Tag Archives: music

Oh the Weird and Wonderful

Happy Birthday Weird Al! Today the King of Parody turns 58, and his musical make-funnery is still flowing as long as his curly locks. Two years ago, I posted a list of my favorite songs from each of his albums, and today I am going to include a selection of some of his personal video clips often posted to his hilarious YouTube channel. As you will see, Mr. Yankovic’s humor is far beyond lyrical, and his love for skewering the grammatically incorrect (oh man, I hope I wrote that all properly) and for pointing out the ridiculousness of real life reaches outside of the realm of music. Behold!

Let’s not forget the moments somebody else filmed either, like his most recent win at the 2015 Grammys.

And his hysterical reaction to it:

Al Yankovic has made a career of being weird from his earlier days:

…to more recent times:

Hopefully he will continue to do so for many years to come. Happy birthday ya weirdo!

Thanks for reading, and mostly watching and listening. Be sure to polka on back here next week for more wacky fun with the latest State of the Season recap.

Keep it weird,

Alex

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We Got Lucky

Unfortunately for all of us, the question mark hanging over Tom Petty’s dire health status last Monday was answered definitively shortly after it’s announcement. The 66 year old rocker from Gainesville, Florida first hit it big with the group Mudcrutch, which he later rejoined in 2007 and toured with in between Heartbreakers tours. He also co-founded the supergroup Traveling Wilburys with his good friend George Harrison. Also working in that band with the Heartbreaker and Beatle were Jeff Lynne of ELO, Roy Orbison, yeah, and if that’s not enough also Bob freakin’ Dylan. But Petty is best remembered for his main act as leader of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, a band that just celebrated their 40th anniversary with a final tour that proved to be all too final for fans. I feel privileged to have gotten to see them on this last tour, but more than that, I feel privileged to have heard the Heartbreakers at all. Today, as I have done more times than I have liked, I am remembering the main man of the Heartbreakers in all his bizarre glory by compiling a list of 40 of my favorite songs of his in honor of his biggest band’s anniversary. However, I have a few entries from his time with the others I’ve mentioned. Let’s start with one of my favorites. It comes from the second Heartbreakers album, You’re Gonna Get It! which has my favorite cover of any of theirs (see above).

“Baby’s A Rock and Roller” – Loud, proud, and powerful Petty and the Heartbreakers. A distinctive announcement that their girl can rock and roll and so can they.


“A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)”

“All or Nothing”

“Breakdown”

“Candy”

“Don’t Come Around Here No More” – One of Petty’s hilariously or disturbingly weird (or both) videos that doesn’t much relate to the context of the song, but is certainly entertaining. To be fair, the tales of Alice in Wonderland are always kooky.

“Don’t Do Me Like That”

“End of the Line” – One from the Wilburys that prominently features Petty.

“Even the Losers”

“Feel a Whole Lot Better” – A cover of The Byrds classic that deals out the same degree of “stay out of my life” declaration with Petty adding an extra dose of

“First Flash of Freedom”

“Handle With Care” – The most famous of The Traveling Wilburys songs. Roy Orbison is amazing on this. Petty mostly signs backup, but it’s still a great one he helped to make.

“Here Comes My Girl” – The most normal, well-behaved of his videos by far.

“Honey Bee” – Gotta love this rendition of the blues classic. Fun to play on guitar!

“I Need to Know”

“It’s Good to Be King” – What a weirdo.


“Jammin’ Me” – How I love him so.

“Learning to Fly” – Superior to the Pink Floyd song of the same name.


“Listen to Her Heart”

“Lover of the Bayou” – One from Mudcrutch.

“Makin’ Some Noise” – The final verse refers to a real occurrence when Petty heard a guitar being played in a California canyon and responded by playing his back. Soon they were jamming!

“Refugee” – My friend Mike’s favorite from Petty. At least back in college. Tastes change’ this song’s appeal has not. Still awesome.


“Running Man’s Bible”

“Running Down a Dream” – After a couple grounded videos we’re back to bizarre.


“Something Big” – One of my favorite of Petty’s “story songs” that tell a narrative of some character hewing out a rough existence whilst being thwarted by his own vices.

“The Damage You’ve Done”

“The Waiting”


“Too Much Ain’t Enough”

“Trailer” – My favorite from Mudcrutch.

“Walls” – A good song to have at your wedding. This “Circus” version is my favorite tempo.

