In an article originally written for the London Beatles Fanclub Magazine, Esther Shafer writes about the Beatles Classic album, which was released 50 years ago….
Sgt Pepper – An Appreciation of a Classic Album
Believe it or not, I got into a conversation with three Beatle fans who told me they don’t think Sgt. Pepper is a very good album. Now, this is as incomprehensible to me as someone saying they don’t like ice cream, chocolate, or blue skies. Totally blown away by this revelation, I was unable to come up with much more than ‘Why not’. got two basic reasons:
1) The songs on Sgt.Pepper aren’t as good as those on Revolver.
2) Being second generation fans, they were born too late to appreciate the mood of the times, and Sgt. Pepper is to them very much tied to the 60′ s.
I went away to collect my thoughts. Okay, so maybe there is such a thing as a generation gap. My mind drifted back to my youth, the summer of 67 when I was sixteen and Sgt. Pepper became permanently imprinted on my consciousness. If they don’t get the meaning of Sgt. Pepper, then I will try to help them.
So, for all of you poor lost souls, I am prescribing three exercises.
Exercise one Make believe it’s your first time.
Make absolutely sure you will be totally uninterrupted for 39 minutes and 52 seconds. Unplug the telephone, lock yourself in a room if you have to. Arrange your body in your best listening to albums position. It might be lying on your bed, on your couch, on the floor. Just make sure you have no limits to how loud you can play the music. If you have nervous parents, roommates, or neighbors, headphones are recommended. A CD would prevent you from having to turn the record over, but purists will want to listen to the album (a slightly scratched model from the 60’s is best with pops and clicks from well listened to tracks). Anyway, you will need an actual album for exercise three.
Choose a time of day when you are at your best. If it’s a nice day, open the windows, lie in a patch of sunlight, burn some incense, or surround yourself with flowers. Clear your mind of all thoughts, close your eyes, and just listen. Pay special attention to the way the instruments, sound effects and background vocals blend together. Relax and breathe deeply.
When you are finished listening to the entire album, stand up, stretch, and go outside. You should be in a somewhat sobered mood, after listening to A Day in the Life. Experience your surroundings, whatever they may be. You’re taking the time for a number of things that weren’t important yesterday. Really look at a flower or a tree. Look at the clouds in the sky. Watch a bird, or a squirrel. Even if your front door leads out to a busy street, that’s okay too. Listen to the traffic sounds, other peoples’ voices. Watch the people walking here and there. Imagine all the human dramas that are being played out around you. Watch an old couple, two young people flirting. Stay out as long as the mood maintains. You are finished. Good work.
Exercise Two Awakening the Unconscious
For the next few days, play the album as background music. Pretend it’s 1967. Anywhere you went, you could hear the sounds wafting out of windows, on car radios. Your friends are playing it on their stereo. They turn the record over and over, all day long. Your mind will tune out the parts you don’t really care for. Then all of a sudden, while doing something totally irrelevant, you will find yourself humming a tune, or remembering a guitar riff. Then you know you have accomplished your goal. Bonus points for remembering how one song blends into another. You’ve really made it when you can imagine the order of the songs without thinking too long about it.
Exercise Three – Traveling Through Space and Time.
It’s 1967. For months you have heard about the revolutionary design of the Beatles’ new album cover. Start with the front. Your eyes glance from one figure to another. You won’t be able to identify them all. Notice the lower half of the cover. You keep noticing more and more detail. Some of it looks very strange to you. Now open the cover. The Beatles look very different to you now. Their eyes look rounder, and you can see far, far into them. With their moustaches, they don’t look quite the same.
Now your eyes rest on their costumes. The shiny material, the decorations. Look how much they have changed since 1963. Thrown off the old dark suits, the same uniform. Now they are all wearing different colors. Let your mind wander back to your childhood. What did you want to be when you grew up? A policeman with shiny brass buttons? A fireman in a big red hat? A meter maid? An Indian princess? Superman? How would you really like to present yourself to the world? Express the real you. Braid flowers in your hair. Grow your hair as long as you want. Embroider flowers and sew patches on your jeans. Wear slogans on your shirts. Throw away those uniforms of conformity and be yourself. The Beatles say it’s ok.
