May 31, 2017

"But for the first time, the Beatles have given us an album of special effects, dazzling but ultimately fraudulent."

"And for the first time, it is not exploration which we sense, but consolidation. There is a touch of the Jefferson Airplane, a dab of Beach Boys vibrations, and a generous pat of gymnastics from The Who.... With one important exception, 'Sergeant Pepper' is precious but devoid of gems. 'A Day in the Life' is such a radical departure from the spirit of the album that it almost deserves its peninsular position (following the reprise of the 'Sergeant Pepper' theme, it comes almost as an afterthought). It has nothing to do with posturing or put-on. It is a deadly earnest excursion in emotive music with a chilling lyric.... What a shame that 'A Day in the Life' is only a coda to an otherwise undistinguished collection of work. We need the Beatles, not as cloistered composers, but as companions. And they need us. In substituting the studio conservatory for an audience, they have ceased being folk artists, and the change is what makes their new, album a monologue."

From the NYT pan of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," released 50 years ago tomorrow.

The pan is from 50 years ago, but here's Jon Pareles today in the NYT, with "The Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ at 50: Still Full of Joy and Whimsy."
“Sgt. Pepper” was not universally adored when it appeared. The New York Times panned it, not entirely incorrectly, as “busy, hip and cluttered.” As pop tastes have swung between elaborate musical edifices and back-to-basics reactions, “Sgt. Pepper” has been by turns embraced, reviled and simply ignored.

But now that rock itself is being shunted toward the fringes of pop, it’s a good time to free “Sgt. Pepper” from the burden of either forecasting rock’s eclectic future or pointing toward a fussy dead end. It doesn’t have to be “the most important rock & roll album ever made,” as Rolling Stone declared in 2012, or some wrongheaded counter-revolutionary coup against “real” rock ’n’ roll. It’s somewhere in between, juxtaposing the profound and the merely clever....

99 comments:

YoungHegelian said...

or some wrongheaded counter-revolutionary coup against “real” rock ’n’ roll.

I know people who were serious Beatles fans in their youth who stopped buying Beatles records after Sgt. Pepper's. They wanted a rock & roll band, not a set of studio "composers".

They aren't the first or last band to alienate a chunk of their base by changing horses mid-stream (e.g Dylan, Grateful Dead, Byrds come quickly to mind).

Dave from Minnesota said...

YoungH....I've heard it said that after they stopped touring, and therefore no longer needed relatively simple tunes that the four could play on stage, they turned into an art band.

Unknown said...

It's not their best album, but com'on, it's still a great album.

Quayle said...

I read the news today.

Oh boy!

Rob said...

"Juxtaposing the profound and the merely clever" could be a description of Ann's blog.

Ralph L said...
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The Godfather said...

"Rubber Soul" was my favorite, but "Sgt Pepper" was close behind. However, unlike the NYT's reviewer, I'm not a self-important twit, so what do I know?

Bay Area Guy said...
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Nonapod said...

To be fair, if the NYT review section existed when the play Hamlet was first performed they'd probably use terms like "posturing" and "undistinguished" in its review too.

Bay Area Guy said...

The NYTimes was fussy and humorless even during the Summer of Love (1967)?

What a surprise.

M Jordan said...

Sgt. Pepper's made me a Beatles fan but it was the more-panned White Album that stayed with me forever.

Ralph L said...

Another thing, like most of the TV we watched, that I was exposed to years after it came out--and didn't know it. What a frisson that Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds stood for LSD.

M Jordan said...

In recent years I've found myself drawn to the song "Come Together" more than any Beatles single.

M Jordan said...

Beatles trivia that speaks volumes of the difference between a John and Paul:

In the song "It's Getting Better," which Paul wrote, Paul croons, "I've got to admit it's getting better, it's getting better all the time." John's sole contribution to it was to respond, "It can't get no worse." The glass is both half empty and half full with Lennon-McCartney.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

What kind of person values NYT criticism of Sgt. Pepper more than they value Sgt. Pepper itself?

exiledonmainstreet said...

Good God, I distinctly remember watching the news with my visiting sister when they played "It was 20 years ago today...." as the lead in to the story marking the 20th anniversary of the Sgt. Pepper release date. My sister and I looked at each other then and exclaimed, "Can you believe it's been 20 years?"

