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Sgt Pepper - I remember the day
30 March 2015
4.25pm
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vectisfabber
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There are a lot of younger posters here, and I wondered if some of you might like to hear the memories of a hoary old so-and-so telling you what it was like to buy it on the day it was released.

I guess the first thing is you have to do is try to imagine what life was like before the internet. There was no way to share speculation - what you had was the music press (Melody Maker, Disc, New Musical Express, Record Mirror), and that was about all there was for raising expectations. You had perhaps heard a few tantalising details, some song titles maybe, and the odd track or two might have been previewed on the radio if you had been lucky enough to be tuned in to the right station at the right time. There was excitement, of course - there always was before a Beatles release. But apart from that, there was a big old vacuum into which Sgt Pepper was about to emerge in full plumage (sorry about mixing my metaphors).

You also have to remember that we (in the UK) had got used to 2 Beatles albums a year. But, apart from the Collection Of Beatles Oldies album and Penny Lane /SFF last Christmas, there had been nothing since Revolver a year ago, so anticipation was all the keener.

So I got off the school bus and walked up the High Street to Clarks (long since gone) and Mrs Langbourne, seeing me come in the door, held up a large brown LP-shaped paper bag. I won’t say I ran in, but it was close. I only lived 5 minutes’ walk from Clarks, and most of that was spent not looking where I was going, because I was looking at the sleeve. Straight indoors, and up to my bedroom.

OK - try to imagine no CDs, no Mp3s, not even any cassette tapes: vinyl was the currency of music. Most LPs had a glossy colour front and a non-glossy b+w reverse with the track listing, maybe some comment, maybe some photos. Every now and then you’d get something like Beatles For Sale where the front of the sleeve was a single layer gatefold, giving you another two surfaces for pics/text. Sgt Pepper was a double glossy gatefold, and all colour, with - wow! - the lyrics on the back. No-one had ever done this before. Looking forward to learning those!

So I go to take out the LP, and the paper inner sleeve (usually plain white paper with rounded corners for EMI for the last couple of years, square paper with a polythene liner before that) had these graduated pink swirls all over it, going from red on one side to white on the other.

Out comes the LP itself, and there are no blank bands between the tracks. What the...? How are you supposed to lift the stylus up to skip tracks? Why have they done this? The answer is because there is no real gap in between the tracks, but I have yet to find this out. The LP looks plain odd because of it, though.

So the LP goes on the turntable and I alternate between looking at the sheet of cutouts and the front and back of the gatefold - that busy, busy front cover, and the lyrics on the reverse - while the music starts.

Audience? Tuning up? And then these hard guitars, french horns (?!), sublime harmonies in this introductory song which then turns into (now I see why there are no gaps) Ringo’s song, which is great. Lucy transports me to its own dreamworld, then the chopping guitars of Getting Better bring me back. Fixing A Hole threatens to take me to dreamland again, She’s Leaving Home breaks my heart, and Mr Kite is another one which takes me to another world.

Flip the disk. George’s Indian song isn’t the most immediate piece (it took me many years to appreciate which a profound piece it is), but the laughter defuses it and then 64, the most obviously accessible song on the album delights me with its reference to the Isle of Wight, where I live now and lived then. And Lovely Rita - well, I was used to Paul’s character/story songs, but the sounds? This LP was NOT what a pop group sounded like (comb and toilet paper?). Good Morning is more conventional pop group-y (but those time signatures, that screaming guitar!), the reprise lacks the interest of the opening version but makes up for it in energy, and then...

I think I might have died for five minutes and gone to heaven. I had never heard anything like A Day In The Life and, with the exception of Bohemian Rhapsody, nothing has ever come near it since in terms of epic vision. I was stunned.

But only for as long as it takes to flip an LP and start over (it was a couple of days later before I started to let side 2 play the end groove over and over).

Sgt Pepper was an LP which delivered in every way possible. It is sad that so many of its innovations have been copied so often in the 48 years since that they have become cliches, and that it is so much of its time that it now sounds more dated than the records which bracketed it. And it is particularly sad that it is now not possible to hear it in context.

Because it was a pretty remarkable thing to own that summer.

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30 March 2015
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Beatlebug
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Thanks for sharing your memories. I've often thought about how it must have felt to actually have been there... fab doesn't cover it at all. 

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It verges from the sublime to the ridiculote

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30 March 2015
5.45pm
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meanmistermustard
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Thanks for taking the time to post your recollections of the first time you heard Pepper @vectisfabber. Great to read how different the world was at the time without the net and just jumping to a website (losest i can remember is getting 'Live At The BBC ' on cassette back in November 1994 and playing it to death (i didnt get into Beatles cd's until around Anthology time)) and how different the record was to anything out there. As you say so much has been lost over the years since.

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31 March 2015
1.00am
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Bongo
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vectisfabber said
There are a lot of younger posters here, and I wondered if some of you might like to hear the memories of a hoary old so-and-so telling you what it was like to buy it on the day it was released.

