Gregg Allman

Gregg Allman – Spotify

They finally caught the midnight rider.

How big was the Allman Brothers Band? They HEADLINED the biggest rock festival to date, Watkins Glen, with 600,000 attendees. The Band opened, but their hits and impact were in the past, and out of steam they broke up just a few years later. The Dead? This was not the Dead of today, a legendary act known by all who were godhead, with a soulful guitar player who took you on aural trips…that was the ALLMAN BROTHERS!

IDLEWILD SOUTH

That’s what I heard first, that’s what most people heard first. And the opening cut, “Revival,” was nothing like what ultimately made the band famous, it was tight, it was energetic, it exuded both confidence and a will to impress, but listening to it one knew not that southern rock would soon infiltrate not only the airwaves, but our consciousness. Yes, let’s state for the record right now, the Allmans were the progenitors of southern rock. They made it before Skynyrd or anyone else, they were the first with twin lead guitarists, we’d almost never seen two drummers, they came to play, and you certainly realized this when you heard the first side closer, “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” when the guitars locked on and took you on a mellifluous journey that required no visuals, you could just lay your head back and close your eyes and dream.

But what pushed “Idlewild South” over the top, was “Midnight Rider.”

There was the picking, the percussion, the groove, the feeling like you were riding a horse, and then…

I don’t own the clothes I’m wearin’
And the road goes on forever
And I’ve got one more silver dollar
But I’m not gonna let ’em catch me, no
Not gonna let ’em catch the midnight rider

This wasn’t about fast cars and private planes, although their manager, Phil Walden ultimately owned an aircraft, but the MUSIC! That’s right, the road really did go on forever, from Florida to L.A. and back again, with a stop for Duane in Muscle Shoals in between. You either had a hit record or you played in the studio or live. The Allmans had no hits. So, Duane quit the studio and they ground it out on the road. In an era where people put out albums and then toured and then recorded again, but the Allmans were different, they kept playing and playing, they were convincing customers one by one, but with no help from either the press, which hated the south, or promotional shenanigans, it was purely the music.

And then came…

LIVE AT FILLMORE EAST

It was closing, New York’s most legendary venue. And the closing night band, the headliner, Bill Graham’s favorite, the best in the land according to him, was the…ALLMAN BROTHERS?

They had no hits, were barely known, it’d be like Jason Isbell being the headliner at Coachella. There was a radio simulcast, but most of the focus was on the appearance of the suddenly resurgent Beach Boys, and then, at the end of August, the album came out…

Wake up mama, turn your lamp down low

You only had to drop the needle.

WHAT WAS THAT? You were immediately grabbed by the throat, made to pay attention, you fired up a doobie, even though it was still two years until most knew that term, sat on the couch and listened through, all four sides, and one thing was for sure, no one said the package was TOO LONG!

How could this be, how could a band emerge so fully-formed? It would be like stumbling upon a Ferrari in 1910, you suddenly got it, what all the excitement was all about.

And as energetic as “Statesboro Blues” was, “Trouble No More” was just as energetic, but different. It was like going on a date with your crush, the girl you admired from afar, and finding not only was she just as beautiful without makeup but she had a 3-D personality. And you know how that goes, when you’re pinching yourself, it never lasts.

And it didn’t.

Duane Allman died.

DREAMS

Just one more mornin’
I had to wake up with the blues

We planned to see the band in Providence. You traveled to see your favorite bands, but not by plane, you loaded up in old American iron, Chevys and Fords, and drove for hours just to be in the auditorium, it wasn’t about being seen, but being in the same room with the magicmakers. It was a badge of honor, before you had any idea what the experience was like, long before MTV, when every show was a new adventure.

But the Allman zenith was still two years off. Atlantic put out a two album retrospective on Duane, the band soldiered on, but still so much of America was clueless, because to reach everybody you had to be on AM radio, but just like now, there are pockets of people who will keep you alive, huge pockets the press misses until an event like Watkins Glen.