“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – This one has received a lot of attention in the last week as it features an all-star line up of Rock and Roll Hall of Famers playing at the Rock Hall’s Induction Ceremony in 2004 in honor of George Harrison who was inducted posthumously as a solo artist that year. The reason why it has popped up so frequently in the wake of Petty’s death is because it features him singing while then-newly inducted Prince – one of last year’s most notable and surprising deaths – shreds the living heck out of his guitar making it cry with intensity that is all to our delight. This was the only time that the two legends played together. Amazing. The look on George’s son, Dhani’s face as Prince comes up is the same as the look on all of ours.

Like Prince, Petty also had the honor to play the Halftime Show at the Super Bowl, and while I still maintain Prince played the greatest Halftime Show ever seen, Petty got to do it at the greatest Super Bowl ever played (Super Bowl XLII), and he put on quite a show too.


“Wildflowers” – Perhaps the most appropriate farewell song to the man himself”

“Yer So Bad”


“You Don’t Know How It Feels” – One of my favorite (I have said that a lot, but I mean it) songs to play when I’m not having a great time. I’ve never actually rolled another joint, or even an initial one, but I have sang about a ton whenever this song comes on.

“You Got Lucky” – Yes, we did, to get to hear this man’s magic.

“You Wreck Me” – Played this to great applause at wedding a few weeks back. Yes, much of it was mine, but many others clapped to! The easiest three chords to play to sound badass with.

“Mary Jane’s Last Dance” – The first of Petty’s songs that I listened to after hearing the initial report of his death. Creepy video; phenomenal song.


“I Won’t Back Down” – My sister’s favorite.

“American Girl”

“Free Fallin'” – My favorite!

Thanks for reading and listening! Be sure to fly on back here next week for the latest celebration of Mach 1 Day (October 14th). Until then, if you wish to drop me a line, send your regards to monotrememadness@gmail.com.

Keep kooky,

Alex

Don’t Do Me Like That

Tom Petty has lived up to his band’s name in the manner of his health situation and its impact on his many fans. The legendary rock and roller was hospitalized today after suffering cardiac arrest. The founder and frontman of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Petty is a wonderfully weird personality. With elements of Bowie and Zappa blended with Southern Charm and American energy, Tom has offered his own quirky humor and powerful guitar to the world of music, becoming one of the most beloved acts in rock and roll for the last 40 years.

While he is not in a good place right now, Tom Petty has not officially been declared dead by any reputable source. I was distraught after hearing about his heart attack, and later death… until I double-checked on the early reports and found that they done goofed! Read this article in the Washington Post that highlights how even in today’s information age, one reported jump to conclusion can set off a chain reaction of attempts to get the next bombshell dropped that overtake the pursuit of the truth. It feels like a modern version of false death reporting like what happened quite famously to Mark Twain.

The roughest part about all this is that while Petty is still alive, he may not return to full strength. Rather than fearfully dwell on what may occur, let’s wish for the best to come and reflect on the best that has.

Tom Petty was my white whale as far as concerts were concerned. Many of my college friends are happily obsessed with him and his Heartbreakers – my friend Mike saw him six times, or was it seven? The first time for him and our other pals to partake in Petty’s presence was after our freshman year of undergrad. I had to skip the trip to go to the show because I was taking summer classes, and missing a chemistry lab is much rougher than one lecture. Either way, I wish I had been less responsible and had skipped. I did get another chance a couple years later when Mike and his cousin traveled into their homestate of New York to see him upstate. This time, family responsibilities prevented me from making it. When my friends said that Petty was making a stop in Cleveland on his Heartbreakers 40th anniversary tour my curiosity was again piqued. Then I saw that Joe Walsh was the opening act. In a classic “You had my curiosity, but now you have my attention” moment. This summer I finally saw him, with Walsh and all, and it was worth it. The highlight of the experience was to take my younger sister to her first concert ever. A concert put on by her favorite artist, no less. Years ago, I bought a CD of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Greatest Hits… and promptly lost it to my little sis. She played it on repeat so often that you could clearly see the tracks she preferred the most. Most starkly shining on the underside of disc was the middle track, her all-time favorite song, “I Won’t Back Down”.

This has now become a rallying cry urging the health rebound all of Tom’s fans are wishing for. Here’s hoping that he can make it happen; if anyone can, it’s this wacky sonofabitch. He may be a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, but his greatest honor is the admiration of the millions of fans like my sister whose lives have been brightened by his music.

