At the time, I thought my parents were so hopelessly mired in the past to still be listening to the music they loved from the 1940s. I enjoyed mocking my father's ridiculous belief that the big bands would come back. The old man needed to face the fact that rock and roll had conquered everything. But they were in love with music that was only 20 years old. That would be like someone today loving U2's "With or Without You" and Prince's "Sign O' the Times" -- which seems utterly normal and not at all pathetic.
Funny how things within your own lifetime remain so alive. But step across the boundary into that infinity of time when you were not yet born, and it's so far away. When I was growing up, WWII seemed disconnected from anything that related to me -- though in truth, I owed my existence and everything about my way of life to it -- but it was no longer ago that the Clinton Era is now.
Enough about me. Back to "Sgt. Pepper." Let's see what Steven Van Zandt has to say:
After being obviously the "greatest album ever made" for years, it ran into a bit of revisionist history these past, oh, 30 years or so.Are you asking me, Stevie? Right when I was going to stop talking about myself and listen to you. Okay.
It probably began with one of the Beatles putting it down or shrugging it off or making the mistake of suggesting that it wasn't all it was cracked up to be....
So, with the only disclaimer that the appallingly awful stereo mastering is, tragically, the only available version right now, let me revise revisionist history and suggest that "Sgt. Pepper" was, and is, an incredible piece of work and absolutely the best representation of the Summer of Love and the very psychedelic 1967. (Blog: What are your "Pepper" memories?)
Well, the day the album came out, I bought it. My friend was having her "Sweet 16" party that evening, which was bad timing, because all I wanted to do was to listen to that album over and over and get it thoroughly imprinted on my brain so I could listen to it on a deeper level, over and over. So I brought the album to the party, thinking everyone would freeze, stunned by the brilliance, and want to do nothing but listen and talk about how the entire world had changed today.
But it played too much in the background for us to hear it properly. Someone's mother said to me, in a disgusted tone, "What is this music?" I can't remember how much of my contempt I conveyed as I said this was the new Beatles album. I silently counted her as one more example that my parents' generation was the lamest. The entire environment of a suburban "Sweet Sixteen" party was giving me that she's leaving home after living alone for so many years feeling. How right George was about the space between us all. But this is not the way we're going to live from now on. Bring on the tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
It was universally mind-blowing at the time....Stevie says to get the album in mono -- I've had it right by me for 40 years -- and listen straight through:
Interestingly, in direct contrast to the album's ultramodern sound, its lyrics and sensibility were wistful, nostalgic -- very much looking back when the world was looking forward (and made more obvious if you include "Strawberry Fields" and "Penny Lane," both meant to be on the album). It's full of depressed, dysfunctional, cynical, confused and, yes, lonely characters going through the motions of life, implicitly asking, "Is this all there is?" when the band's audience was never more full of hope, discovering love and becoming philosophically enlightened.
The world was unified in its praise of and inspiration from the album as it has never been for anything before or since.
I promise you will be transported to a place you've never been....Oh, but I was.
ADDED: Excellent "Sgt. Pepper" website.