Features Rock History

What is it with Sergeant Peppers?

MSN has listed their 10 most influential albums since Elvis and I gotta admit Eric Alterman made some pretty good choices but what is it about “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” that always gets critics in a tizzy? Was it really that influential? Critics keep saying it was rock’s first concept album but John Lennon himself has stated that the concept of re-visiting the places of their youth, which originally was the inspiration to do the album, ended after their release of the “Strawberry fields/Penny Lane” double “A” side in early ’67. And the concept of being an album by the Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band ends after the first song (although it is revisited in the “reprise”). Does anybody listen to this album anymore? It certainly hasn’t aged as well as most of the other Beatles albums and apart from “A Day in the Life” the rest of it is so/so by Beatles standards. I personally think that “Revolver [UK]” was more influential than “Peppers.” That album, and “Tomorrow Never Knows” specifically were arguably responsible for kick starting the whole psychedelic movement as Roger McGuinn of The Byrds has stated that that was the song that influenced his band to take a left turn towards “Eight Miles High.” I mean if you’re looking at influential British pop/rock/psychedelia, Pink Floyd, the Who, the Yardbirds and the Kinks all came up with some pretty incredible albums at that time with my vote going for Pink Floyd’s first album “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” as the psychedelic masterpiece of the time. If you add in the two singles Pink Floyd released that weren’t on the album (“Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play”) I think those stand up better and better represent the times than “Sergeant Pepper’s” does today. In some ways I think that the main reason “Peppers” is still idolized by the critics today is simply because it was made by the Beatles and to some that is all that needs to be said. While I cannot deny the influence of “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” I still have a hard time agreeing that it is tied with “Rubber Soul [UK]” as the most influential album of all time. To each his own I suppose.