Thanks for reading. Send any questions, comments, or suggestions to monotrememadness@gmail.com, and be sure to fly on back here next week, for hopefully some pleasant news.

Alex

Doom, Boom, Doom Went the Drums in the Deep

”                                                                                                                                            .”

“Moby Dick” by Led Zeppelin

37 years ago today, one of the greatest drummers of all time died after a fatally legendary night of drinking. Today, John Bonham is remembered in his music, especially with my favorite band, Led Zeppelin. Bonham was the heart of the band in that all that Zeppelin did was built on his beat, and after his death the band did not attempt to replace him as they knew it would be impossible. Instead, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and John Paul Jones disbanded and ended Led Zeppelin.

The man known as Bonzo has been revered by many a drummer and rock fan since Led Zeppelin was released in 1969, including this list comprised by Legacy.com on the 30th anniversary of his death seven years ago. Today, I am going to take a look at this list and add some input where I see fit in the hope that you too will take a closer look, or rather listen, to one of the best musicians to master his instrument.

1. John Henry Bonham was born in Worcestershire, England on 31 May 1948.

Specifically, Bonham was born in Redditch, also the birthplace of Charles Dance (a.k.a. Tywin Lannister) and the home of the high school of John Taylor, bassist and founding member of Duran Duran.

2. He began teaching himself drums at age 5, making a primitive drum kit out of empty coffee containers, pots and pans, and other assorted kitchenware. He got his first real snare drum at age 10, and his first full kit at 15.

This would not be the last time he would play with unconventional instruments. Led Zeppelin utilized many unique sound tricks and items to make all sorts of sweet noise. Bonham frequently played with just his hands, and supposedly used a trash can as a drum on more than one occasion.

3. His early influences included big band jazz drummers like Gene Krupa, Joe Morello, and Buddy Rich.

Buddy Rich of course paricipated in the greatest drum battle of all time:

4. By 16 he was playing in his first semi-professional band. While they were recording a demo, the sound engineer told Bonham that he played too loud and was unrecordable. Bonham later sent him a gold record with a snarky note saying, “Thanks for your advice.”

5. A middle school principal once wrote on Bonham’s report card, “He’ll either be a dustman or a millionaire.”

Wouldn’t it be great for all of us to have one of these moments?

6. At 17 Bonham married Pat Phillips. A year later in 1966, they had their first child, Jason Bonham.

Jason has gone on to drum with the likes of many rock acts, both as a fill in for his father on some Led Zeppelin songs and with his own material. He has played with Zeppelin in his dad’s place for a few charity and tribute shows.

8. He first played with Robert Plant in a group called The Crawling King Snakes; the band took their name from a John Lee Hooker song.

This awesome blues track, in fact:

10. When Page and Plant began to form Led Zeppelin after the demise of the Yardbirds, other drummers they considered included Ginger Baker, Clem Cattini, Aynsley Dunbar, and B.J. Wilson.

Ginger Baker is the best known of these as he founded Cream, probably the most influential rock trio ever formed even though they only played for about three years from 1966-1968. Such is the case when you have Eric Clapton in his prime.

11. Bonham was at the time also considering offers from Joe Cocker and Chris Farlowe. Robert Plant and manager Peter Grant besieged the reluctant Bonham with dozens of telegrams sent to his favorite pub, until he finally agreed to join.

The pub is Bloxwich’s Three Men in a Boat.

17. They opened for acts like Vanilla Fudge, Iron Butterfly, and Country Joe and the Fish.

At many of the concerts that Led Zeppelin opened for, the fans would cheer for them to return the stage in preference to see more of them than the featured band.

Vanilla Fudge is best known for cover versions of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by The Supremes and “Season of the Witch” by Donovan; Iron Butterfly made the lengthy jam classic “Inna Gadda Da Vida”; and Country Joe and the Fish have the “Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die-Rag”.

19. The band’s first album, Led Zeppelin, was recorded in only 36 hours. Released in early 1969 to generally poor reviews, it would nonetheless remain on the Billboard charts for 73 weeks and to date has reached sales in excess of 8 million in the United States alone.

The album equivalent of “look at me now, haters!”

20. Their second album, the imaginatively titled Led Zeppelin II, also released in 1969, has sold over 12 million copies and is widely considered as one of the most groundbreaking and influential albums of all time.

A rare instance of the sequel being better – a trend they would continue for a while.

