Almanac Music – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band at 50: The philosophy of kaleidoscope eyes

Photo: David Wilson.

Dear Sgt. Pepper,
I am tired. It’s tiring. It seems that everyone is telling me how to think. What to think. What to do. It seems that we little humans are pawns in a giant game of power, played by the powerful, fuelled by ego and by who-knows-what sort of kickbacks and private greed. What is happening, Sgt Pepper? What is happening to our collective?

 

Dear Sgt. Pepper,
You sang me stories when I was younger (so much younger than today). Where to start a story of thought of feeling of immersion yes of immersion and an immersion not only of aural and not only of visual and not only of reality but of a very imagination and also of a very lived experience unfolding as a life itself? Yes, a life. Maybe starting with my childhood loungeroom floor – LP sleeve in my hand, vinyl disc rotating at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute.

Upon this day in the life.

This day.

 

Dear Sgt. Pepper,
You were released 50 years ago. That is more years than for which I have breathed this air. And this week, I have had you again turned up loud. Today you again fill the room. You filled this room last night in darkness. You will fill my earphones again in tomorrow’s light.

 

Dear Sgt. Pepper,
Why do I write to you? You surely know all this. I write to thank you. Thank you for your long long arms of wild possibility; for your grounded perspective; for your creation. Your creation from nothing.

 

Dear Sgt. Pepper,
You still bring at once an Alice-in-Wonderland, an excitement, an excursion out of the everyday, to the imagined world of an imaginary band, to a Billy Shears, to a place where Henry the Horse dances the waltz, and yet… And yet, while doing even this, you also tell me that daily minutiae is alright. It’s alright. It’s alright to be doing the garden, digging the weeds. It’s alright to set my wandering sights on a local parking inspector and wonder when are you free to take some tea with me? That is your story and that is beauty and richness of your story. We could all do with a bit more fixing of holes. You are art.

 

 

—–Side A—–

Dear Sgt. Pepper,
Sit back and let the evening go.
Human being; rather than human doing. Guitar riffing, drums dancing, imaginary cabaret band in silky military fancy-dress costume, orchestral scoring, harmonising. It is the music. The trumpets. The audience gasping. Listening. Sitting back and letting the evening go. And I wonder about the military and about the defence of England and of the bombing of London. And of human nature and of art and of the role of creativity. …the one and only Billy Shears.

 

Dear Sgt. Pepper,
How do I feel by the end of the day (are you sad because you’re on your own?)
A medley, flowing directly; we’re still in front of the band. Eminently sing-able. A singalong. Cracking drum intro to verse two. The splintering of lives and of communities at the altars of private capital and of that false argument of ‘choice’ is a runaway train, careering, rushing, galloping even as those most perfect of harmonies layer in (again, and again). And anyway, Sgt Pepper, what is a friend? Who is a friend? Is it an avatar on social media? A person whom you see frequently? A person with whom you feel able to share hidden things? Is a friend somebody that you can rely upon? Is a friend somebody to love? Sgt Pepper, I wonder about confirmation bias and social networks and the entrenchment of disadvantage. And I wonder about the role of a friend, anyway, But I see the adventures of my daughters and I believe that we can all get by with a little help from our friends.

 

Dear Sgt. Pepper,
Cellophane flowers of yellow and green towering over your head.
That organ. Set up now by your raucous fictional carnival gig, and by the sad, yet hopeful reflections of Billy Shears, this now is perfection. Tinkling, whirring. It is perfect. Imagination is more important that knowledge Albert Einstein said. And I care not for theories of LSD or late night sessions of whatever else; this music and this story takes me down the rabbit hole each time. Each time I am down the rabbit hole with Alice. Each time (can it be true?) hearing something new; a new tap on a cymbal, a new guitar lick in the background. So very much going on in here, down here in the rabbit hole. Sgt Pepper, in these obnoxious times we all need a rabbit hole.

