It has been called the greatest music album of all time, and is certainly one of the most influential. The style of music was far ahead of anything else being produced at the time.
You can play the album now, fifty-five years later, and it barely sounds dated – except that you know and have heard the songs so many times before. Some of the lesser known parts of the album, though, may take you by surprise. If you’ve never listened to the album “cover to cover”, try it. You might begin to understand some of the fuss made over it.
Especially keep in mind what other music was considered popular at the time this was released. The top ten singles in the US in 1967, beside the Beatles, included Engelbert Humperdink, Nancy Sinatra, The Tremeloes, Sandy Shaw, The Monkees, and Tom Jones.
It’s little wonder Sgt. Peppers is considered a breakthrough album. It makes these artists look very staid indeed.
Even the cover was considered evolutionary, and has been emulated over and over, since. The repeat of the Fab Four on the left, in black, played into the rumours about Paul McCartney being dead. (So did the Abbey Road cover, where he was barefoot). Fans at the time found just about everything the band did symbolic, so you can imagine what they made of every little detail on the Sgt. Pepper’s album cover!
I have seen a documentary on the making of this album, and it’s fascinating stuff. Mostly, I remember Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys saying he and the band members were sitting around having a barbecue and feeling pretty good about the latest album they’d just released, and someone brought over an acetate (pre-release version) of Sgt. Peppers to the party, for a sneak peak…and the party pretty much ended after that, because they all knew they had just heard pure genius and magic, that left their stuff so far behind it was invisible.
Sgt. Peppers is still selling copies even today. So far, it has sold thirty-two million official copies, making it one of the world’s best-selling albums. If you included the downloaded copies…who knows?