Rock & Roll Saturday – Sgt Peppers

June 1, 1967 – London.

The Beatles released their 8th studio album, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (SP). I was 12 going on 20.

As I tried to select the album for this week’s stroll along memory lane there were so many to choose from. Tons of albums shaped my youth and although SP was released just about the time I was starting to get into music and wouldn’t find it’s way into my collection for several months, it became a part of my musical foundation.

Several albums with potential for this week came from 1967, a real pivotal year in music. Eric Burdon & The Animals (Winds of Change), The Doors (The Doors and Strange Days), Jefferson Airplane (Surrealistic Pillow)Pink Floyd (The Piper at the Gates of Dawn), Cream (Disraeli Gears), Procol Harum (Procol Harum), and The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Are You Experienced? and Axis: Bold As Love), were all ’67 releases found in my album box. I debated on either Hendrix or Cream for this week but in the end I had to choose SP for shear generational impact.

Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club BandI can say with confidence that no album before or since has had the impact of SP. From my perspective a couple of the above albums were musically better projects. But SP was the album that said hello to the Summer of Love. It ushered in the psychedelic generation. It gave us some of the most recognizable lyrics of my generation. And the cover — wow. I’m still finding stuff in there.

So what is it about SP that makes it that makes it such a phenomenal piece of work. I don’t really know other than it just seemed like the Beatles hit their stride and found their way. A couple of the cuts were somewhat pedestrian and others have true staying power. For example, Fixing a Hole and With You Without You are as forgettable as Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and A Day in the Life is memorable.

To say SP was a commercial success would be a bona fide understatement. It sat on top of the UK album charts for 27 weeks — the US charts 15. Since 1967 Sp has shipped over 32 million copies placing it near the top of the units sold list, solidly below Jackson’s Thriller, Floyd’s DSOTM, AC/DC’s Back in Black, Meat’s Bat Out of Hell, and even Morissette’s Jagged Little pill. (among a few others)

In 2003, in one of the most argued lists of all time, Rolling Stone magazine placed SP at the top of its Top 500 albums of all time. (3 of the Beatles albums are found in the top 10) I don’t know that Sgt Peppers is worthy of that lofty position.

Then again, I’m not sure it isn’t. Ask me again when I’m 64.

Interactive list of the cover of Sgt Peppers.

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