So may I introduce to you, the act you’ve known for all these years. There are two words in music history that, when combined, give you without question the most influential act in history. We’ve discussed this band before here on the blog, but today we dig into an album that is not only iconic, but the best-selling in a catalog that eclipses BILLIONS of albums sold worldwide.
Those two words? The and Beatles. Years ago, I talked more about their formation and how they began to make their impact on the business. But if you’re like me, early Beatles was obviously great music, but later Beatles is the stuff you go back to over and over again. When we look back around 1966, The Beatles had decided to stop touring all together. A move that would be insanity today since that’s the primary way artists make money now—but at that time they relied on their huge album sales. Without the burden of travel, The Beatles approached recording in an increasingly experimental fashion. Their goal during the process was to make everything different: the way they placed the microphones in the studio, changing the sounds of standard instruments using primitive equipment, and combining pieces of tape in bits to piece together the best parts of recording for each ten second music sample. The resulting album took nearly one thousand hours to record—would the herculean effort be worth it?
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band hit shelves in December of 1966. The influence behind their eighth album was Paul McCartney taking the hallucinogenic drug LSD while the rest of the group was away. John Lennon insisted Paul try it, but Paul held his ground until around this time. It brought the two songwriters closer together, and they both felt the drug led to an “expansive new sense of possibility” for recording. The concept was an Edwardian-era military band in the style of the contemporary San Francisco area groups from the time. Each member would take on a character of sorts, and they wanted to represent a new, fictional band. The alter ego group could say things and take stances because it wasn’t The Beatles, it was something different. Obscure, but the change in direction gave the band a newfound excitement and gave the album a life of its own.
Forty million. That’s the answer if all these shenanigans worked. It’s one of the best-selling albums in history, and it tops sales for their own catalog, which is monumental. In the U.K. it topped the charts for 23 consecutive weeks and 15 in the U.S. Critically, who was going to say anything bad about The Beatles? Even with a weird, drug-fueled concept album, critics lauded the record. But it didn’t merely change music, the album changed the world.
The Beatles were leaders in youth culture in the U.S. Younger people sought to be “lifestyle revolutionaries” and this album spoke to that subset in a way no other album ever had. It was a celebration in counterculture, and that’s exactly what they wanted. The album also legitimized popular music in a way that hadn’t been seen before. Once viewed as a fun, throwaway musical style—this album made it cool to be into pop music. And perhaps of most note, Alan Parsons argued it changed the way bands made music. He said, “people started thinking you could spend a year making an album and consider it a sound-composition. The album was a performance in its own right.” A formula to be followed for generations to come.
I could go on and on about this for another thousand words, but instead, just give it a listen. You probably have before, but it hasn’t gotten any worse, I promise. Climb in the back with your head in the clouds and you’re gone.
Top 3 Tracks:
- Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite
- Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
- Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
- A Day In The Life
- With A Little Help From My Friends