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Thread: CW51 - Albums - No. 3

  1. #1
    Eternal Optimist / Cricket Web Staff Member GIMH's Avatar
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    CW51 - Albums - No. 3

    3. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band




    1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
    2. With a Little Help From My Friends
    3. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
    4. 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. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
    13. A Day In The Life


    Points: 149
    Votes: 8

    The prosaic details are that Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was The Beatles' eighth studio album and it was released in 1967. Less prosaically their sixth and seventh albums had been the twin peaks of Rubber Soul and Revolver, so the bar of expectation could scarcely have been higher.

    By this point of their career the four members of the group were long established as part of arguably the biggest cultural phenomenon of the late twentieth century. No longer The Beatles, they were The Beatles. Lennon's throwaway line about his band being bigger than Jesus may've annoyed some of the slacker jawed denizens of the Bible Belt, but there was more than a kernel of truth in it, a fact slyly and mischievously acknowledged with Peter Blake's iconic Sgt. Pepper album cover. A collage of the great and the good from Oscar Wilde to Gandhi and Bob Dylan, it has the immortal four, John, Paul, George and Ringo (surnames long since superfluous), squarely front and centre, the cynosure of everybody's attention.

    There is an irony at the heart of Sgt. Pepper. It's a concept album with a central conceit of replicating a live performance of their titular alter egos, but it was the Fabs' own decision to stop touring that freed the group to push the boundaries of what pop music could do in the studio, safe in the knowledge no concessions need be made as to how it could be replicated in a live environment.

    The Sgt. Pepper recording sessions also yielded Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever. Released as a double-A side single before the LP, there's a case to be made that they form the strongest two-song set of its kind. That they were not included on the finished album is what producer George Martin would call “the biggest mistake of my professional life”, but really their addition would've been mere gilding of the lily as the thirteen songs that made the cut show a band at the zenith of their considerable collective powers.

    Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band begins with the sound of an orchestral pit tuning up and the title track then breaks free into a seamless fusion of rock and brass with McCartney (who always had the best “rock” voice in the band) in balls-out mode barking his way through a potted biography of their fictional selves, whilst his fellow Beatles harmonise standard showbiz crowd-affirming tropes, establishing the album's framing conceit, “It's wonderful to be here; it's certainly a thrill; you're such a lovely audience, we'd like to take you home with us; we'd love to take you home.”

    It's apparent McCartney will be tonight's MC as he introduces “the one and only Billy Shears” and the album segues into track two, With A Little Help From My Friends, sung by Ringo. The drummer's fragile, heartfelt and endearingly gloomy baritone creates a stark counterpoint to the band's glorious harmonies in the call-and-response verses, suggesting all the playful, self-referential irony on display is underpinned with some real emotional truth.

    With a Little Help... also got the BBC's marvellously inconsistent censors (a drag queen “giving head” on Lou Reed's Walk On The Wild Side famously passed their muster) a little twitchy with Starr singing he'd “get high with a little help from my friends”. Track three must've given them full on conniptions. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds wears its lysergic heart on its sleeve. For all its author's subsequent disavowals, Lennon was far too clever a cat not to have realised even his most naïve listener would notice it had “LSD” in its title. The music replicates the flickering effect the drug has on one's perception and its hallucinatory lyrics (newspaper taxis, cellophane flowers, tangerine trees and marmalade skies) are clearly indebted to the English nonsense tradition of Lear and Carroll, so beloved of John. If the listener threatens to lose themselves four stark drum beats from Ringo rouse them for the chorus.

    Lennon the lyricist reached back to his youth for inspiration on Lucy... and childhood is something of a recurring theme; another Lennon contribution, Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite! is woven around a half-remembered circus poster and McCartney's She's Leaving Home paints an adolescent flight from stifling parental love; its string arrangement making it something of a musical first cousin to Revolver's Eleanor Rigby.

    Eastern spiritual mysticism of the kind that would be given freer reign on subsequent releases is hinted at with the sitars and tanpuras on Harrison's sole contribution Within You Without You and what Lennon slandered as McCartney's “granny music” also features with Lovely Rita and, especially, When I'm Sixty-Four, which readers of a certain age might remember as the theme to BBC's Points of View.

