It was 60 years ago today… Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play!
Yeah, everyone’s saying it… but mostly saying “40”… but if Sgt. Pepper taught the band 20 years ago then, that’d be 60 years ago now. June 1, 1967 marked the release of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album, hailed today as a classic… Rolling Stone’s pick for greatest album of all time, it marked the start of the Summer of Love, and later, the point at which from then on, rock music was considered an art form.
Now 40 years later, McCartney taunts Dylan while a tribute album is being released. By the way, Paul McCartney was 64 last June; this year of course, he’ll be 65 as he looks back at the Summer of Love. And for all the talk of LSD, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds turns out to have been inspired by a drawing by John Lennon’s son Julian — of his classmate Lucy. In the sky, with diamonds. Bob Larson may never believe that “Lucy” is not a code word for “Lysergic,” but it’s true. Somehow, I’m remembering a radio interview I heard with either Peter Yarrow or Paul Stookey (I forget which) where at one point he breaks into song, singing, “Oh, Puff the Magic Dragon is not a song about drugs…”
A lot can be said about the Beatles’ and the Summer of Love. For instance,
A religious awe surrounded Sgt. Pepper. The LSD evangelist Timothy Leary, after listening to the album, reportedly said in a mystical voice, “My work is finished. Now, it’s out.” Leary actually believed he could hear the voice of God in the music of the Beatles.
Makes you not know quite how to take it when Dr. Timothy Leary said, “I declare that the Beatles are mutants, prototypes of evolutionary agents sent by God, endowed with a mysterious power to create a new human species.” Yes. Well. Moving right along…
The flower children of the 60’s have grown now, and a generation has passed along. Some of the flower children’s children — or their children are in Iraq. There’s a chilling thought.
An event was planned for San Francisco in June of 1967, and the Summer of Love was born. Nobody planned a grassroots revolution. You can’t do that, just as you can’t predict the depth of significance that something like this would have. But something changed. On the day the church was born during Pentecost, something changed. Change was in the air. In the late 60’s, the Jesus people began to form, and to re-form Christianity. The movement was viewed with skepticism by the established church but it ran strong for a while before it began to be morphed and shaped back into the thing it had left. Not all, of course… some left the faith, and others pursued their course, folding into the Vineyard or elsewhere.
But once more, change is in the wind. Oh, it isn’t new, and many people have seen or felt it already. Yearned for it, even. But it’s hard to predict where the tipping point will be, the “Summer of Love” or the Aldersgate. Whatever… but mark ye well, the wind is blowing. Recognizing that everything old is new again, get yourself a USB Turntable, pull out that old Sgt. Pepper LP and enjoy the breeze.
I ended up in California a couple of years after the summer of love, about the time the Jesus People stuff was rolling along [â€˜pass the collection plate. . . if you got bread give it, if you need some take it] â€“ I lived in Isla Vista [UCSB] in a communal house of Jesus People, followers of Guru Ji, and one fundamentalist atheist. Ate my first avocado at the hands of a Christian topless dancer. My bedroom was a black tarpapered room in the garage, no windows, just a mattress on concrete with one light, shining on the picture of Jiâ€™s guru. Dogs would sleep on the street and not move so cars would have to slowly drive around them. During a week long retreat type thing the two speakers were Joy Dawson [founder of YWAM] and Jim Jones [yep, of Jonesville]. Still, there was a lovely innocence to it all, fused, of course, with our own self-importance. Sgt Peppers still takes me back to that time.