When I'm sixty four minus twenty four

Forty years ago today, June 1, 1967, The Beatles taught the world what innovation really sounded like.

It's unmistakably poignant that just as the record business' horribly painful and potentially fatal transition continues to tumble, this amazing artifact, so emblematic of when music was much more important to humankind and therefore capable of reaching greater heights of artistic expression, reaches this anniversary.

Where to start? Perhaps the visual. The assembled crowd cover art that now in the CD version comes with its own ID key. I always loved the fact that Bowery Boy, Leo Gorcey, clearly a great intellect, wanted to get paid for having his image included on the cover so he was painted out. Way to sense an opportunity for posterity there Leo ya friggin' knucklehead!

And then there were those garish satin military slash band uniforms and Lennon disarming the whole circus aspect of the costuming by tucking his hands in the front of the pants in one of the inside shots.

Musically, the riches as they say, are embarrassing. I often say that the longer time presses on, the larger and more savory the Beatles accomplishments become. My favorite musical moment here is Lennon’s sunny "Getting Better" and the one falsetto call and response verse, where with a single line he disarms everyone who thought this tune was simple minded rubbish by interjecting, "It can’t get no worse."

Is it the goliath of popular music that it's been lauded as for the past 40 years? Is it even the best Beatles record? My instinctual distrust of anything that's acclaimed as being this influential tells me the answer is NO. To be fair, time has dimmed the luster. So much time and music have passed that there's no way it could be the surprise it once was. The Beatles themselves went on to eclipse it. In a personal way, the White Album and Abbey Road have always resonated a little more for me. But again it's not about what this singleless hit album does now, it's about what it did then, which was show what could be done with a four track tape recorder after the Beatles stopped touring and concentrated their energies in the studio. Ah, the days when giants, musical giants roamed the earth and the release of an album of music was a cultural event. When did that last happen? Nevermind, which is 16 years distant now?

More proof that singles are the new weapon of music business choice. The Now series, which aggregates hits from Universal music labels is the favorite of my 11 year old nephew and his pals. When asked what record I can get him his standard reply is, "What volume are they up to now."

Mark Fleischmann's picture

Wonderful piece. I would give Rubber Soul or Revolver the nod for innovation, The White Album for sheer richness. But everyone of a certain age has his or her own favorite Beatles album, just as we all have our own fingerprints.

Wes Phillips's picture

I pretty much agree with Mark that Rubber Soul and Revolver did the innovation heavy lifting, but Sgt. Pepper's, unlike either or The Beatles, was an ALBUM. I also find it interesting that the most innovative (and most obviously Lennon/McCartney team-up) song on the record, "A Day in the Life," falls outside he parenthesis of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and its reprise.But that's a different rant -- the true breakthrough was thinking in terms of music programs, not singles.

Anthony Faria's picture

With regards to Sgt. Pepper, so much has been written over the last 40 years, hasn't it? Yet, inspite of opinions in favour of it as the Beatles' greatest LP, I am still not convinced. There are a number of dud songs that seem to recede deeper into the labyrynthine recesses of memory with eash passing year as unessential Beatles tracks. I am thinking of Mr. Kite, Within You, Without You,..and a few more.Clocking in at just a mere 2:30, songs like In My Life and others from Rubber Soul will always make it my fave album. But why quarrel? I am just glad there was a vinyl LP era (could Sgt. Pepper be recorded today? Doubt it), and there was a Beatles, and, lest we forget, some pretty good solo efforts after 1970 by Paul, George, and John.

sohbet odaları's picture

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