Fifty years after the release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the songs on the Beatles’ iconic 1967 album still sound fresh and contemporary. But it is not just the music that has relevancy for life in 2017.
Here are four lessons that Sgt. Pepper offers for today’s audiences:
Lesson 1: Technology
- Make great use of technology. It is a marvelous tool, but it is no substitute for the human brain.
The work that took place in Abbey Road Studios was historic. Producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick experimented with innovative recording techniques. The sounds and effects were new and often radical, but they worked, and the result was a record that Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature describes as "the most important and influential rock and roll album ever recorded.”
In the years that followed the release of the album, technology has become more and more integral to our daily lives. We rely on GPS for directions, auto-correct for spelling and Google for answers. But we do not always trust GPS; auto-correct often is annoying, and Google does not know everything.
Likewise, the Beatles recognized the tremendous potential of technology and made great use of it. But they did not just set the machines on auto-pilot. The creativity and human talent that John, Paul, George and Ringo brought to the studio was every bit as valuable as the machines and devices they used to produce the final product.
Lesson 2: Diversity
- Embrace diversity. It can, and will, enrich you.
While Sgt. Pepper was a stark contrast to the band’s earlier albums, the music – for the most part – still was recognizable as being from the Beatles. One notable exception was George Harrison’s “Within You Without You,” which featured a sitar and other Indian instruments, as well as spiritual lyrics that reflect Hindu philosophy.
Not only was the song included on the record, it is one of the longest tracks on Sgt. Pepper, and it has a prominent position on the album – the first song on side two.
Harrison was the only Beatle to play on the track, but the inclusion of “Within You Without You” on the album let audiences know that the band was open to exploring other cultures and valued Harrison’s composition. The song also helped introduce western audiences to the music, culture and religion of India.
Lesson 3: The Media
- People are quick to criticize the media, but journalists are just reporting what the public wants and needs to know.
The sentiments expressed at the start of “A Day in the Life” bear a striking similarity to the way we feel when we read today’s headlines. “I read the news today oh boy” could easily be one’s reaction to reports about terror attacks, political corruption and racial tension.
The lyrics also capture the public’s mixed emotions about the news. News reports often are depressing, disturbing and heart-wrenching. Nevertheless, the public is curious and wants to see such stories. After all, the song tells us that in the aftermath of a fatal accident, a “crowd of people stood and stared," and in another verse, the narrator explains that he “just had to look” even though “a crowd of people turned away.”
Lesson 4: Pop Culture
- Pop culture is even more important today than it was in 1967.
The Sgt. Pepper album cover features life-sized cardboard cut-outs of famous people, including a wide array of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Bob Dylan, Laurel and Hardy, Lenny Bruce, Marlon Brando, W.C. Fields and Fred Astaire.
The public always has had a fascination with celebrities and pop culture, but the growth and popularity of social media has intensified this fascination. Facebook, Twitter and other online platforms have broken down barriers that separated artists and their fans. Interaction and communication are easier than ever.
Pop culture itself plays a more important role in all aspects of our lives. In case you are doubtful, just remember that the man serving as America's president was a reality television star.