Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles

1967 – Parlophone

Pop/ Rock/ Psychedelic

sgt peppers

The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers is known the world over as a masterpiece of music and for good reason. From the opening chords of the title track all the way through to the sad refrain of A Day In The Life this record just gives out hit after hit of carefully calculated experimentalism and well-crafted pop melodies which will be stuck in the listener’s head for days (or years) to come. This worldwide critical acclaim, however, actually makes it a very difficult record to write about as it seems that everything that could ever be said about it has already been said. So with this in mind I sat down to listen to this wonderful record to see if I could possibly find anything to say about it that wasn’t merely a laudatory ode, and (luckily for me) I think that I might have found just that angle.

The music on this record is wonderfully intricate and groundbreaking, there will be no dispute from this critic about that, but I will say that when you really get down to the bare bones of this record it’s actually full of nonsense, and to my mind it is not the greatest Beatles album of all times. I mean, does this record really need swirling circus organs whirling behind Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite! and does the sitar raga of Within You Without You really add anything to this record? Not really. In fact, there seems to be an odd sense with this record that the fab four really wanted to embrace their experimental, drug-crazed side, but at the same time they were too scared of failure to really move too far from their roots. I mean, double tracking vocals with simultaneous recorded tape is a neat trick, but it doesn’t stop Getting Better from sounding like a Beach Boys song with half the harmonies removed, and Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, for all its trippy overtones, is still little more than a white rhythm and blues revival track.

This being said, there is really nothing wrong with writing straight up pop songs when you are as good at it as The Beatles were. Fixing A Hole and Lovely Rita, for instance, are divine songs even if they don’t really break the mould of what is able to be done with music. It’s just that this record is so often lauded as some sort of psychedelic masterpiece when really it is more of a masterpiece of pop. Now, once again I will say that I have no issue with pop and I really am a huge fan of the Lennon-McCartney hit machine, but the obviously effects laden ‘listen-to-how-wacky-I-am” overtones of Sgt. Pepper’s sometimes dragged the beautiful pop melodies away from their heights and towards the realms of tedium.

I don’t deny that this record really was groundbreaking and changed the way the world viewed music, however. Quite the contrary, I have done a lot of research into the recording of Sgt. Pepper’s over my years studying music, and I have no doubt left in my mind that this record did more than perhaps any other piece of art ever recorded in terms of furthering what was able to be done with a studio, but one does have to ask themselves, was it really necessary? I mean, there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of the tracks on this album, but when one listens to the whole thing can they honestly say that the ridiculous producer ego-trip at the beginning of Good Morning Good Morning was a beneficial addition to that track, or that the fabled dog whistle track when the record fades out is in anyway furthering the cause of music as a worthwhile art form? I would say not.

            I guess what I’m trying to say is that experimentalism definitely has its place in music, but when your album is such a wonderful pop album as Sgt. Pepper’s it seems a real shame to drown out the actual music with cheap parlour tricks. Even in terms of the experimentalism itself everything is rather muddied. I mean, a lot of care was obviously taken and the band must have deemed all the little intricacies of this record to be necessary elements, but there is just so much going on throughout every track that it’s almost impossible to actually distinguish any individual gem of genius. It’s all just so overbearing in how clever it thinks it is that there’s no room for subtlety or appreciation of distinct form.

After all of this criticism, however, Sgt. Peppers remains one of the greatest and most influential records ever to be produced, and even though I can’t say that is my favourite album ever, or even my favourite Beatles record, I can say that it one of the great masterpieces of modern music. Nothing on here could ever be described as anything other than magnificent and despite its issues and over-zealous production I would still have to say that it is a marvellous record necessary to complete the collection of any serious music fan. I simply can’t imagine a world in which Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band did not exist.

RATING: *****/5

It was very hard to decide which track from Sgt. Pepper’s I was going to play, but I decided on Fixing A Hole. So here it is.


2 thoughts on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles

  1. Pingback: Top Picks of August 2013 | Lachlan J. Faces The Music

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