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Living To Music – The Beatles ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’

ARTIST: THE BEATLES

ALBUM: SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND

LABEL: PARLOPHONE

YEAR: 1967

This Sunday (January 6th) at 9pm, you’re invited to share a listening session with some likeminded souls, wherever you might be. This can be experienced either alone or communally, and you don’t need to leave the comfort of your own home to participate. If it’s not possible to make the allotted time, hopefully you can join in at your convenience at some point during the following weeks. See update here:
http://blog.gregwilson.co.uk/2012/07/living-to-music-update-july-2012/

Starting the year in style, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ isn’t just a classic album, but one of the great artistic statements of the 20th century – its impact and influence, on a whole variety of areas of art and culture, can’t be understated. It was released in June 1967 and was the soundtrack of the fabled ‘Summer Of Love’, when psychedelia exploded out of the underground and into mainstream consciousness via the hippie movement, with The Beatles right in the eye of the hurricane. What makes it such a major artistic statement is that it was absolutely of its time, whilst, paradoxically, remaining timeless, its aural innovation still taking the breath away over 45 years on. What makes this all the more remarkable is that the album was recorded onto just 4 channels of tape – nowadays, in the digital age, people have unlimited scope when it comes to recording, allowing infinite possibilities, whereas, at the time, The Beatles were confined to an extremely narrow canvas (although 4 track recording was state of the art back then). In order to layer the sounds in the way they did, the band, expertly guided, as always, by producer George Martin, would record various parts onto different tracks, before ‘bouncing’ them together (combining them) onto a separate track, thus freeing up space for further recording, this process continuing back and forth until they’d built up their finished soundscapes. This YouTube clip provides the perfect illustration, breaking the title track down to 3 of its individual channels, before showing all 4 tracks playing together. The drums, the bass and some guitars bounced together on the green track, more guitars and brass on the blue, vocals on red (McCartney’s lead majestic I must say), and the sound effects of the orchestra warm up and crowd noises recorded on yellow:

So much has been written about ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’, it’s a whole subject within itself, as the numerous books about it have borne out, and, given its cultural implications, very much a part of history. It’s the centre-piece of The Beatles’ career, and the key to understanding what happened back then – suffice to say that all roads lead to and from ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’, the ultimate ’60s symbol.

Growing up in the ’60s, The Beatles’ music was always around me, but I never actually got to own a copy of this album until many years later, when I was in my mid-20s. I remember borrowing copies off a few friends here and there when I was in my early teens, but I never got around to buying it myself. This would finally be remedied in 1985, soon after I met my now wife, Tracey, following a remark I’d made to her – I’d mentioned that of all the records I owned I didn’t have a copy of one of my all-time favourite LP’s, which was ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’. I’d stopped deejaying by this point, and was happily discovering / re-discovering all sorts of music I rarely found the time to listen to when I was so embroiled in the club world – it was a musically liberating time for me. Anyhow, the next day, Tracey turned up with a copy of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’, which she’d kindly bought as a present for me, setting the wheels in motion for my subsequent trainspotter-like obsession with The Beatles, which continues to this day (albeit nothing like to the extreme it was at in the mid-late ’80s period when I greedily devoured everything I could read, see and hear about them).

Within weeks I’d bought pretty much everything The Beatles had ever recorded, and had also read my first of literally hundreds of books relating to the band and associated ’60s subjects (this was Philip Norman’s 1981 Beatle’s biography, ‘Shout!’). The more I learned, the deeper it went, and I soon understood why such a weighty term as phenomenon is attributed to the four lads from Liverpool, across the river from where I grew up, who, as the legend tells us, ‘shook the world’.

Your own thoughts are always welcomed, and, should you join us for Sunday’s session, it’d be great if you could leave a comment here after you’ve listened to the album sharing your impressions – how the music affected you, who you listened to it with, where you were, plus anything else relevant to your own individual / collective experience.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sgt._Pepper’s_Lonely_Hearts_Club_Band

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14 Responses to Living To Music – The Beatles ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’

  1. Paul Wright January 7, 2013 at 1:00 am #

    What a show, this album is astonishing on so many levels, feels like I’ve had technicolour brain bath! 🙂

    A day in the life alone is the pinnacle of creative genius, the album in its entirety surpasses any accolade and defies words. Such an uplifting and enriching listening experience. I grew up listening to this and so many memories came flooding back. The all immersing environment Sgt Peppers conjure up still surprised me and the feelings were as strong as ever.

