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Sgt. Peppers turns 50

A look back on an album that defined a generation of rock ‘n’ roll.

Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison dressed in colorful policeman costumes for

Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison dressed in colorful policeman costumes for "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band."

Samantha Diaz, Arts and Life Editor

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It was 50 years ago that the Beatles shocked the world with their eighth album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” It would go on to become one of the most influential rock albums ever created, with an impact still seen today.

The first time I heard Sgt. Pepper’s was roughly a year ago when a friend played the album in my car. Having never been a big Beatles fan, when I heard the sounds of a crowd buzzing with excitement, the guitar riffs then Paul McCartney introducing their fictional band, I was hooked.

Hearing it today, it’s hard to imagine the change that those songs created. People had never before heard an album that used studio technology of that time to its advantage. The Beatles utilized a full orchestra along with the Lennon and McCartney harmonizing that the world had come to love. People were not used to the idea of a concept album, where an idea or theme is held throughout all the songs, much like Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” which came out two years after Sgt Pepper’s.

We can never fully experience Sgt. Pepper’s the way the public did in 1967. In the midst of Beatlemania, the Beatles announced that they would no longer do live performances. The past four years of touring had left them mentally and physically drained, and they were being suffocated by the pressure to be the mop-top Beatles boy band that people expected.

They went ten months without releasing an album, after putting out new albums every six months for the past four years. Newspapers were saying that the Beatles had dried up; John is doing movie cameos and George is experimenting in India. The stakes were high for the Beatles, and then they released Sgt. Pepper’s.

The album was nothing like The Beatles had made before. The freedom of not having to perform the songs live allowed them to experiment with new sounds and techniques they couldn’t do before. Producer George Martin took the time to play around with all the different possibilities of a sound studio. Sgt Pepper’s took five months to record in comparison to their first album, which they recorded in one day.

Paul led The Beatles into this new era with his idea of undergoing alter egos and becoming a fictional band. Once becoming a fake band, they had more freedom to do things that were outside the Beatles comfort zone. They took on the role of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and abandoned the sound that they were known for.

This new album took the Beatles from being performers to artists, they were seen in a new light and made the word “musician” carry a new, more credible weight. Other artists caught on to what the Beatles were doing and attempted their own version of Sgt. Pepper’s. The Rolling Stones shortly afterward came out with “Their Satanic Majesties Request” where they are all dressed up as wizards, much like the Beatles were dressed as colorful policemen on their cover. The Who came out with a concept album of their own, “Tommy,” two years after the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s.

It’s difficult to comprehend just how much this album changed the music of that time. From the artistic, award winning album cover art to the grand finale in “A day in the life” with a full orchestra. The album still holds up today and has been named the best album of all time by The Rolling Stone magazine.

In honor of the 50th anniversary, the Beatles released an anniversary edition box set of Sgt. Pepper’s on May 26. The box set includes CDs, DVDs and a double LP which includes the mono version of all the songs, the way they were originally intended to be heard. The sounds are harsher, coming at the ears louder and sharper. It falls in line with the way the Beatles wanted to be perceived when making the album.

With the rerelease of the album, the Beatles have reclaimed their spot at number one in the albums chart. 50 years after the original release and with only half of the members still living, the Beatles continue to make history and shatter records.

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