One thing that no music journalist can ever shut up about is Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. As far as anyone with hearing should be concerned, Fixing a Hole, She’s Leaving Home and Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! make compelling arguments for an at best 3-star album with near-perfect graphic design on the cover. Instead, it is held up as the Greatest Album Of All Time. Personally, I find the melody in Lovely Rita more cloying than Baby Beluga, George Harrison’s stab at a “deep sitar jam” to be some sort of example of why we need a word that fits between “useless” and “annoying” (how about “mulaskerdent”? Listening to Within You Without You is “mulaskerdent”), not to mention that the last time I wanted to hear When I’m Sixty-Four was when I was six.
Oh, it’s an awfully long time when you’re trying to listen to Good Morning Good Morning. But here it is: The only thing I want to do less than listen to Sgt. Pepper’s is read what someone else has to say about it. So, to annoy myself because writing about what annoys me entertains my thousands of readers, I went ahead and read what The National Post has to say about The Beatle’s most remembered album.
The album’s next track, Getting Better, is, arguably, McCartney’s finest moment here, but fine only so far as it’s evocative of something on Revolver: pop music that makes you feel as if you’re walking alone in a city crowd while rising about two feet above everyone else for reasons you can’t quite establish. In other words, deep and worthy of veneration. Getting Better is not, and neither is the next McCartney track (of three consecutive), Fixing a Hole, which overstays its establishing melody and lyrical swerve that taps into Lennonesque trippiness (“I’m painting my room in the colourful way”) from the relatively sober perspective of a pintsman. Paul’s musical triptych is rescued, in part, by She’s Leaving Home, which some have described as taking the lyrical form of a short story. This may be true, but the characters aren’t half as affecting as those in Eleanor Rigby. Heard beyond a forgiving mood, She’s Leaving Home sounds lachrymose. It also starts with a harp. Where you stand on that instrument affects your position concerning the quality of the song.
My god. “Evocative”? “Deep and worthy of veneration”? “Relatively sober perspective of a pintsman”? “Musical tryptich”? “Lyrical form of a short story”? “Lachrymose”? How I feel about the harp? I actually “sputtered apoplectically” for several minutes after reading that paragraph. AND THAT’S WHEN I REALIZED THAT THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY DAVE BIDINI. A musician! Clearly, he should know better!
I always figured music writing would be so much better if musicians were the ones doing it. Now, in my sober, reflective 30s, I realize that the reason musicians shouldn’t write about music is because they are either inarticulate halfwits or pretentious bores. Following this formula, though, maybe the Beatles are the greatest band of all time, as their name is synonymous with all of that: inarticulate halfwits who somehow paved the way for generations of pretentious bores.
Probably, the worst thing about someone yelling at you about The Beatles is the way they act like without The Beatles we’d have nothing: as though every musical idea comes directly from the Beatles and only the beatles.
The album opens with an original and novel device: singing a song that announces the album’s concept as well as its name. The track is adorned with fanfare horns and bits of theatre applause and a sidewinding guitar riff that, in an instant, created melodic hard rock: giving the world Cheap Trick and Rick Derringer and Boston and Free before they knew it themselves.
How about that, you smartass? You don’t like the Beatles? You like Free? You like your All Right Now and your Dream Police and your… I Didn’t Ask To Be Born? None of that without The Beatles. So you thank your LUCKY STARS they came along and Lovely Rita Meter Maided their way up the CHARTS.
Now, before I lay into the meat of Bidini’s thesis about Sgt. Pepper’s and why it is THE GREATEST ALBUM EVER MADE (it isn’t, the soundtrack to Purple Rain is and everybody knows that) I should say that I think A Day In The Life is pretty terrific. The way the drums seem like they’re about to start and then stop abruptly, the disturbing passive tone of the lyrics, the Em-Em7-Em chord transition on the piano, the ending: all of those things are terrific. But I would never, never say that the following is true:
Because no other record possesses a song as great as A Day in the Life, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is still the greatest album ever made.
That’s not even a reason to sit through Sgt. Pepper’s, if you were unlucky enough to own the album only on a cassette tape. Yet, this is a call for flighty metaphysical claims that cannot possibly ever be supported:
A Day in the Life is where understanding and uncertainty meet; you think you know it, but you don’t know it at all, even after 45 years.
Hablwhat? I’ve read Bush lyics that make more sense than that. And yet, I’d rather read Bush lyrics than read about Bush lyrics, and I’d even rather hear a song about Bush lyrics than read about a song about Bush lyrics, which is the point I’m driving at.