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Pulling Out The Savoy Truffle

Date: 2007-06-01 16:00
Subject: It Was 40 Years Ago Today...
Security: Public
Music:The Beatles, "Lovely Rita"

On June 1, 1967, the unthinkable happened - the world was changed by a record album - a rock record album. Today is the 40th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by - oh, come on, you know this:

How many people can hum even two bars of Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony, or Mozart’s 30th? I recently played 60 seconds of these to an audience of 700 — including many professional musicians — but not one person recognized them. Then I played a fraction of the opening “aah” of “Eleanor Rigby” and the single guitar chord that opens “A Hard Day’s Night” — and virtually everyone shouted the names.

Yeah, yeah, yeah - I know, more Boomer mewling and puking about how wonderful we had it musically. Because we did…

Most readers know the history - The Beatles spent six months in the studio (an unheard of amount of time in 1967 - recording started in the fall of 1966 after the famous “farewell to touring show” at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, CA, and continued until roughly March of 1967). The famous collage cover, conceived by Peter Blake, caused problems - Mae West, the legendary sex symbol, for example, refused to be part of the cover, asking “What would I be doing in a lonely hearts club?” (She relented after receiving handwritten letters from all four Beatles.) The album, when released, left most listeners (including this one, not quite 15 at the time) dumbstruck.

To paraphrase Samuel F.B. Morse’s famous first telegraph message, many of us wondered, what hath The Fabs wrought?

We were but to learn.

First, there was no single. NO SINGLE. In 1967. When what everybody listened to - and bought (although this pack ice was already beginning to break) were Singles. Singles were what AM radio was all about. “The Lucky 20,” the ONE HOUR PER DAY of radio devoted to “youth music” as it was called by my hometown radio station, played only singles.

And there were no singles on Sgt. Pepper. From The Beatles. Whose singles ate everybody else’s up. Whose singles were why my friends and I listened to “The $%#@#$ Lucky 20″ as we usually referred to it.

So what happened?

Here’s what happened - in the night, when the great American AM stations like WABC in New York and WLS in Chicago took over the airwaves from the local stations (most of which went off the air at sundown - no, I’m not kidding) - they played cuts from the album. And they did so for subsequent Beatles albums, as well as albums by other “important artists.” So after Sgt. Pepper, playing cuts from artists’ albums became a standard practice - one that fledgling FM rock stations ran with over the next few years - and Album Oriented Rock radio was born….

Then there was the critical reception. The Times of London ran two full pages on Sgt. Pepper. Times critic Kenneth Tynan called the album, “a decisive moment in the history of Western civilization.” Critics at major newspapers all over the world joined in the effusion, Geoffrey Stokes of Village Voice proclaiming that “listening to Sgt. Pepper album one thinks not just of the history of popular music, but of the history of this century.”

And as for the music “establishment”: Sgt. Pepper was the first rock album to win the Grammy as “Album of the Year.”

Everybody joined in heaping praise on the record - Allan Ginsburg gave talks in which he explicated the song titles as if they were a poem; Timothy Leary used the album as the “text” for talks with college students in which he claimed that the album was an artistic expression of his mantra, “Turn on, Tune in, Drop Out.” Oral Roberts warned his flock of true believers that The Beatles were, to quote John Lennon from A Hard Day’s Night, “leading this country to galloping ruin.”

It was crazy, in other words. Even in my little hometown in the American South, everywhere you went, kids were playing Sgt. Pepper. We knew something new had happened. How? Don’t know. But we knew….

Daniel J. Levitan, psychologist and music professor at McGill University, in a commentary in the Washington Post, seeks to explain why, both scientifically - and aesthetically:

To a neuroscientist, the longevity of the Beatles can be explained by the fact that their music created subtle and rewarding schematic violations of popular musical forms, causing a symphony of neural firings from the cerebellum to the prefrontal cortex, joined by a chorus of the limbic system and an ostinato from the brainstem.

To a musician, each hearing showcases nuances not heard before, details of arrangement and intricacy that reveal themselves across hundreds or thousands of performances and listenings.

