June 1st, 2007 saw the 40th anniversary of The Beatles' much-celebrated concept album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The album represents a watermark in the group's fabled history. The group had stopped touring the previous year and were turning their focus to create an album of epic scale. Not long after Sgt. Pepper's, the band went into decline; their popularity had waned from the “mania”-pitch of 1964 and '65, the magic began to fade and relationships within the band became strained.
The dream was coming to an end.
The Beatles created great music. They've always been one of my favorite bands. I can remember as a kid, around 7 or 8 years old, my mom singing “Love Me Do” along with the AM radio in the kitchen. Finally, about 12 or so years ago, I amassed my own Beatles collection on CD. (JOY!)
So this June 1st, I celebrated the day by listening to some Sgt. Pepper's on the way to and from work. Now, I just read an article from the June 13-19th edition of the MetroTimes entitled, "Picking Over Pepper". The piece refutes some of the credits bestowed upon Sgt. Pepper's with facts about musical album “firsts”. And while the article is an insightful read with its historical analysis and balanced with witty quips, I take exception to the author's assertion that time has shown Sgt. Pepper's to be inferior to the “white album” or that the hype surrounding Sgt. Pepper's is overblown.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is not only a watermark for The Beatles, it is the gold standard by which every album made subsequent to it is meted. Not every Beatles album; every album.
The Beatles had to have realized this. Their follow-up to Sgt. Pepper was a double long player, simply entitled “The Beatles” but better known as the "white album", it is packaged in a plain white gate-fold sleeve. Indeed, the band was moving on. The internal strife within the band at that time has been widely documented, and just like the rest of the world which began to move in a different direction, John, Paul, George and Ringo were ready to go their own separate directions. The pomp and circumstance of Sgt. Pepper's would never be duplicated.
Nowadays, I find myself listening to Let It Be more often than Sgt. Pepper's, but my appreciation for Sgt. Pepper's proper place in rock history has never diminished. It is truly a masterpiece of art. A masterpiece naturally draws comparisons because it is the acme of achievement.
Ozzy Osbourne was interviewed by VH1 for a “Behind The Scenes” show and when asked about retiring, he stated that he couldn't retire yet. Ozzy, a huge fan of The Beatles, pointed out that he hadn't written his “Sgt. Pepper's” yet. What a statement. At that moment, Ozzy forced me think, “Have I written my Sgt. Pepper's?” In a broader perspective, “Am I achieving everything I am capable of?” and “What am I doing to make this world better than when I entered it?” Ozzy's sentiment still hits me like a ton of bricks.
And do you know what? That metaphor works because Sgt. Pepper can demand that much.