I preferred "Rubber Soul," but like all of the Beatles late albums although I'm more of a Stones fan.

Rick Lee said...

I went through a phase in the early 70s when I read music reviews... but after buying too many "great" albums that bored me to death I realized that writers should write and musicians should play. If writers really knew anything about music they'd play. Most of the time they seemed to be reviewing songs as if they were just poems.

readering said...

Remember, New York Times meant just some guy on the payroll.

To think, Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields left off because impatient Label insisted on releasing them as a double-A-side single. "Fifth Beatle" George Martin said leaving them off the album the biggest professional mistake of his career.

Ann Althouse said...

It makes sense to think "Sgt. Pepper" was a decline from "Revolver." I can see feeling disappointed that it had gotten tricky and theatrical.

At the time, I know I thought "Tommy" was a bad development for The Who and "Village Green Preservation Society" lessened my love for The Kinks. Things like that were happening, the cake was getting left out in the rain.

Dave from Minnesota said...

My favorite Beatles tunes are from early 1965 to mid-1966. Help. Rubber Soul. Revolver. I haven't listened to the Beatles for about 20 years. Pulled those CDs (along with Anthology 2) out a while back and it was so fresh.

Wilbur said...

"Please, Please Me" is the only Beatles song I've never gotten tired of hearing.
Much like "Wake Me Up" by Wham, it exudes positive energy and never fails to lift me up. As much a George Martin creation as the Fab Four.

I loved Sgt. Pepper, but found their albums after it pretentious and unmusical for the most part.

Nonapod said...

"Rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read." - Frank Zappa

wildswan said...

The moral arc of pop bends from rock to folk to folk-rock to electric to disco to metal to garage to grunge to rap to? Laurel Canyon country?

Only Dylan and Paul McCartney kept up and I didn't keep up with them.

surfed said...

Grorge Martin's biggest mistake with the the Sgt Pepper album was not including "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" on the album. When I mix the album with mp3's those two songs are always included in my track listing. I leave off Within "You and Without You" and "A Day in the Life" (though not the Sgt Pepper reprise). It makes for a much more coherent listening experience - because you know, I am experienced.

AMDG said...

M Jordan:
I believe the verse about beating his woman is also by John.

I like it but I believe it is, at best, their 4th best album (behind 'Rubber Soul'', 'Revolver', and 'Abbey Road'.

I believe that 'Pet Sounds' (and SMiLE, for that matter) were greater but Pepper captured the times better.

Dave from Minnesota said...

Exile....I was in 10th grade in 1987 and bought Sgt Papers album for the 20th anniversary. Ummm, was that 30 years ago? Geesh.

Ralph L said...

NY Post: "Woman and two children found dead in John Lennon’s former Liverpool apartment" Sgt Pepper gets PTSD.

Wilbur said...

I went through a phase in the mid-late 70s where I religiously read Rolling Stone and the album reviews. Then I read the review for "Who Are You" by (naturally) The Who and the reviewers point was that The Who were trying to tell us that The Who are YOU.

The light bulb went off in my head and I cancelled my subscription. What pretentious claptrap I had been wasting my time on.

Dave from Minnesota said...

If you are on satellite radio you probably already know this, but Sirius 18 is the Beatles channel now. Its a good mix. Post breakup solos, demos, other artists doing Beatles songs.

Limited blogger said...

Thank goodness I don't read the NY Times. I've always loved SPLHCB

Quayle said...

I remember imagining as a young teenage boy what Lovely Rita looked like.

That's all I'm sayin' about that.

Robert Cook said...

"At the time, I know I thought 'Tommy' was a bad development for The Who and 'Village Green Preservation Society' lessened my love for The Kinks. Things like that were happening, the cake was getting left out in the rain."

Opinions vary about TOMMY, but it made them stars in the States, and saved them financially, and probably kept them from breaking up, as Townshend had felt at a loss how to move forward creatively when "I Can See For Miles" failed to do as well in the charts as he'd hoped. He had thought it their best work to date and sure to be a #1 hit.

grimson said...

Reading the pomposity of the criticism reminded me of Garrison Keillor's send-up in his New Yorker short story, "Don: The True Story of a Young Person" (from back when he was actually a humorist).

