Monday, January 14, 2008

The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

(EMI, 1978)

Having successfully cashed in on the Manson murders two years earlier with the 45rpm re-release of “Helter Skelter,” the record label Powers That Be decided it was time once again to reach into the Beatles’ back catalog and turn a quick buck on an unspeakable tragedy. But instead of hitching their wagon to media-star serial killers, they would now hop onto the back of the Bee Gees’ much-hyped cinematic Sgt. Pepper fiasco. And so we have this lazy single, which slaps the opening Pepper mini-medley on one side and “A Day in the Life” on the other. Here, stripped of its context, that A-side is exposed as the slight intro piece it really is; it feels naked without the rest of the album following, its ending abrupt and unsatisfying. The listener can easily forgive the song(s) thanks to the undeniable presence of much charm – and the power of familiarity – but when listened to critically, “Sgt. Pepper”/“With a Little Help From My Friends” simply doesn’t work on a 7”. While “A Day in the Life” holds its own as a standalone track, EMI manages to screw things up by including a version (as on the 1967-1970 compilation) that does not have a clean beginning; despite trying to mask this fact by employing a quick fade-in, the audience noise from the end of the Pepper reprise can still be heard quite clearly at the song’s outset. Strictly amateur, to the point of being insulting. Faint praise or not, at least the sleeve on this Italian issue is attractive, which is more than can be said for the yellow monstrosity vomited forth by Capitol in the United States.

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