So newly-minted fans went back and bought not only “Idlewild South,” but the initial LP, where it’s all there, even an abbreviated “Whipping Post,” it’s just that the production kept the band too contained, they were so busy getting it perfect that there was one percent missing, and that one percent is everything, it’s what pushed “Fillmore East” over the top.

AIN’T WASTIN’ TIME NO MORE

Well lord, lord Miss Sally, why all your cryin’
Been around here three long days, lookin’ like we’re dyin’
Go step yourself outside, look up at the stars above
Go on downtown baby, find somebody to love

The band was soldiering on, so we got onboard, we jumped on the truck carrying the giant peach and listened…

But the emotional cost… Now all the weight was on Gregg’s shoulders. Dickey stepped up, but that ultimately caused problems, but the band was even more successful.

You wanna know why you have so many friends named “Melissa”? That’s straight off “Eat A Peach.” Never underestimate the power of music, the power of a band.

RAMBLIN’ MAN

It’s a Dickey song, written and sung, but it’s this number that made the band the biggest in the land, you could go nowhere without hearing this tune, to the point where you couldn’t push the radio button soon enough to end it.

If you didn’t live through the era you’ve got no idea what I’m talking about, no act today has this ubiquity, not a single one, just talk to the average person about Taylor Swift or Jay Z or Ed Sheeran and they’re flummoxed, but everyone knew ‘Ramblin’ Man.”

And a lot of women are named “Jessica” because of the instrumental on the second side of “Brothers and Sisters,” which dominated dorm room play all fall, but my favorite track on the LP is ‘Come and Go Blues.”

People say that you’re no good
But I wouldn’t cut you loose, baby, if I could

Bad boys with bad girls. Not everybody went to college, not everybody was on the fast track, life was about meaning as opposed to accomplishments, and our beacons, our instructors, were these bands, these acts. We looked to them for direction.

LAID BACK

And on the heels of this great success with “Brothers and Sisters,” Gregg released his initial solo LP, a victory lap that swept up every woman in America, that touched every male’s soul, you see here was the coolest dude on the planet singing about his weary life, this twentysomething with long golden locks had seen more than we ever would in a lifetime and he was deigning to tell us about it, in a slowed-down version of “Midnight Rider” and the definitive version of Jackson Browne’s “These Days.”

I’M NO ANGEL

And then the band petered out. Made an ignored record, broke up, got back together, you never counted them out, but now we were in the video era and on to something new and then came this, from a survivor, a cut he didn’t write but that expressed his ethos perfectly, Gregg Allman was no angel, but he’d SURVIVED!

Kinda like Keith Richards, but an American, someone we could relate to, not a man who made a pact with the devil, but someone who’d lived the life, taken some chances, and had emerged on the other side.

There was the Cher episode. Which was incomprehensible, but when she complained he was passing out in his dinner plate, inside you laughed, she snagged him, but she hadn’t changed him, you couldn’t change Gregg Allman, the midnight rider.

He dated a famous porn star. Got married again, had children, and didn’t worry about you judging him, he just lived on, and then he had another hit!

ANYTHING GOES

My favorite cut on the “I’m No Angel” album, there’s a moment, after the break, when Gregg Allman reaches down deep and at the top of his lungs screams…ANYTHING GOES! It’s at 3:20 in the song if you wanna check it out, and it’s moments like these that are personal, that keep you going, putting one foot in front of the other, so when we were hanging out before the show…

Yes, I ain’t got no money, but I’m rich on personality, and that has allowed me to meet all my heroes, get e-mail from them, it thrills me, and about an hour before they took the stage at the Greek I was introduced to Gregg and I had to ask him, about that emotive explosion.

Now you’ve got to understand, they’re not like you and me.

First and foremost, he was wearing his boots, the original American rockers never got over the Beatles. And he’s towering above me, and he leans down to my ear, his long hair almost falling on my shoulder, and he starts whispering, telling a story, sotto voce, like we’re the only two people in the universe, like he’s gonna reveal a deep dark secret.

“I can’t hit that note every night. But there are certain evenings, when I’m sitting on the piano bench, and I reach over to hit a note and my left nut gets caught under my leg and I yell ANYTHING GOES!”

