Sunday, June 03, 2007

It was 40 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play...

I know, terribly unoriginal. I felt it necessary to take a break from my capstone to commemorate the 40th anniversary of one of the most important rock 'n' roll albums of all time. I've always been more of a "White Album" girl myself, and I also consider "Rubber Soul" and "Revolver" to be stronger albums as a whole, but "Sgt. Pepper's" did give us the concept album, the Summer of Love, and "A Day in the Life."

It's a little strange to comment on the anniversary because I obviously wasn't around at the time. I never had the experience of going to the record store as soon as it came out, running home and sitting down next to the record player, and listening to it all the way through, completely mesmorized. I have no recollections of my first time listening to any of the Beatles albums because they were always there.

I do remember spending hours looking at the album cover, trying to figure out who all those famous people were. I would sing along to every song, lyrics in hand. I didn't know or care about hidden drug references, but I was intrigued by the lyrics, even then. I was fascinated by the contradictions in "Getting Better," both within the lyrics and the juxtaposition of the upbeat, sing-song melody with the darker words. I cried for the girl in "She's Leaving Home" as well as her parents. I loved the silly phrases in "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite." I was jealous of Rita, who Paul McCartney wanted to have tea with. And I was stunned by "A Day in the Life."

It depresses me to think that 40 years have passed since Paul McCartney wrote "When I'm 64" and that he's on the verge of turning 65. I always thought of the four of them as those young boys from Liverpool even though they were in their 40s when I was born and John Lennon was no longer alive.

But Paul McCartney has moved on, at least in part. On Tuesday, he will release "Memory Almost Full," which promises to be an amazing album despite the label on which it's being released (Hear Music). He is focused on promoting the album rather than celebrating the anniversary of one of his proudest achievements (on the Anthology, he seems much more eager to take credit for "Sgt. Pepper's" than say, "Magical Mystery Tour," which is a very underappreciated album, but that's a story for another day). Still, his new album, as he's stated in interviews, is retrospective, with songs that look back on his childhood and his relationship with Linda. The first single "My Ever Present Past," which rivals the best songs on most McCartney solo albums (with the possible exceptions of "Ram" and "McCartney"), reminds us that Paul McCartney never can escape his past. I wonder if he realized that he would be releasing the album at a time when so many would be reliving the glory days of "Sgt. Pepper's." It must be hard to have your work held up to such high standards, but it looks like Paul is up for the challenge.

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