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WELL, IT WAS TWENTY YEARS AGO TODAY...
Yes, it certainly was. All other events in this quarter of 1967 are overshadowed by the release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on 1st June. With their touring days over, and after an unprecedented 700 hours in the studio, the Beatles were under pressure to come up with something special.
Despite some bewilderment-'Penny Lane' and 'Strawberry Fields Forever' had similarly baffled some critics at first-it was soon realized that they certainly had. The album's gatefold sleeve was itself revolutionary. Designed by the Beatles, Peter Blake and Jan Haworth, the concept of photographing the Beatles in front of a montage of famous faces caused enormous problems for Brian Epstein's staff, who had to obtain permission for their use. The group's appearance was another shock. Quite apart from their lavish bandsmen's uniforms, all four Beatles had acquired facial hair while out of the public eye - apart from the promotional films for the above single, little had been seen of them since their last concert in August 1966.
Paul had had the idea of the group adopting the guise of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Band and the front cover seems in part to be the Beatles assuming a new identity. Paul explains "It was to get away from the preconceived ideas about how we should look and sound." Printing the lyrics on the back was another shocker- previously, pop group lyrics (as opposed to the folk/protest type) were rarely quoted, let alone printed in full.
'But was this a good thing? Some gosh-awful lyrics have been printed on album covers in the twenty years since, often spoiling an otherwise acceptable song. Yet no-one can be blamed for inferior imitators. The Beatles have also taken stick for initiating the concept album, to be followed by everyone from the Rolling Stones downwards, often with dire, self-important results. Others have questioned whether Sgt. Pepper really had a concept, beyond the cover and the lack of gaps between tracks.
This is all nit-picking. Something as widely praised as Pepper was bound to have its detractors in time; embarrassment at all manifestations of the Summer of Love followed hard on the heels of that idealistic time accelerating the process. It was clever but flimsy, they told us. This doesn't stand up: forgetting the formal concept, Sgt. Pepper has the unity of atmosphere common to all great albums, making it even more than the sum of its remarkable parts.
And they are remarkable. The cliches applied to 1967 have little relevance to the songs here. The abstractions of 'A Day in the Life', 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' and 'Within You, Without You' are well known, but there is realism enough in such lines as "I used to be cruel to my woman/I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved" and "Yours sincerely, wasting away". There is also some first-rate hard rock, notably on the title track (especially the reprise) and 'Good Morning, Good Morning', dismissed by John as a throwaway but capturing perfectly the nervous energy of a harrassed commuter type. Alongside the delicacy of 'She's Leaving Home' and the whimsy of 'When I'm 64' (an early songwriting attempt, revived and finished for Pepper) lurked the Beatles' latent power, especially in Ringo's mighty drum sound.
Sgt. Pepper was recorded on a four-track machine, four tracks at a time being mixed down onto one, so that eventually lots of tracks were compressed into four. Laborious, but great work is often made in the teeth of obstacles: now, with a wealth of technology available, musicians need high purpose and self-discipline to keep their ideas coherent. When Pepper comes out on compact disc on 1st June, twenty years on to the day, the magnitude of what the Beatles and George Martin achieved with their steam tape recorders will be more apparent than ever.
On the same day, Granada is broadcasting a documentary on Sgt. Pepper and the spirit of 1967, aptly and inevitably called It Was Twenty Years Ago Today. At presstime Ringo's involvement was uncertain, but George Harrison, normally averse to Beatle nostalgia, has taken part and even posed smiling with a Pepper-style drum like the one Paul's holding here.
For his part, Paul has been interviewed by Derek Taylor, legendary press officer for the Beatles and Apple and probably the ideal choice.
As if releasing pop music's greatest album were not enough for one month, the Beatles and an orchestra were filmed recording 'All You Need Is Love' on 25th June, a momentous occasion recalled by Paul in his 1985 hospital radio interview. (See CS41.) The recording went out live on the Our World TV programme to a worldwide audience variously estimated at between 150 and 400 million - more than you could fit in the Cavern anyway. 'All You Need Is Love' was written specially for the programme, an ambitious affair linking live performances via satellite from all round the globe. The Beatles were Britain's contribution and did us proud.
1. It is shuttered for Linda's work (6)
4. It holds the record for being on the arm (6)
6. This player went high in Penny Lane (9)
9. Bucket that sounds whitish? (4)
10. Red hot fiddle-player once (4)
11. "If ____ be the food of love, play on" (5)
13. Metal for Colombo, for instance (6)
14. These trees sound old (6)
15. Steps taken to 11 across? (6)
17. Hardy companion, this tree (6)
18. Textile fibre found in Basra yonder (5)
19. Door-frame or shoulder-belt (4)
21. Made notes in celebration (4)
22. Practical, this sort of US sergeant (9)
23. Loose, like some modern discs (6)
24. People we treat well? (6)
1. Optical laser device giving new life to Beatles' music (7,4)
2. Sort of real nobleman (4)
3. Hardware, we hear, of old? (6)
4. A wonder, this Motown star (6)
5. Level and regular (4)
6. Big-band drummer? (9)
7. Players in it get ready for the night (9)
8. They brighten the auditorium (5-6)
11. Rita's slot-machine (5)
12. Unsoiled, like the machine in Penny Lane (5)
16. Moveglidingly (6)
17. "All my ____"(Beatles) (6)
20. Assistance for Beatles film (4)
21. Avoid spending (4)
SOLUTION TO CROSSWORD 43
ACROSS 1 Juber 3 Linda 4 Sally 5 Mull Of Kintyre 11 Sir 12 Dan 13 My Love 14 Another Day 17 Lagos 18 Beatle 20 Madonna 23 Shea 24 Wings 26 Cold Cuts 30 Red Rose 32 Run 33 Penny Lane 36 Nights 37 Help 38 Peace 39 Helen Wheels 40 Starr
DOWN 1 James Paul McCartney 2 Ballroom 3 Laine 4 Soily 6 Father 7 Today 8 Ringo 9 Ivor Novello 10 Ocean 13 Mo 15 Mars 16 Stand 19 Elstree 21 Dylan 22 Act 25 MBE 27 Capitol 28 Son 29 Ed 31 Rupert 34 Apple 35 Bear