Good Morning Good Morning

Sergeant Pepper is easy for me to write about. It came out twelve days before my sixteenth birthday in 1967 and, thanks to Mum, my birthday present was a stereo copy of the album AND a Philips stereo record player. To let you know just how rare and cool this was at the time I was at Windsor Boys School Hamm with 650 other boys and I was the first to get a stereo record player and the first to get Sgt. Peppers; boy was I lucky.

In the weeks leading up to its release the album was widely promoted in the press and without the distractions of an England World Cup win like the year before, there was no chance of overlooking it. Living in Germany the album took a little longer to reach the shops so when my parents turned up at Boarding School on my birthday it felt like there had already been weeks of hype, then down went the needle and up went my popularity.

The track that grabbed me straight away was Good Morning Good Morning, because of the stereo effects and it also sounded recognisably Beatles. Stereo was such a novelty that lots of friends, neighbours and others came to my dorm to hear the album just to “hear the stereo effects, please.” Good Morning Good Morning ends with a great circular dog eats cat sequence where Lennon asked for each animal sound effect to be followed by one of an animal which would eat it! We teenagers lapped it up. Tally Ho! 

Pepper seemed to grab everyone right away, I am a sucker for an overture, so a rock overture which segued into yet another great Ringo track seemed like a brilliant opening gambit. Having been stunned by the combination of Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane, possibly their best single, Pepper seemed to build on that because of its exotic instrumentation. This time it took Brian Wilson forty years to respond, so outrageous was Pepper as a Pop album. The glorious Lucy In The Sky, an uplifting summer track, added to the variations and where Revolver had strong tracks appropriately arranged, Pepper seemed to have quirky tracks unusually arranged. Which makes Pepper seem less fresh now but it was a real breakthrough at the time. It was the peak of Beatles artifice and, arguably, their most middle-class record.

My favourite quote on the impact of Sgt Peppers is by Langdon Winner who wrote in Rolling Stone that he drove across America from New Jersey to California in 1967, and everywhere he stopped Sgt Pepper was playing; it’s acclaim was ubiquitous and suddenly I was cool enough for older kids to ask if they could hear my copy of the album. Everything about it was extraordinary for the times; the title, the sleeve, the colours, the cardboard “gifts”, the words, the curious faux-Edwardiana of its inspiration and presentation. Yet again The Beatles had created a cultural event that cut across social barriers; the working class mostly felt they were “ours’ and the upper class were impressed by their cultural impact and the middle class weren’t sure until the artefact which is Sgt Peppers seemed to fuse high and low art in Pop. I found a lovely quote which summed up the impact of Pepper in the Borthwick Archives at York University where, writing in Nouse during the Autumn after its release, a student asked “Are we going to get some new progressive groups now?” With Pepper The Beatles had created a trend, an artform and a demand for something new and by 1968 everyone else started catching up.

Back at school I played Good Morning Good Morning to wake everyone up, oh the literalness of youth, and everyone came in to dissect the record; the usual reaction was stunned silence at the end of Day in the Life followed by “Can we put that on again?”. The radio stations went for She’s Leaving Home as the missing single and the press went for Lovely Rita as they tracked down the Meta Maid near a pedestrian crossing at Abbey Road. Paul was in the paper smiling with her. Actually radio stations also picked up on Ringo’s With A Little Help from My Friends, appropriate in so many ways, and George invented the chill-out track within you and without you. We were stretched by the range of musical offerings and hypnotically baffled at the cornucopia of aural riches and sound, but Pepper occupied a lot of cultural space that summer. I would not have it any other/ I would not have it any other / I would not have it…

There is a YouTube version of this post on A Beatles YouTube Album if you want to look at videos of the songs before voting for your favourite.

1 Comment

  1. June 30, 2011 at 4:34 am

    An excellent artical, well written. I went to the same school arriving in 69′ and indeed record players were rare but where they did exist they were an attraction. I had a tranny and ear-phone so I regullally listened to the top 100 chart entries on Radio Luxemburg beneath the sheets late at night, so I was able to keep up-to date with the then currant popular music. I remember two dorms up from mine some one had a mono-record player which was a favorite attraction on the weekends. I spent many an hour listening to Beatles music in one of the forth form three person rooms later and remember writing all the lyrics on paper so as to learn them. I am still able to sing the entire songs from memories I leant there in Windsor, Hamm, Germany. I remember learning most of the White album there as well but Revolution No.9 just can not be remembered. Lol Thanks for sharing your aritical.

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