Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely (or How the World Learned To Stop Worrying and to Love The Bomb.)

On February 25th, 1967 an American radio personality up in Seattle on managed to get a hold of Beatle George Harrison on the trans-atlantic telephone (it was his 24th birthday). He broadcast the conversation with George live on the air.

During the conversation George said that they were back in the studio working on a new album. He went on to enthusiastically describe a new song that the Beatles had just completed only two days earlier, titled A Day in the Life. Finally, George played the song live from Britain over the long distance telephone wires for the benefit of the unbelievably lucky Seattle radio audience that was tuned into radio station KJR that afternoon.

What they were treated to was yet another new mysterious Beatle composition that started out sounding vaguely acoustic and folkish, only to twice morph into a growing sonic crescendo of gargantuan proportions that resemble the take off of a Boeing 747 live in the recording studio..

The disc jockey was as stunned and speechless as the listening audience. The detonation countdown on the Beatle doomsday device was now initiated and the coming super nova was now unstoppable

The buzz began to spread everywhere that something absolutely brilliant and wonderful, a once in a life time cultural event was about to explode on our watch. Radio stations started speculating about the coming Beatles album describing it in mythical proportions months before it was released.

Even teen magazines such as 16 Magazine which had more or less moved on to the Monkees contained psychedelic lifestyle photo shoots of the Beatles such as Paul McCartney conducting the Day in the Life orchestra in a butcher’s apron.

Other music artists began a countdown watch for the next Beatles album. Print and broadcast media picked up on the fact that something of unfathomable cultural significance was about to happen, and there was again an up spike in Beatles related coverage.

And that spring of 1967, the rivets that held together the structural vestiges of the cultural establishment, some that had successfully withstood the 1964 onslaught of Beatle mania, began to pop off. A catastrophic failure of the establishment was imminent.

The San Francisco psychedelic city state which had been cooking for a couple of years on the national back burner began boiling over the cultural pot in which it had been stewing and enveloped the front page of the national consciousness, and even of the greater collective consciousness of the western world.

And in London, a home grown psychedelic sub-culture was mushrooming and overtaking the British Empire and western Europe. In addition to the Beatles, it featured an up and coming band named The Pink Floyd and an American born phenomenon named Jimi Hendrix who was exploding across the island nation and set to sweep over the entire planet.

As the release date of the mystery Beatle Album approached, news and print media picked up on them again and the chain reaction began to reach critical mass once again. On Am radio, an actual countdown began of the number of days until “we have that new Beatles album”. Then at the beginning of June it hit the public like a nuclear bomb embedding itself into the body politic of the world.

Across the world, radio stations put the LP onto the turntable and let it play without interruption except to occasionally break in with “oh my God!!!” followed by their attempts to try and describe the cover to the listening audience or to even grasp the cultural significance of the event.

Sergeant Pepper’s One And Only Lonely Hearts Club Band has left the building

And thus was unleashed a second 1960’s revolution uprooting and toppling cultural institutions both great and small. It is hard to over state the sudden, immediate, and irreversible effect that the release of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band had on mass consciousness that golden and idyllic summer of love. It was art of the highest order

Here is a home movie the Beatles made of the recording sessions for A Day in the Life. How many British celebrities can you spot in this movie?.

A bit of documentary on the making of this masterpiece.