The Beatles didn’t singlehandedly convince ‘the establishment’ that rock and roll was worthy of the same respect as ‘proper’ music, but they certainly contributed more than a fair shakes towards earning that respect. It’s generally agreed that Sgt. Pepper was a catalyst in establishing rock music as a real art form, and She’s Leaving Home is generally pointed out as proof that rock musicians are capable of producing works of great sensitivity and nuance. The youths of the time needed no convincing on this point, but the squares were reluctant to give those long-haired upstarts their due as songwriters and composers. All they needed was Paul McCartney in his most dewy-eyed mode, thoughtfully acknowledging the sad and inevitable gap between between generations and their inability to relate to one another, backed with a plush string arrangement. Now, of course, the artistic validity of rock as a genre is beyond any shadow of a doubt; if anything, it has become overly entrenched as the dominant cultural standard. It strikes us as outlandish and unthinkable that anyone would have ever questioned it.
Take a moment to be astounded once again. John Lennon got the idea for this song after watching a Kellogg’s Cornflakes commercial. A commercial jingle may seem like the last place anyone would draw inspiration from and if you did the results would surely be awful, but this is John Lennon we’re talking about. On Sgt Pepper he also found creative spark in a vintage circus poster and his son’s school art project. One could be tempted to say that finding fascination in mundane little things is just typical of a mind steeped in psychedelic drugs. It’s conventional wisdom to dismiss some of the brilliance of Sgt Pepper as drug-induced, but I believe that’s wrong. The Beatles weren’t using drugs to enhance their creative performance. On the contrary, they took drugs because they were already wildly creative and thirsty for fresh ways to see the world. Drugs, psychedelic or not, don’t do anything to bring about creativity if it isn’t already there. The Beatles were influenced and inspired by what they ingested, indubitably, but they were already brilliant and would have gone on being so without the aid of Dr. Robert.
Also, take a moment to celebrate what would have been George Harrison’s 69th birthday. Though technically, as he revealed shortly before his death, it’s was actually yesterday a little before midnight.