22. Led Zeppelin IV, released in 1971, sold 37 million copies worldwide. It features a song you might have heard called “Stairway to Heaven.”

And “Black Dog”. And “Rock and Roll”. And “The Battle of Evermore”, “Misty Mountain Hop”, “Four Sticks”, and “Going to California”. Oh, and “When the Levee Breaks”. This album, which is actually technically untitled, is stacked, but then I don’t need to tell you that… because I already have.

23. Led Zeppelin’s excesses on tour were legendary. Bonham once drove a motorcycle – a gift for his 25th birthday – through the halls of the Continental Hyatt House Hotel in Los Angeles, where the band had rented out multiple floors for their entourage (both Keith Moon and Keith Richards reportedly dropped TVs out the windows of the same hotel, which acquired the nickname “The Riot House”).

Partying at the same level as the Keiths is a dangerous proposition that only a select few have been hardy enough for. Ozzy Osbourne also certainly falls into this exclusive unit.

27. In 1976 he appeared in the film Son of Dracula, along with Ringo Star, Keith Moon and Harry Nilsson. The rock ‘n’ roll vampire movie was poorly received and remains unavailable on either VHS or DVD.

At least they didn’t call it Drummercula.

29. The band did play a one-off, 2007 reunion show, with Jason Bonham taking his father’s seat behind the drum kit. Reunion tour rumors have arisen every year since.

Rumors of Jason replacing John began as soon as John Bonham died. The concerts with Led Zeppelin have merely more greatly encouraged this wishful thinking for fans.

Here’s one more for you from yours truly: John Bonham was the best man at Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi’s first wedding.

Thanks for reading, and hopefully for listening. Do yourself a favor and check out some of Bonham’s best songs from Led Zeppelin. “Moby Dick” is a great place to start, and you may as well work your way along chronologically through to “Bonzo’s Montreux”.

Check this site out again next week for more riveting posts!

Rock the fuck out of those drums!

Alex

State of the Season 12 – Rock and Roll, Reading, and Remembering

Hello and welcome to any and all who find themselves here! As is customary for my every 13th post I look back at the last 12 for a retrospective of the previous “season” of this blog. Let’s hop to it!

Back on May 8th, I tossed the second of my four-part inspection of the T-shirt worn by Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. This was followed by the final two parts over the next couple of weeks. Ament’s shirt contained a list of names of bands and artists he and his bandmates feel deserve inclusion into the Rock Hall. Some I know and agree with, others I was less familiar with. In an effort to educate myself further on all these acts, I listened to a cut of each act’s discography and sought the best (or my favorite) of the bunch to feature.

“Waiting in the Wings of Rock and Roll – Vol. 2”

“Waiting in the Wings of Rock and Roll – On Being the Third Part of Jeff Ament’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Shirt”

“Waiting in the Wings of Rock and Roll – The Final Chapter”


“Never Forget Our Heroes” is my Memorial Day post that attempts not to remember fallen soldiers and service members, but those translators who have been forgotten by the US government in the mire of political bureaucracy. This came from a featured segment on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver that I include.


“With a Little Help from My Friends” – I was committed to sticking to my original plan to release a celebration of The Beatles for the anniversary of their most famous album. I did so even in the wake of Trump pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement, and I am pleased that so many cities, businesses, and communities have all stated that they will continue to honor the international agreement on climate change mitigation. With a little help from my friends indeed.


“Da na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na That Man!” is a eulogy of actor Adam West. Fox Animation recently churned out a video compilation of his best moments as Mayor Adam West on Family Guy:

“Paul! That’s a person’s name!”


Indeed it is, Mayor West, and it is Sir Paul McCartney who is the focus of “Happy Birthday Walrus Man!” where I listed some of the best songs written and performed by McCartney over his career with The Beatles and Wings and on his own. He’s referred to as Walrus Man because he was the walrus! Don’t believe me? Well check, check it:


“Rowling Along the Reading Rainbow” is my thanks to J.K. Rowling for writing the book (series) that got me jazzed about reading. I’ll send another shout out to her for today right here and now: Happy Birthday to you and Harry!


“The Magical Mystery Tour is Waiting to Take You Away” – There’s that Walrus again. Expanding upon my fantasy book series fandom like a literary Bran the Builder, I next turned my attention to the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The featured picture is artwork of my favorite sequence from the books, the wildling attack on the Wall. Fantastic fantasy.


