Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Several months ago”Spotify” began making available the entire Beatles corpus, as usual free of charge and available through their Ap on smart phones or whatever. Since then I have spent some enjoyable and nostalgic hours listening to some of this music from my youth, happily “shuffle playing” the songs so that I never really know what to expect next.

I will never forget the first time I heard a Beatles’ song on the radio. I must have been about fifteen and tooling around Orlando with my best friend in his car. It was likely “She Loves Me” or “I Want To Hold Your Hand” – not by any means their finest but enough to get me hooked for life. I had been pretty deeply involved in the coffee house, folk music scene, even playing in a very amateur folk duo with another friend. But this was something totally different.

Listening to them again, consistently after so many years, I am amazed at their evolution as musicians, at the sheer variety of musical styles in which they were comfortable. You get this sense particularly when hearing songs that were never really best sellers, but which may have appeared on an album somewhere down the play list or maybe even never made it on the world stage.

This can range from classic, early-twangy rock and roll, to dreamy ballads, to what sometimes sounds like 1920s honky tonk, to the circus band of Sgt. Pepper, and of course to the psychedelic, drug influenced meditations of their later years.  Listening carefully can also reveal their reflection of the 1960s/1970s culture of which they were so much a part.

They struggled with how to fit together the “flower child” social revolution; the drug scene; the Indian mysticism of George Harrison, John Lennon’s poetic, darker side; Paul McCartney’s genius…and of course the adulation, the money, the rocky relationships between them. But somehow, through it all, this blue collar team from Liverpool captured something of a generation in flux, the birth pangs of — if not the Age of Aquarius — then at least the dawning of a new consciousness in a generation that is still influencing and impacting the world today.

The Beatles did not create that consciousness, but they accurately reflected it in all its glory and confusion, its sins and its redemptive qualities. It is truly, more than the Rolling Stones’ or other representatives of the British invasion, the music of my generation.

It is good to hear it, in its entirety, once again.

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