It’s 1967 and I’m five years old.
I definitely remember hearing Sgt. Pepper’s on vinyl. The song that first caught my imagination was “Lucy in the Sky.” That guitar riff at the beginning has been copied and morphed by so many other bands.
They probably changed it just enough to avoid a lawsuit. I learned how to play that riff as a boy. Not so hard. But getting something simple that unique, well, that’s the challenge of pop, isn’t it?
I don’t mean to pass over The Beatles. It’s the Summer of Love in ’67 and their groundbreaking Sgt. Pepper’s blew away most other bands. Actually all other bands. And most everyone admitted it (maybe not Quincy Jones).
A rose is a rose is a rose. And genius is genius is genius. And at that moment, The Beatles with George Martin were genius. No doubt about it.
To think they did all that on a four-track recorder! Anyone who knows studio tech will understand how amazing that is.
I really should list “A Day in the Life” as my favorite song. But that was me in the basement, looking over and trying to play some sheet music on our old piano. Right now I want to focus more on stuff that really made AM radio what it was.
From 1966 you can see that AM radios were all rage back then. Most cars, except for the odd luxury vehicle, were standard equipped with a thin, overly compressed sounding AM radio. Basically music in a tin can.
That was it. So pop songs had to sound good on AM radios. And they had to go a full cycle (verse, chorus, bridge, etc.) in about 2 and a half minutes to fit the AM radio format.
If they went much over two minutes, the DJ would just start talking and fade into the next song or go to a commercial. So really, no long sagas like “A Day in the Life” would work on AM. That was for FM, which would find its full voice in the 70s. (get out the tape deck!)
One tune that did sound good on AM was the Rolling Stone’s “Ruby Tuesday.” I remember hearing this on vinyl – we had lots of vinyl kicking around – and sensing it was somehow different.
“Ruby Tuesday” proved that the Stones could do mature work. I think it’s a great song with fabulous instrumentation. That recorder, or whatever it is, adds an almost medieval, courtly flair that only the Brits could pull off.
Fantastic lyrics. Fantastic song. Enjoy.