The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s lonely hearts club band (The ’59) #054

The ’59 2018 #054: 180223

The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s lonely hearts club band (1967)

This year, Jem of Jemtunes, born in 1959, turns 59. So ‘The ’59’ celebrates 59 years of cracking tunes with a few albums from each year – 1959 through 2018. We’re currently at year 9 – 1967.

Released on 26 May 1967 in the UK and 2 June 1967 in the United States, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was an immediate commercial and critical success, spending 27 weeks at the top of the UK albums chart and 15 weeks at number one in the US. On release, the album was lauded by the vast majority of critics for its innovations in music production, songwriting and graphic design, for bridging a cultural divide between popular music and high art, and for providing a musical representation of its generation and the contemporary counterculture. It won four Grammy Awards in 1968, including Album of the Year, the first rock LP to receive this honour.

In February 1967, after recording the title track “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, McCartney suggested that the Beatles should release an entire album that would represent a performance by the fictional Sgt. Pepper band. This alter ego group would give them the freedom to experiment musically. During the recording sessions, the band furthered the technological progression they had made with their 1966 album Revolver. Knowing they would not have to perform the tracks live, they adopted an experimental approach to composition and recording on songs such as “With a Little Help from My Friends”, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “A Day in the Life”. Producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick’s innovative recording of the album included the liberal application of sound shaping signal processing and the use of a 40-piece orchestra performing aleatoric crescendos. Recording was completed on 21 April 1967.

The cover, depicting the Beatles posing in front of a tableau of celebrities and historical figures, was designed by the British pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth. (And yes, I can tell you who each of them is from the numbered outline above, if you care to ask).

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The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (The ’59) #051

The ’59 2018 #051: 180220

The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966)

This year, Jem of Jemtunes, born in 1959, turns 59. So ‘The ’59’ celebrates 59 years of cracking tunes with a few albums from each year – 1959 through 2018. We’re currently at year 8 – 1966.

Pet Sounds was the eleventh studio album from the Beach Boys, released on May 16, 1966. It initially met with a lukewarm critical and commercial response in the United States, peaking at number 10 in the Billboard 200, a significantly lower placement than the band’s preceding albums. In the UK, it was hailed by the music press and was an immediate commercial success, peaking at number 2 in the Top 40 Albums Chart and remaining among the top ten positions for six months. Originally promoted as “the most progressive pop album ever”, Pet Sounds attracted recognition for its ambitious recording and unusually sophisticated music, and is widely considered to be one of the most influential albums in music history.

The album was produced and arranged by Brian Wilson, who also wrote and composed almost all of its music. Most of the recording sessions were conducted between January and April 1966, a year after he had quit touring with the Beach Boys in order to focus more attention on writing and recording. For Pet Sounds, Wilson’s goal was to create “the greatest rock album ever made”—a personalized work with no filler tracks. It is sometimes considered a Wilson solo album, repeating the themes and ideas he had introduced with The Beach Boys Today! one year earlier. The album’s lead single, “Caroline, No”, was issued as his official solo debut. It was followed by two singles credited to the group: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” (backed with “God Only Knows”) and “Sloop John B”.

Pet Sounds is regarded by musicologists as an early concept album that advanced the field of music production, introducing non-standard harmonies and timbres and incorporating elements of pop, jazz, exotica, classical, and the avant-garde. A heralding work of psychedelia, the album furthered an aesthetic trend within rock by helping it transform from dance music into music that was made for listening to, elevating itself to the level of art rock.

In 2004, Pet Sounds was preserved in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” One year earlier, Rolling Stone ranked it second on its list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”.

Pink Floyd – The Wall (Epic 2017 #206)

The Epic 2017 Project #206: 170725

Pink Floyd – The Wall (1979)

Pink Floyd’s 11th studio album was released as a double album on 30 November 1979, by Harvest Records in the United Kingdom and by Columbia Records in the United States. Despite an initially mixed critical reaction, The Wall peaked at number 3 on the UK Albums Chart, while it topped the US Billboard 200 chart for 15 weeks. In 1982, it was adapted into a feature film of the same name.

