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It Was Forty Years Ago Today*

Sgt. Pepper Taught The Band To Play

sgt. pepper / paul altobelli
sgt. pepper / paul altobelli

June 1st, 1967 the Beatles released what some feel is the greatest rock album ever made: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Do I think it's the greatest rock album ever? Yes. Without a doubt. It changed my life. Is it my favorite album of all time? No, that would be The Who's Quadrophenia. Pepper, incidentally, is not my favorite Beatle album either. That would be Revolver. Why I feel the way I do about Pepper being the best ever rock album ever and not my favorite is another post for another day. Today, I'd like to share a few Pepper stories with you.

In 1975, when I was about 10 years old, my parents took me to their friend's house for a cook out. It was an all day affair and there were no other kids to play with. Somehow, my mother's friend noticed how my brother and I were bored and told us to go her daughter's bedroom and see what she's up to. We found the daughter sitting on her bed listening to music. In her hands was the Sgt. Pepper album. I asked her if I could look at the cover. I recall staring at the cover with amazement. I never saw anything like it before. All those faces! I believe looking at that cover is why I recall this moment in my life. It was that profound.

A few years later, probably 1977, my DJ uncle, Steve Martorano, arranged to have the entire Beatles catalog shipped to my home. As I opened the boxed and looked at the covers I immediately recognized Pepper. Because I knew the cover I decided to play that album first. My brother, Stephen,  and I shared a small beige record player with a built-in 2-inch by 2-inch speaker. I remember placing the needle on the record and hearing the orchestra tuning up. Then it segued into an incredible guitar sound, unlike anything I had ever heard in my life. It didn't matter that the record player was shitty. the music was amazing. Up to this time, all I heard in my home was classical music and some skinny Italian singer named Sinatra. Rock music was not allowed in my home. For the next 39 minutes, I sat listened to not only my first Beatles album but my first rock album ever. Not a bad first choice, eh? For the next week, I played that album over and over again and started my life-long love affair with the Beatles.

Cut to June 1, 1987 - twenty years ago today. I'm working for the number one radio station in Philadelphia, WMMR. To commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the release of Pepper Capitol Records re-releases the masterpiece on CD. My music director, Erin Riley, gave me a copy of the CD. That afternoon, I went home and played Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in its entirety just like I did the first time I ever heard it some eight years before. This time, however, I didn't have to turn the album over to listen to side two.

Now, here I sit, June 1, 2007, listening to Pepper in its entirety just like I did twenty years ago. This time around I'm listening to the album via mp3 and through my computer. After all these years Sgt. Pepper is still an incredible listen and one filled with musical memories I'll cherish forever.

I'll leave you with my favorite song from Pepper, "She's Leaving Home." Enjoy.

Listen / Download:  Beatles - She's Leaving Home

*Today is June 1, 2017, and I'm listening to the 50th Anniversary Deluxe Sgt. Pepper LP on my new Pepper Red colored turntable.  What a thrill it is to listen to this masterpiece after all these years and feel the same wonderment I felt when I first played this album in 1977 -- forty years ago today.

Paul Altobelli

Home Office, 1219 Martin Ave, Cherry Hill, NJ, 08002, United States