Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Greatest Band: Part Two

After recording seven albums in only three and a half years, The Beatles decided to stop stretching the boundaries.

Instead, they broke them.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band represented nothing less than a complete redefinition of The Beatles. To my knowledge, no band has ever made a change like this in one album. It was unprecedented, and it was even more remarkable for its sheer brilliance. It is absolutely unconventional by the standards of the time, standards often set by The Beatles themselves.

Sgt. Pepper is a series of character portraits, both vivid and beautifully drawn. In a very warm way, it explores a dominant theme of the best science fiction: what it means to be human. It does so with a pervasive buoyance, the sound so bright and colorful that it practically bursts out of the speakers.

There are only three love songs out of the thirteen cuts, and they are among the most whimsical ever written: the sunny "Getting Better",the utterly delightful "When I'm Sixty-Four", and "Lovely Rita", the only love song ever written to a meter maid.

Sgt. Pepper is also an extremely funny album, certainly the wittiest ever recorded to that point. With the exception of the beautiful and heartbreaking "She's Leaving Home" (another example of empathy) and the experimental "Within You Without You", every song on the album is full of humor. Even the unsettling "A Day In The Life" is darkly funny.

Simply put, there was never a record like this, and over forty years later, there's never been another one.

Tomorrow: The White Album, Let It Be, and Abbey Road

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