— NME (@NME) June 18, 2017
Sir Paul’s birthday reminds me that I’ve been meaning to write about the 50th anniversary of the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. (The release date was May 26, 1967, in the U.K., and June 2, 1967, in the U.S.) Isn’t it remarkable that my almost-husband was part of something so culturally significant when he was only 25? Personally, I’m dreaming of doing something culturally significant by age 75, but I’d also be happy to make it to the “80 over 80” list. I left behind the “30 under 30” list quite a few years ago.
Anyway, I appreciated this recent New York Times piece about Sgt. Pepper by Jon Pareles, particularly because of this point it made in the second paragraph:
“We simply can’t hear ‘Sgt. Pepper’ now the way it affected listeners on arrival in 1967. Its innovations and quirks have been too widely emulated, its oddities long since absorbed. Sounds that were initially startling — the Indian instruments and phrasing of George Harrison’s ‘Within You Without You,’ the tape-spliced steam-organ collage of ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,’ the orchestral vastnesses of “A Day in the Life” — have taken on a patina of nostalgia.”
“Recently, I heard someone say that the Beatles didn’t accomplish anything all that radical musically. That they’re kind of middle of the road. It reminded me of the old story of the ignoramus who sees Hamlet and declares that Shakespeare is full of cliches. No! The originals only sound ordinary now because they were so influential that the entire culture imitated them. They SET the new standards. It’s the same progression that clothing designer Charles James described in the fashion world:
‘A great designer does not seek acceptance. He challenges popularity, and by the force of his own convictions renders popular in the end what the public hates at first sight.’
Or as I say, ‘Never Is the Next New Thing™’!”
Rolling Stone did some special anniversary coverage of Sgt. Pepper. My favorite stories are about two of the women behind the songs:
- The real “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” who, sadly, died of lupus in 2009.
- Melanie Coe was the teen runaway who inspired “She’s Leaving Home.”
Here are links to other recommended reading, including additional Rolling Stone stories.
- Rolling Stone’s track-by-track guide to Sgt. Pepper.
- “Inside the Making of Sgt. Pepper.”
- Sgt. Pepper, back in the Top 3.
- “Why We’re Still Listening to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper.”
The first photo in this post proves Paul was early to the selfie game. It turns out he was a pre-digital-camera photobomber too.
Paul McCartney photobombing George Harrison, 1960s pic.twitter.com/ZNQsxpOV0g
— Lost In History (@HistoryToLearn) June 3, 2017
If you’re wondering why I call Paul McCartney “my almost-husband,” scroll to the end of this 2007 blog post. (I’ve got more Paul-related posts here.) Earlier today, I contemplated retiring the “almost-husband” endearment in favor of Fab Macca Wacky Thumbs Aloft (courtesy of Time Magazine’s Kostya Kennedy’s birthday tribute). But any variation of the word “retire” doesn’t belong in the same sentence as “Paul McCartney” — that man is still touring! I’ll be stalking him at one of his Madison Square Garden concerts this September. You can’t get away from me, Paul McCartney!