miércoles, 7 de junio de 2017

After 50 years, the magic of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band wears off | MercatorNet | June 7, 2017 |

After 50 years, the magic of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band wears off

| MercatorNet |  June 7, 2017  |

After 50 years, the magic of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band wears off

It was a fabulous album, but it ushered in an era of spiritual vacuity and crass materialism
Campbell Markham | Jun 7 2017 | comment 1 

Once, The Beatles were my gods. 
I discovered them at sixteen in Peter Brown’s superb biography, The Love You Make. (Brown was their roadie, he cracks a mention in The Ballad of John and Yoko.) The Beatles’ journey from post-war working class Liverpudlians to musical legends thrilled me, and led me to their music. 
My favourite outing became a visit to Perth’s State Library, listening to their albums one by one through the library's superbly expensive amplifiers and headphones. What anticipation, when you heard that slight knock and hiss as the needle drops into the groove!
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was never my favourite. I preferred the sweet melodies of Let It Be (notwithstanding Phil Spectre’s “wall of sound” production), and the acoustic ballads of the White Album. But every time Rolling Stone does aTop 100 Albums of All Time edition, there’s Sgt Pepper at number one. Every time.
The album’s cover is lush and fun. The Fab Four are dressed in faux-Victorian band costumes, each holding a classical instrument. They stand next to Madame Tussaud’s wax figures of themselves, looking as they looked only three years before with their bowl cuts and natty suits. A carefully chosen crowd of cardboard cut-out famous people surround them: from Karl Marx to Marilyn Monroe; from Lawrence of Arabia to Shirley Temple. (Hitler was left out at the last minute.) And right in the front row, for all the world to see, a neat little row of marijuana plants.
There are fourteen songs, almost forty minutes from beginning to end, packaged as a kind of live show.
The opening title track is a tight rock tune, grunge guitar interspersed with sound bites of applause and laughter. A French horn plays heroic fanfares.
Pepper flows seamlessly into With a Little Help from My Friends—they had the engineer cut the disk without any breaks between the songs. Ringo Starr sings in his flat and lonely baritone, setting up perfectly the superb McCartney sing-along chorus. 
Solo harpsichord opens Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. This is Lennon’s song, and his eerie vocals were created by recording the track at a higher speed, and then slowing it down. A sitar drone creates an Indian ambience, and the pub-sing-along chorus juxtaposes brilliantly with the dreamy verses. McCartney was a beautiful bass player, and on this track, like so many others, he supplies his trademark counter-melodies. 
Getting Better is my favourite track. It’s all Paul McCartney, though Lennon’s contrary “Can’t get much worse” lyric is his typically perfect foil to McCartney’s wry optimism. 
Fixing a Hole is a (too) pretty McCartney Tune, as is She’s Leaving Home: a lush harp and strings sob-song for emancipated sixties’ youth, so misunderstood by their parents. 
Side one finishes with Lennon’s Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite, inspired by a vaudeville circus poster. It has a jarring and sinister ambience, offset by McCartney’s bouncing bass.
Side two opens with the only George Harrison track (typically he was allowed two per album.) It’s a dreary five minute Hindu sermon, chanted, without any irony, in Harrison’s thickest scouse accent. Indian percussion and Ravi Shankar inspired sitar bring some interest. Is the burst of laughter at the end self-conscious?
When I’m Sixty-Four is a cheeky McCartney gem. Cheesy clarinets create a perfect pastiche of the kind of old-time dance band that his father led. Lovely Rita is McCartney’s response to copping a parking ticket. More wonderful bass. 
Good Morning Good Morning is manic Lennon chaos. The Beatles were on alcohol and amphetamines from the start. Dylan introduced them to pot in 1964. Later they experimented with LSD, and Lennon became a heroin addict. It really shows. The cleverest thing about the song is how the clucking chicken at the end segues into the opening rhythm of theSgt Pepper reprise. 
The album finishes with A Day in the Life. This is Lennon’s depressing response to a local newspaper article, broken up by a jauntily intense McCartney interlude. It is the only genuine Lennon-McCartney song on the album, but more half-half contribution than a true collaboration. The song features two cacophonic orchestral crescendos, and ends on a massive six-handed E major piano chord. To capture every last second of the sound the engineers wound up the faders so high that the faint creak of a chair and Abbey Road’s air-conditioning can be heard. The inner groove was cut with a nightmarish vocal babble. 
All in all, Sgt Pepper was Paul McCartney’s album, with only three and half Lennon tracks, and two of those pretty weak. In 1971 a jealous and bitter Lennon sang in How Do You Sleep, his embarrassing rant against his former friend, “So Sergeant Pepper took you by surprise...” 
It is often said that Sgt Pepper “created a culture.” No. It echoed a culture. A post-war culture rapidly descending into self-absorption, spiritual vacuity, crass materialism, and sex without boundaries. That’s where the title was prophetic. The culture that Sgt Pepper so flawlessly reflected and reinforced, left a depressing swathe of divorce, fatherless children, broken hearts, and loneliness
At this point I imagine my sixteen-year-old self reading this. He would have been angry: the anger of the worshipper whose gods are disrespected. And I hear others saying, “Lighten up! Sgt Pepper’s supposed to be a lark, just enjoy it you git!”
Well, I listened to almost nothing but The Beatles for nearly three years. I accumulated a pretty large collection of albums, original year releases, coloured vinyl commemorative editions, half-speed masters, and bootlegs. Every note of every album is deeply imprinted in me. 
Then the day came when I had had enough. There was nothing else to listen to, nothing else to discover. I had plumbed the depths of all that The Beatles had to offer. I wanted more, and God knows I even tried to find more in McCartney’s Wings, and his woefully lazy solo albums. (Was it his marijuana habit that murdered his genius?) 
It was about then that I discovered Christ. (Lennon wouldn’t have minded the comparison.) The temporary joy that I had once found in the State Library with The Beatles, I found in overflowing abundance in him.  Having consumed The Beatles, unsated, to the last scrap, I was in turn consumed by Him. Having dampened my soul in their puddle, I was now joyously immersed in His clear and boundless blue ocean. 
In the beginning was the Word,
And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through Him all things were made, and apart from Him nothing was made that has been made.
In Him was light, and that light was the Light of humanity.
In Him I will for all eternity discover thilling new harmonies, rhythms, countermelodies, and basslines. For when He sings, the heart swells to breaking, and the very galaxies shiver with delight. In Him the deep longing is assuaged.
Ah, The Beatles. Masters of the recording studio. Hopeless gods. I'm glad I moved on. 
Campbell Markham is a Presbyterian pastor in Hobart, Tasmania. He blogs at Campbell Markham: thoughts and letters.
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June 7, 2017