Now look at the back cover. Let your eyes wander over the lyrics. Think of the range of human emotion that is played out on this album. Things are getting better all the time – hard times are over. The heady excitement of flirtation Lovely Rita, Meter Maid. The kind of love our gradparents have – no passion, just contentment – When I’m 64. A bit lacking in self–confidence? – I Get by with Little Help From my Friends. The heartbreak of broken relationships – She’s Leaving Home. The mania that comes from living in a rat race – Good Morning, Good Morning – and then it all comes crashing down on your head with the realization that it’s all futile because it’ll all end anyway – A Day in the Life.
I could get really heavy now, and tell you how the album is a microcosm of life – or remind you that this was the first “theme” album, and therefore it can’t possibly be compared to Revolver. The songs on Revolver are precious and rare jewels – each stands alone and shines in it’s own perfection. But Sgt. Pepper is rather like a novel – you can’t just pick up the book, open it randomly, and read one chapter, expecting to grasp the story in it’s entirety. But by this time, you should be making profound statements and having mind-blowing revelations of your own. And if not – well, I’d love to turn you on . . .
Martin Freeman presents Sgt. Pepper Forever, which will reveal the revolutionary studio techniques used during the remarkable sessions dating from November 1966 to April 1967 and also examine the album’s huge impact on the history of music. They will feature ‘work-in-progress’ versions of Sgt. Pepper tracks – and the songs on the double A-side single Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane, which were also recorded during the sessions – to illustrate the pioneering techniques used by The Beatles and George Martin.
This two-part documentary special features interviews with Paul, George, Ringo and George Martin, and in a new interview composer Howard Goodall talks about, and illustrates on piano, the musical innovations of the album’s songs.
Having worked with the original four-track tapes to create a new stereo mix of Sgt. Pepper for its 50th anniversary, producer Giles Martin (son of Sir George Martin) describes the innovative recording techniques used at the time and how he approached making his new version.
There will also be interview material with the album cover’s co-designer Peter Blake, Beatles press officer Derek Taylor, Tony King (George Martin’s assistant in 1967), Mike Leander (the arranger of She’s Leaving Home), poet Adrian Mitchell, DJ John Peel and some of the producers and musicians who were influenced by the achievements of the album, including T Bone Burnett, Dave Grohl, Tom Petty, Jimmy Webb and Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys.
Martin Freeman says: “Sgt. Pepper is the most celebrated album by my favourite band. These documentaries will shed light on how The Beatles, with George Martin, created a piece of work that marked a watershed for what a long playing record could be. It’s my absolute pleasure to help tell you about it.”.
Sgt Pepper Forever – BBC Radio 2 – 10:00 pm Wednesday 24th May – and online afterwards. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08qqgm0
The gates and wall of Abbey Road Studios have been covered with the album cover of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, in readiness for the albums 50th anniversary re-release – and very good it looks too! I took these pics at lunchtime today.
Peter Blake is celebrated as the creator of the sleeve art of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album. But his collaborator has been forgotten. As Sgt Pepper turns 50, ALASTAIR McKAY talks to American Pop artist Jann Haworth about art, celebrity, sexism, and her role in a modern design classic.
“It was 50 Years ago today, Sgt Pepper taught the band to play”.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release of the Beatles ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, come on a special Beatles Walking tour of London. We will be telling the story of how the album was made, and visiting major locations associated with it, and the many Beatles locations in London – including of course Abbey Road Studios and the famous crossing.
The tour is on June 1st and starts at 11:00 am outside exit one of Tottenham Court Road Underground Station. There is no need to book, just turn up and pay on they day.
During the 1960s, the Chelsea area of London was the most fashionable, and proved to be a magnet for the rich and famous to live, shop and party. The Beatles were no exceptions. Here are some of the many places the Beatles frequented:
This four star hotel, right on fashionable Sloane Square, was the hotel of choice for the Beatles on their many trips to London from June 1962 to the summer of 1963.
