Rarely does humanity produce something so massively innovative, mind shattering and barrier-smashing as four British boys did in 1967. It goes without saying that The Beatles are the gold standard when it comes to rock or music in general. Their influence can be felt in nearly every genre, not only in the imitations of their techniques but also in the technology used by nearly every artist in the industry. But it was with this album, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, that the Fab Four cemented their legendary status. “So may I introduce to you, the act you’ve known for all these years, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band!”
It wasn’t quite twenty years ago today when Mr. Lennon and the band began to play, but after McCartney and he met, the world would not be the same. With the addition of guitarist George Harrison and drummer Ringo Starr, “The Beatles” was forged and would begin a nearly decade-long run of success but an infinitely long legacy. As the band’s popularity exploded over the years, touring had taken an ugly turn and, by 1966, they had ended live performances altogether.
During the group’s brief hiatus, George Harrison had searched and found a renewed lease on life while on his travels to India. This would open the inclusion of popular Eastern cultured instruments, namely the sitar, in Beatles pieces. A sudden surge for introspectivity in The Fab Four’s songwriting had already been ignited years earlier when the four met with the master of songwriting in America: Bob Dylan. This allowed the group to eye stronger and more complex projects which would see Harrison, McCartney and Lennon’s songwriting talents reach unforeseen heights.
The idea came from the mind of Paul. He developed the concept of masquerading the band behind the guise of a live performance led by one Sergeant Pepper and his band. This unconventional idea would allow the group to experiment with their newfound ideas each had discovered in their time separate from each other.
The title track begins with the sound of instruments tuning in preparation for the performance alongside an audience murmuring while finding their seats. An iconic riff slices into listeners’ ears, and the Lonely Hearts Club Band is introduced. This unification of orchestral music with rock was unheard of and was widely met with success. The contrast of horns, guitars, drums and an audience cheering all lead to a powerful climax which carries into the second track: “With a Little Help From My Friends,” vocalized by Ringo. This piece carries a theme of companionship as the narrator claims that no matter the trial, he can “get by with a little help from my friends.”
Following this easygoing song is “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” a reference to John Lennon’s son, Julian, who had shown him a drawing which Lennon described in the song by taking his listeners to “a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skies.” The specialty about this piece was the never-before-seen advancements that were used. The engineering team sped up the tape in order to make the vocals sound like a younger Lennon. In addition, they were able to overlap a few tracks, becoming the first to do so.
Next is “Getting Better,” an upbeat tune about the newfound joy in life after the narrator makes life changes and improves himself. The next song is McCartney’s sentiments on his creativity and the randomness that it has adopted. “It really doesn’t matter if I’m wrong or right,” he sings in “Fixing A Hole.” This exploration by McCartney seeks to discover how to reign in his thoughts as they wander further from reality.
Finger-picking guitars serenade you as “She’s Leaving Home” begins. The song describes the struggle of parents watching as their daughter leaves to start her own life, “we gave her everything money could buy,” McCartney writes backed by mournful violins.
Lennon’s discovery of a circus poster inspired “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite,” which plays exactly as one would expect a circus song to play. Following the first verse, we are treated to a orchestral version of the sounds that one comes to recognize in a carousel. Suddenly, we are met with Harrison’s sitars. “Within You Without You” is the epitome of George’s newly discovered spirituality following his travels to India in both its lyrics and its unique instrumentation.
In “When I’m Sixty-Four” McCartney asks that, as age inevitably wears on him, will he still matter? The next song reaches a higher psychedelic feeling as McCartney describes “Lovely Rita” meter maid. This piece is regarded as a work of, as McCartney describes it, “a satire of authority.”
The sound of the rooster crowing introduces us to “Good Morning Good Morning” where Lennon attempts to describe the chaotic yet somehow relaxing life of a suburbian resident. The song reaches a solo by Harrison then culminates in an array of animal sounds until we are reintroduced to Sgt. Pepper and his Lonely Hearts Club Band. All four Beatles sing the farewell from their imaginary band and then we are met with likely music’s most powerful composition to date.
“I read the news today, oh boy,” sings Lennon as he documents the mundanity of life. Describing a man reading the news and seeing the world around him, “A Day In The Life” swirls into a crescendo of musical mastery described by Lennon as “nothing short of the end of the world.” This orchestral lead-up is followed by an alarm clock blaring as McCartney sings his verse about this man awakening and going through the motions of an everyday civilian: coffee, late for work and catching the bus. At work, he begins to daydream as the orchestra allows us to do so alongside him. Lennon returns with another news story about potholes, which eventually guides us to the apocalyptic crescendo and a haunting breath to pause as if we are all at the pinnacle of a roller coaster. Then, with the iconic strike of the E chord by McCartney, Lennon and Mal Evans, we are sent down the track, having no idea what we will experience next.
Joseph Gill is a second-year English major in the writings track. JG923276@wcupa.edu
One thought on “A Taste of the Tunes: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: An Album Review”
Great job! She’s Leaving Home actually begins with the sound of a harp and Good Morning, Good Morning builds to a McCartney guitar solo, but great job summing up an album recorded over 50 years ago!