I was 4 years old in '67, and barely remember my 3 teenage sisters being gaga over The Beatles! a-hard-days-night-ringo-14

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http://i276.photobucket.com/albums/kk38/rickdelsie/The%20Beatles/parlunread_zps28270d9d.gif BEATLES Music gives me Eargasms!  apple01

2 April 2015
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@vectisfabber, if you could, for the benefit of the younger ones, give us an idea of that context you mentioned. What artists and albums were you listening to that year, what jumped out at you on the hit parade, on the TV? I was extremely young at the time like @Bongo and I only have vague memories of the last two albums.

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2 April 2015
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meanmistermustard
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There is a complete copy of 'Where It's At' (a BBC Light Programme radio show) broadcast on the 20th May 1967 in the BBC archives set as it featured many of the Pepper tracks being heard for the first time by the listeners. The Kinks, Bee Gee's, Dusty Springfield, The Tremeloes, The Beach Boys , Purple Gang are amongst the artists that you hear.

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2 April 2015
3.37pm
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PeterWeatherby
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This was an awesome read, @vectisfabber, thanks for sharing your recollections. My wife and I were just listening to "Pepper" the other night because we'd just picked up the remastered mono vinyl. For some reason, even though I've heard "Pepper" a thousand-thousand times in the last 25 years, this experience felt a lot more to me like what you described -- I was a lot more "shocked and stunned" with that listening experience than in years past.

One thing about vinyl that adds to the drama, which you don't get by listening to a CD or an iTunes playlist, is the sudden ending of "side one," followed by a brief intermission while you flip the record over. It's a sort of built-in reflection period where you get a few seconds to take it all in and linger on what you've just heard. So we were listening to "Pepper" that night, and side one ends with "Mr. Kite" -- which had to have been an auditory shock to its first listeners in 1967, with all those weird tape loops and circus effects -- and then there's just this silence. We were both like, "Holy crow ... quick, flip it over, flip it over, we've got to hear what comes next!"

I think maybe part of it was because the most recent vinyl we'd listened to a day or so earlier was "Pet Sounds," which is a great album, but in that context "Pepper" just suddenly stood out as a true piece of art, not just a collection of songs.

Very strange and very cool experience, and both of us were speculating a lot that night about what it must have been like to live in 1967 and, after nearly a year of silence from The Beatles, suddenly see this album cover gracing the shop windows. So, yeah, very cool to hear your story, @vectisfabber, I'll have to share it with my wife. She'll get a real kick out of it.

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3 April 2015
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meanmistermustard said

There is a complete copy of 'Where It's At' (a BBC Light Programme radio show) broadcast on the 20th May 1967 in the BBC archives set as it featured many of the Pepper tracks being heard for the first time by the listeners. The Kinks, Bee Gee's, Dusty Springfield, The Tremeloes, The Beach Boys , Purple Gang are amongst the artists that you hear.

So the BBC actually played songs from the album that they later banned, even after they had the story behind them like Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds ...

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3 April 2015
8.28pm
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What a fantastic recollection. It gave me goose flesh and the shivers.

Well done - thank you!
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4 April 2015
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Into the Sky with Diamonds
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I echo everything Vectisfabber has said. The ANTICIPATION was tremendous. It had been SO long since the last Beatle album! Rumors floated about everywhere as to what could possibly have been going on. Breaking up? Cowered by the competition?

This was the very start of the Summer of Love: the first Hendrix album, Eric Clapton and Cream where 'arriving' with Disraeli Gears, the Doors...

I had to run across town and wait on line for my copy of Sgt Pepper . As vectisfabber has pointed out, the packaging was dizzying and did not disappoint. All those people on the cover! All those little items to look at; the lyrics printed on the back; the cardboard cutouts... My heart was pounding.

Alas, when I got home I found the album not working: I could only hear half the stereo sound. So, very faint vocals or very faint instrumentation depending on the track.

DAMN! I raced back across town to exchange the record. The fellow put my album on his turntable ... and it worked fine.

It was my parents' stereo system that wasn't working!!!!

The pain!!!

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4 April 2015
3.41pm
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Ahhh Girl
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The way you folks tell the stories we can tell that your memories of the moment are so vivid. It seems like you are telling us something that happened yesterday.a-hard-days-night-george-9

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7 April 2015
11.02am
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vectisfabber
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Ahhh Girl said
The way you folks tell the stories we can tell that your memories of the moment are so vivid. It seems like you are telling us something that happened yesterday.a-hard-days-night-george-9

I'm 62 now, I was 15 then, and I can still see Mrs Langbourne's shop coat - brown, with cream and red trim.  Such vivid times.

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8 April 2015
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chrisredditch
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I was 5 when SP was released and don't have any immediate recollections.

A year or so later though, I remember my sister getting the "White" album for Christmas and giggling about "Sexy Sadie "

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8 April 2015
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I remember as kids in the 80's two of my brothers and myself thinking how bad we were playing 'Sexy Sadie ' on the record player, we even kept an eye out for our parents so we didnt get caught.

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