Pepper in perspective: The Beatles have done better
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is widely regarded as The Beatles’ seminal album, but it is overhyped as their best.
Revolver, the band’s previous UK studio LP, is just as good, if not better.
Pepper, if anything, merely accelerates The Beatles down a path they had already started on two years earlier with Rubber Soul.
And running the risk of sounding pedantic, a string section was even featured on the UK album before that, 1965’s Help!.
If you want psychedelia, Tomorrow Never Knows is the track for you. Indian influence, then Love You To will do it. Classical? Try Eleanor Rigby. Politics? How about Taxman. Music hall? Yellow Submarine. All on Revolver.
Released one year after Help!, Revolver was much more of a group effort than its successor.
Pepper really represents the point at which all four Beatles openly began working independently.
McCartney even commented that the recording session for George Harrison’s Within You, Without You (which features none of the other members) was “the main time I remember him turning up”.
The long-held notion that Pepper was a “concept album” is in question, too.
John Lennon enjoyed debunking The Beatles in later years, but there is more than a grain of truth in his assertion that “Mr Kite could’ve gone anywhere”.
He is also on record as saying: “It worked because we said it worked”, which raises interesting questions about the nature of art in general.
I had a relative with a music collection that consisted entirely of classical recordings, apart from Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
He would sit back and opine: “Sgt Pepper’s… superb” as the needle hit the groove.
If anything then, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band could be credited as the album which gave The Beatles legitimacy across the music world.
When you throw offerings by Bob Dylan and The Beach Boys into the mix, it gets even more complicated.
Whatever your view, the fact that we are still talking about it in such reverential terms, 50 years after its release, speaks volumes.
It certainly stands as a record above others, a clear reflection of the era from which it spawned.
Whether that makes it the “best album ever” is another matter entirely.