Classical 99.5 | Classical Radio Boston
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

It was 50 years ago today...

Robert Fraser/EMI Records Ltd.

On June 1st, 1967, the US release of the Beatles’ album "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band" rocked the music world. We're a classical music station, so why should we care? Listen to interviews with classical musicians, radio personalities, international rock stars, and more to find out.

One could argue that, in 1967, the release of any Beatles album was big news, but somehow this one was different; it was an album, a concept that wove its way through a marvelous collection of songs to create an overarching musical impression. At the time, some people described the album as symphonic in nature, especially because some of the instrumentation was not at all expected in rock music.

Fifty years later, Sgt. Pepper’s is iconic, a seminal release in the history of music, perhaps the first salvo in what would become known as ‘the summer of love.’ The album is a classic, of that there is no doubt. Many of the songs have been covered and rearranged by all kinds of singers and ensembles, and as a radio station that celebrates all that is classic, WCRB is marking this anniversary as there are so many musicians performing today who were touched by the album.

Celebrate this classic with us by hearing what some of today’s most celebrated musicians, and a couple of familiar WCRB personalities, have to say about what is arguably one of the most important music events of the 1960s.


Conrad Tao, pianist and composer:

"The use of the orchestra in 'A Day in the Life' was legitimately shocking to me as a teenager. There's just nothing quite like those two crescendos... This enormous, monstrous, crescendo comes out and grows and it's orchestral and it's dissonant, and it seems to be breaking out of every single confine you might be trying to put on it. And that, in the context of a pop song, is just incredible."


Billy Joel, singer/songwriter and pianist:

"They put the album on... and I went to another planet... I got the symphonic approach immediately... It had an arc, it had a concept, from beginning to end. The lyrics weren't necessarily what was tying the album together, except for the sonic effect that the lyrics had. But you knew you were listening to a cohesive work, from beginning to end, with all kinds of sounds, instruments, arrangements, rhythms, tempos, harmonies, that you had never heard before... It's similar to the effect that I have when I listen to a Beethoven symphony - I marvel at the construction of it, I marvel at the form of it, at the composition of it." 



Chris Kimball, host of Milk Street Radio:

"I remember... listening to Sgt. Pepper, and I didn't like it! It was too orchestrated. And I bought the album and after my 50th listen I ended up loving it."



James Taylor, singer/songwriter and guitarist:

"Being a part of that generation, and the music that was associated with it, and the... revolution in FM radio, and the way we basically communicated and sort of self-identified through the music... the fact that the Beatles just continued to grow and carry us through it, you know, it was amazing. And of course, Sgt. Pepper's was... revolutionary."



Keith Lockhart, conductor of The Boston Pops:

"I got to know [The Beatles'] music as a lot of music students do, when I was in college... you know, when you're hanging around the dorm room, nobody's playing Beethoven symphonies... you start looking at it - it's not a song you heard played at your prom, it's a song that amazes you with the compositional brilliance that goes into it."



Lara St. John, violinist:

"I know every single word to the album... I probably heard this album once a week for my entire young life, at least... I remember as a tiny kid, just sort of jumping up and down, and pretending to play the trumpet... to the opening and closing tracks."



Ron Della Chiesa, radio personality:

"I went into the store on Boylston Street... and there it was. This psychedelic cover jumped out at me. I looked at it and I said, 'I want to buy that album! Very appealing to me. The Beatles, I like their sound.' And this very... elitist clerk said, 'You really like those four troglodytes?' I had to look up the word!"



Janis Ian, singer/songwriter:

"I think there's an enormous influence that it's had overall, on artwork, on thematic continuity, on orchestration... the works. Because The Beatles and George Martin between them kind of said, 'Hey, it doesn't matter what you call it, it's just all music.'"



Richard Stoltzman, clarinetist:

"I held the album of Sgt. Pepper's in my arms and looked at the faces of all the Sgt. Pepper gang, and played the record through all the way from beginning to end, and thought about how I wish I could be with this band."