The Rewind Button: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The Rewind Button is a group blogging project that I’m participating in. We’re taking on Rolling Stone‘s Top 40 albums of all time and writing our own reviews of them. There will be a new album and review each Thursday.

Sgt. PepperSgt. Pepper broke Brian Wilson’s heart. He had a nervous breakdown after hearing the seminal album in 1967. Because of this, he didn’t complete the Beach Boys’ album Smile until 2004.

The specific song that affected Wilson so much was “A Day in the Life,” the last song on Sgt. Pepper. Perhaps it was that song’s final E-major chord that suffocated his creativity. That chord is a heavy door shutting on one of the Beatles’ most lyrically depressing albums.

Below the uplifting music, lyrics address loneliness, leaving, emptiness, and holes (fixing and filling them). And it’s this music/lyric dichotomy that is Sgt. Pepper‘s greatest strength. The album has character. It has emotions. It has good and bad days.

My dad framed his first pressing of Sgt. Pepper and hung it on the wall in his study. It’s one of the many albums he played around the house when I was growing up. As a child who preferred the make-up and theatrics of KISS and the Village People, I never appreciated the Beatles as I should have. I liked them, but at that time they were dad’s music.

Then came my teenage years and my flirtation with country music (old school, please, none of that Nashville pop) and hair metal bands. I remember shopping at Wal-Mart with my grandmother. This was when The Beatles’ albums were first released on CDs. I browsed the selections and almost bought Sgt. Pepper. I chose Guns and Roses instead.

It wasn’t until I got to college that I started to fully appreciate them and just how much they influenced all the other types of music I had been listening to. And when I was finally clued in, I wasted no time in catching up.

I admit that Sgt. Pepper is not my favorite Beatles album (that would be Rubber Soul). Still, as someone who appreciates darker lyrics, I find listening to it a satisfying experience. But it’s rare that I listen to it completely and in song order. I most often start with “A Day in the Life.”

Unlike Wilson, the song doesn’t choke my creativity. When I hear that final E-major chord and its slow ringing out, I start to think of how I can add to the song, what music I can write that could contribute to the art.

The greatest works of art are ones that inspire others to create more art, either through reflection or impersonation. That is why Sgt. Pepper sits atop Rolling Stone‘s Top 100 albums list. Listeners have found, and will continue to find, new things with every play. And they’ll want to immediately add their own views about it. Conversation rolls into conversation. Music into more music.

Unless, of course, you’re Brian Wilson.

Please visit these other blogs participating in The Rewind Button project:

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9 thoughts on “The Rewind Button: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

    1. It’s ironic that the Beatles could never have written the songs on Sgt. Pepper without Pet Sounds. McCartney and Lennon requested an audience to hear the Pet Sounds tapes before they hit the market. After listening to the tapes twice, they started work on Sgt. Pepper. That album gave the Beatles the creative leap to record this wonderful album.

  1. Pimplomat: You impressed with your musical knowledge. The link to Brian Wilson seems especially appropriate these days considering the reissue of Smile with the live studio recordings. A tip of the hat to you.

    1. Thank you, Dave! This blogging project is going to help me become better acquainted with the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson, which is a good thing.

  2. True, but you must remember Brian Wilson influenced the creation of “Sgt. Pepper” in the first place. Brian was totally devoted to his art, a genius in his own right, and saw himself as a direct competitor to “The Beatles”. So when they released what he believed was the pinnacle of creativity at the height of a cultural revolution, it did break his heart and his mind. Music can be crucial to fragile egos.

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