This may not be the best Beatles album to start with. I say this because this is album eight. I miss the whole trajectory of the Beatles artistic growth.
BUT, it’s okay. This album has been ranked as their top one by multiple lists. A little digging on good old Wikipedia brings up some history and context for me, so I can listen with a proper frame of mind.
This album was The Beatles’ response to Pet Sounds and Freak Out. It was very experimental for the time. Since they also decided to stop touring, the album became the performance and the focus. It’s a continuous album with no gaps between songs, so I at least wanted to get my context down before moving on.
Off the top, I notice that the lyrics will never reference themselves as Beatles. They are Sgt. Pepper.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – An intro to the whole project. They play with the stereo field a lot, panned vocals, moving vocals, panned instruments. Lyrically, it’s as if there is an opening band starting off the album and then Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band comes in! There are crowd laughing and crowd clapping sound effects as well. Interesting.
With A Little Help From My Friends – I like the lyrical melodies and harmonies here. First of all, it’s a solid song. Nice arrangement. Led by vocals and guitar chords.
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds – Such a recognizable intro riff. Storytelling is a bit trippy, as well as the vocal effects of the verses. Space for the vocals. Arrangement is lovely. I can see the lyrics, which is what we all want as writers. It is fantasy imagery. Storytelling with music. Great bassline.
Getting Better – Sounds traditional Beatles melodically. Interesting lyric to write “I used to beat her,” but I see the context in it’s getting better.
Fixing A Hole – Feels very Willy Wonka’ish. I like the arrangement. Solid song structure (of course). I notice the solid lyrical song writing concepts.
She’s Leaving Home – So amazing! The tight marriage of lyrics and composition. The strings, the harp, the melody all moving together forms almost a theatrical listening experience. The falestto harmonies reveal the inner thoughts of the parents. The reveal of the escaping daughter is wonderful. This is definitely a favorite of mine.
Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite – Interesting. I’ve heard this song from the Cirque Du Soleil Love show. It’s a solid story of Mr. Kite and his circus antics. It’s a show and I can see it all. Great arrangement and melodies.
Within You Without You – I’ve heard this song on the same Love show. I love it and this has inspired a beat that I made years ago with their version/mashup of the song. I love the Indian influence (appropriation?). Lyrically, it’s very explicit – “We are talking about the space between us all.” I believe this is George Harrison influenced because of his trip to India and his study of the sitar under master Ravi Shankar prior to recording. Sounds dope, I must say. And the version on Love is just as amazing.
When I’m Sixty-Four – I like the vibe on this song. It’s so different from “Within You Without You,” but I believe this songs starts off side B on the actual record. Great lyrics. Fun.
Lovely Rita – Fun song. Panned instruments. The lyrics take the song elsewhere. I think “Wow…I couldn’t have thought up something like this.” I think the idea of free experimentation can lead to lyrics like this. I like the arrangement and instrumentation.
Good Morning, Good Morning – The arrangements and song structure intrigue me. It never gets boring. The choice of animal SFX to show morning time is an interesting choice I wouldn’t have made, but it definitely makes the song stand out. It’s a concept album, don’t forget!
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise) – And it caps out the album here with a segue into the next song.
A Day In The Life – Great way to end the album. I love the lyrical melody here. I initially wrote this is a more traditional song and forgot about the swell into the next section. I think this is the song that inspired the melody of one of Bowie’s lines in “Star.” I like this song because of the chords, the song structure, and the lyrics. The very end is a bit weird with that loop; but, again, it’s all context.
I don’t know if something like this could work in today’s time. You really have to sit with this album to get the full picture. It takes you on a little journey that you don’t get when you only listen to one song.
I think I lean toward concept projects/albums. Let’s see what comes out when I start creating.
This is a track in progress: