t know what Pecha-Kucha is, look it up – it beats sitting on the couch on a Wednesday night.
The true test of a great album is when it gets referenced three decades later in subject matters not pertaining to music. In 1997, Staff Sgt. Hugh Stewart pepper sprayed some APEC protesters in Vancouver outside of the Hyatt hotel. The Staff Sgt. was henceforth referred to as “Sgt. Pepper”. This lead to a famous Jean Chretien quote when he made light of criticisms that police had been heavy handed by saying: “Pepper? I like it on my steak!”
I promise to move on from politics, but it bears mentioning that the Beatles returned to Canadian politics when Prime Minister Stephen Harper chose to sing With a Little Help from my Friends with Yo-Yo Ma. When you’re a politician trying to look cool, a sure bet is singing any song from this album. Oh, and yes, I know that Trudeau met Lennon, but I swore I’d move on and I will.
Aside from Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds being a not-so-subtle reference to LSD, it also spawned a remarkable number of songs with “diamonds” in their names. It takes billions of years and unspeakable pressure to make a diamond, but the Beatles made them popular in music in an instant. Respect.
Block your ears Beatlemania…While the title of this next song is Getting Better, I’m just going to come out and say it, this song doesn’t make the album any better. This album can be a little whiny at times. Now before you go losing your mind, don’t get me wrong – it’s a pivotal album in rock history, but even pivotal albums can be a little whiny at times, right?
Fixing a Hole has me thinking about an art project that involves turning potholes into dramatic exaggerations of their size and, ahem, utility. Try listening to this song while looking at the pictures on http://mypotholes.com/ It’s not really what the Beatles had in mind, but this Alice in Wonderland themed photo would probably fit with some of the songs on this album.
Songs #6-8 – She’s leaving home, Being for the benefit of Mr. Kite! and Within you, Without you.
I’m going to be serious for a minute. You have to fully appreciate the experimental quality of this album. The Beatles broke the boundaries of what rock music was supposed to be and, from there, so many genres of rock have been spawned. It’s worth pondering whether this could have happened if the Beatles hadn’t experienced such amazing success. This success bred confidence, which was necessary to push the boundaries to places where pop music might not otherwise have gone. Songs like Within you Without you are prime examples of a band that went far and wide for its sound and did so without being concerned whether it would sell records. Of note, this was the Beatles 8th album.
Does anyone else see the irony in the song When I’m 64? I won’t explain it if you don’t see it. This song reminds you that this album was a hit machine, hits that still permeate radio today. It’s been 45 years since this album was made! Astounding timelessness.
Here’s a fun thing for stoners to do…name as many animals as you can hear at the end of Good Morning Good Morning: I hear a cat, dog, elephant, sheep, rooster, horse, bird, lion and a honey badger. Okay, maybe not a honey badger but they are really cool animals and should have been included – trust me.
I don’t feel comfortable commenting on A Day in the Life. It’s just too damn perfect. Who am I to criticize and, even if I was someone, then what is there to criticize? Nope, I’m going to end on a silent note.
Should this be the Greatest Album? I don’t think so, but I would struggle to say what is. Maybe as we continue with this project I’ll be in a better place to decide the parameters of that coveted award. What I can say is that listening to this whole album from beginning to end is as entertaining today as I think it probably was in 1967, and that’s saying something. If the greatest album of all time is based on longevity and timelessness, then this is definitely worthy of discussion.
Ok, you’ve read mine, now check out the other posts on the same album. Their sites are listed here in no particular order:
Renée Sylvestre-Williams: http://reneesw.com/blog/the-rewind-button-sgt-peppers-lonely-hearts-club-band/#more-1702
Life Doesn’t Have to Suck: http://rebstevenson.com/2012/03/the-rewind-button-sgt-peppers-lonely-hearts-club-band/