Like most music that is timeless and essential, it’s best to discover it when you’re in high school–at that pivotal coming of age phase of your life, when you can still properly absorb art instead of focusing on bullshit like money. Among the ranks of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars or Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is one of those records that, in your youth, reaches inside your soul, suctions onto it and stays within you (and without you) forever. Fifty years since its release in the United States, marked on June 2nd, the record continues to prove its relevance and ability to affect all who listen, particularly those feeling lost at sea in their adolescence.
And it is perhaps this vague sense of puerility, of putting everyone on, that contributes to the tailored-toward-youth feel. As the band’s most unabashed experiment in psychedelia–Rubber Soul and Revolver were mere dabblings with the genre inspired by the government-created drug–John Lennon would later feel shame over the endeavor, and, in 1968, would deride their efforts as “the biggest load of shit we’ve ever done.” But history would negate his self-mockery, for it took the sort of courage never since tried to put on the persona of a fake band (The Lonely Island doesn’t count) and shed all inhibitions in order to make whatever type of music they felt like–a form of liberation that would also reach another zenith on The Beatles (The White Album).
Remastered and re-mixed for stereo by Giles Martin, son of the original producer of the album, George Martin, Sgt. Peppers is reinvigorated with new life for another generation, iterating that, along with Mozart, The Beatles will still be what people are listening to so many centuries from now (if we do make it that far, of course). Their most landmark album in terms of revealing the extent of the band’s artistic progression in such a short span since the release of 1963’s Please Please Me, it bears noting that the final track, “A Day in the Life,” alone took a total of thirty-four hours to record and perfect–it’s also arguably the song most indicative of just how much of an influence LSD was to John Lennon during the creation of these lyrics.
“She’s Leaving Home,” the song that I tended to play ad nauseum on the record player I had borrowed from my older, much cooler cousin, is the one that’s sure to persist in resonating with every girl and gay boy who just wants to get the fuck out of their suburban prison. Actually, I think I played it so frequently that at one point, my mother walked into the room and asked, “Are you trying to tell me something?” But there’s something for everyone on Sgt. Pepper’s, whether you’re the sexless guy who gets off on the camaraderie-loving “With A Little Help From My Friends” or you’re of the soul-searching, seeking to go to India brethren (read: white men) that prefers the “world” sound of “Within You Without You.”
And so, this appropriately reincarnated version of the record fifty years later serves to highlight all the innovations of its mixing and layered recording techniques, and is a fitting release to commemorate the milestone. For those attempting to declare lukewarm or no feelings for The Beatles, they’d be hard-pressed not to inquire with a therapist as to the potential of being a bloodless sociopath if they aren’t at least mildly affected by what’s coming through their stereo. Especially if they’re still too young to be a sociopath.