While the show, Game of Thrones, does not always nail some scenes like that battle, it has put together some excellent moments, including some that did not occur in the books. You may even call these moments “Epic! Badass” as I did. Enjoy these 10 scenes that may have fallen off your radar from the first six seasons of the show.


“Astronauts Without Borders” is a celebration of the docking between Apollo 18 and Soyuz 19 that took place in 1975. It was the first time two countries planned and enacted a mission to connect spacecraft in flight and kicked off a grand partnership between the scientific communities within the USA and the USSR/Russia that continues today as it always has – separate from politics.


“Nobody Exists on Purpose. Nobody Belongs Anywhere. Everybody’s Going to Die. Come Watch TV.” – Game of Thrones isn’t the only anticipated show that’s back. Rick and Morty made their long awaited return last night on Adult Swim, and Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon and company keep finding humor in the existential dread that surrounds us all. Props especially to Chris Parnell who manages to make us pity and laugh hysterically at the plight of pathetic Jerry whose name is dragged through the mud by even the wind.

Since next Sunday is six long days away, check out the Non-Canonical Adventures of Rick and Morty to help hold you over.


In addition to this recap, I’d like to wish the best to the family of Sam Shepard, who died from ALS on July 27. An actor on the stage and screen best known for his roles in movies like The Right Stuff and Black Hawk Down, but his true passion was as a playwright. Shepard penned 44 plays and won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama with his work Buried Child. He also co-wrote some film screenplays, was nominated for an Oscar for The Right Stuff, and even played banjo on Patti Smith’s unique cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. R.I.P.

Thanks for reading, watching, listening, and enduring some bad jokes in all along the way. I hope that I provide quality entertainment and ideally some education along with it; if I do, I hope that continues, but if I don’t, I hope it begins. Most of all, I hope you’ll check back in here next week for more fun.

Until next week,

Alex

Happy Birthday Walrus Man!

When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now.
Will you still be sending me a Valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door,
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four
It’s funny to think that the man who first started writing those words as a teenager turned 64 years old 11 years ago. Sir Paul McCartney was born James Paul McCartney in Liverpool, England on June 18, 1942 and celebrated his 75th birthday yesterday (when love was such an easy game to play….)
What is there to say about the man who is a god among musical men and nothing short of the greatest living rock and roller that has not already been said? With all due respect to Ringo Starr and George Harrison, McCartney and John Lennon were the dominant creative forces of The Beatles, especially where the songwriting was concerned. Even though they had an agreement to to share credit for all the songs either one wrote and often collaborated on writing, there are some songs entirely or mostly written and performed by Paul that showcase his talent, personality, and charm. I have compiled a list below of these songs from each Beatles album for you to sample to hear from the birthday boy and his buds. I have included video links where there are some available. My top 10 are highlighted in bold.

Please Please Me

“I Saw Her Standing There”*

“Love Me Do”

“P.S. I Love You”

 

 

With The Beatles

“All My Loving”

“Hold Me Tight”

 

A Hard Day’s Night

“Can’t Buy Me Love”

“Things We Said Today”

 

Beatles For Sale

“I’ll Follow the Sun”*

“Eight Days a Week”*

“What You’re Doing”

 

Help!

“Another Girl”

“The Night Before”

“I’ve Just Seen a Face”

“Yesterday”

 

Rubber Soul

“Drive My Car”

“You Won’t See Me”

“Michelle”

“I’m Looking Through You”

 

Revolver

“Good Day Sunshine”

“For No One”

“Got to Get You Into My Life”

 

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band/With a Little Help From My Friends” -Okay, Ringo sings the latter half of this medley, but Paul still wrote it and these two songs are each part of a larger whole that is terrific together.

“Getting Better”

“Fixing a Hole”

“She’s Leaving Home”

“When I’m Sixty-Four”

“Lovely Rita”

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Ban – Reprise”

 

Magical Mystery Tour

“Magical Mystery Tour”

“The Fool on the Hill”

“Your Mother Should Know”

“Hello Goodbye”

“Penny Lane”

 

The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album)

“Back in the U.S.S.R.”

“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”

“Martha My Dear”

“Blackbird”

“Rocky Raccoon”

“Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?”

“I Will”

“Mother Nature’s Son”

“Helter Skelter”

“Honey Pie”

 

Yellow Submarine

“All Together Now”

 

Abbey Road

“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”

“Oh Darling!”

