Did the impact of the Beatles Sgt Pepper album help redefine popular music as a culturally significant art form?
Summary of Assignment
Choose an artist from the period 1900-1970 and to examine their relationship to the cultural and social framework of their era with reference to an important or influential album.
In this essay I will be critically analysing and evaluating ‘The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers album in relation to their associated genre, their lyrics, their musical creativity, their social and political context, their overall impact on music and popular culture and the contemporary music industry at the time. I’ve chosen this specific album as I find it a particularly interesting moment in their career, creating an album that will always be remembered. It was also released in such an important time in history; a time where a popular culture was born. I will be focusing on four songs from the album of which I find are most relevant to my chosen essay title: ‘Lucy in The Sky with Diamonds’, ‘She’s Leaving Home’, ‘within you, without you’ and ‘A Day in the Life’.
The Beatles – ‘Sgt Peppers Lonely heart club band’
“The summer of 1967 was in full bloom, hippies were flocking to San Francisco to ‘tune in, turn on and drop out’, London’s Carnaby Street was the centre of pop fashion, underground radio stations were playing music by groups with such unlikely names as The Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd. It was a wildly exciting time for the world’s youth. Leading the way, musically were The Beatles. Their latest single Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields had blown everyone’s minds, and then in June of 1967 they released their greatest creation “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. The diversity and creativity of the songs drew world wide acclaim. To this day Sgt. Pepper is considered as the greatest pop album of all time.” (The making of The Beatles Sergeant Pepper by Belmo, 1996). Sgt. Pepper gave way to a new youth culture which was rapidly emerging in the late 60’s, this groundbreaking album helped redefine popular music as a cultural significant art form.
The Beatles genre has been largely speculated as it has stretched across a broad variety of styles and techniques throughout their career, their recorded careers peaked with this album. They defined an original sound, creating an album that to this day is hailed as the best written/recorded album to date (BBC’s 50th Anniversary UK album chart poll, 29 August 2006). Radio 2’s Simon Mayo say’s “It revolutionized music, and what we expect from an album” (BBC Radio 2, August 2006). Sgt. Pepper has contributed to its genre in many ways as it explores a substantial array of innovative styles and techniques in vast depth; I however find its genre undoubtedly falls under pop. Their contribution to this genre was groundbreaking as they used an array of styles incorporating classical music elements. They applied strings to various effect, Jonathan Gould refers to ‘She’s Leaving Home’, “it is cast in the mould of a sentimental Victorian ballad, its words and music filled with clichés of musical melodrama” (Jonathan Gould (2008) Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain and America.p.402). The bands stylistic range also incorporated psychedelia in such songs as ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, ‘within you, without you’, and ‘A Day in the Life’. George Harrison also introduced the influence of Indian music; this was evident in ‘Within you, without you’- whose intent, writes Jonathan Gould was “to replicate the ‘Raga’ form in miniature”. (Can’t buy me love: the Beatles, Britain and America p.402) The Beatles made innovative use of technology, treating the studio as an instrument in itself, regularly demanding that something new should be tried because “it might just sound cool” (Lewisohn, Mark...