In one sense, it’s not overrated at all — it most certainly changed the face of popular music, redefined the ‘concept’ album and became the unofficial soundtrack of the Summer of Love. in the historic sense, the impact of this album can’t be questioned.
But when it comes down to the actual songs… eh.
Yes, ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ is a charming standout. ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ is a loopily exciting listen. And I’ve always been a sucker for ‘Lovely Rita.’ But otherwise it contains some of the band’s least successful work (‘She’s Leaving Home’ is a particular weak spot).
There is one major exception, however, and it’s today’s Song of the Day. ‘A Day in the Life’ is one of The Beatles’ very finest songs and, regardless of what precedes it, it leaves you with the feeling you’ve just heard one of the great albums. It alone makes Sgt. Pepper a classic.
‘A Day in the Life’ is weirdly epic and epically weird. It features some of the best musicianship in the band’s catalog, from those haunting opening piano chords to Ringo’s mesmerizing drums. Pay particular attention to Paul’s bass line throughout the verses… it deserves the musical equivalent of a Best Supporting Actor trophy. Lennon’s vocals, too, are among the best he ever delivered… dreamy yet jaded. Paul’s “woke up, got out of bed” break in the middle is a left-field surprise that only enhances the final verse. And then there are the twin crescendos, at the mid-point and at the end of the song, a cacophony of strings that you feel more than hear.
I recommend listening to this through headphones. In four minutes and 45 seconds you’ll hear all you’ll ever need to hear in order to fully appreciate the genius of the Fab Four.