But that does not mean we should minimize [punk rock's] contribution or fail to see it for what it truly is: an attempt to reject the empty posturing of the pseudo-intellectual album-oriented Rock-as-Art consciousness cult of the post-Pepper era and to recreate the primal persona of the Rocker as Car Thief, Dropout, and Guy Who Beats Up Creeps. . . Punk rock bands, Phillips goes on to say, through their very outrageousness . . . have forced many critics to re-examine certain pre-punk assumptions, such as the role of criticism.

Alex said...

For years I thought this album was the greatest thing ever until I heard The Beach Boys "SMILES Sessions" and I realized I'd be hoodwinked by The Beatles marketing machine. Don't get me wrong, I think The Beatles are the greatest ever - Revolver(1966) and Abbey Road(1969) are greater albums, but Brian Wilson was really onto something in 1966-1967 that nobody else was.

St. George said...

Yet another rip-off box set of unreleased material and filler essays and booklets. The Grateful Dead are the world masters of this scam.

And the new Beatles Sirius XM channel is a real mixed bag. It's not just the Beatles. It's all of their solo work, plus cover versions of Beatles songs. The bald truth is that the vast majority of John, Ringo, and George's solo work is nearly unlistenable today, especially John and Ringo's. (Ringo was the king of wretched '70s pop schmaltz, so much so that hewas even offered "Tie a Yellow Ribbon.") And who wants to hear Motley Crue's version of "Helter Skelter"? Basically, if listen to the channel for every Beatles song you hear, you have to sit through two songs that are unlistenable.

All this stuff is about generating cash flow for elderly artists and their estates.

Unknown said...

I don't know. The Beach Boys are my alltime favorite group, but I think Wilson kind of went down a dead-end with Parks's "English Major" lyrics on "Smile". I think if the struggle with "Smile" hadn't broken him, more stuff in the direction of his later "on" moments like "This Whole World", "Breakaway" and "Till I Die" would have been the way to go.

Alex said...

Honestly re: Peppers, only several tracks are on the level of SMILE:

Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, Fixing a Hole, Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, Within You Without You, A Day in the Life

everything else is kind of fluff.

If you want your mind blown by what Brian Wilson was doing at the same time listen to these:

Mrs. O'Leary's Cow
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31pCY1uDRzY

Love to Say Dada
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlDO_cs8vg0

made The Beatles look like amateur hour IF only Brian Wilson hadn't mentally broken down and shelved the whole thing.

Alex said...

Unknown said...
I don't know. The Beach Boys are my alltime favorite group, but I think Wilson kind of went down a dead-end with Parks's "English Major" lyrics on "Smile". I think if the struggle with "Smile" hadn't broken him, more stuff in the direction of his later "on" moments like "This Whole World", "Breakaway" and "Till I Die" would have been the way to go.


Hell one of the pivotal points in the collapse of SMILE was Mike Love confronting Van Dyke Parks on that:

The December 6, 1966 session for "Cabin Essence" was the scene of an argument between Van Dyke Parks and Love where the latter requested that Parks explain the meaning of the lyrics he was to sing. The event was said by Parks to be the prime catalyst for his reduced involvement in Smile, which led him to gradually move away from the project.[53][54]

I don't believe that was THE reason for SMILE's collapse. Brian Wilson was taking a shit-ton of drugs and it was causing his latent schizophrenia to come to the surface. One could argue that Brian Wilson is the greatest musical tragedy of the 20th century. With him it always was - 'what if...'.

Unknown said...

Right. If Wilson could have decided *how* to finish "Smile" the Beach Boys would have sung it. Yes they were a bit apprensive about the direction (and not having much input), but they had no plan B. In fact Love *did* sing the "Cabinessence" lyrics he had complained about, and did a great job of it.

Alex said...

Imagine if The Beach Boys had released a single in the UK prior to Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields with 'Heroes and Villains' and 'Wonderful' as a double A side. Things would be very different.

Unknown said...

Not a huge fan of "Heroes & Villains", but say "Surf's Up" and I'll buy it.

Alex said...

That's the rub isn't it? There is no canonical 'Heroes and Villains' due to Brian's 'modular recording' concept. There are like a dozen different ones which shared sections between that and "Roll Plymouth Rock".

Sometimes with SMILE it's like where does one song begin and one end? One musicologist described the entire project as less of an album than a 'musical menagerie'.

