Unlike most American teenagers, I wasn’t into the Beatles. Their songs didn’t reach me. They couldn’t be heard on their infamous Ed Sullivan Show appearances. Girls were screaming and crying and tearing at their hair. I didn’t get it. I dug the long hair because I was bugging my father, a retired Army Sergeant Major, to stop with the buzz cut hair and let me go Native. They weren’t playing Country so my pleas fell on muted ears.
The main reason I didn’t fall on my knees to worship The Beatles was that they didn’t have a keyboard player. Keyboard-less bands didn’t interest me. I was more into bands like Paul Revere and the Raiders, ? and the Mysterians, and The Doors. In fact, I became a Doors fanatic; buying each album the day it was released and studying every note that organist Ray Manzarek played. Morrison’s range fit my voice perfectly and his lyrics incited me during my time of rage and revolt against the establishment.
I was celebrating my 14th birthday on June 1st, 1967 at our rehearsal space in the basement of the O’Cash family. Timmy O’Cash flew into the basement with a copy of The Beatles latest album. We all sat transfixed as the platter spun on the turntable. We had never heard music like that before. Each song held a story that built from one to another. The structure of the songs were fresh, new, boundless.
Timmy flipped the record time after time. There would be no other music played that day. We were experiencing a revolution in modern music and outrageous messages about sex and drugs. And having sex on drugs. Flying high in the sky with diamonds with a little help from our friends. We smoked a lid while we listened. There was very little talk during songs. We allowed the sounds to permeate our ears and float our brains.
We scratched down several songs that we needed to add to our repertoire. “With A Little Help From My Friends” was obvious. “Strawberry Fields” was another, though I had no idea how I was going to simulate a harpsichord on my Farfisa (I built a fuzz box and filter that came close). “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” was clearly a reference to LSD, which had only recently reached our town and tongues. And, we had to do “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. The tune was just too much fun to play.
On February 29th, 1968, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band won Grammy Awards for Album of the Year, Best Engineering, and Best Cover. The collage of people on the front amazed and amused and has been studied by art students ever since.
Oddly enough, the album was the product of burnout. Following their tour in 1966 the members decided to stop touring. Since they didn’t need to worry about performing the songs live they were free to use whatever instruments, effects, and audio tricks the could imagine. If not for that final tortuous tour, The Beatles may not have produced one of the greatest albums in recording history.