Am I the only one who finds Sgt. Pepper's overrated?

When Sgt. Pepper was released there had never been anything like it before. Not just the music, but the unique theme, the album cover with the artwork and lyrics, and the inclusion of some cardboard cutouts, and on the record the songs that ran one into another. Innovation leads to imitation, improvement, and more innovation, so over time it didn’t hold up in comparison (although I still love most of the music, something I can’t say about many albums) but at that time it was remarkable and had a lasting effect on everything that followed. I won’t try to judge the music myself but I don’t think you can judge the album by a simple comparison track by track to other works.

Okay, what reasons did critics give for loathing prog rock? And do those same criticisms apply to Sgt. Pepper’s?

It might be overrated in comparison to other Beatles albums. But NOT in comparison to other albums in general. It is both a landmark album and a classic.

In fact, I’m a little sad they’re folding in Magical Mystery Tour songs into the SGT. Pepper reissue, rather than reissuing MMT, which was, I thought, just as good as SGT Pepper (I know they both came from the same recording sessions, though).

As indicated upthread tho, there were contemporary bands pretty much doing equivalent stuff at the same time (so, no, not “before” per se, but it wasn’t like they were doing things that took other bands years to catch up to). Plus prog began more with Days of Future Passed than with Sgt. Pepper.

I was born in 1962 and had certainly heard of the Beatles forever, but didn’t really start listening to them until after they broke up, about 1973 or 1974 I think. Kids back then didn’t really listen to music, we had more important things to do - outside!

I remember getting SPLHCB on 8 track around 1976 and thought it was OK. I didn’t realize at the time how critically acclaimed it was. It was just another Beatles album to me.

I would pick Abbey Road, A Hard Day’s Night, Revolver and Rubber Soul (in that order) as my favourite Beatles’ albums.

There are some really good tracks like Sgt. Pepper’s, With a Little Help from My Friends, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!, and A Day in the Life. But I also think there’s some filler material like Getting Better, Lovely Rita, and Good Morning Good Morning. The rest of the tracks fall somewhere in the middle.

There’s no disputing the genius of the Beatles though.


When I was about 7 my brother gave me several albums. Probably wanted to shape my tastes, get me away from the C&W my folks liked. :slight_smile: Anyway, he gave me Sgt Pepper, Abbey Road and The Beatles (white album). Later he took TWA back, and thank goodness! You want to talk about overrated - I have no idea what people see in that POS.

I don’t think Sgt Pepper is overrated, not one bit. It’s probably my favorite album. Love every song except Within You Without You. Abbey Road is probably second, but, as an album, critically-speaking you have to admit the second side is just a bunch of unfinished ideas strung together (but, in a pleasing way!), Maxwell and Octopus are just fluff, and I Want You has no “there” there.

Innovation rarely emerges from a vacuum. There are almost always bits and pieces to be found elsewhere, even copied individually, but someone has to put it together and make it work.

Have you guys been over to this thread?

Someone has remade Sgt. Pepper’s to the original Star Wars movie, and it is fucking brilliant!

“Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever,” which were released on a single three months before Sgt. Pepper, were originally meant to be on the album. If they had replaced some of the dead wood that ended up on the album (“Within You Without You”; some of Paul’s crap on side one), it would have truly been the Beatles’ masterpiece.

This. Completely this.

I think Sergeant Pepper suffers because people think of it as a “concept album,” and it really isn’t, as even the Beatles readily admitted. Frank Sinatra had already paved the way with theme albums in the 50s, but those are different beasts altogether. I think what made Pepper different was a more subtle thing: it was really the first time a pop group had experimented with consciously adopting a new persona.

We look back on the career of the Beatles and we divide them into the mop-top phase, the experimental phase, etc., but that’s post-hoc reasoning, and nothing the Beatles thought very much about themselves. Sergeant Pepper was really the first pop album that called attention to its own artificiality, certainly the first one from a group so popular and influential. The Beatles were the most famous entertainers in the world, with an image and personalities everyone knew; for them to consciously present themselves as something else, however playfully, was completely unprecedented. (It also bears remembering that the group had decided they would no longer tour, something no one else other than Elvis had done; McCartney, in particular, saw this as an opportunity to explore what being in the Beatles meant as they entered this uncharted territory.) All this gives the album a layer of distance and irony even though most of the songs have nothing to do with the so-called concept of Sgt. Pepper’s band.

Some of this distinctiveness fades as more time passes between the Beatles’ heyday and our own. Pepper isn’t my favorite Beatles album, and it’s not the one with the strongest songs. But I don’t think you can dispute that it’s their most ambitious work, and I think as a deliberate statement by the world’s most famous pop group consciously working at the peak of their influence, it’s interesting in a way Revolver or Abbey Road isn’t.

I wouldn’t touch Within You, Without You. One of the best songs on that album. I may agree if you get rid of Good Morning, Good Morning, or the reprise (but I suspect that might not count, since it fits into the concept album framework.)

Similar to The Doors/Jim Morrison - they released their debut in January 1967, and Jim was dead by July 1971. And yet in that short span they released 6 albums; 62 songs in 4 years.

Agreed. Makes no sense.

George deserved at least one track.

Sgt. Pepper catches a moment in time - trippy, experimental, flowery. I guess the point is the biggest music combo in history made a concept album about dropping acid.

Game changer, as the kids say: kicked mainstream culture in the nuts and wrestled it to the ground in a headlock.

Another factor to take into account is that the Beatles had a hell of a lot more play on the radio than the Doors and Jimi, and radio was THE way for bands to be heard. It’s not like today with multiple ways to get music.

Also, for all the “panic” over the fab four and rock n roll, the Beatles were seen as a lot “safer” and more wholesome than either of the other two. I recall friends whose parents would let them listen to the Beatles but would forbid/confiscate Doors, Jimi, and a lot of others.

As time went by and it became easier to listen to stuff “harder” than the Beatles (either because you grew up, moved out of your parents’ house and could listen to whatever the hell you wanted, or more venues for music like today) then St. Pepper’s was re-evaluated by many.

Just for the record - I’m in my mid-50’s.

Fair question- the only wishy washy answer I can give is… “Yes and no.”

Part of what critics hated about ELP was the showing off, the lengthy drum solos, the lightning fast (but sometimes pointless) keyboard noodling. Did “Sgt. Pepper” inspire any of that? Of course not. None of the Beatles were virtuosos.

But lengthy songs, orchestration, navel-gazing lyrics… yeah, all the stuff critics hated in The Moody Blues, Procol Harum, Yes, King Crimson and Genesis are definitely on display in “Sgt. Pepper.”

Almost every song on Sgt Pepper is under three minutes, and the two “long songs” are about 5 minutes.

I don’t hear the similarities between prog rock and Sgt. Pepper’s at all. I mean, I’ve heard it said that the Beatles inspired prog, but I don’t really buy that. The aforementioned Days of Future Passed is a much closer spiritual genesis to the movement. I enjoy some prog (Moody Blues, Genesis, King Crimson), but I see nothing incongruous about a critic praising Sgt. Pepper and not liking what he hears in ELP and Yes! and whatnot. To me, prog rock’s most defining characteristics are long song lengths, extended instrumental sections, technical proficiency, and experimental harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic (time signature) structures. There are little hints of that in Sgt. Pepper (Within You, Without You, A Day in the Life), but, to my ears at least, only the most oblique connection with progressive rock music.

Forgive the slight hijack, but since this is a “Sgt. Pepper” related thread, there’s a bit of trivia I have heard repeated but never found an authentic source to confirm it. Perhaps someone might be able to cite it?

Anyway, one of the things that the album Sgt. Pepper is purportedly famous for is pioneering an expansion of stereophonic sound. Up until it’s recording, the apex of recording technology was the four-track recorder. That is, four individual recording tracks (the percussion tracks, guitar tracks, vocal tracks, sound effects tracks for example) could be combined in a single composition, allowing for a clearer, more distinct playback of each of those elements. Apparently the “establishment” experts said that four tracks was the limit and there could be no possible expansion beyond four-tracks.

Then, during the “Pepper” recording sessions, Lennon wanted to create more complex instrumentation (such as the orchestra on “Day in the Life”) which – according to prevailing wisdom – simply couldn’t be done. Lennon’s solution was to make a four-track element of some of the background elements for his songs, and then created another four-track recording but using that first four-track as one single track within it.

And thus, as this apocryphal story goes, eight-track recording and then 16-track recording was born. (All of which has long been outdated, but was a significant evolution in recording technology at the time.)

Can anyone verify this story? I’ve heard several people tell it, but never to my recollection seen it actually cited.

That doesn’t sound right, as 8-track recorders have been around since the mid-50s.

Are you talking about bumping tracks? (So, record four tracks, mix it down to one track, record further tracks, mix them down into another one, etc…) I’d be shocked if the Beatles were the first to do that. I imagine the technique would have been pretty obvious from the early multitrack machines.

Reading through this page on Les Paul (the first name that came to me in regards to multitrack recording), it seems like he was doing this kind of stuff in the 50s, if I am understanding your anecdote correctly.