Levitan also makes this point:

Great songs seem as though they’ve always existed, that they weren’t written by anyone. Figuring out why some songs and not others stick in our heads, and why we can enjoy certain songs across a lifetime, is the work not just of composers but also of psychologists and neuroscientists. Every culture has its own music, every music its own set of rules. Great songs activate deep-rooted neural networks in our brains that encode the rules and syntax of our culture’s music. Through a lifetime of listening, we learn what is essentially a complex calculation of statistical probabilities (instantiated as neural firings) of what chord is likely to follow what chord and how melodies are formed.

If you by some wild mischance don’t know Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, you should. Maybe it’ll say to you what it’s said to so many of us:

With our love-we could save the world - if they only knew.
Try to realize it’s all within yourself
No one else can make you change
And to see you’re really only very small,
And life flows ON within you and without you.

It could get better all the time….

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User: katana1
Date: 2007-06-01 21:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Hat with red scarf by the sea
My favourite:-

"A little help from my friends
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.
I get by with a little help from my friends,
I get high with a little help from my friends,
Going to try with a little help from my friends.
What do I do when my love is away.
(Does it worry you to be alone)
How do I feel by the end of the day
(Are you sad because you're on your own)
No I get by with a little help from my friends,
Do you need anybody,
I need somebody to love.
Could it be anybody
I want somebody to love.
Would you believe in a love at first sight,
Yes I'm certain that it happens all the time.
What do you see when you turn out the light,
I can't tell you, but I know it's mine.
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends,
Do you need anybody,
I just need somebody to love,
Could it be anybody,
I want somebody to love.
I get by with a little help from my friends,
Yes I get by with a little help from my friends,
With a little help from my friends."

Cracking post, as ever. :)

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User: nokomisjeff
Date: 2007-06-01 22:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Sgt. Pepper's is one of the 10 or so albums that I know the words to every song by heart. That album is still as food today as back in 67. "Pet Sounds" runs neck and neck with that album as far as I'm concerned.

However, when I was a kid, the Moody Blues, "Days of Future Past" wore out more needles than any other album.


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User: katana1
Date: 2007-06-02 08:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

"Some try to tell me
Thoughts they cannot defend,
Just what you want to be
You will be in the end,..."

...their best song (for me).

I am always amused that when I met my husband he told me, almost straight away, that he had already booked tickets to see the Moody Blues and for months went on and on about the gig he was going to with his friend.

He said he was so sorry he could not get another ticket...all booked etc. I was fine about it...until the actual night when he went to see them.

You see it was not The Moody Blues at all but a group called Deep Purple that they were going to enjoy. The roguish gentleman I married was ever humble about it afterwards...:)
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User: nokomisjeff
Date: 2007-06-02 14:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Deep Purple was a pretty good band...Not the Moody Bluse, but a pretty good band nontheless.

I still listen to a lot of Moody Blues, especially their Seventh Sojourn album.


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User: katana1
Date: 2007-06-03 15:28 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Arch by the sea
Deep Purple are okay. I was keeping a lid on my NOT being able to go and see the Moody Blues. When it turned out that he was going to see another band altogether I was mad at him for putting me through the whole Moody Blues thing.


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sirpaulsbuddy: RubberSouls
User: sirpaulsbuddy
Date: 2007-06-02 13:53 (UTC)
Subject: June to August,,,
Many folks don't know this, but the Moody Blues were working on "Days of Future Passed" BEFORE the Fabs started work on "Sgt. Pepper." It was a rush job by EMI-Capitol at the end that got SPLHCB out a couple of months before DOFP - and so The Beatles broke the mold, not the Moody Blues....Not that the MB's didn't have a huge career - just think how much bigger they might have been had they been the ones out with their album (in its own way every bit what "Sgt. Pepper" is) first....
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User: nokomisjeff
Date: 2007-06-02 14:00 (UTC)
Subject: Re: June to August,,,
By the way, have you ever checked out the Dandy Warhols?

Try the song, "Bohemian, like you."

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Patrick Vecchio
User: patrick_vecchio
Date: 2007-06-04 02:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
For you, Jim, I come down on the wrong side of the "Beatles or Stones?" question, but I nonetheless respect, admire, appreciate and enjoy the music of your beloved Fabs.

Having said that, when someone mentions Sgt. Pepper, two things immediately come to mind:

1. The brilliant "Sgt. Pepper's" album cover parody by Zappa/Mothers on "We're Only In It For The Money." Frank still had a sense of humour then and didn't take himself So Damned Seriously.

