I recently wrote that I’d like to feature more Beatles music this year, and I guess the Random iTunes Fairy was listening. Today she’s offering up the opening track of the band’s classic 1967 album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
While Pepper is an iconic release and one of The Beatles’ top-selling albums, it sits pretty low on my personal list. Of course, this being The Beatles, that means the album still features several all-time classic songs, including ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,’ ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’ and ‘A Day in the Life.’
Best Albums of the 60s – #19
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles (1967)
The first Beatles album on this list is one I’ve long considered overrated.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was a game-changing masterpiece — almost by definition — but I’ve never really loved it as a collection of songs. ‘Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite,’ ‘She’s Leaving Home,’ ‘Within You Without You,’ ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ — these songs wouldn’t make it on any Beatles mix tape I’d ever make.
Usually, as with yesterday’s featured song, The Beatles gave Ringo a song to sing just to throw him a bone. You keep the beat for the rest of us, bloke, so here’s a few minutes in the spotlight.
But a couple of Beatles songs just wouldn’t be the same without Ringo on lead vocals. One is ‘Yellow Submarine,’ a corny trifle that’s perfect for Ringo because he sounds like he really means it… that’s a song aimed at 8-year-olds and it needed to be sung at their level. And I don’t mean that as an insult to Ringo. On the contrary, it’s kind of a gift.
It occurred to me the other day that when Let it Be, The Beatles’ last official release, came out, John Lennon was 30 years old and Paul McCartney was 28. They had changed the face of music, written and recorded some of the highest-selling and most ground-breaking albums in history, sparked a cultural phenomenon that spanned continents… all in their 20s. Amazing.
The next thought I had is that it must be weird to live out the next two thirds of your life knowing you’ve basically already peaked. (Of course, sadly, John didn’t get that chance.) I mean, Paul knows that he can have Wings and a series of well-received solo albums and all that, but nothing he ever does in his life will approach what he did in his 20s.
One of my other favorite tracks on Sgt. Pepper is Paul’s charmingly kinky ‘Lovely Rita.’ The Beatles had a knack for populating their songs and albums with colorful characters like this. On Sgt. Pepper alone, they gave us Rita, Lucy, Mr. Kite and of course Ringo’s alter ego Billy Shears.