Friday, June 1, 2007

I remember Sgt. Pepper

It was twenty years ago today that it was twenty years ago today that Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in the U.K. (it was June 2 here in the States). Sgt. Pepper was my third Beatles album -- I already owned Something New and Help! (the latter of which I still have). I was not yet eleven when Sgt. Pepper was released, and I have a handful of specific memories of the album that I'm recording here.

I remember my dad buying the record for me and bringing it home with him from work.

I remember recognizing Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel on the cover, and Edgar Allan Poe (my then-favorite writer), and probably no one else.

I remember thinking that Dr. David Livingstone was Adolf Hitler. (Strange -- John Lennon did ask that Hitler be included in the cover scene.)

I remember that the doll's WMCA Good Guys sweater confirmed my sense that WMCA was a lot better than WABC.

I remember how tall Paul looked on the back cover. Was that really Paul?

I remember "A splendid time is guaranteed for all" in the bottom-right corner of the back cover. I remember that there was no period after all, even though the word ended a complete sentence. I liked that. This sentence later got me into trouble when I was asked (as an earnest grad student) to design an announcement for a faculty cocktail bash. I typed "A splendid time is guaranteed for all" at the bottom, and people thought I was being sarcastic. They knew more about academic life than I did.

I remember cutting out the cutouts that came with the record. (Yes, where are the snows of yesteryear?)

I remember "A Little Help from My Friends," as the song was mistitled on the back cover.

I remember not being sure whether the words "Billy Shears!" were supposed to be the end of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" or the start of "With a Little Help from My Friends."

I remember how interesting Paul's bass-playing sounded on "With a Little Help from My Friends," though I don't think I knew that it was Paul's bass I was hearing.

I remember understanding how sad "She's Leaving Home" was, even though the music picked up when the departing daughter was "meeting a man from the motor trade."

I remember the two moments on Side One that most struck me musically: 1:01-1:03 in "Fixing a Hole" and 1:56-1:58 in "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite."

I remember how grown-up and serious "Within You Without You" felt.

I remember sitting on the edge of my parents' bed reading the lyrics of "Good Morning, Good Morning" and imagining that the song was going to be very decorous, something like a waltz, or something Elizabethan. I have no idea what suggested these possibilities to me -- meter? (Good MORNing, good MORNing.)

I remember associating "Good Morning, Good Morning" with 86th Street, a major Brooklyn shopping street, where I once went in the evening with my parents to get a briefcase for school (yes, kids, at least city kids, carried their books in briefcases then).

I remember listening next to the phonograph speaker at the end of "A Day in the Life" -- the famed "40-second bass note," as it was then called. The surface noise became stronger as the music became fainter.

I remember thinking that "A Day in the Life" must have been the greatest song ever. (It's still my favorite Beatles song, if I have to pick only one, even if I'm not ten.)

I remember the two moments on Side Two that most struck me musically: the clarinet harmonizing with Paul's voice in the last chorus of "When I'm Sixty-Four" and 2:26-2:28 in "A Day in the Life."

I remember standing in a department store (Korvette's?) while my parents looked with dismay at the cover of the follow-up to Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, which I was proposing to buy. "They're all on drugs," my parents always said. That observation was often followed by "You can see it in their eyes." Here though you couldn't, because the Beatles were wearing animal masks. Further proof that my parents were right, right? But I did get the okay to buy Magical Mystery Tour. (Thank you, Mom and Dad.)

My model for this post is Joe Brainard's I Remember, a book with a simple and brilliant premise that by now you understand.

[$2.99 at Sam Goody's, June 1967.]

Thanks to my son Ben for suggesting a much more interesting start than "It was forty years ago today." (The kid's smart.)

comments: 3

Genevieve Netz said...

I enjoyed your remembrance. I grew up on a ranch far out in the Sandhills of Nebraska, and we didn't even have television. My awareness of the Beatles began when a girl named Katie became a student at our tiny one-room school. She was definitely from somewhere else (Chicago, to be exact.) She was crazy about the Beatles. She also had a pair of white go-go boots. I think that was 1964, and I was in 7th grade.

Anonymous said...

I hope that someday I can have an experience with an album of music like the one you had with Sgt. Pepper.

Michael Leddy said...

I remember those boots, Genevieve. My 4th-grade teacher wore such boots now and then, 1965-66.

I think you will have such an experience, Ben. I suspect that it will be with an older album.