Category Archives: Books

#147 – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

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#147Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles

The Band

– It was late spring 1967 and we really didn’t know what was going down. At least not where I was living in small town northern Ohio. It had been less than a year since we saw the Beatles at Cleveland Stadium during their (what we thought at the time) annual summer tour. And while we waited for the next Beatles moment, we were being entertained by a new show on NBC called The Monkees.

Yeah, I won’t deny they were the cool thing at that moment. When the show premiered in September 1966, it seemed most of my eighth grade friends had a case of Monkeemania. But since we were first generation Beatles Fans, the novelty began running out not long after the release of their second album and hit single I’m A Believer, which was right around the Christmas holiday.

After that I had the feeling that we went into the winter months waiting to see what The Beatles would do next.

In January 1967 we were treated with the primetime television special The Beatles At Shea Stadium, which kept us in a fab mindset. But by that time the 1965 birth of stadium rock was more historical document than a current event. It was still very exciting to watch, but comparable to a greatest hits album.

We were ready for something new.

The Look

Then in February, we were finally gifted with the group’s latest guaranteed hit, Penny Lane with the flip side, Strawberry Fields Forever. All of a sudden, the pop music of The Monkees and other Top 40 hits seemed more for a younger generation.

The original Beatles fans were maturing with the group.

But the first thing we noticed from the picture sleeve for their latest single was that they looked different. The mop tops and matching suits were gone. The new look was longer hair, mustaches and colorful clothes. Then once we heard the music it was a game-changer. It was a long way from I Want To Hold Your Hand to Strawberry Fields Forever.

Then came another bombshell.

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Three of the wildest concerts in Beatles – and rock & roll – history!

The Beatles At Shea Stadium:

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

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The Beatles In Cleveland:

Memories, Facts & Photos About The Notorious 1964 & 1966 Concerts

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Both books available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com

For information about Dave’s author programs visit BeatlesProgram.com

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In May 1967 I read a short newspaper article that said the Beatles would not tour that summer. In fact, they may never tour again. I learned later, as an author of two books on the group, they had made this final decision during the 1966 North American tour. But their manager Brian Epstein kept it under wraps in hopes they would change their collective minds and not put his job scheduling concert tours in jeopardy.

And if you don’t believe me, a copy of a newspaper article titled Beatles May Sing Swan Song appears in my book The Beatles In Cleveland. I cut the story out of our newspaper in May 1966 and saved it since it was ground-breaking news at the time and… well, still is.

The Album

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in the U.S. on June 2nd. I honestly can’t say, because I honestly don’t remember, if that was the date that I actually bought the LP. Since my small town in northern Ohio wouldn’t be on any record label’s list for first-day releases in stores, as I assumed it would be in New York or Los Angeles, I’ll say it arrived for us a few days later. I just know I first heard our local record store had copies on the day of the graduation party for my eighth grade class. I phoned my pal Kevin (who had seen the Beatles with me in Cleveland), we jumped on our bikes and rode off to make our purchases.

Kevin was and still is a year older than me, which might have given him the advantage. He moved fast to the record bin and grabbed the last copy of Sgt. Pepper with the prized word “Stereo” displayed at the top of the now famous, pop culture work of art album cover. The only one left for me read “Hi-Fidelity.”

What’s the difference?

In 1967, supposedly a lot. With newer stereo technology, you could sit between the stereo speakers and hear different sounds coming at you from both sides. In Hi-Fi or mono, the same sounds come out of both speakers.

But you know what? We didn’t find out until decades later – at least as fans – that the Beatles never intended Sgt. Pepper or any of their earlier albums to be stereo. It was all “mixed” in the studio to sound great coming out of one speaker. That’s why when looking – and listening – back, early Beatles albums including Sgt. Pepper don’t sound as fab as the mono mixes. They were given “artificial stereo” technology that carried the Instruments out of one speaker and the voices out of another.

That was not the way their songs were meant to be heard.

Though I was disappointed when I bought the album in Hi-Fi, it turned out I was the winner all along. From the first time I listened, it was the way The Beatles meant for it to be heard.

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Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – the song and not the entire album – joined this Dream Song List on December 14th. Yes, I own a copy. And as a matter of historical reference, I still own the same Hi-Fi copy bought in early June 1967. Except now my listening is digitalized. And since a true Classic Rocker can’t go very long without hearing it, that’s why the opening song on the album that provided the psychedelic soundtrack to The Summer Of Love floats into the recent memory category.

But don’t let the above term psychedelic be a reference to my personal summer of 1967. As an eighth grader heading into his first year of high school in the sheltered environment of a small town, the closest any of us would come to experiencing psychedelic was when we listened to Sgt. Pepper with our eyes closed and imagining Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.

As mentioned, the album landed in my local store the same day as our eighth grade graduation party. I made it through one entire listen before my mother chased me out of the house so I wouldn’t miss the first social event of my pre high school experience. I’m pretty sure I would have stayed home long enough to hear it again, but the party was promising to be a good “boys sneak out to find girls” all-nighter that none of us could really afford to miss if we wanted to head into ninth grade with a “cool” rep.

