Saturday, June 1, 2013

"I read the news today oh boy"

Forty-six years ago today the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Rock critics love to dismiss it's candy colored ideals.  Even the Beatles themselves had their misgivings over the years.  George Harrison openly scorned the idea of a "concept" album ( not to mention his secondary role throughout its genesis.)  John openly admitted Sgt. Pepper was mostly Paul's idea, and that he, under the haze of LSD, just went along for the ride.  Ringo recalls learning chess during the recordings.  Their previous album, Revolver seems more adventurous.  And The White Album continues to overwhelm all who encounter it.  Or maybe there's a Paul backlash going on?  McCartney developed the Sgt. Pepper concept and his voice appears on most of the tracks.  Some of the best moments are Paul's sweet songs about stalking meter maids or digging holes in the garden or fixing holes in the roof.  Paul's contribution to "A Day in the Life" adds a comforting contrast to John's dark surrealism.  Others find Paul's optimism tiresome.  Or maybe it's the album everyone outgrows as adult life locks it's hold upon you.  John parodied Sgt. Pepper on "How Do You Sleep," as a fluke - the song set the narrative for all who attack McCartney.  Or maybe it's the pop art cover which celebrates all those cult heroes ranging from the occultist Aleister Crowley to the 60s hipster Terry Southern.  They out Warholed Warhol.  Or maybe it's the music itself?  Cultured music theorists praise the arrangements on "She's Leaving Home," as something worthy of Schubert.  And "Within You, Without You", besides it's enchanting music, is a hynotic sermon against the ego (I totally see where you're coming from George!).  But melancholy undercurrents always accompany the masterful arrangements: the characters we meet are all sad and lonesome and looking for outlets to escape the pre-determined fates of Father McKenzie and Eleanor Rigby - even the Sgt. Pepper band laments going home on the reprise.  Or maybe it's the idea that piece of art can reach many people and bring about positive change simply by putting out some good vibes. Or maybe Sgt. Pepper still reverberates through the decades as a reassuring beacon saying: "hey, we know it can be rough sometimes, but it's ok , just keep going."