Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Traditionally The Beatles’ most celebrated album, Sgt. Peppers was the first rock album to win a Grammy, and even its initial CD issue in 1987 was an event. More recently there’s been a backlash against it, and other candidates like Revolver and Abbey Road have enjoyed more prominence, although ‘A Day In The Life’ is a popular choice for the band’s best song.
Inspired by other landmark LPs from the era like Frank Zappa’s Freak Out and The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper’s was The Beatles’ concept album. It was based around a performance by a fictional band with all the songs cross-fading into each other.
The Beatles have so much good material at this point that they could leave out two of their very best songs – the single ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Penny Lane’, recorded at the same time of the album – and still produce a great album. There are plenty of charming McCartney songs like ‘Lovely Rita’ and ‘Getting Better’, brilliant Lennon material like ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’, and ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ is one of Starr’s best vocal spotlights. There’s also more ambitious orchestral material – McCartney ‘She’s Leaving Home’ with its Greek chorus from Lennon, and ‘A Day In A Life’, which places a McCartney song fragment into the middle of a Lennon song beautifully.
Sure there’s a grand conceit which might strike some as pretentious, but Sgt. Peppers is full of good songs with interesting arrangements, and it holds up very well indeed.