Deconstructing The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

I had to go to work on a Monday morning, and I hated having to go out in the rain.  I returned home to have a salad, and I took a nap while watching television.  It was raining steadily, and so I wore my boots and took my umbrella out to the theatre while “Deconstructing The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band” was showing.  Virtually everyone who came out to see this movie on this night was over sixty years old, except for me and a few others.  I didn’t know what to expect.  It was a lecture from a Beatles scholar named Scott Freiman.  He started with a quiz, a sort of Name That Tune, although I didn’t see what the point of it was.  He went through each of the tracks of the Sgt. Pepper album, usually isolating certain tracks of interest.  It seemed to me that an album with a concept growing out of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” would have been something really great, but that was not to be.  John Lennon did an introduction to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that we never heard.  There were interesting bits that we didn’t hear on the record, and the audience wanted more of that, I think.  “With a Little Help From My Friends” went through a change in the lyrics, and Paul had to encourage Ringo to hit that last high note.  On “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” George Harrison’s guitar went through speakers that made the guitar sound like an organ.  The girl who was the subject of the song was Lucy Vodden, who died of lupus at age 46 in 2009.  Freiman chose not to say much about “Getting Better” and “Fixing a Hole.”  “She’s Leaving Home” was inspired by a newspaper report about a girl who ran away from home, and it turned out that Paul by coincidence had judged that girl to be the winner of a dance contest on “Ready Steady Go!” on October 4, 1963.  Her name was Melanie Coe.  Paul sought someone for the string arrangement, as George Martin was producing a Cilla Black album.  There is a difference in tempo between the mono and stereo mixes of the song, with the stereo version being slower, changing the key from F major to E major.  “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” was inspired by a poster.  One track with organs was played at half-speed, with George Martin having to give an exhausting effort on foot pedals.  “Within You, Without You” all several Indian instruments on it.  Did the Western instruments add anything to the track?  I would say yes.  “When I’m Sixty-Four” was a song that the group did in the early days with different lyrics.  They would play it when their amplifiers went out.  The kazoos on “Lovely Rita” were combs wrapped in toilet paper.  “Good Morning, Good Morning” had changes in tempo and loads of animal sound effects, gradually going towards larger animals.  The reprise of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was written and recorded quickly, as Paul wanted to join Jane Asher at a party.  There were all sorts of interesting facts about “A Day in the Life,” like the lyrics inspired by a news report of a car accident victim, John’s experiences in filming “How I Won the War,” and some news about potholes.  There was some musical inspiration coming from Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe,” and the attempt to get 40 orchestra musicians to sound like 200.  After trying an ending with everyone humming, they went to the pianos and harmonium.  They added the run-out groove sounds, although a lot of us never heard any of it until 1987, when the Beatles album were released here on CD for the first time.  Gandhi initially was one of the people on the album cover, but the record company got nervous and airbrushed him out.  The two key inspirations for the album were the Mother of Invention’s “Freak Out!” and the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds.”  I did learn some things about Beatles music and the way it was recorded.  I heard things I had never heard before.  The film made me appreciate George Martin more than I did before.  I think that a lot of Beatles fans would enjoy watching this film.  I didn’t mind spending the fifteen dollars for the ticket for this screening.  This film gave me something.  I read a bit about Scott Freiman.  He earned a B.S. in Computer Science and Music at Yale in 1984, and an M.S. in Music Composition from New York University in 2005.  He taught a course called “The Beatles in the Studio” at Yale during the fall of 2012.  His book “All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release” was published in October 2013.  The rain continued to come down steadily.  I took the bus home and saw that I had missed the Supergirl episode.  I saw Carroll O’Connor on the Sonny and Cher show, and Juliet Mills on Match Game.  Some of the people who died on February 8 include Connie Mack (1956), John von Neumann (1957), Del Shannon (1990), and Anna Nicole Smith (2007).  Today is a birthday for Vince Neil (56), Nick Nolte (76), and John Williams (85).

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