I later read that the biggest problem was there were 90 hours of sessions. In the digital recording era, you'd have all these hundreds of tracks as files and you'd use Pro Tools to mix & match as you liked easily. But with analog tape - it was too daunting and Brian gave up.

Dave from Minnesota said...

St George......I agree on John's solo work. I realize he was the artsy creative liberal, but man was that some bad music.

But at the same time, I enjoy hearing music that I am unfamiliar with (Ringo, John, George solo). For Paul.....I didn't realize how many hits he had in the 70s. Must have been fun concerts to go to.

Dave from Minnesota said...

I wonder if Yoko wrote his music?

Unknown said...

Yes, I think ultimately the "snippet" method Wilson pioneered with "Good Vibrations" was a dead end. It took him six months to bring in a single using that technique, and when he tried to extend it to a whole album, it was just a bridge too far. Better to have worked out all the songs and had The Wrecking Crew cut the backing tracks as whole pieces as before.

My actual favorite version of H&V is from the Brother double live album. No "Cantina" section iirc, but it did bring in parts of "Bicycle Rider". Of course the instruments were just adequate given the live performance.

Unknown said...

I saw Sir Paul in the last years of the 90s in Charlotte. Incredible show. He still sounded like The Beatles then. I heard him on NPR recently and he sounded.. old.

Nonapod said...

Guys like Brian Wilson, Peter Green, and Syd Barrett serve as cautionary tales of the dangers heavy use of LSD, especially if there's any kind of predilection towards schizophrenia in your family history.

Static Ping said...

My music collection is mostly made up of songs that are on greatest hits and "best hits of the X" compilations - most of my music collection is made of those - and very few actual albums. I own every Beatles album plus the Red and Blue greatest hits plus the "Past Masters" collections of "odds and ends." That should reflect what I think of them.

The other artist that I own all the albums are Billy Joel, Guns N Roses, and "Weird Al" Yankovic. Psychoanalyze that as you will.

My opinion of "Sgt. Pepper's" comes from someone who started listening to them long after they had broken up and after John Lennon's death. I didn't have any political or cultural axes to grind and no musical cred to protect. I loved the Beatles from the beginning, playing the Blue and Red albums over and over again. "Sgt. Pepper's" is one of the greatest albums ever written, but I am still very much on the fence whether it is the greatest Beatles album. There are six candidates for that distinction and which I pick probably depends on my mood that day.

cold pizza said...

Richard Goldstein later admitted that his stereo was broken and so he only heard the sound from the right-hand speakers. THAT'S what he was reviewing. Try listening now without one earbud in and you'll hear what he heard--no wonder his review was... confused. -CP

MadisonMan said...

Richard Goldstein later admitted that his stereo was broken

Lame excuse. A good critic would've been able to figure out the broken stereo pretty quickly.

Frank Zappa was right (quoted upthread)

Alex said...

MadisonMan - it was 1967, you couldn't expect a music critic to deal with technical difficulties.

Temujin said...

Just shows the NYT hasn't gotten much right in about 9 decades. From Duranty to Trump.

Etienne said...
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Roughcoat said...
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Quayle said...

"The Who and the reviewers point was that The Who were trying to tell us that The Who are YOU."

How stupid, and, yes, the lightbulb should have gone off. Particularly when the lyrics of the song "Who are You" revolve around Pete Townsend getting into a bar fight with some punk rockers who were either praising him as their inspiration, or berating him as old and over (that part isn't clear to me), but in any event he was ambivilent about the interaction.

'TreHammer said...

My favorite Beatles song is "I Saw Her Standing There". Paul's 4 beat count in of the groove as well as his bass line was/is great.

Alex said...

My favorite Beatles song is 'Tomorrow Never Knows' because it was 30 years ahead of it's time with the techno beats & loops.

Bill Peschel said...

Some interesting commentary here that motivated me to listen to the "Smile" tracks referenced above. There's no question Wilson did some amazing work. I would have loved to have heard the finished "Smile" had it not all fell apart, if "Good Vibrations" was anything to go by.

I'm just glad to have heard enough Beatles throughout my life that I don't have to rely on critics to tell me what to think. I can take what they say, compare it to what I've heard, and decide.

For example, the NYT panned songs like "When I'm 64" without understanding that Paul was writing from within English culture where a life like that was desired. Not by people of Paul's generation, but the previous generation that lived through the war. He can catch "Day in the Life" with its parallels to T.S. Eliot, but miss the rest.

