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In the summer of 1967: Sgt. Pepper altered pop music industry

May 26, 2017
Sgt Pepper album cover

John Covach, director of the Institute for Popular Music, marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ iconic album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with an op-ed piece in Newsweek, which declares few other bands— in the summer of 1967—could have released such a musically adventurous and experimental album.

In the pop-music world before Pepper, it was considered crucial for any artist to have a distinctive signature sound. For singers, it was usually a combination of the quality of the voice, the manner of delivery, and the selection of material. For bands, the list might also include particular instrumental sounds and textures.

Listening to Sgt. Pepper tracks such as “She’s Leaving Home,” “A Little Help from My Friends,” “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” and “Within You Without You,” however, does not give the sense of a single trademark sound. We hear those wildly contrasting tracks as Beatles songs now, but if we had never heard of the Beatles before, would they sound like they came from the same group?

Covach is coauthor of What’s That Sound: An Introduction to Rock and Its History. He has written extensively on twentieth-century music, popular music, and the philosophy of music in numerous books and journals.

Read the op-ed piece online.

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Category: Voices & Opinion