“You Never Give Me Your Money”

“She Came in Through the Bathroom Window”

“Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End” – Like Sgt. Pepper/With a Little Help, I’m counting this as one.

“Her Majesty” – Just a quick, funny tidbit from Paul to end the album.

 

Let It Be

“Two of Us”

“Let It Be”

“I’ve Got a Feeling”*

“The Long And Winding Road”

“Get Back”

 

Beatles singles:

“From Me to You”*

“She Loves You”*

“I Want to Hold Your Hand”*

“We Can Work It Out”*

“Paperback Writer”

“Eleanor Rigby”

“Lady Madonna”

“Hey Jude”

* – co-written with John Lennon

 

A bonus for you! The Best of Paul post-Beatles – Solo and Wings career:

“Maybe I’m Amazed”

“Band on the Run”

“Jet”

“Hi Hi Hi”

“Say Say Say” – with Michael Jackson

“Take It Away”

“Live and Let Die”

“With a Little Luck”

“Helen Wheels”

“Here Today” – tribute to John Lennon

Thanks for reading and listening! Happy birthday to Paul and thanks for the music! Be sure to come back here next week for some more something or other!

Happy Birthday,

Alex

With a Little Help from My Friends

The recent shameful departure of my country on the Paris Agreement on global climate change is the dominant story in the news and the most pressing issue on my mind, but I just don’t have the energy (and that is not a pun) to restate the same facts about how we humans, and especially me and mine in America, are responsible for rapidly heating up this one habitable planet we have always known, and until the ignorance of greed consumed too many of us, has been a world we loved as well. I love it still, and the billions of humans and wildlife that live upon it, which is why I worry so much. In the interests of not wishing to belabor a point that needs to be repeated, but not so much to my audience who already understands its severity, and for the sake of not wishing to deviate from my original plan for this post, I will not personally cover (at least for this week) the Paris Agreement tackbacksies that my poorly-led nation idiotically enacted, however, my favorite late night host and his team have put together another fantastic segment this time covering just that:

Thank you, John. You make it easier to endure this madness, and though I’ve never met you, I feel like you could be a friend, which is precisely what we all need through hardships and celebrations, and as it happens, it was 50 years ago last week The Beatles taught the world to cherish friends, as well as to embrace the nature of change for the better and the mixing of culture and art in one of the grandest musical contributions of all time.

On May 26,1967 in England, and June 2 in America, the greatest band to ever play music released one the greatest records ever cut. The Beatles were already at the top of the musical world as they had been for a few years thanks to their tremendous popularity with young pop rock and roll fans. Yet the group felt tired of playing music for screaming girls and wanted to make some “serious music”. They stopped touring concerts to ease their exhaustion and focus on their music. Some people were pissed about this, but regardless of those frustrations from fans and the members of the band itself, all were rewarded with a masterpiece set into motion with about 11 seconds of orchestral warm-up and ambient crowd chatter eagerly awaiting a show that strikes out of the theater noise with drums and guitar that instantly grab our attention so that we are all ears when Paul McCartney starts singing in the fabulously fictitious Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Sgt. Pepper’s remains one of the most influential and unique albums of all time for a variety of reasons. It was pioneering, not just for rock and roll and pop music, but for all music, containing an assortment of instruments and musical styles that culminate in one of the most masterfully varied records, but one with a terrific flow, thanks in large part to the first time omission of the few seconds of silent space between songs. On Sgt. Pepper, Beatles producer George Martin was once again the man behind most of the technical effects that lend a certain feel to the album as a whole. The band had been experimenting with new sounds for their last few records, like Rubber Soul and Revolver, records that really allowed The Beatles to rise above the pure pop that many desired them to be. Sgt. Pepper’s was not the first instance of The Beatles breaking away from the mainstream – honestly, I’m not sure they ever were in the mainstream as much as they were paving the way for it – yet the discography of the band truly took off into an unforeseen level of the musical and cultural atmosphere with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Beatles were essentially the first band to walk on the musical Moon. They had been approaching their desired destination with their previous work, but Sgt. Pepper’s was their Apollo program, and led them and many, many others to a new world of musical production.

One fascinating example of this is in the lively album cover that depicts a wealth of celebrities from many walks of life and eras. The Nerdwriter declares it to the “Holy Grail of album covers”, and he is not wrong as the artwork is multi-layered with meaning and references to the essence of the band and its members. He explains this in one of his excellent video essays:

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is revolutionary in many respects, but chief among its merits is the quality of its songs and their arrangement. Rolling Stone considers it to be the best album ever made, and while its influence is undeniable and a major reason for their favoring of it, the great music and lyrics that defined The Beatles better than anything else ever could are exceptional throughout the record.

