Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.
It was 50 years ago today, June 2, 1967.
The album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was released in the United States after being released in the United Kingdom the day before.
From Rolling Stone.com:
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the most important rock & roll album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock & roll group of all time.
Issued in Britain on June 1st, 1967, and a day later in America, Sgt. Pepper is also rock’s ultimate declaration of change. For the Beatles, it was a decisive goodbye to matching suits, world tours and assembly-line record-making. “We were fed up with being Beatles,” McCartney said decades later, in Many Years From Now, Barry Miles’ McCartney biography.
At the same time, Sgt. Pepper formally ushered in an unforgettable season of hope, upheaval and achievement: the late 1960s and, in particular, 1967’s Summer of Love. In its iridescent instrumentation, lyric fantasias and eye-popping packaging, Sgt. Pepper defined the opulent revolutionary optimism of psychedelia and instantly spread the gospel of love, acid, Eastern spirituality and electric guitars around the globe. No other pop record of that era, or since, has had such an immediate, titanic impact. This music documents the world’s biggest rock band at the very height of its influence and ambition.
The first notes went to tape on December 6th, 1966: two takes of McCartney’s music-hall confection “When I’m Sixty-Four.” But Sgt. Pepper‘s real birthday is August 29th, 1966, when the Beatles played their last live concert, in San Francisco. Until then, they had made history in the studio between punishing tours. Off the road for good, the Beatles were free to be a band away from the hysteria of Beatlemania.
McCartney went a step further. On a plane to London in November ’66, as he returned from a vacation in Kenya, he came up with the idea of an album by the Beatles in disguise, an alter-ego group that he subsequently dubbed Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. “We’d pretend to be someone else,” McCartney explained in Anthology. “It liberated you – you could do anything when you got to the mic or on your guitar, because it wasn’t you.”
This week, 50-year old, remarkable music.
We begin with, of course, the title track that needed some work.
At the very end of the lead title track it sounded like it would segue into another song. As the group worked on production of the album it also didn’t have a song on which Ringo sings lead. The inclusion of such a song was customary in previous Beatles albums. Paul and John set out to make the fix by coming up with a song for Ringo that would seamlessly follow the end of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
Initially the title was “Bad Finger Boogie,” chosen because John played the melody on piano with his middle finger because of an injured forefinger (A few years later the band Badfinger signed on to the Beatles’ Apple Records).
The song was almost ready to go, but Ringo had an issue.
“They had one line that I wouldn’t sing. It was ‘What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and throw tomatoes at me?’” he said. “I said, ‘There’s not a chance in hell am I going to sing this line,’ because we still had lots of really deep memories of the kids throwing jelly beans and toys on stage – and I thought that if we ever did get out there again, I was not going to be bombarded with tomatoes.”
The lyric was changed to “Would you stand up and walk out on me?”
Our first performance is from the 2014 program, “The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles.” The broadcast was a tribute to the legacy of the Beatles and the 50th anniversary of their first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and aired on February 9, 2014.
“Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” came from a 19th century poster for a circus that inspired John Lennon.
Lennon saw the poster for Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal at an antique shop near the Beatles’ hotel at Sevenoaks, Kent. William Kite, John Henderson, Zanthus, and the others were actual performers in a troupe managed by Fanques, considered to be Britain’s first black circus owner. The poster wound up in Lennon’s music room.
“Everything in the song is from that poster, except the horse wasn’t called Henry. Now, there were all kinds of stories about Henry the Horse being heroin. I had never seen heroin in that period. No, it’s all just from that poster,” said Lennon.
Producer George Martin, naturally, played a major creative role, adding harmonium, organ and glockenspiel. Then he and sound engineer Geoff Emerick spliced together carnival-like sounds.
“I knew we needed a general mush of sound, like if you go to a fairground, shut your eyes and listen: rifle shots, hurdy-gurdy noises, people shouting and – way in the distance – just a tremendous chaotic sound,” said Martin. “So, I got hold of old calliope tapes, playing ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’ and other Sousa marches, chopped the tapes up into small sections and had Geoff Emerick throw them up in the air, reassembling them at random.”
“I threw the bits up in the air but, amazingly, they came back together in almost the same order,” said Emerick. “We all expected it to sound different, but it was virtually the same as before! So, we switched bits around and turned some upside down.”
The final result?
“It’s so cosmically beautiful,” said Lennon. “The song is pure, like a painting, a pure watercolor.”
The Sgt. Pepper movie in 1978 was a flop, but the soundtrack album went platinum, despite horrendous reviews (I’m sorry, it was not the worst album ever recorded).
From the soundtrack, the Bee Gees, Peter Frampton, and believe it or not, George Burns.
The Beatles began their recording sessions for the album by recording “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane.” However, those tracks didn’t make it onto the album. They were released as a 7-inch single even though producer George Martin had hoped they would make the cut.
“For my dad, ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘Strawberry Fields’ were the catalyst for the making of Sgt. Pepper’s,” said Martin’s son, who produced the just-released reissue of the album that does include “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane.”
“It was a sea change for the way things were recorded. They wanted to paint pictures with sound and create a world that they couldn’t perform live. My father said he regretted them not being on the album.”
Karen Souza has been compared to Julie London and Diana Krall. The sultry singer from Venezuela has studied under the guidance of Pam Oland , a multiple Grammy nominated songwriter who has worked with stars like Whitney Houston, Earth, Wind and Fire and Aretha Franklin.
Here Souza is joined by Los Panchos on a Beatles tune about a girl’s orphanage in Liverpool. Souza recorded the song for a 2011 album.
“A Day in The Life” is based on the death of Tara Browne, a friend of Lennon and McCartney’s and the heir to the Guinness beer company. Browne died at the age of 21 after he crashed his car. Lennon came up with lines to “A Day in the Life” after reading about the accident in the Daily Mail.
The same paper included an article about the number of holes in the road in Blackburn, Lancashire, 4,000 that Lennon incorporated into the song.
The classic song was banned by the BBC until 1972 because the line “I’d love to turn you on,” as well as others, was drug-related.
“I’d started fiddling around on my dad’s piano,” Paul McCartney told Rolling Stone in 1974. “I wrote ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ on that when I was still 16 — it was all rather tongue in cheek — and I never forgot it. I wrote that tune vaguely thinking it could come in handy in a musical comedy or something. Like I say, I didn’t know what kind of career I was going to take back then. … I wasn’t necessarily looking to be a rock ’n’ roller. When I wrote ‘When I’m Sixty-Four,’ I thought I was writing a song for [Frank] Sinatra. There were records other than rock ’n’ roll that were important to me. And that would come out in the Beatles doing songs like ‘Till There Was You’.”
The song stuck with McCartney, and in the very early days of the Beatles the band played it when their electrical equipment failed.
“We used to do it when the amps broke down, just sing it on the piano,” John Lennon remarked in 1967.
In the fall of 1966 in a London studio McCartney wanted to bring the song back. His father had just turned 64 that summer.
Ringo Star played tubular bells. George Harrison suggested adding clarinets.
“When I’m Sixty-Four” became the first song recorded for what would become Sgt. Pepper, and the first in a string of old-fashioned, dance hall tunes written by McCartney.
A perfect fit for Andre Rieu and his orchestra.
That’s it for this week.
Have a great weekend.
From the Sgt. Pepper 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition…