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Friday, June 2, 2017

SGT. PEPPER at 50 - Guide special edition, June 2 2017

All the weekend events, UPDATED through Friday afternoon, are in the previous edition, at:

Revised, 2 :11 pm, June 3, 2017.


"Sgt. Pepper's Revolution," a new 90-min documentary (2017) airs Saturday night, 8-9:30 pm on KOCE, aka PBS SoCal. It repeats on their "PBS2" channel 10:30 pm-midnight Sunday, and airs again on KOCE 7-8:30 pm on Monday. You can catch it for the final airings on PBS2 on Tuesday, when it airs twice: 2:30-4 pm and 9-10:30 pm.

THIS SPECIAL EDITION acknowledges and explores one of the truly pivotal moments in music history. If you are among those who doubt the veracity of that rather emphatic assertion, we hope you will join us for this quick, single-topic special edition.

Herein, we explore how much and how many things changed after the album was released, and examine whether "Sgt. Pepper" was essential in forever altering the musical landscape. And where things have gone since that day, half a century ago.

For Beatles fans among our readers, let us know if we omitted your favorite reason why the album at issue is so important. You can use the "comments" function on the site (preferred, this time around), or do what most people do and email us directly.

Let's get started!



By Larry Wines

IT WAS 50 YEARS AGO TODAY... "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" was released, and there had, truly, never been anything like it. The record (everything then was vinyl) had taken an unprecedented 700 hours to record and cost 25,000 British pounds to produce.

It hit an American audience that was still denying the futility of the Vietnam bloodbath; and nobody remembers that June, 1967 was also the infamous Arab-Israeli "Six-Day War" in which Israel expanded its borders into what had been the soil of neighboring nations.

Yet, if we see obvious militarism in the title of "Sergeant" Pepper, no one did at the time.

Sgt. Pepper hit American radio deejays whose independent station owners (all radio was independent then) were wrestling over whether their sponsors would tolerate what their listeners wanted; and it hit a music industry wondering whether marketable rock 'n roll was the British Invasion or the Beach Boys or the hippie radical sounds.

Early on, Keith Richards (The Rolling Stones) said that Sgt. Pepper was "The death of rock and roll," and in many ways he was right — compare it to the Beach Boys' surf-rock-pinnacle album "Pet Sounds," and to everything else on the radio at the time, from Herman's Hermits to the Shirelles to The Turtles.

Of course, ahead were all the reinventions of music.

Clapton and others would infuse American blues into their work, bringing a second career to artists like B.B. King and acclaim to old bluesman living and dead. As a result, blues sensibilities would propel a decade of British rockers. In America, John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival would take that step, then embark on a new path, creating "swamp rock" — though they invoked deep-Delta and Cajun-zydeco imagery and never employed a fiddle or an accordion; yeah, they used harmonica, but Dylan was doing that, anyway. Still, CCR's "Bayou Country" was quintessentially a thematic concept album.

Orchestral rock would flourish in the hands of Electric Light Orchestra and others, becoming the signature sound of Supertramp. It would reach its driving-rock electric-string pinnacle with Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein" and its stunning orchestral power with Rick Wakeman performing his best-ever concept albums and doing it with major-league symphonies — almost forgotten now, they are musical powerhouses that epitomize the genre, including his "Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table" and "Journey to the Center of the Earth."

Yeah, the mainstream ended-up on other paths that were easier for Big Music to promote with radio airplay. But it hadn't yet deteriorated to pop fluff, like it is now.

Whether you want to thank Sgt. Pepper or look elsewhere, there was a decade of innovation, even experimentation, that got airplay.

There was the darkness of The Doors, who you've gotta believe were bound to do what they were gonna do regardless of what anyone else did. Similarly, there were the Grateful Dead's early "jam band" sensibilities, which would be accompanied by Iron Butterfly's epic "In a Gadda da Vida" and Rare Earth's full-album-side "Get Ready," and all got cut into 3-minute excerpts for radio. Those preceded Led Zeppelin's confounding of radio's allergy to anything over three-and-a-half-minutes by creating "Stairway to Heaven," which radio listeners would not allow to be cut.

And like The Who did before them with "Tommy" -- the thematic concept album that became a concert and then a movie and then a stage production -- Roger Waters and Pink Floyd would perform their thematic concept album, "The Wall," as a unified theme concert with a stage full of musicians, and follow The Who's model of breaking the thematic concept album into tracks that could be played individually on the radio and not exceed broadcast paradigms for lengthiness.

In between were the contra-mainstream hits of rock's "folk scare," the stellar successes of acoustic Simon & Garfunkle, the persistent popularity of always acoustic Peter, Paul & Mary, the success of Crosby, Stills & Nash (with and without Young), and hard-horn-driven but essentially acoustic Chicago. The middle-finger-to-the-establishment became comfortable working tandem with the index finger flashing peace signs, and then picking guitar strings, learning the songs of Joan Baez, and James Taylor, Jackson Browne, and Dan Fogelberg, Emmylou Harris and Kate Wolff, even as women musicians learned to play and write and perform in both heartfelt acoustic and hard-rocking modes, like sisters Ann & Nancy Wilson who created their band Heart.

And just after the very first Earth Day, with Vietnam finally winding-down, huge audiences would come back to folk music, though mainstream music biz types were careful not to call it folk. Clad in red plaid shirts and tromping sidewalks and college campuses in mountaineering boots, young fans tunefully embraced love for the planet in John Denver's music — which he recorded and took on the road with a full orchestra. And there is no way to see 1972's "Rocky Mountain High" as something other than a thematic concept album that captured stellar success and propelled the environmental movement.

Next came the inevitable sounds of escapism after no one feared being drafted anymore, and young people, their admonitions to activism exhausted, didn't want to deal with anybody's problems. And so, by 1977, we got pablum disco. There, the decade of non-conformist behavior following Sgt. Pepper vanished into regimented copycat dance lines. The decade of innovation in music was dead. And perhaps real American rock didn't reassert itself with convincing originality until Bruce Springsteen studied Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger and broke out of New Jersey, taking along the brilliant horn of Clarence Clemons and some great piano keyboard, "Born in the USA" of 1984.

By then, "Country" had divorced itself from "Western" and integrated its own regimented conformist copycat dance lines. It pathetically but profitably continues to get more and more insipid with ersatz tales of rebellion against real jobs — which you're supposed to do while driving a thirty-thousand-dollar pickup truck with an ol' hound dawg in the passenger seat.

Simultaneously, a genuine rebellion arose in a mode of expression that's a sort of urban form of country music — called rap, it's something anyone could do as doggerel poetry with an angry cadence, and you can do it without learning an instrument. It's derivative, using instruments (because how long can anyone listen to chanted doggeral poetry) arrived as a hijacked form of R&B which is has rhythm but is devoid of blues, and in another form as hip hop. The latter gave rise to a supposed new art form of "the deejay performance," who uses a finger to spin passages backwards, gettin' jiggy with it. But arguably, it's another manifestation of thematic concept expression in music, even though it doesn't readily lend itself to recorded music.

So, we come back to 50 years ago today, and to properly assess things, we have some remaining questions.

First: Was Sgt. Pepper the first step to induction of an "anything goes" instrumental panoply and creation of characters for thematic fantasy storytelling? All that orchestral rock did follow. But, If you're ready to buy that as the end-all, be-all, go talk to someone who knows opera. Yet, if we narrow the point to the rock revolution? There. things look much different. Would the idea of modern rock opera, or the pop-opera of largely soundalike formulaic Disney musical movies, be part of today's genres, alongside earlier musical movies and classical opera? Would the thematic concept album have reached the screen, then the stage, as "Tommy," The Who's concept developed from "Pinball Wizard"-? Would other rock-opera productions, including "Evita," and "Grease," or musicals by Elton John and Roger Daltry, have ever existed to stand with Lerner & Lowe, or alongside "My Fair Lady," "Oliver!" and "Cabaret"-?

Second: Without Sgt. Pepper, would any hit rock band's break from a four-piece of electric guitar / rhythm guitar / electric bass/ drum kit have ever come? Sure, there's the given of the near accessibility in history to the previous generation playing their 78's at home, and how that generation engaged in a youthful stampede to swing music performed by orchestra. But, was the generation gap of the time too wide a gulf to breach, musically? Or, without Sgt. Pepper, would the gritty hippie voice of disillusioned reality have buried the happy-sappy songs of the Beatles? After all, the stuff the Lads from Liverpool performed pre- and post- Sgt. Pepper is incomparable with that album. An album that, for them, was an unrepeatable aberration, and for other bands, was such creative terra incognita that, if they tried to go there, they just sounded inadequately derivative.

Today's big labels live in a fear-driven rut, scared of anything that doesn't sound exactly the same as everything else. They don't even employ scouts to stand in the shadows at the clubs and listen for innovative new tunes or lyrics that grab you. But it wasn't always that way.

Once upon a time, creativity drove new projects. Innovation and experimentation ran rampant across the musical landscape. And labels signed the artists who broke new ground, because if they didn't, another label would scoop them up. Arguably, that started fifty years ago today, with a revolutionary thing that was since dubbed a "thematic concept album." And for a decade, it gave us a paradigm that has never been surpassed. Time to go back to the future.


All the latest on this weekend, PLUS plenty of music news, is in the previous edition of The Guide, at:


See you next time!


Ahead in the Guide...


Contrary to appearances the last couple weeks, we're really NOT going back into the daily music calendar bid'ness. But, that said... there is an irresistible bridge of tunefulness between the current weekends of festivals.

And we all know that if you rely on corporate mainstream media for your supposed news, you'd miss all these things. Along with 'purt near all the music news we bring you. So, we'll feature some select picks of concerts, etc., as we navigate the summer together.


As always, you know that a whole lot more is coming soon — including fresh MUSIC NEWS, PREVIEWS & REVIEWS, and more additions to our massive guide to the MUSIC FESTIVALS of 2017.

Meantime, with all that's about to happen that we report in the foregoing? Go get tuneful!



Boilerplate? Where's the main pressure gauge? And the firebox?

What "boilerplate"? Who came up with that goofy term for the basic essential informational stuff...

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Contents copyright © 2017,
Lawrence Wines & Tied to the Tracks.
All rights reserved.
♪ The ACOUSTIC AMERICANA MUSIC GUIDE endeavors to bring you NEWS — and views of interest to artists everywhere — more specifically to musicians and the creative community and music makers and fans of acoustic and Folk-Americana music. That includes both traditional and innovative forms. From the deepest roots to today’s acoustic renaissance, that’s our beat. We provide a wealth of resources, including a HUGE catalog of acoustic-friendly venues (now undergoing a major update), and inside info on FESTIVALS and select performances in Southern California in venues from the monumentally large to the intimately small and cozy. We cover workshops, conferences, and other events for artists and folks in the music industry, and all kinds o’ things in the world of acoustic and Americana and accessible classical music. From washtub bass to musical spoons to oboe to viola to banjo to squeezebox, from Djangostyle to new-fangled-old-time string band music, from sweet Cajun fiddle to bluegrass and pre-bluegrass Appalachian mountain music to all the swamp water roots of the blues and the bright lights of where the music is headed now.
The Acoustic Americana Music Guide. Thanks for sittin' a spell. The porch'll be here anytime you come back from the road.


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