 

Dear Sgt. Pepper,
I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loves.
Dear, dear me. Dear me. And so you blithely describe the relative relaxation of a domestic violence regime. Sgt Pepper, the Getting Better narrative could be considered trite, or maybe as a precursor of the self-help industry. But I see it as optimism. Optimism in the face of unspeakable hardship. Optimism itself is not a necessarily welcome trait; many are the Pollyannas of the world, hiding heads in the sand. But we all need hope. For without hope, there is nothing. Thank you, Sgt Pepper. Thank you, too, for those falsetto harmonies.

 

 

Dear Sgt. Pepper,
And it really doesn’t matter if I’m wrong, I’m right. Where I belong I’m right.
Fifty years later you have described Facebook and Twitter. You have described national politics. You have described much of the media. Rant, rant, rant. Look at me. I am right. Where I belong I’m right. The pieces are splintering, fracturing. It is tiring and it is confusing and it is loud. Not everybody can be right, can they? Why do they sharpen their knives so?
Your solution, Sgt Pepper? I’m fixing a hole where the rain gets in and stops my mind from wondering, where it will go.

 

 

Dear Sgt. Pepper,
She’s leaving home after living alone for so many years.
Violin, the string section. JW Lennon’s commentary at each chorus, under JP McCartney’s high chorus vocal. Humans and human suffering and human empathy and the whole human condition. Getting by with a little help from our friends. And somewhere the solitary, the lonely heart, the loner (“All alone! Whether you like it or not, alone is something you’ll be quite a lot” – Dr Seuss) feels divorced from her very family.
2017 dinner times over tablets, smartphones, car trips of passengers gazing only at screens, communication (under the same roof!) via message app. Parents on phones at the park, at school pick-up. A child calls: “Look at me, Dad!”
Something inside that was always denied for so many years.

 

 

Dear Sgt. Pepper,
Over men and horses, hoops and garters; lastly through a hogshead of real fire!
The echoing voice, those drums, cymbals, the humming bass line. The whirling whirling carnival of it all. Those keyboards introducing Verse 2. Sgt Pepper – the possibility! The possibility! Sgt. Pepper, you juxtapose now the heart-wrenching scene of a lonely daughter leaving home with Mr Kite flying through the ring! What a life! What a life is this! It is alright to feel lonely. And to feel sorry for someone else’s troubles. And also to enjoy a night at the show. Circuses the great distraction since Roman times.
Ba-ba-ba-ba da-dah. The band begins at ten to six…

 

 

—– Side B —–

 

Dear Sgt. Pepper,
When you’ve found beyond yourself – then you may find peace of mind is waiting there…
Well, well. Sitar, tambura, dilruba, swarmandal… Hypnotised.
Who are you? Who am I? Who are any of us? Who is your friend?
Boom. Boom. Boom-boom-boom-boom.
Sgt. Pepper, you are many things on many days. You are hypnotic, expansive. You are tired and selfish. You are open. You are caring. And whether rich or poor, busy or idle, I hope there comes a time for everyone. A time comes to see that we are each of us expendable. We are but one person.
Boom. Boom. Boom-boom-boom-boom.
2017 brings a rising individualism.  A rising me-first. A splintering of social capital.
And the time will come when you see we’re all one, and life flows on within you and without you.

 

 

Dear Sgt. Pepper,
Grandchildren on your knee – Vera, Chuck and Dave.
After the Indian influence, Sgt. Pepper, these classic orchestral instruments are like a pair of old slippers. The tuneful bass, the music hall oompa-loompa-ness of clarinet, bells. Played in harmony with JP McCartney vocals in the last verse.
And, Sgt. Pepper, your projection of time.
Your imagined future. But moreso, your imagined future of humility amid the tumult.  Your future of doing the garden, digging the weeds. Your acceptance of a modesty of life and what it entails. There is no more. No secret answer. There only is. One day at a time. Wonderful.