There also seemed to be a lack of trust that the Beatles were still exploring, but in different directions. If George's "Within You Without You" was banal, is that George's fault, or his understanding of Indian religious thought? Or is "love one another as you love yourself" banal?

Probably one reason why today's culture is so broken is that we all don't have access to the same information. We each can probably point to 5 percent of the total culture: news, sports, literature, music, the sum total of everything that comes at us each day, and say "I know about that." The rest is assume from what we're fed.

It's not until, after we experience a bit of culture direct, and go back to what we've been fed, that we realized many critics get it wrong (or that what we thought we would have liked we didn't, and what we wouldn't have we do).

Matt said...

I heard it again last week. Still a fun listen. While it doesn't have pop 'hits' it does work as a concept album. Like entering a carnival of sorts and listening to the songs for a while. Agreed it should have included Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane.

YoungHegelian
- "They wanted a rock & roll band, not a set of studio "composers""
Anyone who felt this way didn't [and doesn't] understand a very important dimension of ALL music. That is, the work done in the studio for an album. Few musicians then or now just play the song and record it and leave it at that. Music is acceptable both live and studio composed.

Wilbur
- "I loved Sgt. Pepper, but found their albums after it pretentious and unmusical for the most part."
What is unmusical about the Beatles? Other than maybe Revolution #9 all their music is musical.

St George
- "The bald truth is that the vast majority of John, Ringo, and George's solo work is nearly unlistenable today."
That is your bald truth. Lennon and Harrison's songs are still very good. In fact, Harrison gets better through the years. Ringo, yeah, never a quality song writer. But that was known then.

Etienne said...
- "It's a marketing bonanza."
First, it's 50 years since the album came out. A milestone for music. Not much music from 50 years ago is still being appreciated. Second, who cares if it's a marketing bonanza? What else would it be? Were the Beatles ever not about making a living? Were any musicians or record labels?

Alex said...

Matt - have you listened to 'Mind Games'? Horrible.

Jack Wayne said...

The Star Wars mashup with Sgt Pepper's is a lot of fun.

Alex said...

I guess one thing that irritates me about The ongoing Beatles marketing push(Apple music, XM Sirius, etc..) is it obscures the more current music which is FAR better like Radiohead, Aphex Twin and other alternative electronic/shoegaze acts of the last 25 years. Music has moved on since the 1980s, but looking at the Althouse crowd they haven't.

Rocketeer said...

I understand why people like The Beatles. The Beatles were a very good band.

But not great.

#ConfessYourUnpopularOpinion #DeGustibusNonDisputandum

Alex said...

Rocketeer - it's context that matters. The Beatles went from being a neo-skiffle group in 1962 to recording 'Revolver' 4 years later. It's the rapid pace of innovation that defines them. Maybe by 2017 standards there are only a handful of Beatles songs that 'hold up', but no rock group since them has ever matched their consistent quality + rapid development. I mean they go from 1962 "Love Me Do" to 1969 "Come Together". That's amazing by itself.

Alex said...

I suggest anyone to read the article about "Revolver":

Revolver(Beatles Album)

The inclusion of reversed tape sounds on "Rain" (specifically, a portion of Lennon's vocal part) marked the first pop release to use this technique, although the Beatles had first used it, in some of the tape loops and the overdubbed guitar solo, on "Tomorrow Never Knows".[107] The backwards (or backmasked) guitar solo on "I'm Only Sleeping" was similarly unprecedented in pop music,[21][108] in that Harrison deliberately composed and recorded his guitar parts with a view to how the notes would sound when the tape direction was corrected.[109] The band's interest in the tones that resulted from varying tape speed (or varispeeding) extended to recording a basic track at a faster tempo than they intended the song to sound on disc.[110][111]

That's just one f the innovations.

A key production technique that the band began using was automatic double tracking (ADT), which EMI technical engineer Ken Townsend invented on 6 April. This technique employed two linked tape recorders to automatically create a doubled vocal track.[94] The standard method had been to double the vocal by singing the same piece twice onto a multitrack tape, a task Lennon particularly disliked. The Beatles were delighted with the invention, and used it extensively on Revolver.[95] ADT soon became a standard pop production technique, and led to related developments such as the artificial chorus effect.[96]

All with analog technology. Sure Geoff Emerick was key at that point in time, but it was The Beatles requests for things like ADT and backwards-sounding music that gave the engineers the necessary input to spur their own problem-solving.