They first came here on June 5th 1962, in preparation for their first recording session with George Martin at EMI Studios, Abbey Road, the following day.
Chelsea and the Kings Road was already a very fashionable area and the Beatles had time to explore the boutiques, restaurants and bars that attracted the rich and famous.
The Beatles returned to the Royal Court Hotel in early September 1962, when they recorded their first single, ‘Love Me Do’ at EMI.
By early 1963, the Beatles had become nationally famous, especially after ‘Please Please Me’ reached number one in the UK charts, and their trips to London had to become much more frequent. Another notable occasion was when they came down to record the Please Please Me LP. They arrived on February 10th, ready to record the album the next day. But, rather than rest up in preparation for the recording session, they did an extensive photo session with Cyrus Andrews, in the hotel and around Sloane Square. You can see photos from the session at http://www.multiplusbooks.com/630210.html
The Royal Court Hotel remained the Beatles London base until the summer of 1963, when they transferred to the President Hotel in Guilford Street, Bloomsbury.
102 Edith Grove
This was a student flat, rented by Mick Jagger, and also occupied by Keith Richards and Brian Jones. The Beatles saw the Rolling Stones play at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond on April 14th 1963, and the Stones invited the Beatles back to their digs for a party afterwards. The flat was a typical student pad, and hadn’t been cleaned for months. However, the Beatles probably didn’t mind, because compared to their former digs, behind a filthy cinema in Hamburg, Edith Grove seemed like luxury! Despite the rivalry between their fans, the Beatles and the Stones remained friends throughout their careers.
Penny Lane in the Kings Road!
John Lennon came to the Kings Road in February 1967 – to shoot a scene for the Beatles ‘Penny Lane’ video! He was filmed walking past Markham Square, near Mary Quant’s ‘Bazaar’ boutique.
Chelsea Manor Studios 1-11 Flood Street
Chelsea Manor Studios opened in 1902, and has been used by artists, photographers and writers. It’s most famous photo session took place here on March 30th 1967, when the Beatles came here to have their picture taken for the cover of their new album ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’.
The Beatles arrived in the late afternoon for the album cover shoot, which was devised by an amalgamation of talent. Art-directed by Robert Fraser, designed by Peter Blake and his then wife Jann Haworth, and photographed by Michael Cooper. The look of the album, the colourful collage of life-sized cardboard models depicting more than 70 famous people on the front of the album cover and lyrics printed on the back cover, was the first time this had been done on an English pop LP.
Chelsea Manor Studios now holds luxury apartments.
Granny Takes a Trip – 488 Kings Road
‘Granny’ was opened by Nigel Waymouth, his girlfriend Sheila Cohen and John Pearse, after looking for an outlet for Sheila’s collection of antique clothes. The premises had been acquired in 1965 and opened in December after Pearse, who was a Savile Row-trained tailor, agreed to join them. Waymouth came up with the curious name and the boutique was featured in the famous ‘London – the Swinging City’ issue of ‘Time’ Magazine. Around the same time, Nigel Waymouth began to design posters and record covers under the name Hapshash and the Coloured Coat with fellow artist, Michael English. Their posters were used exclusively to pubicise concerts at the Savile Theatre, which was owned by Brian Epstein.
All of the The Beatles are known to have shopped here, along with their wives and girlfriends.
It was, however, more famous for its external appearance(s), including the 1966 mural of a native American chief and the 1967 ‘Jean Harlow’ mural. Most famous of all is probably the 1948 Dodge saloon car which appeared to have crashed through the wall and onto the forecourt. The car was also subjected to colour makeovers – canary yellow and, most memorably, in black and gold with glittering stars. The Dodge feature was kept after the sale of the shop in 1969 until complaints from the local authorities forced its removal in 1971. The clothes, though of very high quality, were very high-priced and tended to attract an ‘elite’ clientele, which just added to its legendary status. . Pearse was unhappy with the increasingly ‘hippie’ image of the shop and eventually they ended up selling the business in 1969. The London premises at 488 closed in 1974, the name being sold to Byron Hector who opened a shop under the same name elsewhere on Kings Road, eventually closing in 1979.