I swear to god, just like that, that’s about an exact quote.

And he backs off, stands straight, but gives me a poker face, and I’m not sure if he’s making fun of me, pulling my leg, putting me down, or initiating me into the ways of the road, making me an honorary insider, but one thing’s for sure, he was still COOL!

DESDEMONA

They’d been on Atlantic/Atco/Capricorn, jumped to Arista and Epic, everybody wanted to give the band a chance, everybody still believed, but the act didn’t truly recapture the magic until they made a record themselves, for their Peach label, “Hittin’ The Note,” which was a complete return to form, but had no impact.

This is rare. That the magic can be recaptured, check this number out, the whole damn album, to experience it.

PEAKIN’ AT THE BEACON

And when your record company has stolen all your money, that’s right, the Allmans got a judgment against Capricorn but could not collect, and no one is interested in your new recordings, what do you do?

You bury the hatchet and go on the road.

Suddenly the Allmans were available. Everywhere, on a regular basis, but nowhere as much as the Beacon, they owned it, figuratively if not literally, they were recapturing the Fillmore magic at James Dolan’s pleasure palace, and that meant no showiness, no over-the-top elements, just pure music.

One time I sat on stage, right behind Gregg, where you could see the tattoos on his arms as he tickled the ivories, supporting the band in front of him, despite the act carrying his name, being untenable without him, but he saw himself as just a musician, one of the group, but I remembered, we remembered.

THE ROXY

Wait long enough and you can see your favorites up close and personal. That’s what’s weird, you’re lamenting their loss when they were just here, readily available. And it made me crazy that the crowd refused to listen to the quiet numbers, but Gregg could still sing and play. And when I was in the dressing room after the show he wanted to talk…

This is always surprising. You learn not to say hi if you’re not introduced. But then they know who you are and you express a few pleasantries, and then there are times you realize…they’re thrilled to find a friendly face, thrilled not to have to press the flesh and go through the motions, when they want to open up and converse.

And you’re flummoxed. Not sure exactly how to act. Whether to fawn, which is usually a mistake, talk about the world at large or put forth the questions that have always haunted you.

I went for the questions.

And this man with the pink skin and the white beard and quiet southern voice answered them all.

That’s the last time I saw him.

GOD REST HIS SOUL

So what have we learned?

That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.

These classic rockers have to stop dying.

But some are broke, some lived so hard their bodies have given out.

But one thing’s for sure, they lived.

It would be great if Gregg was still here, but no one can say he didn’t make the most of his 69 years on the planet. Sure, he could have made other choices, stopped the drugs and alcohol earlier, but when you’re testing limits, making it up as you go, sometimes you fall down the hole, but the amazing thing about Gregg is he always climbed out of it, until now.

He didn’t take his own life, didn’t die in an accident, he just lived hard and used himself up.

But he left a legacy. Of not only hits, but a whole way of life.

First and foremost he was a musician, whereas today it’s more about being a star. He paid his dues, he earned his success.

And he wrote these songs. It’s one thing to play in the band, quite another to improvise a solo, but to compose the changes and the lyrics, that’s what we marvel at, how did he come up with this stuff?

Duane’s death was a surprise.

Berry’s almost a fait accompli.

And then they kicked Dickey out of the band and Butch took his own life and now Gregg has succumbed, all that’s left is ashes, the Allman Brothers are no more, but the records live on.

And those records, they weren’t repeats of what came before, rather the Allman Brothers improvised upon what once was and created something brand new.

And Gregg’s life had many twists and turns, but he got bitten by the music bug and lifted himself out of the land of single parenthood to have an impact, to burn an impression upon a whole generation. And, like I said, he was never one of us, he had too much charisma, he was too cool.

He survived. All the death, all the bankruptcies, all the substance abuse, but now he’s gone, and we’re all feeling the loss.