The Beatles had the ideas - the engineers solved them.

traditionalguy said...

Yes, the Beatles were pretentious, and that is why we loved them.

Alex said...

I would rather have the pretension of backwards-sounding guitar than the faux-humility of the folk singers of 1966 who lacked the talent or ambition to pursue what the Fab 4 did. Ambition is always great, without it civilization remains static. I think those who derided The Beatles were Luddites.

Nonapod said...

I mean, for any one person the Beatles music may not be completely their cup of tea, music is subjective obviously. But their importance to popular music can not be overstated. No other band has had a more profound influence. They popularized so many different things, set so many different standards. Before the Beatles, very few bands wrote their own music. Before the Beatles, most successful music acts weren't "bands" per say, but solo artists with backing bands. Before the Beatles the idea of record albums was almost non-existent, most music was sold as 45rpm singles. The Beatles with George Martin helped pioneer a lot of multitrack recording techniques.

Dave from Minnesota said...

Nonapod....look at the top 40 listings from the weeks before the Beatles music showed up on the list. It looked more like 1952 than 1964.
Look how everyone wanted to be like them (cash in). The Buckinghams took that name because they wanted a British sounding name. To the Mesquitos on Gilligans Island. And of course the Monkeys.

Not sure what this means, but the American top 100 list had English bands on it from January 1964 (Beatles) until 2002.

rightguy2 said...

"...a surprising shoddiness in composition, permeates the entire album" Goldstein is guilty of being blindingly narrow minded. A Day in the Life is brilliant in all respects. She's Leaving Home is a song that Leonard Bernstein greatly admired. There is an entire chapter in Sheila Davis's excellent book on song lyric writing devoted to analysis of Paul's (& John's) excellent words to SLH. I could go on and on. Goldstein was spectacularly wrong about Pepper. I suspect he was a world class arrogant snob.

William said...

I think the critical reputation of The Beach Boys has gone up the most in recent years. In their era, they were considered kind of simple minded. Their songs are truly sunny and joyful, and you can listen to them with pleasure even through old age. Not so much with The Rolling Stones. I've no wish to be a street fighting man or put anyone under my thumb. Perhaps the music is timeless, but I'm not. I can't get into it anymore....I've heard most of Beatle songs countless times, and I'm still not tired of them. The Beatles had that one moment where everything they produced was golden and great,,

Bob R said...

I'm with surfed @12:47 - I think of Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane as part of Pepper. (And his entry in the "how to you add them to the playlist" game is a good one.)

As far as the experimenting with recording technology - it was inevitable. They had all of these very cool tools in the studio for the first time, and there was no way they weren't going to experiment. In any event, they got it out of their system and produced some great songs during the experiments.

Unknown said...

The Beach Boys *were* evolving before The Beatles hit ("Surfer Girl" and the single version of "Be True To Your School" are usually where the progression is said to start), but Wilson was *very* aware of and competitive with The Beatles. "All Summer Long" is the first album after The Beatles charted, and while there is filler (Capitol was trying kill them grinding out music before the rock craze folded) you can really see that the game is upped. The title track, the georgous "Hushabye", the chugging guitar in "I Get Around" and the hurt in "Wendy" ("I can't picture you with him / his future is awful dim")..

Jay Elink said...

" Before the Beatles the idea of record albums was almost non-existent, .."

Not so, especially for classical music. You couldn't cram Beethoven's 5th onto a 45RPM.

Also, for musicals. "South Pacific", or "Oklahoma", fer instance. All were on LP's, aka "Long Playing records". 33 1/3 RPM, first introduced in 1949. I still have old Chuck Berry and Fats Domino albums someplace in my basement. The idea of an album thus predated the Beatles by a number of years.
**************

"... most music was sold as 45rpm singles."

Introduced in 1949, 45's replaced the larger 78 RPM platters, which were the standard from the 20's into the late 1950's.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gramophone_record#Acoustic_recording

https://www.history-of-rock.com/record_formats.htm

Unknown said...

I think maybe "the idea of record albums" means not just that a bunch of songs were sold together, but that the album was an artistic entity itself. Of course in that case, you could say Sinatra invented the concept album..

Alex said...

Jay - the idea being that The Beatles created the album as art form with Rubber Soul or Revolver. The UK versions of course. W/o Sgt Pepper you don't get Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side of the Moon' which many regard as the greatest front-to-back LP of all time.

Bob R said...

" Before the Beatles the idea of record albums was almost non-existent, .."

Frank Sinatra: Both Wee Small Hours and Only the Lonely definitely existed.

Bob R said...

Listening to the 50th anniversary remix streaming on Amazon. (For free. I have Prime.) I like it. Better stereo mix than the original, and the bass and drums are more forward, so it suits my tastes.

Anyone else listened yet?

William said...

Does anyone still argue the relative merits of Glenn Miller versus Benny Goodman or the Dorsey Brothers? Is there anyone under fifty--or maybe sixty--who's even participating in this discussion? .......The review quoted above is literate, and the writer was knowledgeable about music. He was completely wrong, of course, but the appropriate lesson to be drawn is not that the writer is stupid, but rather how hard it is to accurately judge the events that are unfolding before you. I wouldn't want to be held to account for many of the opinions I expressed in 1967.

readering said...

Grammys started award for (non-classical) album of the year in 1959. Sgt. Pepper the first rock album to win the award (midway in an amazing 5-year run of Beatles-nominated albums). Before that the category winners dominated by jazz-standards singers (Sinatra, Streisand, Garland, Getz & Gilberto).

Unknown said...

In my opinion, Glenn Miller created (or curated) a better body of work than Benny Goodman. You can certainly argue that Goodman had more jazz chops, especially in his small groups, but Miller's sound is still iconic and two of his songs will never be forgotten. Dorsey has kind of faded from history and is (and probably will be) remembered mostly for bringing Frank Sinatra to promenince (though he actually started with Harry James).

Jay Elink said...

It's interesting that Paul McCartney has said that he considered "God Only Knows" as his favorite Beach Boys song.

Unknown said...

It is absolutely typical of Beach Boy management ineptness and what-ifs that "God Only Knows" was issued as the flip side of "Wouldn't It Be Nice" leading to split play and mediocre charting. That should have been two huge hit singles.

But I can see why McCartney might pick it. It was a very moving moment on the 50th anniversary tour when the surviving Beach Boys backed up a video of Carl on the big screen.

Clyde said...

For me, music breaks down into three categories: Music that I don't like and would never listen to again, music that I like and might listen to a second time, and music that I really like and would listen to repeatedly. Some works might float back and forth between the second and third categories depending on my mood. For me, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is like that. I have a 20th anniversary edition CD that I bought thirty years ago, and I've listened to it a number of times over the years. I also listen to a lot of streaming music courtesy of Amazon Prime, and since the album was on the hot list, I listened to it a couple of days ago at work. It's a really mixed bag, and some of it sounds pretty dated, but it's still a good album.

Jay Elink said...

Unknown said...
I think maybe "the idea of record albums" means not just that a bunch of songs were sold together, but that the album was an artistic entity itself. Of course in that case, you could say Sinatra invented the concept album..

***********

What about Gershwin, Rogers and Hammerstein, and the other creative teams who wrote musical theater hits, and then had their songs put onto albums? Plenty of artistry and concepts in all of their record albums!

Unknown said...

Certainly an album of all the tunes in a show would have an artistic cohesion. Just an album of songs by one songwriter, not so much. (WHich isn't saying that Fitzgerald's "songbook" albums weren't great -- they were, but they were great as one great song after another)

virgil xenophon said...

William and UNK re: Goodman and Miller. Actually a contemporary of theirs who was just as popular--if not more so imho--was Glenn Gray and his Casa Loma band. (I always liked "Smoke Rings" give it a listen)

Ann Althouse said...

I used to start nearly every law school class with the phrase "We were talking about...."

And I wonder if anyone other than I ever thought the rest of the line: "the space between us all."

Unknown said...

I know of Glenn Gray, and have heard him, but nothing really sticks in my mind. There were many bands with incredible songs that are nearly forgotten now, for instance Charlie Barnet and Skyliner

BN said...

My favorite Beatles album is "Beatles for Sale". From Wiki: "The album marked a departure from the ebullient tone that had characterised the Beatles' previous work, partly due to the band's exhaustion after a series of tours that had established them as a worldwide phenomenon in 1964."

