The release of Sgt Pepper’s was a huge cultural event; “The closest Western Civilization has come to unity since the Congress of Vienna in 1815“. It created the album as a coherent artform, created modern rock and set a new benchmark. Unlike, say, The Velvet Underground and Nico, it was listened to endlessly and stayed in the album charts til well after The Beatles split up three years later. It’s release on June 1st 1967 had been set up by the wonderful Liverpool dyptych of Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane, a mini Sgt. Pepper’s in a single.
It was very much a conceptual album in that it had the conceit of being a release by Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, you can see them on the cover, and NOT by The Beatles; thus removing expectations of what the album should be. Even so they opened with a rock track, a rock overture, before opening with Ringo’s song, the first of many unusual moves. The film Yellow Submarine captured much of the faux-Edwardiana of the album. It should be noted that many of us were wearing faux-Edwardiana at the time so Pepper felt both surreal and contemporary. Continue reading