How 15 Rock Bands Reacted to The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper
Sgt. Pepper is turning 50.
With the upcoming 50th anniversary of The Beatles' landmark album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (and the May 26 release of a deluxe six-CD anniversary edition and a 2017 Giles Martin remixed and remastered version), you are bound to hear a lot of treasured remembrances from fans about that first unwrapping of this unprecedented album or how this stereo or monophonic contact high circled the globe on that first week in June — and for the entire Summer of Love it ushered in.
But there's a flip side to that.
What if you were in one of the top bands who were just barely managing to keep up with the innovations of Revolver — and then the Beatles just upped the ante yet again?
Paul Revere & the Raiders frontman Mark Lindsay, for example, reportedly listened to the newly released "Strawberry Fields Forever" single with producer Terry Melcher and wondered, "Now what the fuck are we gonna do?"
What follows, in chronological order is what the fuck 15 of the Beatles' contemporaries went and did.
Gerry & The Pacemakers
"The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine"
Released May 1967
Gerry and the Pacemakers and The Beatles still shared management with Brian Epstein, but Gerry's brood was left in the dust by mid-1965. That's when their movie Ferry Cross The Mersey didn't keep up the
Also notably psychedelic is the slightly droning vocal from the always perfect-pitched Gerry ("You'll feel just
Released May 1967
Something Else by the Kinks
Released September 1967
Although head Kink Ray Davies is on record in the pages of the Melody Maker as being critical of some of the more far-out tracks on Revolver last fall (citing "Yellow Submarine" as rubbish and describing "Eleanor Rigby" sounding "like they’re out to please music teachers in primary schools"), we don't know how he felt about the next Beatles single: "Strawberry Fields Forever"/"Penny Lane," where John and Paul revisit their Liverpudlian childhood haunts. But we do know that less than a month after its release, he penned a song he originally called "Liverpool Sunset" mourning the death of Merseybeat, which he changed after hearing "Penny Lane." It ventures further north lyrically and morphs into "Waterloo Sunset," one of the singularly greatest songs in the pop lexicon, one that can be appreciated on multiple levels.
Simon & Garfunkel
released July 1967
As Tom and Jerry, Paul and Artie had been in the teen music biz since 1957. So they were pretty world-wise and maybe a little world-weary by 1967, judging by this stopgap single. It's bookended by what sounds like the "Strawberry Fields"
A mid-charting hit, it wound up with a less psychedelic mix on the 1968 Bookends album
Paul Revere & The Raiders
"I Had a Dream"
Released July 1967
The Raiders were the best representation of what The Rolling Stones would sound like if they'd had authentic American accents. But once The Stones forgot their original blues mission to copy The Beatles, The Raiders had little choice but to do the same. On their album Spirit of '67, the Raiders copied "Drive My Car" right down to its extreme stereo balance with "Louise" and refashioned "Eleanor Rigby" into "Undecided Man." Having had time to process "Strawberry Fields" by September, Melcher and Lindsay came up with the druggy "I Had A Dream." It marries Sgt. Pepper's martial beat-and-brass section with heavily phased ... yawning, a la "I'm Only Sleeping."
The Raiders knew their young fans weren't ready to hear about drugs, but they could handle a song where the usually aggressive Lindsay sounds sleep-deprived. They'd sound more like themselves with the next single, "Peace of Mind," which resembled Wilson Picket fronting Sgt. Pepper's band instead of Billy Shears. At least the Raiders had it over the Fabs in one respect: They'd already been a costume band four years before The Beatles got around to it.
"Museum" b/w "Moonshine Man"
Released July 1967
Released October 1967
Having already been eclipsed on the teen mags by his rival Mancunian, Monkee Davy Jones, Peter
You can just picture the PR people telling Noone, "If you're not doing drugs, you at least ought to look sleepy or you'll get left behind." And so no one missed the point, "Museum" even mentions yawning. Unfortunately, Blaze only got as high as No. 75 in the States and wasn't even released in the U.K., despite being a pretty good-sounding pop album now. In a strange twist, the underappreciated Blaze was reissued on vinyl for Record Store Day in 2015 — but they needn't have bothered. The brass at MGM Records, the band's original label, were so convinced that they'd found their Beatles that they overpressed mass quantities of all their albums, and you can still find sealed copies of the original Blaze in just about any secondhand record store.
The Beach Boys
Released September 1967
Brian Wilson had been influenced by Rubber Soul to make the great, cohesive album Pet Sounds. Paul McCartney returned the compliment, citing Pet Sounds as the major influence behind Sgt. Pepper. The
There still seemed to be a plan at Capitol Records to issue Smile eventually, and the release of Smiley Smile was meant to be another time-buying quickie album the way Beach Boys Party had been. Except that the Beach Boys were too tired, discouraged, and fucked up on various stimulants to make anything other than the minimalist acid doo-wop album that is Smiley Smile. Although it has its defenders to this day, it was greeted with nothing but sad disappointment on
Released November 1967
The most musically sophisticated Merseyside group to come up alongside The Beatles, The Searchers' melding of beat group sounds and folk harmonies anticipated The Byrds by a year, but the group's inability to write their own hits in the quantity and quality of Lennon and McCartney meant they were reliant on others to chart their destiny. Post-Pepper, they did manage to write this credible social commentary about an old, accident-prone pawnbroker who dies of loneliness. Just imagine "Eleanor Rigby" with falling down the stairs slapstick. After its lack of chart impact, Pye Records dropped them, and they toiled for years on Britain's "chicken in a basket" cabaret circuit. By 1969, desperate for some sort of hit, they released a deplorable wad of bubblegum pop called "Somebody Shot the Lollipop Man" under the name Pasha.
The Dave Clark Five
"Inside and Out"
Released November 1967
"Maze of Love" b/w "The Red Balloon"
Released September 1968
For two years, The DC5 were one of The Beatles' fiercest rivals, churning out a staggering 17 Top 40 hits in the U.S. As sole proponents of the "Tottenham Sound," a welcome if lunkheaded counterpoint to The Beatles' ever-accelerating artistic ambitions, the quintet excelled at recreating manic Little Richard rockers, a knack that hardly mattered by 1967. This was now the era of lengthy "Moby Dick" drum solos and Clark's time-keeping technique, which might generously be described as someone driving a nail through a wall, proved an outstanding liability.
At the time of Sgt. Pepper's release, The Dave Clark 5 had only the embarrassing "Tabatha Twitchit" on release in the U.K., while Americans were treated to brassy remakes of Marv Johnson and Bobby Darin hits that would render The DC5 irrelevant unless some serious catch-up-if-you-can was put into motion. One can imagine the Tottenhammers unable to get past Sgt. Pepper's title track, as they rewrote it twice and buried the results on B-sides, first as "Inside and Out" and then for the nearly identical "Maze of Love" a year later.
Believe it or not, "Inside and Out" was actually commissioned by Italian director Franco
Even worse was "Maze of Love," which contained this startling bolt of enlightenment: "Too many people are running around and trying to find themselves / If they could only understand it's the egg and not the shell." Who knew the Eggman was Dave Clark?
Read on for Sgt. Pepper reactions from Bob Dylan, The Hollies, and The Rolling Stones.
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