Guide to British Music of the 1960s

June 2007

CD Review

The Beatles - Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

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Sergeant Pepper is widely regarded as the greatest album of all time. Why is that and is it correct? This a certainly a great album but the importance of it must be viewed within the proper context. It was released in 1967 and was the third of three Beatles albums that changed music, Rubber Soul and Revolver being the other two. It was the first concept album. It contained previously unheard sounds. In short, Sergeant Pepper was the album that changed music from a singles-oriented market to a serious art form where albums were the most important. There were no singles on this album although this was not unusual amongst Beatles albums.

The first thing to notice about Sergeant Pepper is Peter Blake's inspirational cover art. This has been much aped and imitated  and even 40 years later it remains striking. Inside the cover were cut-out moustaches and military insignia to help develop the Sergeant Pepper concept.

Onto the record itself. The opening riff of the title track is legendary as Paul McCartney introduces the fictional band. This leads on to Ringo Starr's regular vocal performance, this time as Billy Shears. With a Little Help from my Friends has the distinction of a being a UK single hit on two occasions though not the original Beatles version. Both Joe Cocker and Wet Wet Wet have scored with this song.

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is one of the album's stand-out and most controversial tracks. There appears to be little doubt that The Beatles were indulging in certain substances around this time and this may be reflected in the LSD initials of the song title. However, Lennon claimed that the title was taken from a painting his young son Julian brought home from school. Make your own mind up on this one. Nevertheless, the song is a classic of British psychedelia.

It's Getting Better has the classic call and refrain "It's getting better..It can't get no worse."

The sounds on Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite are so unusual and make the listener believe he or she is in a fairground or circus. The title was taken from a poster which Lennon had seen. The swirling sounds of the steam organ were created from actual recordings of steam organs with producer George Martin cutting up the tapes, shuffling them and sticking them back together.

While this was certainly not the Beatles' first use of Indian instruments, Within You Without You shows the extent that Indian music was having on the group at this time, particularly on George Harrison.

Paul McCartney said that When I'm 64 was one of the first songs he ever wrote. Again there is a change of pace with this track.

Lovely Rita is driven by a simple Ringo drum pattern as, I'm sure, Paul McCartney looks for good amongst those who give out parking tickets.

Sounds Incorporated provide the brass backing for Lennon's Good Morning Good Morning.

To be completed


Release date: 26 May 1967

CD Release Date: 1992

Essential Tracks:

  • A Day in the Life
  • Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite
  • Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

Track Listing:

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

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