Starting off with the opening I mentioned earlier, the titular “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” provides a terrific introduction both as a song and the theme of the journey we are about to take. It also provides a bookended finish with a short reprisal of “Sgt. Pepper’s” as the penultimate song of the record. It was Paul McCartney’s idea to make the album’s premise be a concert sang by a fictional band. This fit his and the band’s characteristic whimsy, but also allowed them to push the envelope a little further with the safety of being able to let any controversy fall back upon the fictitious group in place of the real one. Oh that wasn’t us; that was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club.

The title track segues perfectly into what is probably the most popular song on the album, and is certainly one of the band’s best songs. I mean, I did name this post after it. After his alter ego Billy Shears’ introduction at the end of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, Ringo Starr begins to sing the classic “With a Little Help from My Friends”. This is one of my favorite songs for its joyful melody, harmonious vocals, and encouraging message that friendship is the key to enjoying life through the good and bad. Despite their differences and the trials each of them were going through at the time, it is clear that The Beatles worked so well, not just on this record, but throughout the years because they were friends. This song is the epitome of that love for one another. It’s all you need after all – wait, that’s the next record.

From the epitome of friendship we roll on to the epitome of psychedelia with “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. There are many references to drug use on featured within the album, including an overt one in the previous song, but John Lennon always maintained that this song was based on a drawing his son made of a girl in his class named Lucy. As one radio host on the newly launched Sirius Beatles Channel said, Lennon never shied away from discussing drugs and did write “Cold Turkey” in his post-Beatles career, so even though the nouns in the title begin with the letters LSD, drugs did not inspire this song. However, that does not mean they did not influence this song, which they almost certainly did, although not just in the trippy description of Lucy’s land as the song (an album entire) serves as an allusion to the flower power movement that saw the cultures of East and West blending together like a tie-dye T-shirt. This is certainly apparent on the one song on the album John Lennon and Paul McCartney did not write, George Harrison’s “Within You Without You” which is driven by Harrison’s sitar and other Indian instruments.

The highlight of the album for many is the closing orchestration that is “A Day in the Life”. I say orchestration because Martin and The Beatles brought in an actual orchestral arrangement to play the unnerving transitions between the two wildly distinctive tones of the song. The reason for these drastically different pieces from Lennon and McCartney is simple as they began as two different songs. Lennon needed something to connect his song that was inspired by stories in a newspaper, and McCartney offered a separate song he had been working on and they sandwiched it in and spread the orchestra to make it more cohesive. The final piano note was actual multiple pianos played simultaneously and then stretched out by Martin in the sound mixing booth. The end result is a slightly disturbing note of finality to a slightly disturbing song that perfectly punctuates the album.

The album has a perfect transition from song to song which is all the more impressive given its great variation of styles. This could have been a magnificent failure for a lesser group, but as I’ve said before and will say again, The Beatles are the greatest band of all time and they managed to make a clash of genres and technical trials (Paul McCartney is credited with playing a “comb and tissue paper”) into their defining work… until next year’s release of their best album, but we can talk about that next year. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was a massive success from the start and continued to establish The Beatles as the master musicians they were and deserve to be recognized as. I encourage you to listen to this and all their other albums. It’s easy to call The Beatles great, and not hard to recommend such a well loved band, but these guys are in another league. Remember when I said Sgt. Pepper’s was like The Beatles landing on the Moon? Well, their continued career took them across the universe to places other musicians can only dream of. That pun was absolutely intended, but also absolutely true. The Beatles are not my favorite band – anyone who’s read my previous posts knows that honor belongs to another British rock band – but I will defend until my dying breath that they are the best band because they are. No one is more varied, talented, and has such an extensive body of work that is as high quality as The Beatles’ discography. Also, they are my second favorite band, so it’s not like it’s hard for me to admire them, but it helps that they’re really, really good.

Thanks for reading, watching, and listening! Be sure to check out anything you can from The Beatles even if you’ve heard it all before. They certainly are worth listening to more than once. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please send them to monotrememadness@gmail.com. Be sure to revolve back here next week for more hopefully good news or fun topics. Whatever I write about, I promise I’ll throw in a joke or two.

I hope you have enjoyed the show,

Alex