Saturday, June 02, 2007

Tell Me That It's Evolution

We all want to change the world
~ The Beatles

It's been 40 years since the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album was released, changing music history. It was the first rock album intended to be listened to straight through, like a story unfolding. We may take it for granted today, but in 1967 the concept was visionary.

Although one of my brothers could write a doctoral dissertation on virtually any aspect of the Beatles, I was never a huge fan of the group. But, there is no denying the Beatle's impact on music and pop culture in the 20th century. In fact, according to the Washington Post's title link "one music critic called the album "a decisive moment in the history of Western civilization."

I don't know if I'd go quite that far, but it was, in the jargon of the '60s, "a happening."

It's not so much that I didn't like the Beatles' music. A more accurate description of my reaction to Beatles songs would be "weary." Their monster hits saturated the airwaves in the 1960s and '70s. Those were the days of AM/FM radio; there weren't the media alternatives available today. No matter where you turned in 1968, "Hey Jude" blared--from jukeboxes, in the car, on the beach, over loudspeakers. Ugh! While many of the old classic rock tunes I initially disliked have "grown on" me over the years, "Hey Jude" is one of which I still can't tolerate a single note.

Many of their less ubiquitous songs I liked very much, then and now. In fact, I have my personal Beatles Top Ten, listed below:

  1. In My Life

  2. I've Just Seen a Face

  3. No Reply

  4. I Should Have Known Better

  5. From Me to You

  6. Twist and Shout

  7. We Can Work It Out

  8. Any Time At All

  9. Dear Prudence

  10. Here Comes the Sun
Within a few years of "Sgt. Pepper's" debut, other structured albums such as The Who's rock opera "Tommy," and Pink Floyd's concept album "The Dark Side of the Moon" were hot on the charts. Music continued to evolve down this complex path of concept and rock opera albums throughout the '70s, with hits by such artists as Jethro Tull and David Bowie and new bands such as Genesis and Rush. Groups like Styx and Journey carried theme rock music into the 1980s, and current artists such as Green Day continue the form in the new millennium. Over the last 40 years, modern music and its presentation have undergone a complete "Revolution."

To mark this auspicious anniversary, let's give The Beatles their due. To quote from Sgt. Pepper:

It would seem that, in many ways, Sgt. Pepper did indeed teach the band to play.

Don't you know it's gonna be all right