Club Dell’ Aretusa 107 Kings Rd
Opened by famed restauranteur Alvaro Maccioni, who teamed up with Apicella and Mino Parlanti (owner of the equally celebrated Borgo San Frediano) to open Club dell’Aretusa, a large members-only bar/restaurant/disco on the King’s Road. “Are you one of the beautiful people?” demanded Angus McGill’s double-page feature in the Evening Standard. “Simple test: Can you get in to the Dell’Aretusa?”
On May 22nd 1968, John Lennon and George Harrison attended a party here to launch ‘Apple Tailoring’ which was opening just down the road at 161 Kings Road. George was with his wife Pattie, but John was with his new girlfriend, Yoko Ono. They had got together just a few days earlier, and this was their first public appearance together, much to the interest of the gathered media, who kept on asking John ‘Where’s your wife?’ Ironically, George Harrison wore a jacket which he bought from rival clothes shop, Granny Takes a Trip (see above!)
Apple Tailoring (Civil and Theatrical) 161 Kings Road
Apple Tailoring, which opened on May 23rd 1968, was the latest addition to the Beatles growing Apple group of companies – they already had a boutique on Baker Street.
The Beatles had known the shop for a while. Before their involvement, it was called Dandie Fashions. ‘Dandie Fashions’ was the brainchild of John Crittle. He arrived from Australia around 1964, and it didn’t take John long to get himself established amongst London’s young and hip in-crowd. A fortunate turn of events landed John his first real employment was at ‘Hung On You’at 22 Cale Street, Chelsea, just off the Kings Road. It later became Jane Asher’s Cake Shop. It later relocating to 420 King’s Road. John was a designer and a fabric locator Owner Michael Rainey was an already recognised aristocrat amongst the ‘Chelsea set’. This was expanded upon when he got together with, and married, London socialite, Jane Ormsby-Gore. It didn’t take that long before the intimidating ‘Hung On You’ became the shop of the stars. Rainey himself recalls: “When The Beatles and The Who started to visit my boutique, I knew we’d made it.”
John Crittle decided to set up his own boutique, and started ‘Dandie Fashion’ at 161 Kings Road in October 1966. He also managed to secure the ‘Foster and Tara’ clothing designers for the business. Tara Browne was a well-known socialite amongst the in-crowd – being the heir to the Guinness fortune. Tara was interested in making his own way in the world, and when he moved from Ireland to London he also fell in with the young and hip from the arts and entertainment worlds. His interest in men’s clothing led him to starting up his own tailoring company, ‘Foster and Tara’. Tara had many friends in rock and pop, including Brian Jones, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. It is said that Paul McCartney took his first LSD trip with Tara.
Tara Browne was killed in a car crash while on his way to meet the team of Dudley Edwards, Douglas Binder, and David Vaughan, to discuss the design for the shop front. Browne crashed his Lotus Elan into a van parked in Redcliffe Gardens, he swerved so that he took the impact rather than his girlfriend, Suki Potier. This incident will forever be immortalised in The Beatles’ song, ‘A Day In The Life’. Tara’s untimely death also inspired The Pretty Things’ song, ‘Death Of A Socialite’.
After the death of Tara Browne, John Crittle kept Dandie Fashions going, and attracted the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Roger Daltrey and Brian Jones, who all often bought clothes there.
John Crittle was also friendly with the Beatles, and in May 1968, The Beatles went into partnership with Critte to form ‘Apple Tailoring’. The purpose of this shop was to offer the discerning male customer a bespoke service, rather than the ‘off-the-peg’ service that was available at the Baker Street location. As well as this bespoke service, the basement of 161 King’s Road became a hairdressing salon, which was run by Leslie Cavendish. Apple Tailoring lasted longer than the Baker Street boutique but it too closed its doors in 1968. Apple Corps decided to withdraw from High Street commerce and handed the business and all the stock over to John Crittle. Crittle’s daughter is Darcey Bussell, former prima ballerina with the Royal Ballet, and now judge on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’.