Sgt. Pepper Must Die

Here’s a great article of musicians talking smack about other highly regarded albums. No one will ever agree with all these. For example, I highly agree with the inclusion of Sgt Pepper and Pet Sounds but was kind of incensed by Nevermind and Daydream Nation. Oddly, Wayne Coyne was the one down on Nirvana and when you read his criticism it is mostly of stuff outside and after the album itself. I don’t think you can deduct from the Nirvana account the fact that Nickelback exists, even if they did try to rip off the sound. That’s just blaming the victim.

This does touch on something I was already thinking about blogging, which is the anniversary of Sgt Pepper. It was the very first compact disk I ever bought, years before I even owned my own CD player. It’s hard to think back that far, but for years the Beatles were unavailable in CD form, and when they started releasing them they did one album per month with Pepper being released on the month of its 20th anniversary, 20 years now past. It’s the CD I’ve owned longer than any other, and probably the only one I have guaranteed to never be played from start to finish ever again. If I were to sell some, it would be the first on the list.

A lot of time this record tops lists of “Best albums of all time.” There is no way, it is not even near the top of best Beatles album. I looked back over the track list, and there are 13 songs of which two are the same one with a reprise. Of the 12, there is a block of 5 consecutive songs I hope to never hear again – “Fixing a Hole”, “She’s Leaving Home”, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”, “Within You Without You” and “When I’m Sixty-Four”. I think all of these songs are filler and completely throwaway. Any reasonable candidate for a best album of all-time cannot have filler disposable songs, and this album is practically half-full of it.

There are two songs on here that I find eminently relistenable, and they are not songs you hear regularly on classic rock radio. They are “Good Morning” and “Lovely Rita”, the latter being one of my favorites of all Beatles songs. They are unpreposessing great pop, unburdened by the weight of being held up as some sort of superlative and minus the twee pretentiousness of songs like “A Day in the Life.” If you cut out the middle of this album and made it an EP, it would be a pretty good one. Taken as a whole, I agree with Billy Childish that it is the worst Beatles album up to that time.

10 Replies to “Sgt. Pepper Must Die”

  1. The casual Beatles fans I find tend to gravitate towards “Sgt Pepper’s” and “The White Album”, but my favorite was always “Revolver” (the original UK version, naturally). To me it represented that turning point between the “safe pop” that was “Help!” and “A Hard Day’s Night” (and most of the early British Invasion, for that matter) and the music experiments that would be “Abbey Road” and “The White Album”.

    I’ve really been digging the new “Love” CD though. The remix work that George and Giles Martin did with the originals was masterful, in my opinion. I only hope that the remixed albums that are due will sound just as good.

    As much as I like the Beach Boys, I never understood the fascination with Pet Sounds. It always came across as a California-washed attempt at “Rubber Soul”. 🙂

  2. you’re wrong about She’s Leaving Home… but the album IS overrated as Paul is underrated (by most critic types) to Saint John…..
    Revolver is the best, Rubber Soul not far behind.

  3. I agree with you regarding Sgt Pepper’s being overrated. I’ve owned damn near everything they have recorded in LP and CD form over the years and honestly that album is my least favorite (along with the America only throw away Magical Mystery Tour).

    To me what many regard as ground breaking on that album, they had already begun doing with Rubber Soul and Sgt. Pepper was the beginning of the long slow decline to the Get Back sessions and the end of it all.

  4. What?
    you guys are totally drunk!
    how can you hate sgt.pepper?
    within you without you is one of the coolest songs ever!
    a day in the life may be their best song
    this album made the beatles more then a simple brit pop band
    and casual fans liking the white album?
    ok, no
    the white album is the one album that you can listen to and not have every song be a rock radio staple song.
    that’s their best album
    then abbey road
    then sgt.pepper

  5. you cant say that some of sgt pepper songs are “filler and completely throwaway.”

    In that case, i’m sure that any album considered as a great piece of art contains at least one “filler song”
    Youre just saying these things cause sgt pepper is considered a “concept album”, which should have a meaning or something.

    Every beatles album is great as F&%/CK….. but the greatest of all? every single one since Rubber Soul.
    that is….
    – rubber soul
    – revolver
    – magical mystery tour
    – sgt pepper
    – white album
    – abbey road

    Now….. those are and will be the most influential albums of all times ever….. greatest band of all time……

  6. Songs I don’t care if I ever hear again in my life: “Fixing a Hole”, “She’s Leaving Home”, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”, “Within You Without You” , “When I’m Sixty-Four”. That’s half the album.

    I’ve hit the point where “A Day in the Life” just sounds arch and artificial to me. The songs that still stand up for me today are “Lovely Rita”, “Good Morning” and “Getting Better.”

  7. I’m in the “Revolver and Rubber Soul are Bomb-diggity” camp, and while I listened to the Beatles with religious fervor in Junior High/High School (in the 80’s, mind you) and I still have all their albums I haven’t listened to them in ages.

    I have to say that this quote from the article is hovering right around perfection:

    “Rock’n’roll is meant to be full of vitality and energy, and this album isn’t. It sounds like it took six months to shit out … it was ideal for a seven-year-old.”

    Lovely Rita is one of a handful of songs which contain lyrics that float up out of my subconscious to say hello periodically. (Almost as frequently as the lyric “If you say something once, why say it again?” from the Talking Heads.)

    While the Beatles are definitely guilty of creating some of the most maudlin “love songs” of all time I’ve always appreciated that they wrote songs about dogs, ponies, and meter maids too.

    I don’t know that I can agree that Nevermind was all that great or important of an album. There was so much music around that time that was actually good which was obscured by the grunge nonsense that I actually resent that Nevermind was so seemingly omnipresent.

    I know several 13-year-old girls who think Cobain was a musical God. I don’t know many musicians who agree. Honestly, I think Britney Spears puts out better albums than Nirvana ever did (and the upside is that one can watch her shake her ass in the videos [which, very truthfully, are much better with the sound off]). Dave Grohl was the actual talent in Nirvana, definitely not Cobain.

  8. I agree with Pepper being overrated, but for completely different reasons than you. Personally, within you without you and she’s leaving home are beautiful songs and some of my favorites. Sure, say what you want about George Martin making them what they were, but keep in mind that he also made “Elanor Rigby and Penny Lane” what they were.

    I much prefer revolver and the white album. I am 15 and think that Pepper seems more of a staple of the times rather than a “timeless” recording. Songs like “lucy in the sky” and “mr. kite’ are psychedelic masterpieces, to be sure, but then again those days are over, and as much as one would like to lament the end of the sixties, trying to revived badly-written songs with melotron solos doused in acid isn’t going to bring them back in a good way. Revolver and the White Album are more relevant. Well-written rockers with some acoustic, orchestral and psychedelic elements without overdoing it.

    I’ve been listening to the Beatles since I was 8, and even then Pepper sounded artificial, overproduced and dizzying at parts. Sure, you could get lost in the music, but afterwards you’d feel sick.

    Also, I really don’t like to listen much to beatles songs that are staples on “oldies radio”. In my opinion, these were the baby-boomer songs that have lost their way. I much prefer the more alternative-minded White Album; perhaps the only beatles album where I can show my friends a song and they would have never heard it before.

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