It was 45 years ago today... The Beatles' Sgt Pepper inches toward the half century mark
Indeed, if there was a consistent theme to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the nucleus of it can be found in "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," the title of which, Lennon had nothing to do with. "I went up to John's house in Weybridge," McCartney recalls. "We were having a cup of tea, and he said, 'Look at this great drawing Julian's done. Look at the title!'" Written in a child's scrawl at the bottom of the page, Lennon's son Julian had written the words: "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."
For the rest of his life, Lennon denied that while writing the song he was aware that Lucy, Sky and Diamonds had an acronym in LSD, though it was lost on no one where the inspiration for this song -- with its "tangerine trees and marmalade skies" -- were coming from. The entire album, in fact, was littered with references to the psychotropic lifestyle the boys had embraced like a school-days crush: From getting "high with a little help from my friends" to the proclamation "I'd love to turn you on," there was no denying what they were up to. Paul McCartney: "When we were talking about "cellophane flowers" and "kaleidoscope eyes" and "grow so incredibly high," we were talking about drug experiences, no doubt about it."
The LP cover further expanded the album-as-whole-entity theme, displaying a pop and intellectual cast of historical icons (from Monroe and Dylan to Freud and Huxley) surrounding the Beatles dressed in day-glow military outfits, simultaneously enforcing the Pepper characters and satirizing the British government, who had awarded the band prestigious MBE medals years earlier (McCartney and Harrison are sporting theirs in the picture). Today, when aging rock fans bemoan the iPod generation's absence of music as a physical product, it is album sleeves like Pepper (and, perhaps, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and Nevermind the Bullocks: Here's the Sex Pistols) that their sentimental minds are harkening back to.
Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released on June 1, 1967, the perfect date to grace the blooming Summer of Love with a soundtrack for its terrific highs and terrible lows, arming its inhabitants with a document that proclaimed to anyone outside their turned on world: "it's fine if you don't get it. You're not supposed to get it. Because this is for me. For us. For my generation."
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes for this piece were taken from The Act You've Known For All These Years: A Year in the Life of Sgt Pepper and Friends by Clinton Heylin.
Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music