THE BEATLES, SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND, 1967
Will's final pick, and the song that pretty much puts him to sleep every night.
For the last two years or so, Will has fallen asleep to this Beatles album. He has never once asked to alter his bedtime music. He loves it, over and over and over again. I'm not sure that he's ever even heard side two, because he's out like a light by "She's Leaving Home."
I wouldn't have guessed that the record would have such staying power (or that any record could). I think it's partly about comfort (when we travel, I set up an ipod so he can fall asleep to it there as well) but it's also about loving the songs. When he hears those songs out of context, he's always totally excited ("That's my record!", he usually exclaims) and he sings or drums along. I actually think this record is perfect kids music. Throw that Raffi record away, my fellow parents. The Beatles are by themselves a truly universal language.
Will's pretty sure we all have the song title wrong. "It's 'Lucy In The Sky With Ben,' Dad." He's not sure who Ben is, but he likes being in the sky with Lucy. It's apparently a happy song about two people on a fun trip. Which is probably not too far off, really.
I loved this song when I was a kid as well-- The Beatles were the first band I flipped for, and I had a beat-to-hell copy of Sgt. Pepper I got for 25 cents. It had a couple of cracks and pops that my needle couldn't handle, but I probably played it every other day in 7th grade. "Lucy" has always been my favorite track, somehow-- it's not really my favorite song or performance on the record, but I think it's the most mysterious-sounding one, and the song when I was a kid that made me feel like I was listening to something special. The imagery was completely mind-blowing for a southern suburban kid, and I love all the little musical touches throughout. For me, it's the song that lets you know that each new track on the record could bring anything, and frequently did. Check out Paul's bass line in the verses, for example-- it's ingeniously simple and counter-melodic at the same time. And Ringo's drum hits that announce the chorus are a great example of his musicality-- as simple and as appropriate as possible.
I actually don't think Pepper is the best Beatles album. By my count, there are six others that make for a better listen. I totally understand why it comes in first all the time in polls, though-- imagine what it must have been like to buy Pepper in the summer of 1967. No band had really put out a unifying concept record yet. There had been weird records released, no question-- Zappa's Freak Out, for example-- and bands had started to experiment with the studio as an instrument and make things that sounded deliberately wrong or expanded (Pet Sounds), but for the most part, rock was still singles and AM radio and music for kids. And then Pepper-- here's an album by the most famous musicians in the world on which they pretend to be other people, start stringing songs together musically and thematically, play rockers and ballads and dance-hall tunes and sitars and creepy circus music and sound collages, and all in 35 minutes. Some of it has aged badly, but it opened up the possibility for a rock album to be... anything. After Pepper, you could do anything you want, and while I think a lot of bands surpassed Pepper in terms of achievement, they never could have gotten there so quickly and with international buy-in without this record. It's important that The Beatles made this record-- they took experimentation and some avant-garde understandings about art and identity and made them immediately mainstream. It would have taken a decade for that to happen without them. The Beatles' growth from 1962-1970 is, I think, the most dramatic movement from point A to point Z by any modern artist.
LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGFlkcnZRFI (Though if you don't know what "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" sounds like, you're probably not reading this sentence.)
Thanks for DJing, Will-- back to the shuffle for the next entry.