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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming The Beatles 12 of X: Sgt. Pepper

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band likely figures in a lot more of Rob Sheffield's feast of Dreaming the Beatles - I'm up to page 171 of the 322-page book - but having just read three chapters on Pepper (about the Strawberry Fields/Penny Lane prelude, the album cover, and the actual recording and its place in history), this seemed like a good time to offer a few remarks.

First, I think I already may have mentioned in an earlier review that I wasn't thrilled with Sgt. Pepper the first time I  heard it -  I thought it went off the deep end and was no Rubber Soul or Revolver - but soon came to change my mind, and love it as indeed no Rubber Soul or Revolver, but in some ways even better.  I wrote a little essay about this in the 1980s entitled "Sgt. Pepper and the Presumption of Genius," the gist of which is when you encounter something that you don't especially like by geniuses whose earlier work you love, you should give the new work the presumption of genius and (in the case of music) listen to it some more, and maybe you'll discover that you were wrong the first and second or however many times.  (That essay was published in my Electronic Chronicles in 1992 - I keep saying I'll put up a Kindle edition in the next few months - I think that's a more likely true statement than it was before.)

Second, Sheffield acknowledges that the reason he does not hold Pepper in quite the same high regard as he does Rubber Soul and Revolver is because he heard the album for x number of years in "watered-down" stereo, not the mono in which it was originally released, and in which I of course first heard it when it was released in June 1967.  In fact, I never much cared for stereo, one reason why Ed Fox and I released our Twice Upon a Rhyme in 1972 in mono (the other reason is that we got all of our studio time free, but it wasn't that much time, and we only had enough time for a mono mix).

But the circumstances under which a creative work was first heard, and how those circumstances influence and even determine the listener's perception, is a crucial, often overlooked factor in popular culture.  In my previous review, I indicated how my hearing Revolver in its American release, with three great songs removed, short-changed my appreciation of the album.  And the "first-love syndrome" I also discussed in a previous review also figures into this process.

I'll conclude this reflection with a rare factual disagreement I have with Sheffield, who, contrasting Oscar Wilde and Lenny Bruce as Beatles inspirations or templates, says that unlike Wilde, Lenny Bruce produced no memorable lines that we still quote.  As evidence to the contrary, I'd offer Lenny Bruce's observation that "If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses".

Ok, back to life and music and I'll be back soon with another review.

See also Review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles 1 of X: The Love Affair ... 2 of X: The Heroine with a Thousand Faces ... 3 of X: Dear Beatles ... 4 of X: Paradox George ... 5 of X: The Power of Yeah ... 6 of X: The Case for Ringo ... 7 of X: Anatomy of a Ride ... 8 of X: Rubber Soul on July 4 ... 9 of X: Covers ... 10 of X: I. A. Richards ... 11 of X: Underrated Revolver  ...  13 of X: Beatles vs. Stones ... 14 of X: Unending 60s ... 15 of X: Voting for McCartney, Again ... 16 of X: "I'm A Loser" ... 17 of X: The Split ... 18 of X: "Absolute Elsewhere... 19 of X: (Unnecessary but Brilliant) Defense of McCartney ... 20 of X: "All Things Must Pass" ... 21 of X: Resistance ... 22: The 70s Till the End ... 23: Near the Science Fiction Shop ... 24 of 24: The Last Two

lots of Beatles in this time travel

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