 

 

Dear Sgt. Pepper,
Had a laugh and over dinner, told her I would really like to see her again.
Layers of vocals. The very idea of JW Lennon and G Harrison playing comb and paper after ‘military man'(!). Sgt. Pepper – that piano solo.
‘Think global, act local’ say the environmentalist posters. And here Sgt Pepper, you show me the world, the entire world, the limitless imagination, all while shining a light on Rita, the neighbourhood meter maid. Will Rita go on to become the grandmother of Vera, Chuck and Dave?

 

 

Dear Sgt. Pepper,
Nothing to do it’s up to you – I’ve got nothing to say but it’s OK.
Cock-a-doodle-doo. Miaow. Woof. Moo. Neigh. Roar.
Time signatures all over the place. Rhythms dancing everywhere. And why not?
It’s another day, Sgt. Pepper, and there will be another one along shortly.
And I’ll do things today; of course I will. I will get out of bed. Probably I will brush my teeth. See the neighbours. That is up to me. Personal responsibility; a role within a community. There are responsibilities, but if I’ve got nothing to say that’s OK. Good morning.

 

 

Dear Sgt. Pepper,
It’s getting very near the end.
Those distorted guitars.
Maybe it is getting very near the end for me. Who really knows?
Sgt. Pepper you taught me the word “reprise.” You showed me that the same song could sound different. You showed me that there is always another way. You got my foot tapping.

 

 

Dear Sgt. Pepper,
I read the news today Oh Boy; about a lucky man who made the grade.
A lucky man.
A lucky man.
Not enough, 50 years later, is made of the role of luck.
Sgt. Pepper, the news comes in; the news goes out.
And though the news was rather sad, well I just had to laugh…
The cycle ever continues.
But we live on.
A day in the life.
New awareness with each listen, still, all these years later.
Incredible.
But it’s another day.
A day in the life.
Magnificent.

 

==

Dear Sgt. Pepper,
Childhood loungeroom floor listening to vinyl, early adulthood in a Kingwood through central Australia listening to cassette tape, share house life on saggy couches by candlelight listening to CD, family life today listening to streaming via the web and bluetooth to speakers.

“Oh Dad! It’s that most popular album by the most popular band ever!”
“Oh Dad! It’s the kaleidoscope eyes song!”

 

Dear Sgt. Pepper,
You made this piece of art fifty years go.
It remains a work of art for our times.
This album is a true work of art spanning the decades, now.

 

Sgt Pepper: (A) Lonely Hearts, with help from friends, can dream. For it gets better. And if not, we can always find a hole to fix; a distraction. And a family connection. Or else we may immerse ourselves in a show (or footy).

Sgt Pepper: (B) We should question ourselves, find that we are all one. Be humble, be connected. Aspire locally, and keep getting out of bed. One day the end will come for everyone. But even when that day comes, it will be just another Day in the Life.

 

Sgt. Pepper, sometimes I am tired. Tired of making it up. But this week you called in.
You called in and now you breathe old ideas with new breaths.
New-old breaths, recorded 50 years ago, freshly reverberate around my head. I found you again and again you soar. Sgt. Pepper, again you reach unspeakable heights of music, of invention, of ideas.
Ideas! Ho!
Thank you Sgt. Pepper; your very existence shows that creativity finds a way.
Today I am ready to be turned on.
Today I am ready to mend a fuse.
Today I will again look for the girl with sun in her eyes (and she’s gone).

 

About David Wilson

Hit for a towering 6 by Mike Gatting at the Banyule Cricket Club, December 2002, theatrically attempting to reproduce the SK Warne delivery. The ball is yet to land. @e_regnans

Comments

  1. Many thanks for this, e.r.
    Wonderful, glorious.

    When Sgt Pepper turned 20, and was finally released on cd, I queued up at the record store at Altona Gate to purchase it at midnight.

    I recall a reflection on the album written by James Button in the Age, which argued that the Sgt Pepper album was about England.

