Saturday, December 26, 2009

Was Sergeant Peppers the Peak For the Beatles?

By John D. Cherry

Many people consider "Sgt. Peppers" the peak for the Beatles. It did indeed change the way we looked at music, and strongly affected the culture of the day. It started with the cover, a collage of people's faces picked out by the Beatles to position around them as the group was decked out in bright colored uniforms. To add to the confusion, the group was also represented by four waxen figures of themselves in "early" Beatle dress. For the first time, the lyrics of the songs were printed out, on the back of the album. Not known at the time, but there were clues galore of Paul's supposed demise, showing up on the front, inside and back covers, and within the songs.

Because the Beatles had decided not to play live anymore, the album was literally turned into a concert, beginning with crowd noise before the opening title song. There were little or no traditional pauses between the songs, keeping the flow of music going until the reprise of the title song, followed by what might even be considered an encore that included a rousing finish.

The idea for the album and the sub-group came from Paul, with assistance from long-time Beatle assistant Mal Evans. Paul had almost taken over by now, and his eight songs on the album dwarfed the four from John. In The Beatles, author Allan Konzinn wrote that "for the Beatles themselves, Sgt. Pepper was the moment when McCartney eclipsed Lennon as the dominant force in the band. To a great extent, John was content to sit around Weybridge (his home) smoking marijuana, watching television and reading."

Even John's best contribution "A Day in the Life" was credited 40% to Paul. The range of Paul's songs was enormous, from the opening title song rocker to the second song "With A Little Help from My Friends" for Ringo, to the peppy "Getting Better" and the beautifully arranged "She's Leaving Home," about a young runaway girl. "Fixing a Hole" gathered a lyrical compliment from John, while Paul also dusted off a song from his early teens and saluted his father with "When I'm Sixty-Four." On "Lovely Rita," Paul's tremendous bass playing was the lead guitar on the song.

Before retiring four years ago, Cherry worked in athletics for 25 years at The University of North Carolina. His first book, published in August of 2008, was "War on U.S. - How Policies and People are Destroying America," and it covered a variety of subjects outside the political spectrum, including the best and worst of music. The first book is available on this website and on

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