It Was Forty Years Ago Today. Now Won’t You Please Shut The F–k Up?

May 23rd, 2007 // 68 Comments

sgtpepppp.jpgIn case you haven’t heard, June 1 marks one of the most super-important, life-changing, monumentastic events in music history: The fortieth anniversary of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. And if you do try to claim that you didn’t know about this, we don’t believe you, as the media has been billy-clubbing it into our brains for seemingly the last five months.

It made the cover of Mojo and Guitar World, prompted an exegesis in The Wall Street Journal, and served as the news peg for an untold number of newspaper stories. The coverage was so overwhelming, The Week even published an editor’s letter bemoaning the flood of nostalgia–and even that missive turned into a massive Beatles B.J.

And Lord, it’s got to stop. For two reasons:

1) There’s nothing left to learn. Ever since its release, Sgt. Pepper–and everything else the Beatles members ever touched–has been poked, prodded, analyzed, celebrated, turned upside down, attacked, redeemed and canonized. Really, what do writers and editors get out of these articles, other than smug, back-slapping feelings of self-affirmation, and continued bragging rights about how great it all was, back in the day? It’s not as though the world needs another 3,000-word essay on the “joyous role-play” of Billy Shears, or where George Martin placed the microphones on “Lovely Rita.” In 2007, is there anyone left who hasn’t been made aware of Pepper‘s place in history?

2) It’s further proof of the Boomers’ stranglehold on the cultural. Don’t let our recent Stephen King rant give you the wrong idea: We’re not ageist. We like older people, and, for the most part, we’re not dickardly enough to rag on anyone’s overly retro music tastes (especially since, in fifty years, we’ll be scowling at the children, asking them why they’ve never heard of Fugazi). But the top-floor offices at most of the country’s major news and entertainment outlets are occupied by later-era Boomers who will never, ever let us forget of their generation’s accomplishments; with one hand stroking their salt-and-pepper beard, and the other refreshing their online mutual-fund accounts, they tsk-tsk their superiority over us all, conveniently leaving out such history-reel lowlights as, say, the eighties.

So please: When you’re sitting in your editorial meeting, and someone raises their hand and says, “You know what would be kinda neat? A piece on what Sgt. Pepper means, and how it holds up today!”, make sure you leap across the table, place said person in a sleeper hold, and make the “shhhhhh” gesture that indicates to the room that this idea should be forever silenced. At least until August, when the fortieth anniversary of Are You Experienced? rolls around.

  1. Ned Raggett

    @Bob Loblaw: I’m talking about anyone with the means to create something original, timeless, and crucial to its moment in history.

    But this is so TEDIOUS. This isn’t ambition, this is being crushed by some sort of sense of overarching self-awareness that nothing is the result. There have been tons of characters who have played by these rules over time in any number of artistic fields and found their monuments to history ignored or out of place when the random out of nowhere experiment finds itself lionized. I will stick with that approach rather than some sort of overtly conscious dream of ‘oh if ONLY we could create something to sledgehammer the future with!’

  2. AcidReign

    …..@heidiho: Well, exactly. As a guy from Birmingham who shares that last name, it was POOR. Worse was watching Reuben squealing out Lucy in the Sky. I was the first guy that BITCHED to high heaven when Bo Bice lost out to Ms. Underwood, but she actually seems to have made hay with her opportunity. Despite REALLY, REALLY hating country music, I do admit to a great thrill watching her demolish a redneckerson veehickel! Carrie’s honed her craft well. Other idol winners have been homogenized into soft pap. Was I the only watcher in America hoping for Clive Davis to choke on his own tongue, on the air? Bastard…

  3. AcidReign

    …..Best band of the 60s? I’d personally give it to either Idle Race, or the Yardbirds. The Kinks had a few ideas, but really, I never noticed till EVH retreated the guitar parts of “You Really Got Me.”

    …..”Squee! Squak squick squawk squawk-GIRL.”

  4. Bob Loblaw

    @NedRaggett: I may well be a mug, but don’t get hung up on the generational “we.” If you substitute “any musician anywhere in the world at any point in history post-Beatles,” I don’t think I’m saying anything controversial here.

    I’m talking about anyone with the means to create something original, timeless, and crucial to its moment in history. A record that has seismic effects on the culture at large. It has nothing to do with hijacked definitions or throwback ideals. The idea of “greatness” might allow for some wiggle room, but it’s not nearly as subjective as you’d like it to be, Janine.

    Ambition might be easy to smirk at, but it’s that smirk that leaves us a thousand Art Bruts, tons of fun and completely, utterly forgettable.

  5. Spiny Norman

    @Rusty: And while my children are discovering Sgt. Peppers for the first time, I’m using my newer than new Justice LP to make them feel dated.

  6. Amphiuma

    Revolver was their best album, it holds up much better than SPLHCB. And The “White Album” has proven much more influential on the musicians who were raised on it. So There….

  7. MarkSeibold

    Hello to todays pop go the kids culture-

    I am Mark Seibold in Portland Oregon; a world famous astronomy and space artist currently popularized on NASA web sites for my award winning pastel sketch art. I was nearly 13 years age when Pepper released. It was a great influence on my visual arts and other musical interests including helping to recently produce a young ladies pop folk music video locally here in Portland Oregon among influencing other great musicians in the region.

    On that day in 1967 the world was waiting and Beatles delivered something technically championing like nothing ever before in recording history. Regardless of what is said here about each track today. No complete technically new accomplishment in recording had ever been released until then. That is the fact that many are missing here. Read more into the actual recording history of this genius work before you further attack it in any way else.

    I see allot of people here wanting to offer their personal opinion of the Sgt Peppers album or each track as if comparing with their personal favorites by other groups. I see no point in this. The Beatles had their own style. No one will deny it that they are now understood to be art icons that changed our overall culture forever. Not that other great groups and single artists like the Kinks, the Stones, The Turtles, The Who, The Moody Blues, CSNY, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Carol King, Stevie Wonder, etc are not all great in their own right, but the Beatles were known to set the standards and they did. You cannot rewrite that part of history nor ever duplicate it again. They will go down with the likes of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven like no other group of musicians will.

    I also see allot of tearing Pepper apart as if the history books are being rewritten by the new youth. They cannot read history well? What I cannot understand is that the youth today seem to be insulted that there is not a single band that can match the Beatles in all ways possible today and they take offense to this as if it is the 1960′s generational fault. Why would they want to find anything wrong with the greatest singular popular album ever produced that still stands the test of time today as the greatest single example of popular music, without debate? Anyone attacking it is merely being selfish and childish against all odds of history already written in stone about this great album. That is really undisputed.

    I would invite many here to read the real history behind the album. What I see being terribly missed in this weak comments site from mere children, is that they do not give credence to the fact that this album was an historically pioneering first effort for technical first ever achievements in recording history. It set the stage for all future recording techniques in music. No one had ever created and used a 24 track recording studio until then. No other single band had created such a comprehensive single thematic and complete genre of album that all jelled so well until then. Many highly accomplished musicians still today agree that Pepper was the greatest influence on other professional musicians’ works thereafter.

    Any questions?

    Now shut the ipops ipods up and put on the high quality vinyl pressing version from German labels on a good turntable for ultimate sound quality.

    I’d love to turn you on!

    Mark
    http://www.myspace.com/marksolarprophet

  8. AcidReign

    …..Well. I guess I’ve been told off by one of my own peers. It’s not all kids who read this blog, but I’d argue that many are wiser than our generation was!

    …..And dude, it’s rude to promote yourself on someone else’s blog.

    …..Sgt. Pepper WAS out of tune.

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