Friday, June 01, 2007

Forty years ago today...

...I was on my way home from school when I passed the Record Bar in Wakefield. In the window was a gaudy new item which I was shocked to realise was the new record by the Beatles. I stood there looking at it, my heart beating like a hammer, frantically calculating how I was going to get it.
At home I knew I had nearly a pound but this would cost me 32s 6d. It was already half past four. I leapt on the bus and went straight to my Dad's workplace where I begged the loan of another pound on the promise that I would work for him that weekend to earn it.
I then scooted to a newsagent in the small town where we lived. This place stocked a few records along with the greetings cards. Amazingly, Sgt Pepper was there, cardboard cut-out moustache, patterned inner bag and all. I paid and took it home, literally shaking with excitement. I played it over and over again.
Pepper's specialness, just as an artefact, was never to be repeated. The things it did nobody had ever thought of doing before. You could spend days just looking at the cover. You could get drunk on the music.
The reason Sgt Pepper is still pastiched, satirised, criticised, overrated, underrated and puzzled over is because even its detractors recognise that the day its was released marked the single most interesting pause in pop music history. Had Robert Browning been there he would have been forced to observe that after that it would never be glad confident morning again.
Anyway, thanks, Dad.


  1. Anonymous10:11 am

    One should probably never wish that they were older, but I do often romanticise at what it would have been like to actually buy a brand new Beatles album...

  2. Anonymous11:32 am

    It would be interesting to see if any recent releases have produced a similar response in anyone.
    I was only five at the time so missed out slightly on all the excitement - as native12 says, it would have been good to have been a bit older.

  3. Anonymous1:08 pm

    I may have mentioned this before, but I also used to frequent the Record Bar in Wakefield. I also used to go to a music shop called Woods that had a couple of enclosed listening booths (with a glass door that used to steam up when there were more than 2 people squeezed in there - all innocent, mind you). I remember sitting there listening to Let It Be when it came out. The assistant even used to let us read the sleeves as we listened, and, of course, LIB came in a box (if I remember correctly) and had a book. Needless to say, the buyer of this particular copy would probably not have an item worth a fortune now, after several pairs of sweaty kid's paws had left their marks all over it. It couldn't happen nowadays ;o)
    I first heard many albums in there - including Blind Faith (oh how we sniggered at the sleeve). Moody Blues (can't remember which ones) - oh, loads of 'em. Happy days.

  4. The fabs split a few years before I was born, My earliest memories of them are of the Saturday morning Beatles cartoons, and my folks' vinyl copies of Sgt Peppers, Yellow Submarine and the 67-70 'blue' greatest hits. All now unplayable - sorry Dad. To me, they were like Spiderman or Luke Skywalker or any other of my heroes: they didn't seem real, and it didn't make any sense when people tried to tell me they were from Liverpool, same as me. They were too colourful, shiny and magical to be real.

    I still kind of feel this way about them, so I don't really regret missing the 60s.

  5. Definitely a milestone in history and a truly inspired piece of cover art by Peter Blake. A fixed point in what looks like a Dali year now.

  6. Anonymous4:09 pm

    In John Sergeant's autobiog he recounts that he and his wife felt compelled to buy a copy, in order to participate in what it represented, even though at the time they couldn't afford a record player...

  7. Anonymous4:40 pm

    It was 20 years ago today that I was a 12 year old getting caught up in the 20 years ago today hype of Sgt Pepper. I bought it on vinyl to listen on June 1st and remember well going to turn it off when the gibberish kicked in. It was taped and on the walkman for most of my summer. A great album and I'm glad it's coming back after the critics seemd to desert it for Revolver, the White Album, Abbey Road...

    I found a great quote recently from a contemporaneous 1967 Paul Williams article on San Francisco (in Barney Hoskins book The Sound & The Fury):
    "Compare Revolver with Sgt Pepper: do you really think the Beatles loved you when they recorded the earlier album?"

    I'm off to listen to it now, have my own it was 20 years ago today moment. Of course it'll have to be on an iPod in the Tube...

  8. It can't have made that much of an impact the Guardian's Leader seems to think it introduced sitars to rock and get's the joke wrong about "20 year ago" I think they researched it off a pack of top trumps.

    Me and my bros couldn't understand why Mum wouldn't let us cut out the moustaches etc. It was the only good record my parents had a part from the godspell soundtrack so it got play a lot along with the wombles lp, so they are linked in my mind.

  9. I don't really understand's Native12's comment. I'm nearly 42 years old and am still discovering amazing music and certainly don't wish to be any older. This year, I have already discovered the excellent Battles, Blonde Redhead and Besnard Lakes. The new album from The National contains the fantastic 'Fake Empire' (great to see that on the latest Word CD) and there are new albums from the likes of the White Stripes to look forward to. NOW is a great time for music which is more accessible than ever via the internet.

  10. Anonymous1:37 pm

    While I agree that now is a great time for new music, none of it is having the impact that the Beatles had in the sixties. The sheer amount of music around now means that none of it really stands out -what of today's music will they be making radio and TV programmes about in 40 years time?
    I also think that easy accessibility is not neccessarily a good thing - David's story has a sense of occasion to it that sitting in front of a computer and downloading a few bytes will never have.

  11. Anonymous6:19 pm

    re native12;

    In those days, you could pre-order your copy of a new record, go in on the day of release and pick it up in a paper bag with your surname in pencil on the corner. I remember doing this with a new Beatles single, possibly I Feel Fine.

    I picked it up at around 9am on a Saturday morning and then took it with me to Saturday morning children's pictures. I was, for a brief moment, possibly the only kid in town owning a copy of it, until midday came. You could also write your own name in the little white box in the top corner of that green Parlophone singles bag.

  12. Anonymous7:07 pm

    While I'm not going to disagree with "now is the greatest time for music" proposition, what you don't hear and what is probably impossible to ever experience again is the impact that the first hearing of a song like "A day in the life" had. I just can't imagine ever hearing another song that would leave me sitting there, possibly open mouthed, thinking "What the hell was that?".

  13. Anonymous1:24 pm

    Sgt Pepper's birthday is certainly fuelling your theory about the sound of vinyl. Last week I read a reappraisal of the album in which the reviewer advised not listening to the CD version, as the sonic limitations of the original are best encountered via vinyl.

    Yesterday's Times had this interesting article.

    I reckon you'll be giving away an EP with the next issue.

  14. Anonymous1:44 pm

    Possibly my least favourite Beatles album. Am I a mentalist?

    Graham, I too remember QEGS, the Record Bar and, indeed, Woods. Still there, I think, now just instruments, though. Wakefield's first Chinese restaurant was across the road.


  15. Ah, the Record Bar. Ken and Betty! What nice people, even though they personally preferred Sinatra. And did they ever not smoke?