Friday, June 01, 2007

Was It Forty Years Ago Today..?

I wonder how many blog entries have got some variation of that for a title today? Sorry to be unoriginal, but I've had a very trying day, coming at the tail end of a very trying week. But getting back to the point - 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'. Was it really forty years ago that it was released? It doesn't seem possible. I'm afraid that I can't offer any erudite insights into the album, instead, all I can offer is a personal reminiscence. I know that for many people this is an iconic album which represents a turning point in popular music, which is true. But for me, 'Sgt Pepper', along the preceding 'Strawberry Fields'/'Penny Lane' double A-side, represent my earliest musical memories. I was very young when my sister - an ardent Beatles fan to this day - bought these records when they were released. It seems to me, over the distance of memory, that she played them incessantly. That probably isn't true. Nevertheless, they were burned into my memory, became part of the soundtrack of my childhood and helped form my ideas of what popular music should be like. As regular readers both here and over at The Sleaze will know, The Beatles still exert a powerful fascination for me - they have become embedded, not just in my psyche, but popular culture, and have gained a mythic status in the process.

Like all myths, they have become open to interpretation, not just their lyrics and music, but the individuals themselves and their lives. The most extreme form of this reinterpretation has been the whole 'Paul is Dead' urban myth - something else which regular readers will know fascinates me. This has seen an obsessive poring over everything connected with the Fab Four in an attempt to 'prove' that Paul died in 1966 and was replaced by a double. As I've noted elsewhere in this blog, some of these obsessives have taken this to crazy extremes, extrapolating from Paul's supposed replacement that just about every famous person you've ever heard of has been replaced. All this from that one album. Because, after all, it was such a radical change from the Beatles' previous image and music, it had to be significant of something hadn't it? Of course, such an attitude reveals a profound ignorance of the very thing these people claim to be a fan of. Anyone who knows The Beatles knows that 'Sgt Pepper' was the culmination of their musical development. Two previous albums - 'Rubber Soul' and 'Revolver' - were clearly already moving in the direction of 'Sgt Pepper'. There was no radical shift in musical direction, just a musical evolution. But such is the stuff of myth - the facts get obscured in the mists of time. Well, I've rambled on for long enough. Really, all I wanted to say was that it seems incredible that something which is now a cherished childhood memory to me, happened so long ago.

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