You see, when done right, music is unique. It might be part of a genre, but you never mistake one great for another. You knew when you heard the Allman Brothers, you knew it was Gregg Allman when his voice came out of the speaker, and although you thought you knew him, you really never could, because he was different from you and me, and it’s these different people, these gods, these musicians, we look to enrich our lives. Not the techies, not the bankers, not social media sensations, but the players who sit down and overwhelm us with their talent, the sound they create.

WASTED WORDS

“God Rest His Soul” is from the 1989 Allman Brothers boxed set “Dreams,” when that was still a thing, when you hungered for the outtakes, the alternative takes, long before Napster. And nothing I’ve written will tell you as much about Gregg Allman as much as listening to one cut, and the one cut I listen to most these days is “Come and Go Blues,” not the one from “Brothers and Sisters,” but from “Dreams.”

People say that you’re no good

Believe me, Gregg had haters, long before the internet, long before Twitter.

Don’t ask me why I stay here, I don’t know

When an act touches your soul you can never deny them, you still follow them, play their new tunes, you never forget, you stay attached.

Well maybe I’m a fool to care

We’re all fools, we baby boomers who refused to join corporate America and decided to make this music our life, we just wanted to be involved, closer to these musicians, Gregg Allman was bigger than Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg or Warren Buffett could ever be.

Without your sweet love baby I would be nowhere

They needed us as much as we needed them, it was a mutual experience.

Here I’ll stay, locked in your web

We’d play the records and just the records over and over again, they were not a distraction, they were the main event.

‘Till that day I might find somebody else

We never did, find somebody else, that is. We liked other bands, but we never forgot you.

Well I seem to stay down on the ground
Baby I’m too far gone to turn around

This is me, this is you. Our records are our most treasured possessions, I’ve never sold my vinyl, not because it sounds better, but because I built that collection, that’s me, thumb through those records after I’m gone and you’ll get a good picture of who I am.

Oh, if only you would make up your mind

The great thing about Gregg Allman is his mind was made up, he knew where he was going, he stayed the course, refused to sell out and be someone else. Never got plastic surgery, never overexposed himself on game shows, he’d play along, but always reluctantly, because he knew his residence was behind his instrument, in a rehearsal room, on stage.

Take me where you go, you’re leaving me behind

Yes, I feel left behind. I’m sure you do too. I got the news and felt at loose ends. How can this be happening? Death is final, you mean he’s never coming back, I’m never gonna see him sing “Midnight Rider” one more time, how can that be, what am I supposed to do with myself now, now that I’ve dedicated my whole life to you and your ilk, I’m not ready to join that great band in the sky, but it seems they’ve got better players than we have down here.

Now they’ve got you.

Billy Bob In Goliath

While I’m talking TV, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how exceptional Billy Bob Thornton is in “Goliath.” It’s on Amazon Prime, and although half the households in America have it and don’t have to pay for it nothing on that outlet gets any traction, it seems people don’t know how to pull the service up or they don’t have a Roku or it’s not on Apple TV and they don’t know how to operate their smart TV but I wouldn’t count out Amazon, it’s a long game and that’s the one they play best and they’ve got oh-so-deep pockets and I’m not saying you have to watch “Goliath,” because it’s a typical David E. Kelley legal drama with holes galore, but Billy Bob Thornton, the excoriated actor who moonlighted as a musician, he’s FANTASTIC!

We seem to have forgotten the power of the individual. Of one person to make a difference. I’m not saying of one person to become successful, we have multiple iterations of that, we prop up nitwits for nothing and marvel at their remuneration but they’ve got no talent, whether it be the YouTube stars with their gaming and fashion tips or the models, even the one-dimensional pop stars fronting for Max Martin, but then there are talented people so good that what they say makes a difference. Like some people on Twitter. You need to follow Steven Rattner (@SteveRattner), the disgraced investment banker who went to work for Obama as the car czar. He took over for Felix Rohatyn at Lazard Freres, left media for the money, and now he’s returned to media, writing occasionally for the NYT and tweeting not only emotion, but facts, and if you still believe in facts it’s a revelation.