    The cover itself is thought provoking, pointing at The Beatles desire to move away from where they had been, using Sgt Peppers as an outlet for exploring themselves and the music. Tomorrow never knows was a perfect hint of what was to come. An acid fueled east meets west experience that punches a hole through to a new dimensions of art, music and technology. Mind boggling to see the technology available and to hear what they actually achieved through incredible vision, mastery and experimentation.

    There were so many highlights listening to this, first and foremost being transported away on such varied, vivid soundscapes and atmosphere laid on by the band. It feels cinematic from the point the orchestra warms up, the audience participates, each setting is a rich tapestry of sounds, music and meanings; so much colour. The range of instruments and sounds is immense. There are some great bass parts through the album; strange glowing electrified warmth from lucy in the sky with diamonds; smiling at ‘it can’t get no worse!’; nodding with the strings on she’s leaving home; head bobbing with the bell when I’m 64; the random chopped up fairground noises on Mr Kite (superb acid expression!); stunning eastern sounds ‘with our love we could save the world’; goose bumps and tingles from the orchestral climaxes on day in the life, the final note…….powerful powerful stuff!

    The inner groove- backwards to me sounds like ‘we’ll all be there, each to the other end’, or ‘Will Paul be there? He’s took the other end’! 😀

    Mind blowing album, I feel invigorated and fired up for the year to come!

    Happy New Year folks and all the best.

    Paul

  2. BrianE January 7, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    Classic Album time! Every time I hear this album I can’t believe it’s basically a four track recording (with bouncing down).and I don’t think it could be bettered even in today’s technological age. George Martin and co. certainly pushed the technology of their day to the extreme. I am well aquainted with the album and still heard new and interesting things. The tabla’s on ‘Within You Without you’ weave some complex rhythms, not in 4/4 (like most pop/Rock tracks) at any time and really difficult to pin down at times. Indian music and rhythms fused with western rock music could have been a bit of a challenge but what an amazing sound. . Also I have always really liked the drum sound and have never heard a basic groove sound so good! Fantastic instrumentation from the fifth Beatle such as clarinet, horns, fairground orgns and the orchestra in the last track. From the opening bars I was looking forward to the crescendo at the end, was I dissapointed…………….. Well I’m still recovering now!!

  3. Gavin January 7, 2013 at 10:33 pm #

    This was a brilliant listening session, made all the more enjoyable by such fantastic company.

    Last night it really struck me how important the influence and legacy of The Beatles is. After listening, we watched a rare 1987 music documentary that focuses on this pivotal year: It Was 20 Years Ago Today: Sgt. Pepper & the Social, Sexual & Musical Revolution of 1967. I’ve just found a copy on YouTube, highly recommended to contextualise this masterful release.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCxAp7Xhhps

    It was also good to hear the original version of ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’. I know and love Joe Cocker’s version thanks to the Woodstock documentary, but this was the first time I’d gone to the source.

  4. Marty Foster January 8, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

    I couldn’t have picked a better night than this to enjoy Living To Music for the first time.
    I wouldn’t say I knew this album inside out, but we’ve been good friends for a long time. When I was a kid in the 1970s, I used to spend most Sunday afternoons enjoying music with my mother. We’d sing along to all kinds of stuff, but it was always more of a Beatles playlist than anything else. In fact, if it wasn’t for those days and The Beatles in particular, I wouldn’t have the knowledge and abiltiy in music that I have now. Thanks, mum!
    I love music and music production and, for a long time, I’d never been able to simply enjoy listening to a recording without automatically deconstructing and analysing it. As I’m getting older, I’m finding it easier to let my brain bypass all that so my mind can take over and let all the forgotten emotional connections I have with songs resurface. I love that more than anything and Living To Music seems to be a fantastic enabler for this.
    I studied Sgt Pepper’s in 1994 when I was studying music production and so was a little worried that the analytical brain would take over again, but thankfully, it didn’t.
    I found myself remembering other songs I enjoyed with my mum and even had the scenes in our old living room in my mind. Perfect.
    One thing that has always struck me is that Eleanor Rigby would sit perfectly as a track on this album too. Musically and emotionally, I hear it almost as a partner for She’s Leaving Home, but I’m not sure where I would place it in the tracklisting.
    Anyway, writing this and thinking about those Sunday afternoons with my mum has got me in the mood to listen to some of the other tunes we enjoyed back then. Your Mother Should Know will be first!
    Thanks Greg, Tracey and Ché for being the perfect hosts. Love you guys lots.
    Oh, and sorry for nicking your seat, Greg!

