By Norman Knight
It was 50 years ago this June I first heard Sgt. Pepper’s tunes.
The music’s never out of style, it’s guaranteed to make you smile.
So may I reminisce with you? Come back with me all those years.
To Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
I wonder how it was we knew about the latest Beatles album in the first place. We didn’t have social media unless you count the telephone. Maybe we read about it in “Sixteen” or “Circus” or any one of the other magazines devoted to this week’s Big Pop Star and other aspects of 1960s popular music. It’s likely we heard something about it on WIFE AM radio.
At any rate, my friends and I somehow got wind that the Beatle’s new release would soon be here in America.
And on June 2, 1967, it arrived.
Of course, we couldn’t just rush out and buy it. Being 14 or 15 years old, we were always short on cash. Collecting soda bottles along the country roads and cashing them in for 5 cents apiece, mowing the occasional yard and a summer job picking green beans were our major income streams.
Somehow, though, a fellow Beatlemaniac managed to get a copy, and the word went out that he was inviting all of us over to listen to his prized acquisition.
It worked out well that Jim was the first to snag a copy. His parents had one of those massive console stereo systems built like a piece of furniture. It sounded so much better than anything the rest of us had. Our group of teenage music enthusiasts settled in the family room and soon the hiss of the needle on the vinyl let us know the show was about to start.
We listened to both sides. Twice. During the first listen we were quiet. I remember having no words to say. I totally was captured, entranced by the sounds I was hearing. To all of us, the first listen was, I think, an attempt to process this latest creation by The World’s Greatest Band.
As we flipped the record over to Side 1 and started again, we began to speak about some favorite parts. Ringo cheerfully singing about getting by with a little help from his friends; John doing his word-playing with Lucy in the sky with her diamonds; Paul optimistically telling us it’s getting better all the time; and George mystically pointing out the world within you and without you.
And then the finale, a poignant, powerful and somewhat cryptic “A Day in The Life” with its 40-piece orchestral crescendo building to a final chord like the end of the world. A masterpiece from the moment we heard it.
We all were budding guitar players, so the band’s instrumental work was a lively topic.
The music was way more sophisticated and complicated than our developing skills could handle, for sure. As time went on we would try to work out some of the songs, and mostly we succeeded though even today, 50 years later, I am still learning music from the Beatles.
Later, as we were walking the two miles home I realized I was singing some of the tunes to myself. I already had incorporated them into my head. I remember saying, “It’s like I knew all the songs already. Like I had heard them before.”
Now, five decades later, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” is still in my head. I realize the Beatles and their music and the times that produced all of that are as much a part of who I am as anything I can name.
As you might expect, a new remix has been released. But whether you play the new version or that old crackling vinyl you still have somewhere, it is still worth a listen. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.
Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to email@example.com.