2. A story (and I can't remember where I heard this so can't say if it's true) that the Beatles, or maybe just McCartney, went to see Hendrix in the week after Sgt. Pepper came out and Hendrix played the title song during his show, much to the wonderment of those in attendance. I have a live version of Jimi covering Sgt. Pepper, but it's mostly unremarkable, save for a half-minute solo near the end.

But none of that mattered; in the summer of 1967 I was getting ready for eighth grade and was spending what little disposable income I had on Bill Cosby records. Rock wouldn't enter my consciousness until "Born to be Wild" came out.

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User: sirpaulsbuddy
Date: 2007-06-04 15:29 (UTC)
Subject: Zappa and Hendrix and Bears, oh my...!
Frank's attack on the Beatles for SPLHCB was not as good humored as you might think, Pat. He even drew the ire of Capitol records for that cover art....

Yeah, the Hendrix story is a Paul thing - he's told that story many times.

Well, if a song had to wake you up you to rock, "Born to be Wild" ain't a bad "Hello!" moment... ;-)
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Patrick Vecchio
User: patrick_vecchio
Date: 2007-06-04 16:26 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Zappa and Hendrix and Bears, oh my...!
That word "attack" has me curious. Sometime if you're inclined and have the time, you'll have to give me the back story on that.

I know that on "Only Money," Frank takes a pretty good run at the hippie/flower child mentality -- the spoken "first I'll buy some beads" rap that closes "Who Needs the Peace Corps?" comes immediately to mind -- but I always thought the album cover was funnier than hell.

In his Zappa book "The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play," Ben Watson had this to say about the cover:

"The cover of Moneybecame Cal Schenkel's most celebrated piece of work: a parody of Sgt. Pepper. Peter Blake's collage of pop personalities is replaced by a strange and disturbing pantheon with cancelled eyes: Lyndon B. Johnson, viewed as a war criminal by the anti-war movement, appears twice; Elvis is holding snakes, one of the accessories of Southern religious mania; the girl from the International Times logo watches a mechanical man drink a glass of water. The Beatles were attending a burial of their old image: compared to the Mothers' jumble-sale dresses their Carnaby Street military chic looks hopelessly twee. Where the Beatles spelt their name in neat rows of tulips, 'Mothers' is written in carrots, tomatoes and ruptured water melons. Schenkel himself crouches next to a TV aerial and a six-pack of beer -- symbols of middle-aged inertia. Zappa stands over a canceled bust of Beethoven, his right foot seemingly extended in a ludicrous boot. Instead of Madame Tussaud's careful waxworks Schenkel has fashioned grotesque dummies of Zappa, Black, Mundi, Preston and Underwood. A plastic doll in the dummy's lap and a toy robot at its feet repeat the theme of mechanical humanity. Near one of Titian's Popes a Christmas tree sprouts up, symbol of everything false and conformist in American family life. Producer Tom Wilson is wearing nothing underneath his high-school sweater and is holding his left nipple. Behind Zappa a pregnant Gail poses in an uncharacteristically dowdy dress and Jimi Hendrix holds a cut-out of a small girl (Herbie Cohen's daughter Lisa), satirizing racist paranoia about black sexuality threatening family values."

Unfortunately, the CD version of "Only Money" was extensively remastered, so it sounds lots different than the vinyl version, and Frank added some lyrics to the CD version that were more mean-spirited than anything on the record too. So maybe he turned into a Pretentious Jerk before I thought; I figured that point occurred around "Apostrophe."
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User: sirpaulsbuddy
Date: 2007-06-05 01:48 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Zappa and Sgt Pepper

Here's a link to a Britannica.com album that sort of glosses over the issue:


Zappa was really rather angry that The Fabs got so much attention for SPLCHB when "Freak Out!" was a concept album released a FULL YEAR ahead. Some of the mean spiritedness you hear on the later re-working of "We're Only in it...." Frank was quite angry- then Capitol got after Frank's record company over the cover and even ordered changes in the record.

I'll try to dig around and get you some better info - it's an interesting chapter in "Beatle hegemony." Of course, Zappa was one of the less whiny ones - the Stones whined about Beatle hegemony the most...since it meant they made only a zillion bucks instead of a zillion and a half bucks.... ;-)

It's all perspective, I guess....

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