    Lennon's crashing snobbery may've blinded him to the universal appeal of a thumping good pop tune in the English musical hall tradition if Paul had written it, but Good Morning Good Morning he proved his own way with a song the milkman could whistle hadn't deserted him; taking an advert for a breakfast cereal as his cue for an essay on a peculiarly English domesticity, shining the kind of light on the thrashing below the calm suburban surface waters Ray Davies had mastered, whilst Harrison's guitars recall the best work of the younger Davies brother.

    The title track is reprised without the brass as a farewell and we're done. Well, not quite. The reprise segues into Sgt. Pepper's crowning glory. A Day in the Life may be fairly considered the best song The Beatles ever wrote, in fact. It pushes the envelope about as far as it can go whilst retaining any fidelity to the pop song format. Lennon's voice has never sounded more stark or affecting as it relates a newspaper story of a suicide, his ear for ironic detail as keen as ever it were, “He blew his mind out in a car; he didn't notice that the lights had changed”. The minimalist backing is beautifully underscored by orchestral glissandos that segue into the McCartney sung middle section that plays on his “thumbs aloft, wacky Scouse everyman” persona, relating the seemingly mundane details of, ha, a day in the life, “Got up, fell out of bed; dragged a comb across my head” before he ends his reveries as he “found my way upstairs and had a smoke; Somebody spoke and I went into a dream.”

    A plaintive cry of “Ahhh” brings the song back to Lennon, his tale of “4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire” with the orchestra building to a final crescendo that ends with a single sustained piano note. Wow. Huh. Did they just pull that off? In spades.

    Write-up by Boy Brumby

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  2. #2
    Hall of Fame Member morgieb's Avatar
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    Wow. Huge surprise this isn't first.

    I didn't vote for it as my exposure to the Beatles is lacking, but I will say A Day In The Life is something else.
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  3. #3
    Cricketer Of The Year Maximas's Avatar
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    A Day in the Life is possibly the best song I've ever heard

    Was number 2 on my list, I thought this would be either 1 or 2, everything on this album is gold, even the throwaways like 'Lovely Rita' still have a certain charm to them that seems lacking from other artists or indeed other Beatles records. The combination of Paul's imagination, John's insanity, the group's willingness to push the barriers of the studio and George Martin's guiding hand and expertise made this such a bloody good album.
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    cpr
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    If theres a Radiohead album above this then I'm going on a rampage.
    "All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusions is called a philosopher." - Ambrose Bierce
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    cpr
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    But yeah, this is the album that always takes me back to my childhood, must've worn out dads LP of this. Whilst nowadays I tend to prefer early Beatles to later (there's a beauty to the simplicity of their early songs, and some of the rock and roll covers are amazing), I can still happily while away an hour listening to this at any time. Needless to say scored highly on my list too.
    GIMH likes this.

  6. #6
    Eternal Optimist / Cricket Web Staff Member GIMH's Avatar
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    What a write-up btw.

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    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    Yessssssssssssssssssssss

    This means that OK Computer will be first or second.

    Has Exile on Main Street come up yet?

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    Hall of Fame Member morgieb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sledger View Post
    Yessssssssssssssssssssss

    This means that OK Computer will be first or second.

    Has Exile on Main Street come up yet?
    It was like 30th.

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    Global Moderator Spark's Avatar
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    Holy hell, I figured this was nailed on for first.
    do you think people will be allowed to make violins?
    who's going to make the violins?

    forever 63*

  10. #10
    Hall of Fame Member morgieb's Avatar
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    I'd be interested to see what the other one was.

  11. #11
    Cricketer Of The Year Maximas's Avatar
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    Will it be OK Computer and some Oasis album then?

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    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    I'm pleased that this hasn't made top spot. It always seems to grab that position in nearly all lists like this.

    I've just never really been able to get into the Beatles for some reason. My father used to play their records constantly when I was little, and I think it just amounted to overkill for me.

  13. #13
    Eternal Optimist / Cricket Web Staff Member GIMH's Avatar
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    You couldn't get into something that loads of people liked?

    HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
    Flem274* likes this.

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    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GIMH View Post
    You couldn't get into something that loads of people liked?

    HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
    GTFO - most of the things I like are widely popular. Except you. Everyone thinks you're a ****.

  15. #15
    Eternal Optimist / Cricket Web Staff Member GIMH's Avatar
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    Not you, evidently, as you've just admitted to liking me

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