2 October 2012
I kind of blend singles with albums in this part, because all of the Beatles music from winter to summer of 1967 seemed as if it was a 'piece'...
'Penny Lane ' b/w '"Strawberry Fields Forever ' came out early in 1967, and I was in the 8th grade in America, getting ready to graduate to high school...My first thought on hearing these songs on the radio was 'Can this be the Beatles? I don't hear any guitars at all!'...
Now, the US charts were a fairly interesting place at that time: We already had 'Good Vibrations' by the Beach Boys in late 1966, 'Ruby Tuesday' was on the top 40 in 1967, but you also had stuff like 'Georgie Girl' by the Seekers and 'The Green Green Grass of Home' by Tom Jones in the top slots. So 'PL' & certainly 'SFF' were quite an eye opener from the Fabs just because THE SOUND HAD CHANGED SO MUCH. In a sense it wasn't rock & roll anymore, but, again with them, something NEW.
These two got very heavy airplay and, in addition, much commentary from all the commercial DJs. There were also hints of a new album coming.
Late in the spring of 1967, with stuff like 'Gimme Some Lovin' by the Spencer Davis Group & 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' by Procol Harum (along with of course the Monkees) at the top of the charts, we started to hear snippets of a new recording by the Beatles. These tracks always leaked out a bit, even before the LP was released. I seem to remember something with a WHOLE ORCHESTRA, something about somebody reading something from a newspaper. But it wasn't classical music, and it wasn't MUZAK, it was very interesting, even for a 13 year old, and it WAS VERY DIFFERENT, and I was captivated. The DJs said it was 'The Beatles' but I didn't get the name of the song, and it DID sound like John & Paul, but THERE WERE NO GUITARS!
In June, 'Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band', the Beatles new album was released in the US/UK...It was played constantly, all the tracks, including the one I had heard about reading the newspaper, which was called 'A Day In The Life '...Everyone was blown away, and in addition to the music, you could even read the lyrics on the back cover...What a concept, and incredibly common sense, because you wanted to know what the words were...And the cover! You could spend weeks trying to figure out whose pictures were on it...At first, on the radio, you only heard the individual songs in isolation, but when you bought the album and sat down with it, you understood that it all sort of linked together... It was a bit like what was called a 'musical' (West Side Story), and later became known as a 'rock opera', a sort of story or sequences linked by songs.
Of course, all the songs were good, and the instrumentation was fascinating, but it didn't have many guitars: keyboards, strings, Indian instruments...'Within You, Without You': this was like a piece of classical music being heard on your local Top 40 station...If it wasn't a Beatle doing it, this would have never been played, but then, that's the whole point....'She's Leaving Home ' was quite popular, 'Lovely Rita ', 'With A Little Help From My Friends ', sure, and of course, 'A Day In The Life '.
'Sgt. Pepper ' cost about $3.49 when it came in to the shops...Albums cost $3 at the time, so Capitol tacked a few extra cents on...It was worth it....(Ciggies cost 50 cents a pack, and gasoline was 55 cents a gallon in the USA!)
A mere 3 weeks after 'Sgt. Peeper' was in the shops, we received notice that the Beatles would be featured on the first worldwide satellite broadcast, a program called 'Our World' from London...This was sort of the infancy of 'globalism' in tele-commnications, and the BBC chose the Beatles, because, of course, they were the most famous British entertainers...In any case, the Beatles sang and played with some live musicians and a pre-recorded rhythm track, some famous pop people were there and many balloons and streamers were unleashed...Considered an 'anthem' for the burgeoning 'flower power summer' of 1967, 'All You Need Is Love ' was a pleasant enough song, but an anti-climax after 'Pepper'...The quirky 'Baby You're A Rich Man ' was the flip side...John looked appropriately enigmatic singing the enigmatic lyrics of 'AYNISL', George played a psychedelic painted Stratocaster, Paul goofed around and George Martin was having a sh*t fit in the engineering booth as all the cables had gotten messed up and he couldn't talk to all the people he needed to talk to...'The Marsellais' was played by the string section, along with 'Greensleeves'.
More to come...