  5. Nadia January 10, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

    Everyone knows that this is an important album. Many people argue it is the most important album. When they do they talk about how extraordinary so many of its elements are and how wide-ranging and all encompassing its scope and influence. All of this is undeniable but what it always leaves me with, going round and round my head after the turntable has stopped, is image after image of ordinariness. Intimate and detailed drawings of people and places and feelings you know. It may have pioneered the concept album and elevated pop music to the level of art but concept and art seem so distant and impersonal and this band are sat opposite you on the bus, they live two doors down, they want to take you home. I find it as hard to listen to this as I do to look in the mirror or answer the question ‘how are you?’. So many holes to fix.

  6. cezza January 13, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    tA few seconds before the album was set to play I had a quietly special feeling. It grew during and after. I think it was the playing of such an epic album and a mixture of like minded friends…

    Marty its lovely to hear how memories of sitting with your mum were provoked, this seems to happen to me alot during LTM, its almost been a cathartic experience at times, especially of the past. This album brought up memories of my sister leaving to live and get married in Spain and how my dad wrote her a letter pouring his heart out, he was so sad.

    Its a wonderful album, a special album with so much variety, theres something for everyone on here. Well done Greg for your wonderful idea of Living to Music and well done to all the people who have made it happen.

  7. BrianE January 13, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

    “I used to be mad at my School, the teachers that taught me were’nt cool” And now I can’t complain because at school the music teacher devoted one lunch time (the week it was released) to playing this album in it’s entirety. He spread the cover on a music stand at the front of the class and away we went. He was obviously a forward thinking kind of guy and realised the importance of what was enclosed in those grooves on the 33 & a 1/3. Just to thank you Alwyn Humphries wherever you may be now for turning me on to such great music, not only The Beatles but lots and lots of other stuff as well. Respect!

  8. phil hongkins January 19, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    she”s leaving home , one of my favourite beatles tunes . heard most of this album just not all in one go , they where defo in a different place now to where they started . Even though the beatles where undoubted superstars i didnt hear them much as a youth , my earliest records i remember were either chart stuff or if you got lucky some famous black american artists on a tv special , i do however recall the pop style beatles chooons all the early stuff , i was in my 20s before i began to take a closer look at these music marvels . now at the age of 53 and apart from my first love northern soul , i would pick the stones over the beatles i just like their tunes more , 60s style anyway ….

  9. TC January 23, 2013 at 11:25 pm #

    Great night, great album.
    I have spent many a night over the years sat in G&T’s living room in Norris Green listening to this album, it has not diminished in all that time.
    It was state of the art then and in many ways still is.
    The Beatles at their sublime best.
    Thanks for another great LTM yous guys

  10. Henry January 25, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

    This is a LTM first, in that I’m really really familiar with this album. It actually feels so internalised (sorry) that it’s almost difficult to think of it in verbal terms. That said, I think I wrote an essay on this once (it’s a bit hazy), so…

    More than anything else this reminds me of a couple of family holidays in France, you know when there’s like two cassettes the whole family can agree on…? What struck me on this listen was how, as well as it taking me back to that time, each of the songs have a very different impact on me compared to when I was 13 or 14. Half a lifetime of experience and a slightly(!) more jaded filter through which you see the world probably, in fairness, mean you’re experiencing the true emotions intended by the writers. They’d been around the block a few times themselves, to understate it entirely. When I was young they were just songs.

    Example: Eleanor Rigby and She’s Leaving Home used to sound like nice mellow ballads with lush and interesting string arrangements, but now they’re shot through with existential angst, haha, ahem.

    On a more positive note, the title track (and the absolutely BANGING reprise) is still one of the greatest heavy rock songs ever.

    Some of McCartney’s more whimsical moments don’t age as well for me, which is inevitable I guess, although it’s probably just …Sixty-Four, because Lovely Rita is pretty funky (love his accent on that one) and even Ringo’s contribution is tolerable because the opener leaves you pretty satisfied.

    Listening with older ears, in these post-psychedelic, post-everything times, the moments that stand out are definitely the freakier ones, like ….Mr Kite, and especially Within Without You – that one’s been a revelation this time round, actually. One of the reasons for that, now I think of it, getting into a geeky (wannabe) producer mode, is that the mix is really tight – the tablas and other percussion is spread out really nicely across the stereo field, as are the strings and vocal parts. In much of the album, you can hear them having a blast with the new stereo technology, occasionally getting carried away – the drums all on one side never works for me – but on this track in particular, the mix and the bass from the percussion really struck me.

    I almost can’t listen to A Day In The Life, as epic as it is. When it starts it’s like sitting down to watch a 3 hour war movie or something, you really have to commit to it, emotionally too. Actually, hah, that’s probably the one time you’re grateful for Macca giving it some twee in the middle.

