Monday, June 04, 2007

40 Years Ago Today - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Well, sort of. The epochal song-cycle rock opera concept album, from those towering geniuses and cheeky lads from Liverpool, debuted on Friday.

It is hard to overstate the significance of their achievement in moving the artistic goalposts. The New Yorker's current issue has a great profile of Paul (my second-favorite Beatle), in which he talks about the pain of having to sue his bandmates about their poor choice of management (history proved him right to do so), and how he and John patched up their relationship, and went back to the easy tomfoolery and rapport they enjoyed during the late 1950s as teenagers with the Quarrymen and their shared love of American blues and rockabilly.

It is hard to also overstate the cultural wasteland that awaited the Beatles when they arrived in the U.S. in 1964 for their watershed moment on the Ed Sullivan show. To describe that moment, I will defer to one of my favorite bloggers, Digby's Hullabaloo:

"First of all, to you kiddies out there who want to know what all the brouhaha about The Beatles was all about, I strongly suggest you - hell, everyone should have it - grab the four Complete Ed Sullivan Shows with The Beatles . Now here's the thing: you have to watch one a night, all the way through, including Miitzi Gaynor sing what she calls "real music," and Frank Gorshin doing Kirk Douglas impressions. You will learn two things. First of all, that life in mainstream white America in 1964 was bereft of any positive cultural merit whatsoever. And secondly, this is the ideal society your average Republican politician has in mind for America, sans Beatles of course. It truly is hard to believe. You must see these shows in their entirety to understand how much this country has changed."

Here's a rare, archival video of the title song:


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