England - Full Moon 131 - 06/01/07
Sergeant Pepper's and Private Pistols
Following up our retroscope series of last year - here's Speakers' corner! Luna Kafé's focused eye on great events, fantastic happenings, absolute milestones, or other curious incidents from the history of rock. This moonth we take a look 40 and 30 years back in time: June 1967, the beginning of summer of love... aaah! - and: June 1977, the beginning of summer of hate... aaargh!
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Sgt. Pepper is said to be the most influential rock album of all times. No doubt it made a great impression when it was released on June 1 (Europe) and June 2 (America) 1967. It is also often referred to as the very first concept album in rock - or pop, or whatever. I don't know... At least I'm sure it was the first LP I bought for my own hard-earned money as a kid. It was a great starting point. Still... No doubt it was a breakthrough for innovative recording techniques, album editing and LP cover art. Otherwise... well it's a collection of Beatles' songs like every other original Beatles' album, if you ask me. Apart from the title track with the "Reprise" towards the end of the album and the editing of some songs where the end of one is weaved into the start of the next and hardly any silence between the rest, there isn't much of a concept.
Some of the songs, arrangements and sound effects are great and innovative, others less so. The title track ain't half bad. I still find the harpsichord of the LSD song ("Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds") exiting. Otherwise it sounds somewhat outdated today. "Fixing A Hole" is underrated. Listen to the prominent bass and bass playing! The outstanding songs are "A Day In The Life" (the obvious one; everyone can agree on that; a real gem of a Lennon-McCartney collaboration!) and "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!". The lyrics of the latter are taken from an old circus poster Lennon had bought. Check the way his vocals were recorded and those strange and funny fairground'ish sound effects towards the end created by producer George Martin and his faithful engineer Geoff Emerick!
Otherwise... I think the album is filled up with pretty ordinary Beatles' songs of the era and one of their most boring songs, ever: "Within You Without You" is sitar-Harrison at his most tedious, yawn! "Norwegian Wood", "Tomorrow Never Knows" and not least Harrison's underrated "The Inner Light" are great sitar flavoured pop songs. "Within You Without You" on the other hand... In retrospect I think the band recorded better songs before and after the Sergeant. "Strawberry Fields Forever", of course - the greatest of them all - in early 1967, but also the other singles (let's leave "All You Need Is Love" out, shall we?) and Magical Mystery EP-stuff the band released soon after. In retrospect, again, I think I prefer Revolver, the Magical Mystery Tour album, White Album and Abbey Road (mainly thanks to McCartney's efforts on side 2 of the LP) to Sgt. Pepper. The real stroke of genious with Sgt. Pepper (and, all right then "All You Need Is Love", too), methinks, is the way the band caught the pulse of the time and tides surrounding them. They were world stars (even more poular than Jesus the previous year), but had in no way retreated to an ivory tower. The fab four were still in their mid 20s and managed to put onto tape what the summer of love was about better than most of their contemporaries. Or was it the other way round: Was it Sgt. Pepper that defined and became the soundtrack of that special summer???
The first vocal line of the album goes: 'It was 20 years ago today'. Well, today it's 40 years ago. But we can celebrate the CD version, released 20 years ago today!
God Save The Queen b/w Did You No Wrong (single)
The Sex Pistols guys, on the other hand, were in their early 20s. Bassist and tunesmith Glen Matlock left in February 1977. Or was he sacked because he was
too interested in the Beatles? He was replaced by Sid Vicious. It didn't help to improve the band's musical performances, but it certainly helped on the image
and to get the band sacked from the second recording contract due to foul language and behaviour. The first from EMI in early 1977, not long after the release
of the first single "Anarchy In The UK". Next they were signed by A&M outside Buckingham Palace but the alliance only lasted six days. Eventually their recordings
found a safe harbour with Richard Branson and his Virgin Records.
"God Save The Queen" was originally called "No Future". It's a little fuzz-pop gem with harsh criticism on British society where 'There's
no future, no future, no future for you!'. It wasn't aimed at Queen Elizabeth as such. Virgin had problems to get someone to press the little explosive
platstic disc that proved to be a stroke of luck. Eventually it was released and heavily markeded only a few days prior to the week celebrating the Queen's
Silver Jubilee, her first 25 years as British monarch. The celebration reached its peak on June 7. The Pistols and their following spent the day on a boat on
the river Thames where they tried to play the song outside the Houses of Parliament. Of course the boat was raided by the police. Of course there was a fight.
Of course several people including the band members and Pistols' manager Malcolm McLaren were taken into custody. Of course the song and the band were banned
by the BBC (as "Lucy In The Sky..." had been ten years earlier) and the rest of the official British institutions. And best of all, at the same time the single
went to no. 1 in the British single charts. Well, probably. According to the official list used by the BBC it only reached no. 2. It would've been too upsetting
and embarassing to allow them filthy public enemies that kind of success that particular week Already, for several months before and after, most of their concerts
were cancelled due to the band's reputation. To be able to play in public they had to go to Scandinavia in July and used pseudonym band names to avoid cancellation
by worried arrangers in the UK in August on the SPOTS-tour - Sex Pistols On Tour Secretly.
"God Save The Queen" was never Sex Pistols' greatest effort. The band's debut "Anarchy In The UK" and "God Save..."'s successor "Pretty Vacant" are far
bigger rock - or fuzz-pop - classics, if you ask me. Also, the criticism on Britain's 'fascist regime' might
have been more appropriate the following decade than during James Callaghan's (Labour party) period as prime minister. Remember, only five years later, in June
1982, under the reign of Maggie Thatcher, 'the English army had just won the war'. The less than heroic one
at the Falklands... Anyway, the release of "God Save The Queen" on May 27 1977 and its disturbance and popularity the following month did the trick. It secured
the Sex Pistols a name in history, it rocketed punk rock into the public eye. And it vitalized and changed rock and rock history.
Copyright © 2007 JP