By MIKE CHAIKEN
Five decades ago, The Beatles released an album that changed rock music, proving that the music could be serious and complex… and can address more than boy meets girl.
“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
Sonically, the album showed the possibilities of recording technology.
And the album is still such a landmark that as it celebrates its 50th anniversary, there is buzz surrounding another effort releasing the album so it sounds even better than ever.
Coinciding with the landmark anniversary of The Beatles’ most famous album,Rain—a Beatles tribute album—will be performing the album from beginning to end when it steps onto the Fox Theater stage at Foxwoods Resort Casino this weekend.
Speaking about “Sgt. Pepper…,” Steve Landes , the guitarist who takes on the role of John Lennon on stage, said, “What’s particularly fascinating to me is it was 50 years ago that the album was released and that album sounds like it could have been released today.”
“It’s a combination of great writing,” said Landes, “and the band members were at their peak of their musicianship.” Add to that what George Martin was accomplishing as a producer of the band at Abbey Road studios, said Landes, “It was a perfect storm.”
The album changed what was expected of rock music at the time.
After “Sgt. Pepper…” was released, several other acts offered up their own forays into psychelic concept albums. For instance, the Rolling Stones released, “Their Satanic Majesties Request.” The Four Seasons even tried their hand at a Beatlesque-opus with “The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette.”
Most of those efforts are mere footnotes in music history.
Yet, 50 years later, “Sgt. Pepper…” is still a fixture of pop culture.
“The Beatles were pioneers,” said Landes. “They were one step ahead of the game… They were the ones that went farther than what everyone else was doing.”
Landes said the Beatles were tackling some serious topics that were atypical for pop music. For instance, he said, “A Day in the Life” was inspired by the headlines that John read in the newspaper. “Fixing a Hole” touched upon spousal abuse, said Landes.
“There were heavy, heavy topics. I don’t think anyone would have thought about touching upon them,” said the guitarist. “That helped give ‘Sgt. Pepper’ a weight, a more serious tone, and a personal touch that other albums of that time period did not have,” said Landes.
As a musician himself, Landes said he was impressed by what the Beatles were able to accomplish musically with just four guys, a producer, some session musicians, and four tracks of recording tape.
“It sounds so full,” said Landes of the album. “Those tracks are dense.”
At the time “Sgt. Pepper…” was recorded, it was impossible for the Beatles to recreate the album on stage.
But technology has changed that, said Landes. It’s now possible for keyboards and computers to realistically recreate the sound of strings, horns, and even guitars of “Sgt. Pepper…” What once may have required a stage full of musicians is now recreated by the four guys of Rain accompanied by a keyboard.
When Rain comes to Foxwoods, the show will follow the story arc of the Beatles history—from their performance on the Ed Sullivan Show to their break up. (The members will dress in costumes that re-create those periods.) They will take selections of songs from each period for the performance.
And when the Beatles story reaches “Sgt. Pepper…,” the group will perform the album from beginning to end for this tour.
Rain comes to Foxwoods Resort Casino they perform in the Fox Theater on Friday, April 21 and Saturday, April 22 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $60 and $45.