I always feel guilty when I catch myself complaining about mobile phones. Whenever I take a train, it’s comical to look down the platform and see heads of all ages tethered by long drooping white wires to metal and glass rectangles. On board everyone is busy playing game, adjusting play lists or reading Facebook. Occasionally you do see someone reading a book. There’s almost no community, no conversation, no interaction.
But then I reflect that MercatorNet’s job is to keep as many people as possible glued to those screens and I realise that it’s not so bad after all. They are probably all reading MercatorNet.
Joking aside, phone attachment is a serious problem, especially for teenagers. In today’s line-up of articles, Washington DC headmaster Alvaro de Vicente gives some very sound advice to parents about how to talk to their kids about smartphones. 

Michael Cook 

Should smart teens have smartphones?
By Alvaro de Vicente
An experienced high school headmaster tackles one of parents' biggest headaches
Read the full article
Love your grammar, but don’t be obnoxious
By Roslyn Petelin
The World Bank's chief economist recently lost his job by insisting on clear, grammatical prose
Read the full article
After 50 years, the magic of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band wears off
By Campbell Markham
It was a fabulous album, but it ushered in an era of spiritual vacuity and crass materialism
Read the full article
What’s wrong with prisoner euthanasia?
By Michael Cook
A US law journal investigates "the last frontier in prison reform"
Read the full article
Behind the homelessness trend: broken homes
By Carolyn Moynihan
An Australian study finds boys are the biggest losers.
Read the full article
Middle Eastern Christians feel betrayed by American Christians
By Luma Simms
An Iraqi Christian asks that for compassion for the plight of Christians in the lands where Christianity began
Read the full article
If you have the ‘why’ of living, you can find the ‘how’
By Margaret Somerville
Insights for the euthanasia debate from unpacking the concept of dignity
Read the full article
Tried in the court of Twitter
By Michael Cook
Tennis legend Margaret Court is being pilloried for opposing same-sex marriage
Read the full article

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