And one great band member can carry a whole act. How many have survived the loss of their lead singer? There’s Genesis and Van Halen, although both acts were the same yet different, but there are so many others with charismatic frontmen who couldn’t soldier on, whether it be the Doors or now Soundgarden. You see the magic is often in one person.

And millennials don’t get this, they’ve been taught it’s best to be a member of the group, they didn’t want to raise their hand in class for fear of standing out.

And business school is all about teams and relationships. God, if I hear the word “networking” one more time I’m gonna explode. Is that what life has come down to, finding people you can use to get ahead? And people have no shame, they want to go to lunch, talk on the phone, just so they can express their agenda, use me to further their careers, they do it unabashedly, which is why the odds of me talking on the phone or getting together with you are so damn low, although now I will have scared away the reasonable people but the unreasonable ones have no shame.

Which brings us back to Billy Bob Thornton, the rugged individual walking his own way who we get mad at because he doesn’t comport with our desires, doesn’t do it the way we think he should. Hell, all these years later it’s Jian Ghomeshi who’s the loser, funny how time lifts those who deserve attention and buries those who don’t. Which is why you can tune out today’s music scene for a couple of years and miss nothing, because none of these people are gonna last.

The heroes of America used to be rugged individuals. Hell, I can start naming them and continue for days. Whether it be Steve McQueen, or even musicians like Bob Dylan and John Lennon. These are artists we can’t take our eyes off of.

We can’t take our eyes off of Billy Bob Thornton in “Goliath.”

And sure, the role is written for him. The moral lawyer who can’t handle the results of his excellent work who goes off the deep end and trashes his life, ruins his family and career. But there’s still an inner mounting flame. And when it’s given oxygen, the old Billy Bob fights the goliath, because if you don’t believe in something, if you’re not fighting for something, why even get up in the morning?

The cinematography is incredible. William Hurt is acting at B level. Molly Parker is always great. Maria Bello acts to the limits of her ability, which unfortunately are not anywhere near Billy Bob’s, and you end up seeing that Nina Arianda deserved all those Broadway accolades, she’s not Hollywood beautiful, but she can ACT!

But Billy Bob is in his own league. He carries the whole damn show. Because he’s so damn BELIEVABLE! In an era where no one is, or there’s no one home. You think he really is the character. Who is willing to bob and weave and tolerate slights all in the furtherance of the ultimate goal, sticking it to the man.

Does anybody want to stick it to the man anymore?

No, they want to BE THE MAN!

But we’d rather watch the outsider, look to the lone gunman, the person outside of the system, not beholden to the rules, who thinks for themselves, they’re the beacon.

Like Billy Bob.

The Keepers

You’ll never look at the Catholic church the same way again. When you hear the word “Archdiocese,” you’ll shudder.

Netflix is CBS Records. A monolith that’s making money that’s spending money that needs something to hit, but not everything to hit. That’s what’s wrong with the HBO model, they’re so busy developing exceptional product that it takes years, and what results can often be lame, can you say “John from Cincinnati”? Whereas on Netflix you just ignore the detritus and go for the gold.

And “The Keepers” is gold.

You’ve got to start with the viewer reviews. Which are nearly five star. Before this we watched an episode of “The Crown,” which had three stars, even though I’d heard personally, albeit from a Brit, that it was a winner. Great acting, great production, but it was like watching paint dry, I’m not sure we can endure another episode.

But then I saw “The Keepers,” which I knew nothing about, but noted the rating and decided to give it a try.

Who killed Cathy Cesnik?

When’s the last time you even saw a nun. We used to laugh that we saw them driving around in their station wagons back in the sixties, but now all the nuns in this program have left the church and I read they’re having a hard time recruiting but the sixties were different.

Boy were they different.

They were the bridge to where we are now, the future, but they were also a bridge to the past, the fifties and forties and…

Can you abuse teenagers and not have the word get out?

You’ll be watching “The Keepers” yelling back at the TV, you truly can’t believe it, how could Father Maskell have perpetrated such crimes without anybody talking, without the word leaking out?

That’s the power of the Catholic Church, that’s the power of intimidation, that’s the power of fear.

