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I agree that it's slightly depressing when magazines like Rolling Stone constantly vote this the best album of all time. It's a case of the misguided view that nothing's ever as good as it was in the old days. But listening to it again, it's hasn't yet become over-played to my ears. The thing that stood out to me as I listened to it on headphones was the celebrated production by George Martin. It just makes me all the more frustrated at my recent poor attempts at electronic music production, realising they did all this on a 4-track tape. While I've got a powerful computer and no idea how to use it. Just shows talent is more important than tools. Like I want to be able to create something like the swirling fairground organ section of "Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite", but haven't an idea where to start.
With a handful of ordinary songs like "Getting Better", "Good Morning Good Morning" and "Lovely Rita", I don't know how Sgt. Pepper can be called perfect. On the other hand its best moments are quite sublime. Take "A Day in the Life", a good candidate for the finest of all Beatles songs. "She's Leaving Home" is Paul in top gloopy ballad form, but it does have a couple of strange and dated lyrics. "Fun is the one thing that money can't buy?" is an odd way of explaining that the girl's parents were stiff. Presumably fun in this context involves messing around with used-car salesmen. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" has several inspired tunes, but one moment ("Cellophane flowers...") where it seems they couldn't think of one. But they would have had a good excuse for that - and maybe that was the point! However it's a little too obvious, and "I am the Walrus" must surely beat this for plain druggy coolness. George and Ravi Shankar's "Within You Without You" is the definitive Indian classical fusion, with some beautiful, hypnotic layering of sound.
If this is too earnest, floppy haired and polished for you, then I'd suggest Pink Floyd's "Piper and the Gates of Dawn" from the same year as an antidote. Equally as inventive and forward-looking, but more uninhibited and with an insane sense of humour.
March 5, 2004