Friday, September 11, 2009


Discussing the Beatles last night in the wake of my inevitable (albeit very financially irresponsible) purchase of the newly released stereo box remasters of all their albums, Greg, my brother, mentioned that he really doesn't like the Beatles all that much. Over the next couple of hours, I think he then mentioned about four or five Beatles' albums as, arguably, "the greatest album of all time" - which not only put something of a question mark over his claim not to like them very much, but also made it very difficult for me to choose just which one to listen to tonight.

I ended up going with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (possibly the greatest album of all time, according to my brother). Actually, this album found its way, along with the White Album and Abbey Road, into my record collection even back in the days when the collection included not only nothing other than classical music but, in fact, nothing other than Wagner.

When I listened to this album again tonight I was reminded why I had made the exception way back then, and let a bit of non-Wagner (the only music genre I tended to not like) through the gatekeeper. It was, and still is, just such wonderfully adventurous, clever, witty music with wonderfully adventurous, clever, witty words - and maybe even, if it's not too long a bow, a little bit Wagnerian in the way that it melded everything together, all its elements, into one superb, integrated whole. The words could never be sung to any tune other than these tunes. The tunes could never have any words other than these words. The songs may have been through heaps of other versions from heaps of other performers over the years, but none of them, surely, have ever sounded as right as the ones here on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

I had forgotten just how clever some of these songs are. I wonder how long it took Lennon and McCartney to come up with the sharp, tongue-in-cheek, mocking images that abound throughout "When I'm Sixty-Four"? And how long to get every note to fit every syllable, without even a hint of clumsiness, in "Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite!", where the lyrics are every bit as musical as the music? And how long not only to capture that exotic, Eastern sound, with its profound message of humanity, in "Within You and Without You", but also to make the decision to integrate it into this album, where so much else is unadulterated fun, thumbing its nose at everything? Or the idea of turning the whole thing into a show within a show, through the bookend appearances of the title song as the first, and penultimate, tracks? And the almost surreal coda of "A Day in the Life"?

There's just no end to the creativity and cleverness of this album - which, of course, would not in itself be enough to make it so enduringly famous and loved and, were it not for the sheer catchiness of every tune, the irresitable hooks at every turn of phrase, on every beat, this album would simply never have become one which which even people who don't like it, just love.


  1. I did not state those Beatles albums were some of the greatestof all time. I said they were the four greatest Beatles albums. I realise there is editorial truth and then there is THE truth!!

  2. I stand by my account of the events ... although I do admit there was a bottle of wine involved in the discussion, so it is possible that some of the more subtle details might be a bit hazy.