Enjoy a spirited argument over the merits of ‘Sgt. Pepper’ in Bixby Knolls on Thursday • Long Beach Post

The ever-innovative Blair Cohn, the kingpin of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association, is putting together a volatile mix of cocktails and Beatles music Thursday, Nov. 29, at 6:30 p.m., with a pairing of two of Cohn’s more successful regular events: Knights of the Round (Turn)Table and the Good Spirits Club at the Petroleum Club, 3636 Linden Ave.

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A couple of glasses of loudmouth combined with varied opinions of the lasting legacy of the Beatles’ epic LP, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” could make for a spirited evening.

Knights, attendees will be discussing the 40-minute masterpiece, track by track, with expert insight and bits of trivia related to “Sgt. Pepper” while enjoying the mixological offerings in the Petroleum Club’s throwback Terrace Room.

There’s plenty to discuss when it comes to the record that Rolling Stone magazine has repeatedly posted as the No. 1 album of all time.

Whether it’s even the best Beatles record can spark a riot. There are fans who insist that that title should go to any number of other Fab Four platters, including, but not limited to, the White Album, “Revolver,” “Rubber Soul,” “Meet the Beatles” and “Magical Mystery Tour.”

When “Sgt. Pepper” was released on June 1, 1967, critics totally lost it, slobbering over each track and the work as a whole, wearing out their Thesauruses with superlatives, such as the Gramophone critic who called it “bizarre, wonderful, perverse, beautiful, exciting, provocative, exasperating, compassionate and mocking.” The London Times termed its release as nothing short of “a decisive moment in the history of Western civilisation.”

A more dispassionate reviewer might have ceded the fact that while “A Day in the Life” was Wagnerian in its scope and sprawl, the fact that the album had too many Ringo songs disqualifies the record from immortality (though Joe Cocker’s feverish deconstruction and rebuild of Starr’s “With a Little Help From My Friends,” proved that that song was worth salvaging for more capable hands.)

Further, two of the records’ best songs weren’t even on the record. “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” were released as a double-A-side single and were only tacked onto the album in its subsequent “deluxe” releases.

Still, yeah, a solid effort. And one made even better by Paul’s late dabbling with LSD and George’s sudden interest in Indian culture, which found him learning sitar at the feet of Ravi Shankar.

As the years floated by and critics had time to settle down some, they became less generous regarding “Sgt. Pepper.” The triumvirate of American critics, Greil Marcus, Robert Christgau and Lester Bangs all had misgivings about the record’s brilliance. The album’s lushness, with its clarinets, Indian instruments and a 40-piece orchestra, clashed harshly with punk rock’s ascendancy, and the album bottomed out in 1998 when a Melody Maker poll of people in the music industry termed it “the worst record ever made.”

There’s not much of a case to be made for that, of course, as it’s always dicey to call any work the greatest of all time, though I’m not going to fight anyone who says that honor should go to either the Rolling Stone’s “Exile on Main Street” or Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks.”

And maybe that’s an argument best saved for Thursday night, over a nice Manhattan or a martini.


Tim Grobaty is a columnist and the Opinions Editor for the Long Beach Post. You can reach him at 562-714-2116, email [email protected], @grobaty on Twitter and Grobaty on Facebook.

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