Bass guitarist and lyricist Roger Waters conceived the album as a rock opera during Pink Floyd’s 1977 In the Flesh Tour. Its story, which follows themes of abandonment and personal isolation, explores Pink, a character whom Waters modeled after himself and the band’s original leader Syd Barrett. Pink’s life begins with the loss of his father during the Second World War, and continues with abuse from his schoolteachers, an overprotective mother, and the breakdown of his marriage; all contribute to his eventual self-imposed isolation from society, represented by a metaphorical wall.

The Wall remains the last studio album released with the 11-year-spanning line-up of Waters, Gilmour, keyboardist Rick Wright, and drummer Nick Mason. Wright was unceremoniously fired from the band by Waters during its production, but remained as a salaried musician, performing with Pink Floyd on their subsequent live tour. The live performances, which were later released as a live album, featured elaborate theatrical effects. Some of the album’s themes would be continued in the band’s next album, The Final Cut (1983) [featured in Epic #213 on 1st August next], which contained some outtakes from The Wall. In 2003, Rolling Stone placed The Wall at number 87 on its list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”

Pink Floyd – Animals (Epic 2017 #205)

The Epic 2017 Project #205: 170724

Pink Floyd – Animals (1977)

In early December 1976, the year of the ‘hot summer’, I took a trip up to London to visit the National Portrait Gallery. And, as I approached Clapham Junction, I remember looking out of the window at the windy grey skies and seeing a massive pink inflatable pig floating in front of the chimneys and heading east over the Thames.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the photo shoot at Battersea Power Station for the front cover of Pink Floyd’s 10th studio album – Animals. Released on 23 January 1977 by Harvest Records in the United Kingdom and by Columbia Records in the United States, Animals is a concept album providing a scathing critique of the social-political conditions of late-1970s Britain.

The album was released to generally positive reviews in the United Kingdom, where it reached number 2 on the UK Albums Chart. It was also a success in the United States, reaching number 3 on the US Billboard 200 chart, and although it scored on US charts for half a year, steady sales have resulted in its certification by the RIAA at 4x platinum. The size of the venues of the band’s In the Flesh Tour prompted an incident in which Waters spat at members of the audience, setting the background for the band’s next studio album The Wall (to be featured in Epic #206 tomorrow), released two years later.

Animals was recorded at the band’s studio, Britannia Row, in London, but its production was punctuated by the early signs of discord that three years later would culminate in keyboardist Richard Wright leaving the band. The album’s cover image, a pig floating between two chimneys of the Battersea Power Station, was conceived by the band’s bassist and lead songwriter Roger Waters, and was designed by long-time collaborator Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis.

The album was released to generally positive reviews in the United Kingdom, where it reached number 2 on the UK Albums Chart. It was also a success in the United States, reaching number 3 on the US Billboard 200 chart, and although it scored on US charts for half a year, steady sales have resulted in its certification by the RIAA at 4x platinum. The size of the venues of the band’s In the Flesh Tour prompted an incident in which Waters spat at members of the audience, setting the background for the band’s next studio album The Wall, released two years later.

However, you’ll have already guessed that the shoot for that didn’t really go according to plan. The band’s manager, Steve O’Rourke had hired a marksman for the first day (just in case), but forgot to do so for day two when the wind broke the 40ft pig (known as Algie) free of its moorings. Algie flew over Heathrow, resulting in panic and cancelled flights with pilots spotting the pig in the air and eventually landed in Kent. The balloon was recovered and filming continued for a third day, but as the early photographs of the power station were considered better, the image of the pig was later superimposed onto one of those. If I’d had a camera back then though, I’d have had a great shot of it drifting down the Thames towards Bankside.

Jon Anderson – Olias of Sonhillow (Epic 2017 #008)

The Epic 2017 Project #008: 170108

Jon Anderson – Olias of Sonhillow (1976)

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Olias of Sunhillow was Jon Anderson’s first studio album as a solo artist. It tells the story of an alien race and their journey to a new world due to a volcanic catastrophe. Olias is the chosen architect of the glider Moorglade Mover which will be used to fly his people to their new home. Ranyart is the navigator for the glider, and Qoquaq (pronounced ‘ko-quake’) is the leader who unites the four tribes of Sunhillow to partake in the exodus.

The album represented eight months of physical work, but it took two years from conception to release. Anderson used more than a hundred tracks in putting the album together, overdubbing strings, organ, harp and percussion

The triple gatefold sleeve on the original vinyl pressing for Atlantic Records, inspired by the work of Roger Dean, was designed and illustrated by Dave Fairbrother Roe RA.