It was a bit dark: the cynicism of the title, of course, as well as the cover--stone grim--and the songs "No Reply" and "I'll Follow the Sun." The dejection of "I'm A Loser" and "I Don't Wanna Spoil the Party". The facile pathos of "Baby's in Black" and "Every Little Thing." The one hit ("Eight Days A Week") was itself just a clever way of whining about being in love. Made in late '64, two weeks after coming off tour, fourth album in less than 2 years.

They were a bit spent.

It's still damn good. I like it! I sing it in the shower. And it had the added benefit of killing off Beatlemania, and maybe, Innocence too.

(too much?)

Meanwhile, Sgt Peppers was a Historical Piece of Art. Historical. Were the songs any good? Yes they were. Indeed, every single one of them was a masterpiece in itself. And the album in toto was world impacting. The final crescendo of "A Day in the Life" was a mike drop.

Anyway, how does a post about the greatest band of all time turn into the Wonders and Sad Tragedy Of The Beach Boys (one them)? Was Bob preoccupied? Oh, never mind, I see "Rubber Soul" being cited a lot... there he is! What a bunch of folkies you are! It's cute!





BN said...

What's the best song on "Smile" anyway? What was the biggest hit?

And don't say "Good Vibrations." ... because it was. But...

BN said...

"I used to start nearly every law school class with the phrase "We were talking about...."

Did you ever end it correctly and really blow their minds?

Isn't "space between us all" in the Constitution? Right to Privacy?

wild chicken said...

So what album did You Say Goodbye I Say Hello belong to? That thing still haunts me. Typical dysfunctional relationship song.

It hung out there between albums, like Revolution, as a discete statement, and I rather like them that way.

But I am spending my elderhood trying to catch up with all the good music that was buried in the Rock avalanche. Time's a wastin.

Ken B said...

1 Of course it's more about gimmick than music. So is almost ALL rock. Still fun.
2 Pet Sounds is way better.
3 I will studiously avoid it tomorrow. Get off my lawn.

Unknown said...

>What's the best song on "Smile" anyway? What was the biggest hit?
>
>And don't say "Good Vibrations." ... because it was. But...

Well, leaving out GV, the obvious answer for "biggest hit" is Heroes & Villains (actually released single version) since it was the only other song that would have been on "Smile" to be a single. As for best, well despite my upthread complaint about "English major lyrics": Surf's Up (1971 released version)

And who could forget the great how the Smile fragment He Gives Speeches morphed into the "Smiley Smile" She's Going Bald :-)

Clyde said...

I remember when Brian Wilson released his version of Smile back in 2004. I'd heard about it as one of those great "lost albums" for years, and while some of the songs were out there by the Beach Boys in various versions, it was neat to get Brian Wilson's preferred version of it. I listened to that one quite a bit. I always preferred the Brian Wilson songs to the Mike Love ones anyway.

PackerBronco said...

Anyone who knocks the Beatles solo work, just sit down and create your own mythical Beatles albums for the 70's by combining the best of their solo work. I did that on Spotify and came up with 7 terrific albums that would easily stand alongside their 60's catalog.

Robert Cook said...

"'The Who and the reviewers point was that The Who were trying to tell us that The Who are YOU.'

"How stupid, and, yes, the lightbulb should have gone off. Particularly when the lyrics of the song "Who are You" revolve around Pete Townsend getting into a bar fight with some punk rockers who were either praising him as their inspiration, or berating him as old and over (that part isn't clear to me), but in any event he was ambivilent about the interaction."


The bit about the Who trying to "tell us that The Who are YOU" is nonsense. The song is Pete Townshend's self-recrimination about a drunken night where he acted an ass and ended up slumped in a stupor in a doorway on a street in London's Soho. The punk rockers he interacted with were Steve Jones and Paul Cook, guitarist and drummer, respectively, of the Sex Pistols. Pete was embarrassed as he first mistook one then the other of them for Johnny Rotten, then he talked to them about the Who having sold out and "they" (the Pistols and punk rockers in general) needed to carry on making music with the integrity he felt he and his peers had betrayed. They responded by asking him if the Who were going to break up, and stated they'd really hate that as they LOVED the Who. This adulation of him by these younger musicians-- while he perceived himself as a sell-out--simply exacerbated his drunken self-hate.

In short, he's asking himself who the fuck he is.

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