    The other thing I wanted to mention was the production thing again, much has been written (including by Greg above) about the innovation displayed by George Martin and his team in getting the sounds The Beatles wanted onto tape, and I don’t think I could say it any better, but as a lesson in achieving the most far-out textures and effects from relatively primitive equipment, it’s absolutely unbeatable.

    Thanks for the chance to revisit this, it’s been really interesting to hear again something that I was once so familiar with, at a different time and place.

  11. Mazzle January 27, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    *First of all Marty….you’re brave sitting in the L2M Maestro’s seat*

    A great and fitting classic album for the first ‘Living To Music’ of 2013. A kind of homecoming infact. With it being by a very famous boy band from Liverpool. Marvellous choice Greg.

    I got into the Beatles via my fathers friend Brian. He was moving house and left a stack of vinyl at our house to look after. My sister had given me her record player when she’d left home so I’d lie in my bedroom playing her records, my parent’s records and Brian’s and my own. Brian left a stack of Beatles 7” singles my favourite being “I should have known better” which I’d heard in the film ‘Hard Days Night’ and absolutely loved….still do. He also left all the albums ‘Sgt Peppers’ included. Baring in mind I was only12 at the time so the year was 88…..so the album was 21yrs old. The album packaging fascinated me and then when I played it I’d never heard anything like it in my life. It was definitely another level and absolutely groundbreaking for its time. Considering I was slightly obsessed with their mop top era songs this was something that literally blew me away. I only got to play the vinyl copy a few times before Brian came and collected his records. *how very selfish ;-)*

    So, that following Christmas my lovely mum bought me it on cassette and we can safely say it was on and in my Walkman all the time. It’s one album I can sing in it’s entirety so it was probably best that I was not at GnT’s for this ‘L2M’ as I doubt that I would have been able to keep a lid on it.

    It’s not just an album it’s a show. It tells an amazing story. I love the way it flows and the way it takes you on an amzing journey from the show-stopping opener of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” right through to the amazing crescendo that develops and happens in “A Day in the Life”.

    ‘Getting Better’ & ‘Good Morning, Good Morning’ are my favourite tracks…..but I truly love it all. All the tracks deserve and ovation in their own right. It’s an epic masterpiece of musical work. Something that the fab four should be and most probably are………extremely proud of. I could ramble on for hours about this album but it speaks for itself on so many levels.

    It was an absolute pleasure to re-visit this album and listen to it again from start to finish in it’s entirety. It brought a whole lot of memories back in to my head that have been buried deep in my mind archive.

    P.s Tracey/Cerri….I owe you both a Beatles badge 😉

  12. Lou Lou January 29, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    I missed doing this with everyone this time and looks like I missed a goodun! I listened on a train journey, sat back and took myself right back to my sister and I’s “performances” to the king and queen of Spain (imaginary!).in our living room. It’s funny how there were certain songs we moved past such as Within without you, that I grew to love. We never stopped listening to this album and I did nick it when I left home but had to take it back,
    I can’t pick a favourite track as they all touch me in some way. Listening with headphones really brought the definition out for me. Love the bass lines. I feel they lead the melody.

    Thanks for another great choice G.

  13. lecci February 6, 2013 at 10:56 am #

    Well, as my close friends know, it’s been a struggle with the Beatles for me. Too many years of overplaying, put me right off.
    However, over the last 5 years, i have been turned…not least of all due to the unceasing flogging of the bands best points to me, by Greg and Tracey.
    Missed the Sunday this played as we were in warmer climes and have listened since coming back.
    Tracks 5,6 and 7 were new to me, the rest weren’t.
    What can I say?
    Blooming brilliant!
    The little things in the background of most tracks…the bonkers lyrics at times, followed by deep,, beautiful, heartfelt lyrics.
    The journey through so many new genres of music, some that I am sure they discovered themselves and have been copied or not revisited since.
    Had it playing in the car the other day and my mum said “that’s an old one” and I thought, nah, it’s still new and fresh and fantastic.
    Vera, Chuck and Dave gets me everytime
    Cheers G…growing in love with them xxx

  14. TC February 6, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    Really enjoyed this months event. Love this album. Not often I can say this but I have the honour of introducing this album into my husbands collection. It also inspired a Beatles obsession in him that is still going strong. I love the sweet and sour of the writing combination, which is really apparent on this album…you have McCartney’s cosy melodies set against Lennon’s darker contributions. It really works and has all the ingredients of a great trip. A splendid time was had by all.

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