Tag: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Day 998: Crossing Abbey Road

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This Friday marks the 45th anniversary of what I believe to be the greatest album of all time.

Before you flick lint in my beer or pelt me with wads of Big League Chew for not designating this title to Pink Floyd’s Piper At The Gates of Dawn or Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ Too-Rye-Ay, allow me to point out that there are many albums that are flawless – sometimes in spite of a number of actual flaws. Nary a wayward note blemishes Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key of Life, and Paul Simon’s Graceland is among the few utterly perfect slabs of 1980’s vinyl. For me, “the greatest” combines not only artistic and technical brilliance, but the subjective distinction of having served as the soundtrack to many of the most fantastic moments of my life. Your results may (and probably do) vary.

The story of Abbey Road is one of pure, primal mirth, flecked with auburn specks of encroaching melancholy. It is the last glorious and romantic trip to Maui for an otherwise doomed marriage. It marks the greatest rock band in history (an assertion I’ll stand by as wholly factual) producing one final brushstroke upon their legacy before heading their separate ways.

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This is not a happy group.

In January of 1969, the Beatles were moving in four different directions, and had been for over a year. Their plan was to return to the studio, record a back-to-their-roots album, perform their first concert since the summer of 1966 (the Pyramids in Egypt were a proposed locale, as was a barge adrift in the Atlantic), and film it all for posterity. This attempt to reconnect resulted in a cavalcade of arguments, the grandiose concert reduced to a noon-hour gig on the roof, and the temporary quitting of George Harrison. Read more…

Day One After 909: Mr. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer Of Quality Education

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It is the final day of classes. Just a day in the life of Mr. Maxwell, a grade six teacher who’ll be flying across the street to teach summer school next week. It’s not the end for him, just the annual hello/goodbye to this year’s crop of kids. The man has a real love for his profession, but something doesn’t feel right today. This boy wants a vacation. And his kids are running here, there and everywhere with the bottled-up energy of ten months’ anticipation of being – finally – free as a bird.

 

MAXWELL:  Good morning! Good morning everyone. Take a seat.

JIMMY: Mr. Maxwell?

MAXWELL: Yes Jimmy?

JIMMY: I forgot to remember… to forget… to get a note from my mom about our end-of-year picnic today.

MAXWELL: I’ve got a feeling you’re still half-asleep. The picnic was last week. Remember the rain?

JIMMY: Right. Those three cool cats were sniffing an old brown shoe while two of us threw rocks at it by the new grazeeboo.

MAXWELL: The what? What’s the new – Mary-Jane, tell me why you just smacked Joey in the head? You can’t do that.

MARY-JANE: He told me, “Run for your life, cuz I’m searchin’ for a taste of honey, and baby, it’s you.” He’s always so bad to me!

JOEY: Oh yeah? Well she said… she said I was the sun king.

MARY-JANE: I did not!

MAXWELL: Alright, that’s enough. Mitchell, slow down and get back to your desk; you’re liable to trip and roll over Beethoven, the class gerbil, and I ain’t using my first aid skills for no one on the last day of school.

After all, the school's first aid kid is woefully out of date.

After all, the school’s first aid kid is woefully out of date.

MITCHELL: Yes Mr. Maxwell.

MAXWELL: Okay everyone. It’s the last day! Let’s talk about the summer. I’ll be on my way to the airport after dismissal today. I’m headed back in the USSR on a long, long, long flight (please let it be a smooth one). It won’t be long though, and I’ll be back here with another class of bad boys – sorry, just ‘boys’ – and girls. Ha ha.

JULIA: Mr. Maxwell?

MAXWELL: Yes, Julia?

JULIA: Why do you call it the USSR? It’s Russia, isn’t it?

MAXWELL: I call it the USSR just as I call your name – it’s how I’ve always known it. You see, in my life there’s a place in my heart for Moscow in the 80’s. The inner light of that city always spoke to me; I’m so tired of hearing how bad it was back then. The night before I left last time, the warm and lovely Rita – she’s a girl I’d just met – whispered words of love into my ear. She said, “I need you to know that I’m happy just to dance with you, but that true happiness is a warm gun.” Yep, that’s what I loved about Moscow – the girl and the guns. Read more…

Day 758: Who Buried Paul?

