Top 100 Album Review: #1 – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles (1967)

It’s a Good One.

Afraid that I would dislike “the greatest album of all time,” The Beatles deliver in spectacular fashion. 

SgtPepper

Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #1/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

The Beatles are mythical. Growing up before a wave of Americans, their career spans decades from a boy band, to quintessential hippies, and finally finishing with solo careers. The Beatles are the biggest band of all time — no argument. But, would the hype lead to oversight? Would weak tracks and poor music be wiped under the rug, powered by the musical force that is The Beatles?

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is everything as advertised: a complete album representing a perfect cross-section of avant-garde arrangements, lyrical content, and song writing.

the-beatles-st-pepper-1100.jpg

[overview.]

You can’t discuss a Beatles album without some lore.

No longer the children from the early 60s, the band was tired of playing in front of half empty stadiums as they toured. The music they wanted to play and compose was no longer transferable to live formats. This was a low point for the Beatles (which seems crazy considering how much material they would create in the next few years), and people wrote them off as done.

On a flight back from Africa, McCartney came up with the idea to create a fake band for them to express themselves through. After having some fun wordplay inspired by salt & pepper packets on the flight, he came up with the title for the surrogate band and title of the album.

At this time, The Beatles were big into drugs, Lennon had said the band was bigger than Jesus, and every one thought they were toast. Hitting the studio to create an album full of songs they knew they’d never have to perform live, they were free to create whatever they wanted. They ended up making one of the biggest albums of all time, heralded as the album that represented the “Summer of Love.”

[track listing.]

1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Lennon-McCartney)
2. With a Little Help from My Friends (Lennon-McCartney)
3. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (Lennon-McCartney)
4. Getting Better (Lennon-McCartney)
5. Fixing a Hole (Lennon-McCartney)
6. She’s Leaving Home (Lennon-McCartney)
7. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! (Lennon-McCartney)
8. Within You Without You (Harrison)
9. When I’m Sixty-Four (Lennon-McCartney)
10. Lovely Rita (Lennon-McCartney)
11. Good Morning Good Morning (Lennon-McCartney)
12. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) (Lennon-McCartney)
13. A Day In the Life (Lennon-McCartney)

[best track.] A Day in the Life

Lennon surrounded by a 41-piece orchestra, “A Day in the Life” combines what made the Beatles so good: catchy song, great lyrics, progressive edge. Coming at you in three parts, the song is bookended by recent news articles from the paper with a McCartney-narrative smack dab in the middle.

I read the news today, oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well, I just had to laugh

[best track – runner up.] Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

A hippie song that actually lands a punch. A fellow by the name of Chris Jones called it “nursery rhyme surrealism,” and damn if that isn’t EXACTLY what it is — the stanza’s are children book material with an other worldly composition. It is a completely bizarre song, but it cuts into you somehow, making you instantly drift away.

Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes

[best track runner, runner-up.] With a Little Help From My Friends

What’s interesting to me is how so many people consider this a concept album. The original intention was to drift between the fake band members presenting their songs. This never happened except here. “With a Little Help From My Friends,” is cued up by the intro with:

So let me introduce to you
The one and only Billy Shears
And Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

This is actually Ringo Starr, counter-ego of Billy Shears, making an appearance as a lead vocalist. The song is a catchy tune and probably the most recognized off the album.

What would you think if I sang out of tune?
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key

[conclusion.]

I’ve always had an anti-Beatles streak in me. I think I OD’d on their young, pop singles; it’s a fact of Western society that you can’t go anywhere that plays music without running into the Beatles. I’ve softened up, especially after listening to this phenomenal album.

Other People’s Take: 

  • Slice of Life: “It came out just in time for “The Summer of Love”- and was the soundtrack for the summer.”

 

Author: Casual But Smart

I review the top 100 books, movies, albums, and games of all time.

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