Friday, 4 March 2011

Memories From The 60s: "Sgt Pepper Knew My Father..."

Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club
Inner sleeve by Peter Blake
Here's my first guest post on Retrospace.  

I recently invited a friend of mine, Nigel Corten, to share some of his personal memories of the 1960s and particularly key moments.   

Today, Nigel remembers the release of The Beatles groundbreaking album Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: 

"It's not a sign of old age, but remembering where I put the car keys, or anything ten minutes ago, have always been a problem, who doesn't share that one? But remembering buying records and the music from all the bands and soloists way back in the Sixties is no problem for me. 

After She Loves You, and still my favourite Fab Four 'B side, I'll Get You, I was hooked on the Beatles big time, and I always made a point of being outside Maurice White's record shop in Skinner Street, Newport, Monmouthshire, before he opened at 9am on Fridays, which were the new release days back then, to buy the latest single or album.

Sgt Peppers was released on June 1, 1967, a Thursday, which was not unusual, as, if memory serves, a lot of records were released in all the big cities in the UK a day before places like Newport ­ this feels right, but I can¹t be too sure.

I remember the day I bought Sgt Peppers, it was a Friday, and was very hot.  This time I couldn't make it to Maurice's shop for the much-awaited album, as I had to be on my way to Bristol early to join up with my mate from Pontypridd and go ten-pin bowling somewhere in the city, but I still bought it on the day, courtesy of a record shop in the city, who benefited from my one pound thirty shillings (£1.50 pence) this time.  

I drove myself to Bristol in my beat-up old Ford Consul, and I remember wishing for the day to be over, as I just wanted to get home and play the album.

When I arrived back home, about 6pm-ish in the evening, my mam and dad were getting ready to go out to the Ebbw Bridge Club in Newport for a show.

My parents were typical of the day, they just liked some of the 'modern music', but that was putting it politely, as they must have suffered mightily from my constant commandeering of the family Bush record player, mainly belting out the Kinks and the Beatles' wonderful stuff.

The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Album Was Released on June 1 1967
My dad, Humphrey, had a soft spot for John Lennon, as he thought he was a bit of a cheeky lad, always smiling and doing that wide-legged bobbing up and down stance and roaring out Twist and Shout and Rock and Roll Music from other albums.

I put Sgt Peppers on as quickly as I could, and I remember it didn't last long, must have been the magic of the moment.  I remember the songs being instantly brilliant, save for George's Indian epic, sorry George. But it was the final track, A Day in the Life, which grabbed the attention of me and my dad, as he was spellbound by it, and they were late leaving for the show because of it. I well remember the look on his face and him passing some approving remark about it.

If memory serves, when he came home from his Saturday morning shift at the docks the next day, he specifically asked me to put on A Day in the Life, even though I was in the middle of another track. This was very, very unusual for my dad, and testimony to me what a brilliant track it was.

I remember that sublime and lingering phrase by Lennon, "I'd love to turn you on". It was a very American term at the time, and very new. We sort of knew what it meant, but they were very innocent days and only thought it meant that you¹d like to impress a girl you fancied.

The Mono Version Of Sgt Pepper's
Lonely Hearts Club Band
Another thing from the album was Ringo's drumming, unbelievable for the times, especially on the opening and closing Sgt Peppers pieces.

Bang up to date, I've recently acquired a mono version of Sgt Peppers, and, hearing it on modern earphones, found that the sound really came at you in one big surge, track after track, and all the 'impurities' of the original recording only add to the brilliance of the album, that what was way beyond groundbreaking back then.

Hearing it on the earphones also confirmed my belief that McCartney is the greatest and most innovative electric bass player of all time.

A few might laugh at that, but you had to be there. Trust me; he brought a whole new dimension to records with his contributions brilliantly just walking around inside each track. For me he really led the way for other bassists to make their mark in all the bands that were to follow.

They were great days back then, and music like Sgt Peppers were the soundtrack to everyday life, be it for a humble apprentice printer like myself, or a battle-hardened Second World War soldier, and docker, like my dad. - Says it all, really."

Nigel Corten

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