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It was a cold November night in 1966 – or maybe it was January of ‘67, depending on whose account you choose to believe – when a car crash fatality forever changed the course of popular music.

Or did it?

Okay, there’s no real mystery here. The reality is that there was no car crash, or if there was, the bass player and co-creative force of the greatest band in the history of recorded music was most certainly not decapitated. But there was a time when legitimate news outlets needed to point this out to an apprehensive world. And not only was there no fatal wreck, but that band didn’t surgically alter a look-alike to carry on in the artist’s place, fooling throngs of adulating fans for the ensuing 40+ years.

It was a hoax. Perhaps the most entertaining hoax our media has seen outside of a work of fiction, because the so-called evidence supporting it as truth had been seeping into the public’s eyes and ears all this time and no one had noticed. Photos and music that had not only become fully integrated with popular culture, but had come to define the very zeitgeist of the era. Album covers that were iconic upon arrival, songs that hundreds of millions could sing by heart.

And even once the dust of speculation had been billowed away by a cool gust of truth, that evidence remains as a perpetual quirk.

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On September 17, 1969, the above article appeared in the student newspaper at Drake University in Iowa. It speculates that Paul McCartney was indeed dead, that the Beatles had cleverly sprinkled clues throughout their music and album packaging, and states that these concerns were spreading rampantly around the campus gossip vine. Three and a half weeks later, Detroit radio DJ Russ Gibb was discussing the rumor over an hour’s worth of airtime, his listeners calling in to pick apart the clues. This continued at various American stations for another couple of weeks before Derek Taylor, press officer for the Beatles and their Apple Records label, issued a statement that insisted that the Paul McCartney in the band today was the same guy who’d been in the band three years earlier. Read more…

Day 301: Being For The Benefit Of Pablo Fanque!

There was a time, long ago, when going to the circus meant more than eating questionable food from even questionabler vendors. More than cultivating the fertile ground of potential nightmares with the acts of deranged clowns, swallowing up the air around them and coughing them back out in maniacal, psychologically scarring laughter. In Victorian England, the circus entered a golden age. A night under the big top was about as thrilling as things got. Sure, there was theatre, but outside of London your selection became a lot more limited.

Not a lot of big names came from the circus – well, not names that have carried on to modern lore. P.T. Barnum was quick with the catchphrase, and the Ringling Brothers are still ringling their way around the world, or at least their brand is. England can boast one circus star who not only rose to national fame, but rose to own his own traveling show. Also, he was black. And though his fame may only carry on today thanks to a single lyric in a 1967 pop song, there’s still a lot of love in England for Pablo Fanque.

He was born William Darby in either 1796 or 1810 – records back then were sketchy, and you couldn’t always trust a person’s own account. Not wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps as a servant, Darby began his apprenticeship in 1821 with this guy:

Well… okay, that’s not a picture of the guy. But noted equestrian performer and circus proprietor William Batty never had a proper portrait made, or if he did he never uploaded it to the internet. Inconsiderate bastard. Read more…

Day 177: Congratulations! You Discovered The Bonus Track!

Today’s helpful article from the trusty e-quill of Mr. Handy serves to remind you that your music collection may in fact be larger than you think. Your favorite album may contain a hidden track, concealed from the general public by its omission from the album’s packaging, and designed to incite a squeal of ‘insiderness’ for those True Fans who make the effort to hunt it down.

Like almost everything innovative that ever happened in rock music, this can be traced back to the Beatles.

They also invented guitars, harmony, cowbells, and moustaches.

If you have never listened to “A Day In The Life”, the final cut on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, you need to first telephone your parents and declare that you now have evidence that they failed in your upbringing, then listen to the track immediately. Many consider this song to be among the Beatles’ finest achievements, and if you haven’t been blasted into unconsciousness by the triumphant final piano chord, you’ll hear what may be the first hidden track in album history.

After a quick 15-kilohertz tone that your dog will likely hear more clearly than you, there’s a two-second loop of laughter and gibberish that repeats and fades out. Most importantly, it only fades out because you likely listened to the CD track or a digital download. This snippet was actually laid into the vinyl album’s middle groove, so people who had turntables that didn’t automatically lift up and re-dock after the end of a side (which was most people) would hear that loop endlessly.

Also, if you play it backwards, it allegedly kind of sounds like they’re saying “We’ll fuck you like Superman.” I’m not making that up. Read more…