Album Review of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles
Author Joe Hackman
Album: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
After abstaining from tours, The Beatles utilized their time to slave over what was to become perhaps one of the most revolutionary albums in music history. That album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. With its diverse collection of songs interconnected by loops and crossfades, this masterpiece continues to surprise.
The album kicks off with an orchestra warming up and chatter from an audience. The band suddenly pierces that with an explosion of music that introduces themselves as “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” the persona they adapt for this album. That transitions into “With a Little Help From My Friends” wonderfully sung by Ringo Starr. “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” showcases the psychedelic material the band was capable of producing. The next song, “Getting Better,” provides a little pick-me-up to clear the haze the prior piece produced. George Harrison’s guitar work finds itself prominently featured in “Fixing a Hole.” “She’s Leaving Home” makes full use of the orchestra to produce tender feeling that fit the heartbroken lyrics. “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” sharply contrasts the somber atmosphere with soaring sound effects and electric guitar. As if a circus theme were not obscure enough, “Within You Without You” features Indian music and Harrison’s philosophical lyrics. “When I’m Sixty-Four” and “Lovely Rita” both spotlight the piano, while “Good Morning Good Morning” does so with electric guitar. A chicken cluck and a count-off launch into a reprise of the opening, and then into the lavish “A Day In the Life” which closes with a massive piano chord and a loop of the chattering band members.
The instrumentation and experimentation on Sgt. Pepper transcends any previous rock album. Paul McCartney’s bass is clear and full, since album marked the first time he plugged his bass directly into the mixing board. John Lennon’s partnership with McCartney results in witty and . George Harrison’s guitar work elevates the album to ‘rock’ status instead of being relegated to ‘pop.’ The entire band contributed towards the album in some way, shape, or form with credits ranging from an organ to a comb to sitar to tissue paper. The various instruments create a unique sound that can never quite be replicated. More unique than the music perhaps is the technology behind it. The band took many tracks per recording and mixed them down to create the extremely layered recordings. They also utilized tape loops, which create an endless cycle of a particular sound, to link the recordings and create quirky moments. Pitch and speed variations also played a role in songs such as “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds,” in which the vocal pitch was created by increasing the tape speed. The band took a new step in music; they began to treat the studio as an important part of the creative process.
This fifty year old work is still relevant because it embraced change in the forms of song construction, technology, artwork, and overall attitude towards music. Instead of churning out two to three minute love songs, they embraced the opportunity to change, which took them in a completely new direction. They faced the prospect of backlash, but they braved their way full force into unknown territory. For that, The Beatles and Sgt. Pepper will go down in history.