Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sgt. Pepper and the Beatles: It Was Forty Years Ago Today

Edited by Olivier Julien, Universities of Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV) and Paris-Sorbonne Nouvelle (Paris III), France

The first concept album in the history of popular music, the soundtrack of the Summer of Love or 'Hippy Symphony No. 1': Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is first and foremost the album that gave rise to 'hopes of progress in pop music' (The Times, 29 May 1967). Sgt. Pepper and the Beatles commemorates the fortieth anniversary of this masterpiece of British psychedelia by addressing issues that will help put the record in perspective. These issues include: reception by rock critics and musicians, the cover, lyrics, songwriting, formal unity, the influence of non-European music and art music, connections with psychedelia and, more generally, the sociocultural context of the 1960s, production, sound engineering and musicological significance. The contributors are world renowned for their work on the Beatles: they examine Sgt. Pepper from the angle of disciplines such as musicology, ethnomusicology, history, sociology, literature, social psychology and cultural theory.

Contents: Preface; 'Their production will be second to none': an introduction to Sgt. Pepper, Olivier Julien; 'Tangerine trees and marmalade skies': cultural agendas or optimistic escapism?, Sheila Whiteley; Sgt. Pepper and the diverging aesthetics of Lennon and McCartney, Terence O'Grady; Sgt. Pepper's quest for extended form, Thomas MacFarlane; The sound design of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Michael Hannan; The Beatles and Indian music, David Reck; The Beatles' psycheclassical synthesis: psychedelic classicism and classical psychedelia in Sgt. Pepper, Naphtali Wagner; Cover story: magic, myth and music, Ian Inglis; Within and without: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and psychedelic insight, Russell Reising and Jim LeBlanc; The whatchamucallit in the garden: Sgt. Pepper and fables of interference, John Kimsey; The act you've known for all these years: a re-encounter with Sgt. Pepper, Allan Moore; 'A lucky man who made the grade': Sgt. Pepper and the rise of a phonographic tradition in 20th century popular music, Olivier Julien; References; Index of names; Index of songs, albums, films and musical works.

About the Editor: Olivier Julien teaches the history and musicology of popular music at the Universities of Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV) and Paris-Sorbonne Nouvelle (Paris III), France.

Reviews: 'Like the album that it analyzes, this collection of essays by an international array of Beatles scholars has more than just a few hooks to capture everyone’s particular fancy. The authors present a wide-ranging and contextualized discussion that shows us why Sgt. Pepper is a monument in the history of rock music. Given the richness of the Beatles' work and the densely dynamic times in which they flourished, all pivoting around Sgt. Pepper, this book is more than welcome.'
Deena Weinstein, DePaul University, USA

'The eleven chapters, written by distinguished international scholars, approach this groundbreaking album from eleven interrelated points of view: connections with psychedelia (psychedelic lyrics, sonic and conceptual realizations of psychedelic experience), aesthetic unity and complexity (formal unity, aesthetic divergence of Lennon and McCartney, classical and psychedelic aesthetic ideals, influence of Indian music), production (sound design, position in the rise of a "phonographic tradition" album cover), critical reception and musicological significance. These diverse points of view cover the key issues, which made Sgt. Pepper not only the soundtrack of the "Summer of Love" but also the album of all times – an album which is remembered 40 years after its first release and will also be remembered in the future. This book is a "must" in the bookshelf of anybody interested in the Beatles or Sixties culture in general.'
Yrjö Heinonen, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

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