So you’ve got two old ladies who decide to research the death of their teacher, the aforementioned nun, Cathy Cesnik, back in ’69.

And then you realize, you were in high school at the same time. And do you look as bad as they do?

We stop looking in the mirror at some point, we stop seeing ourselves the way others do, but the truth is age takes a toll, or maybe it’s got to to do with income, maybe I’ve been living in L.A. too long, with the focus on the physical, but you see these people, all good-hearted and earnest, and you ask yourself, am I too over and done, one step from the grave, already thrown upon the scrapheap?

But then you realize the power of these people, the persistence, to bring to life a fifty year old crime!

And at times “The Keepers” is slow too. And at times it’s a bit manipulative. You’re going down one path, but then they suddenly go down another, which explains it all or opens a whole new door, but you can’t stop watching, because you’re so intrigued, you want to know what happens, how it turns out, in a city that’s not New York or L.A., where everybody’s just living their life, where everybody didn’t go to college, where somebody graduates from Catholic school and marries a carpenter and they buy a house and raise two children, that was the American Dream.

But it doesn’t work anymore, the numbers don’t add up, did you see the WSJ article how “Rural America Is The New Inner City,” disadvantaged economically? You can’t make it there and you can’t make it here, because in the metropolis you can’t afford real property on your salary, so much has changed.

I don’t know families with ten kids anymore. Oh sure, they’re on reality TV, but it used to be you went to school with kids who were number five out of seven, or… And frequently their dads weren’t rich, in this case the father of ten was a cop, but they believed in the church.

I’m not sure anybody believes to that extent anymore. Oh, you’ve got a vocal minority talking about God, but they’re not so true blue, every televangelist seems to have been busted for faux pas. But in Baltimore in the sixties, the church ran the community, everybody was Catholic, and the Archdiocese circled the wagons, and that always scares me when they do that, the groupthink, protecting the institution, my dad was an outsider, an outlier, and I guess I inherited his genes, and when you go against the grain, speak the truth, you’d be shocked at the abuse you endure, it takes a lot of strength to be the “other,” which is why none of these women came forward.

And when they eventually do, eons later, they’re dragged through the mud. Ain’t that America, where it’s the victim’s fault. And if you don’t think it’s our philosophy, you haven’t been paying attention to Ben Carson, to Trump’s budget, the problem with the poor is they’re lazy, if they’d just pull themselves up by their bootstraps, fly straight and get jobs… Whew, and these are the people who keep testifying how compassionate they are! It’s like America has lost its soul, especially when you see the corporate compensation just published in the “New York Times,” these wankers make more in a year than most people will make in a lifetime, more than your whole apartment building will make in a lifetime, your whole NEIGHBORHOOD! Does anybody need that much money? Does anybody DESERVE that much money?

And believe me, the Catholic Church has money. To paper over problems.

And now all the religiosos are pissed at the Pope, who wants them to worry about climate change, take care of the less fortunate, that’s the ruling class, they embrace something as long as it’s expedient, then they abandon it.

And you WILL think about all of the above when you watch “The Keepers.”

And I won’t say the conclusion is so satisfying, but like life the journey is worth it.

And what we’re talking about here are lives, of reasonable people, whose journeys on this planet were ruined, by one man, who the Archdiocese covered for. Justice doesn’t always reign.

But ultimately “The Keepers” makes you feel part of a community, you’re not a scumbag, you wouldn’t put up with this, you’d report it…

But would you? What if the police didn’t take action? What if everybody dismissed you, said you were telling lies?

Life is much more complicated than it looks on the surface.

But it’s rarely complicated on screen, producers believe the public can’t handle it, they need everything wrapped up tight, so they can go to sleep at night. But there are enough loose ends in “The Keepers” to keep you up for a week.

WATCH IT!

P.S. It’s seven hours long. Conventional wisdom keeps telling us we’ve got short attention spans, we love to multitask, but the truth is we’re dying to turn off our phones and dig deep into something meaty, at length. We want to go along for the ride. Sure, we can hop from crap to crap. But when we find something solid, WE’RE IN!