The guys were set to camp out on a small island in the middle of a man-made lake that was in the middle of a new housing development. I don’t know where the girls were staying, but if I remember correctly, we planned to meet on a nearby golf ball driving range after it closed. I also have this vague memory of all the guys having to swim to this island with our dry clothes in plastic bags on our heads. But that might have been just what we did on a hot afternoon anyway. I’ll go ahead and assume there was a rowboat that we took to stay dry as we escaped from the island for the evening driving range rendezvous.

The summer soundtrack?

And since there were probably about two dozen of us, that rowboat was kept busy most of the night.

The last memory is of most of us still not being as cool as high school students yet. The golf ball driving range turned into a grade school playground where we ran around, found golf balls and acted like the kids we were. Eventually the girls disappeared back to where they were staying and the guys took turns rowing a small boat back to our small island where we talked, laughed and probably made rude noises in sleeping bags under the stars.

It was a great way to start a fab summer. And the soundtrack wasn’t too bad either.

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The Beatles never performed Sgt. Pepper live – but here’s what is being called the “official” video:

 

To purchase the remastered classic LP Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2020 – North Shore Publishing

 

August 15, 1965 – The Beatles At Shea Stadium

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– It started earlier than you might think…

sidbernstein

Sid Bernstein

During the winter of 1963 Sid Bernstein, a New York producer and entrepreneur, decided to expand his horizons by taking a course in Political Science. The instructor said if students wanted learn about democracy they need to study Great Britain, so Bernstein trekked down to Times Square every week and bought the British newspapers.

After reading updates about the government, he turned to where his real interests were – the entertainment section. He noticed the name of a pop group called The Beatles. At first the articles were small, but each week they continued to grow in size. They also included two words about their performances that caught Bernstein’s eye:

SOLD OUT!

To his producer’s way of thinking, these were the same words that described fame-predicting appearances by Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, two of the BIGGEST names in showbiz. Since expanding his horizons could also mean taking a chance, he located the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein and booked the group – then unknown in the U.S. – for two shows in February 1964 at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Epstein Beatles

Brian Epstein and “The Boys”

When dealing with Epstein there were always stipulations. If The Beatles were not getting radio airplay in the U.S. by December 1963, the deal was off. It was a long wait, but as history tells us they made the deadline. I Want To Hold Your Hand broke the airwave barrier, they were scheduled for three February appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show – and Bernstein SOLD OUT both shows at Carnegie Hall.

Following the Beatles summer and fall 1964 tour of North America, Bernstein took another chance and scheduled them to appear in the brand new, state of the art Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens. Again there were stipulations that included no advertising without a paid deposit, but Bernstein made a bold guarantee and backed it up by selling 55,600 seats through word of mouth. Once again…

SOLD OUT!

Nothing on this scale for a pop concert had ever been attempted before. Elvis had performed a handful of stadium shows leading up to his army induction, but the largest had been in front of 26,000 fans at The Cotton Bowl. The Beatles had to more than double that number to fill Shea Stadium.

Dressing Room

Away from the crowd

On August 15, 1965 The Beatles landed on top of a building at the neighboring New York World’s Fair and were delivered into Shea Stadium via a Wells Fargo armored truck. The dressing room was crowed with visitors including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and future kingpin business manager for Apple Corp and three of the four Beatles, Allen Klein.

If only Brian Epstein had known…

Their entire visit to New York, beginning Friday, August 13th through Tuesday, August 16th, was filmed for a Beatles In New York (not the title, but the idea) television special. Only backstage and concert footage was used for the final version.

Introduced by Ed Sullivan, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr ran to a small stage set up over second base on the baseball playing field and performed ten songs in about thirty-seven minutes. Whether anyone heard them depended on where they were seated, if they were screaming – or if they were next to someone screaming. Many of the male fans thought they sounded great. Many of the female fans don’t remember.

Shea on stage

Never before in the history of popular music…

Filmed in 35mm, the quality of the concert footage is similar to blockbuster Hollywood movies of the era. For comparison, The Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock movies were filmed in 16mm.

The resulting television special, The Beatles At Shea Stadium, was planned for holiday (Christmas) airing in December 1965. One member of the Beatles inner circle approved the version submitted by Ed Sullivan Productions, while five others didn’t. A secret recording session took place in January 1966 to correct the sound and the special wasn’t broadcast in the U.S. until a year later. By that time fans were only weeks away from the release of Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever by a mustached, psychedelic-clothes-wearing, pre-Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The film has been restored, color-corrected with both the overdubbed and original audio remastered for mono and stereo. It has yet to be released.

But on television that January evening in 1967 they were still the mop-topped Fab Four riding high on the release of their summer 1965 film, Help! And they played, sang, laughed and sweated during a hot New York August night in front of a SOLD OUT audience of 55,600 fans.

It was 50 years ago on August 15, 1965.

It was the birth of stadium rock.

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2015 – North Shore Publishing