Rolling Stone magazine has called The Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band the most important rock and roll album ever made
The album topping the magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time also is 50 years old this summer.
Released on June 1, 1967, Sgt. Pepper spent 15 weeks at No. 1 on the U.S. charts and won four Grammy Awards in 1968 including Album of the Year.
In the United States, 1967 was the summer of Haight-Ashbury, flowers, and love. But its soundtrack was songs such as “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”
“Sgt. Pepper seemed to capture the mood of that year, and it also allowed a lot of other people to kick off from there and to really go for it,” said Ringo Starr in a recent article in Billboard magazine.
The Grand Rapids Pops celebrates Sgt. Pepper’s 50th Anniversary with The Beatles tribute act Classical Mystery Tour in DeVos Performance Hall.
Hear songs including “With a Little Help from My Friends” plus songs such as “Penny Lane” and “A Day in the Life” at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 28-29, with a matinee at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 30.
Tickets start at $18 adults, $5 students. Call Grand Rapids Symphony at (616) 454-9451 ext. 4 or go online to GRSymphony.org.
Besides music from Sgt. Pepper, the show led by Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt will include many more of The Beatles’ biggest hits.
Performing music from Sgt. Pepper is something the Fab Four never got to do. A year earlier, John, Paul, George and Ringo had given up performing in public. Even if they wanted to, it’s doubtful the technology of the day would have allowed them to perform music from Sgt. Pepper.
“We’re able to actually recreate these things live with an orchestra and mix the sound for the audience that sounds really good and close to the original recordings,” said Jim Owen, who portrays John Lennon, to CBS Philly in February.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was an album of many firsts. It was the first album to print the song lyrics in full. It was the first rock album to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year.
The cover designed by Sir Peter Blake at the time was the most expensive album cover ever made. The iconic cover featured people that The Beatles admired, including Mae West, Bob Dylan, Marilyn Monroe, W.C. Fields, Edgar Allan Poe, Laurel and Hardy, Karl Marx, Leo Alfred Einstein, Sonny Liston, Shirley Temple, Marlon Brando, Marlene Dietrich and Aldous Huxley.
See a photo gallery of the Sgt. Pepper album cover in detail.
The surviving Beatles are commemorating the milestone with a reissue release of the recording on May 26 with several packages including new mixes and unreleased outtakes.
Owen, who spent time as part of the cast of the stage revue Beatlemania on Broadway, launched Classical Mystery Tour in 1996 to perform music of The Beatles in public. His mates in the band – Tony Kishman as Paul McCartney, Tom Teeley as George Harrison and Chris Camilleri as Ringo Starr – all have spent time in road tours of Beatlemania as well as touring with some of the biggest names in pops/rock music.
Classical Mystery Tour, which has performed with more than 100 American orchestras, will make its fifth appearance with the Grand Rapids Symphony since 2004. The most recent was during the 2014 D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops.
With 20 years in the business, including several past performances with the Grand Rapids Symphony, Classical Mystery Tour has been playing Beatles songs for twice as long as the lads from Liverpool did.
John Lennon died tragically after he was shot to death in December 1980. George Harrison, a longtime smoker, died in November 2001 of complications from throat cancer.
Owen, however, never aspired to be a singer and songwriter like Lennon.
I’m really not that creative,” he told the Pittsburgh Courier-Post in January. “I’m not good at writing music. My joy is playing the music I love.”