Sgt. Pepper’s: How The Beatles Disrupted Themselves

By on May 31, 2017

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Last week, I was conducting one-on-one interviews for a group of stations we work with. A 32 year-old guy named Christian walked into the conference room sporting a Jimi Hendrix concert T-shirt. As our discussion progressed, he told me how much he loves vintage rock, driven by a nagging feeling he missed out on something special because he was too young to experience the ’60s music phenomenon. In the qualitative research I’ve done, combined with the ratings and perceptual studies I’ve seen, there are a lot of young guys like him all over the country.

The truth is, he actually did miss a lot. As someone old enough to have enjoyed that music in “real time,” the memories sometimes obscure and even embellish the reality of what was really going on back then. Part of the story was the many groundbreaking historic moments 50 years ago. Race riots, the Vietnam war, and other big events dominated newspaper headlines.

But in the world of music in 1967, the major buzz was the release of another Beatles album. Back then, these events were reminiscent of the debut of an Apple iPhone, complete with long lines of fans who had to have the record on the very first day it went on sale. But the Beatles’ iconic “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album, released a half century ago, became an even bigger thing. Today, there’s a lot of hoopla surrounding the golden anniversary of this record. And for good reason.

So over the long holiday weekend, I took a moment to stop and think about its import and impact – what it meant to music, society, culture, and radio back then – and what it means to us today.

When “Sgt. Pepper’s” came out, the Beatles were already the biggest thing going, selling millions of albums and dominating radio airplay. America loved the Fab Four, so when they “broke format” and released “Sgt. Pepper’s,” it was more than just a musical fork in the road. It became a cultural turning point.

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