    From Wikipedia: “In a poll released on May 31, 2012, Rolling Stone magazine still ranked Sgt. Pepper the greatest album of all time, 45 years after its release.” Imagine that. Still.

  2. Magnificent, E.r. Like the album itself, there’s both richness and light in your piece.

    Like Smokie, I recall buying it on CD, the year it turned twenty. I’d just bought my first CD player and wondered which album I’d first purchase. No contest.

    I still argue that one of this life’s finest things to do with half an hour or so is to spend it listening to a Beatles album.

    Thanks.

  3. Brilliant ER. These records were art because they required thought. I listen to Neil Young a lot. And read what he says. He laments the ipod and the “shuffle” of songs on them (yes I’m guilty). He reckons music tells a story and the story needs sequence and context. The Beatles understood this too. Apparently they agonised over the order of the songs. That’s what made it brilliant.

    Now we consume sound bites and news flashes. Everything is a cliché and a stereotype because the urgency and shallowness of modern life had no time for nuance. No one has time for stories.

    This album reminds us of the importance of stories.

    You’ve told this one superbly.

    “I read the news today Oh boy!” That still spooks me for some reason.

  4. After much deliberation I’ll be lining up this morning to spend more than 2 days pay on 2 tix to see Macca in December. You reminded me why.
    “And so we go on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”.

  5. E.regnans says:

    Thanks gents.

    Smokie – I found the J Button article: http://www.theage.com.au/news/in-depth/sergeant-peppers-wild-trip/2007/06/01/1180205508929.html

    Fair enough that he thinks it’s about England. And the theory makes a nice story.
    The whole album (yes, Dips) seems to apply to each individual in their own circumstance. Maybe J Button was himself enamored with England when he wrote that article.
    I’ve re-found the album just now in a spirit of life-philosophy.
    Someone else will interpret another way.
    That is art, I think.

    Well played, the creators.

  6. Thanks, e.r.
    For some reason that Button article has stuck with me – but does not seem to hold as much weight 10 years on.

    Sgt Pepper certainly is art. In all its glory.

  7. Well, that says it all. In a way unlike any other way. Good music begets good writing. Opens one’s ears. Opens one’s thoughts to wider possibilities.

  8. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    Beautifully written about an album that hasn’t aged ER. Still a vital artefact of hope and possibility is Sgt Pepper.
    The Beatles have reflected the 4 stages of my life:
    1. Paul – Innocence, Love, Positivity, Coyness 1-16
    2. John – Rebellion/Tenderness/Activism/Smartarseness 16-30
    3. George – Reflection/Higher Powers/Expanding Consciousness 30-45
    4. Ringo – Humour/Acceptance/Gratitude – “Haha -Yeah”

  9. E.regnans says:

    Thanks Vin, Phil.
    Phil – I love that 4-way character breakdown.
    Save the airfare for a Himalayan retreat.
    That’s a full awakening in four bullet points.

  10. Luke Reynolds says:

    Wonderful words Dave.
    Have given Sgt. Peppers a few listens (in full and in order) since I first read this. It’s aged remarkably well. Can certainly hear the influence on the work of bands that came later from this.
    Abbey Road has always been my favourite Beatles album, with Sgt. Peppers a close second.

  11. Colin Ritchie says:

    Great stuff David! I remember the release of Sgt Pepper vividly. In those days the Australian release of overseas recordings was months later. Being Beatle fans, my mates and myself were well aware of all the hype surrounding the release of SP and it was a race between us to see who bought it first. My mate Rod was first to buy, a few of us were with him as he made the purchase; it was onto our bikes, a fast pedal back to his place, anxiously awaiting as the disc was slipped from its cover, finally placed on the turntable and played. The sound and the songs were amazing. We were blown away! Didn’t take long for the word to get out that Rod had a copy of SP and half the neighbourhood was arriving for a listen, especially some of our fovourite young ladies! Fabulous time.

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