Celebration of the release 50 years ago. Putting aside the actual release date [world wide it was 1 June 1967]
Other records state rush release 26th May as had been “leaked” on radio. Pirate radio strong at the time apparently played on Radio London. I, however, heard it on Radio Luxemburg which was in a way the original pirate broadcasting from Europe but having all its DJ’s and music pre-recorded in London. The Pirates of course on old oil rigs or trawlers operating outside the 3-mile limit and therefore legal.
I could pick up my local Radio Caroline which operated from the Irish sea anytime day or night. But generally, the broadcast range was limited so night time in bed with my precious loved battery transistor radio, aerial extended, tuning carefully hair width by hair width and moving the transistor around the room to get the best reception. Oh, Bliss. Maybe because we had to work hard to connect to the burgeoning counterculture, the youth revolution, rock and roll [and in my case blues as well] the dawn of Tune In and Drop Out, maybe that’s why it’s carved into memory.
But it wasn’t Caroline it was Luxemburg. Not the transistor but the radiogram. Radio and turntable built into a substantial piece of furniture. The radio had the ability to tune into long wave and at its high end all sorts of marine and aircraft broadcasts. Medium wave which was where all the normal radio broadcasts were but with the right conditions one could pick up European broadcasts. Short wave in all sorts of bands which I swear you could tune into Jupiter with.
Must have had a big and good speaker as I never found the sound an issue. Mind you it was mono. Stereo equipment was just about available but like colour TV it was a way off being in everyone’s home.
Can’t remember the actual day but I seem to think the broadcast I heard was the night before, which would have made it the Thursday night. After 50 years I can’t remember when I actually got a copy in my hands. I like to think it was the next day after the release which would have been the Saturday.
Once home it was on the radiogram. I remember being engrossed in the cover. This wasn’t packaging this was an event in itself.
Commercial art, pop art. The front cover, all these people, none of them named but clearly famous, cultural icons. At 15 couldn’t know them all, but I went from face to face recognizing some being able to name others and reviewing again till names drifted up from my subconscious. Think it was the Sunday Times or the Sunday Observer in their colour supplements which eventually listed them all. It was a fold out cover. None of this single sleeve. There, the Fab Four in technicolor uniform, at once circus and so so cool.
Then there’s lyrics. A whole sheet of lyrics to prompt a sing-along.
AND the cardboard cut outs
And the flaming paper sleeve.
As for the music. Then it was truly remarkable. The Beatles were riding high. Yes, I know all the denials!
Despite all the fame and frustration, internal and external forces that would eventually fling them apart. They made the “studio” album as a defense and an answer to the critics, as proof of their talent.
It’s also a fun album in the main, swings along as if it is the eponymous band of one Sgt Pepper.
They [and I include Martin and the other engineers, but will not exclude the seemingly quieter members] created an album with new sound qualities new textures which even in mono I could hear on that first play. It was a risk. Even though it was the Beatles it was a risk. In the context of POP, it expanded the possibilities. For me it’s not a rock album yet in some ways it heralds the era of progressive rock that was to follow The tale is that within days of its release McCartney was in the audience watching Jimi Hendrix playing the title track. Sad no recording of that exists!
1967 The middle. 1966 sort of beginning 1968 an end to something that never quite made it out of the delivery suite.
Some of the comment I’ve heard today is a little dismissive of Sgt Pepper not being the Beatles best work. That may be true anyone’s best work in terms of songs or performances is bound to be spread across their published careers. The whole point was the album the idea of which is somewhat lost now in the age of Spotify and iTunes.
It was one of my first album buys somewhere in my first 3 or 5 and it influenced what I bought next that year.
What follows is a list of albums I bought that year. In what order exactly when I can’t say but that year. [Well late 1967 maybe sometime early 1968]