The Sgt. Pepper Remix

The Sgt. Pepper Remix – Spotify

It’s sacrilegious.

Couldn’t they leave well enough alone? Do the Beatles need any more money? Isn’t Capitol/Universal flush enough? How dare they mess with our memories.

Assuming you were there the first time around, when “Sgt. Pepper” engrossed us and changed our perceptions of what was and what could be.

That’s right, it was 1967. Almost nobody was buying albums! It was still a singles world, dominated by AM radio, within the year underground FM radio would start in San Francisco, but FM didn’t penetrate the heartland for nearly five years, maybe more. The point being, “Sgt. Pepper” was a REVOLUTION!

It was not on the radio, because there were no singles. As for the two prior LPs, “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver,” their UK iterations had hits, the material was darker, more expansive than what had come before, but it wasn’t all of a piece, it didn’t all hang together, “Sgt. Pepper” came from outer space, it was unexpected.

And word did not spread immediately. What I hate is the rewrites of history. Like the Beatles were successful because they were a respite from JFK. NO! The Beatles would have been successful at any time, because they were just that damn good, furthermore the youth were bursting at the seams, to break the walls of control of their parents. To say it had to do with JFK is like intimating that Michael Jordan was so damn good because Bill Clinton became President, huh?

As for the remix… It’s great that gems come out of the vaults, not that anybody listens to those double-CD Beatles packages from decades back, only collectors and uber-fans, but when you mess with the essence… Hell, they still can’t agree whether Roger Maris broke the home run record, since he played in 162 games instead of Babe Ruth’s 154, and then the steroid-enhanced brutes topped that and no one even talks about home run records anymore, that’s what happens when you can’t agree on the rules, when you mess with the rules, which is what’s so great about music, it’s laid down and that’s it. The creator dies but their records live on. Come on, listen to some Buddy Holly, he’s still alive on wax, he’s an inspiration.

So “Sgt. Pepper” comes out and a small fraction of Beatle fans buy it. And back then sales were anemic compared to the MTV/CD era, people had less money, they depended upon the radio. So when you bought the LP, you were a party of one. It’s like watching “Game Of Thrones” if it weren’t on HBO and you’d never seen an episode previously and there was no internet. You’d tell the people you came in contact with, but getting someone to buy an LP unheard is nearly impossible, and when you play something for somebody they usually don’t get it, you’ve got to marinate in it yourself, bask in the tunes, let them unfold.

Now of course there was the cover. And sure, there were a bunch of personages on it, but that wasn’t the story, that was the ERA! Of pop art, of minimalist art, of black lights and psychedelia. Art was the fashion of the era, and it wasn’t about sales/money, it was about testing limits and the Beatles were part of it and wanted to push the envelope. So sure, you looked at who was depicted, but you were even more impressed by the fact that the Beatles were playing a role. Only a few years before there were no gatefold albums, there was only a picture on the cover and an inner sleeve promoting other acts on the label. The Beatles had taken over the complete package, they were standing apart, that was what was so confounding and influential, it’s like they resigned from the game to create a new game. And for all those who prefer “Abbey Road” or the White Album, you have to know, they were nowhere near the artistic breakthrough, they were song collections, “Sgt. Pepper” changed the course of history, suddenly everybody else wanted to make an album-length statement, hell, everybody wants to make an album-length statement to this day, BECAUSE OF SGT. PEPPER!

So what exactly was this? The Beatles or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band?

And the opener, the title cut, rocked in a way the band usually did not. This was long before heavy metal, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple and eventually Black Sabbath and Metallica. This was uncharacteristic, but in the pocket. This was Paul exhorting like he used to when he imitated Little Richard, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” hearkened both forward and backward, and you never ever heard it on the radio, never.

As for “With A Little Help From My Friends”… Ringo needed friends? It was the insecurity that resonated. How he just needed someone to love.

And then “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”… No one even knew what LSD was, this was before every young American read Tom Wolfe’s “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.” All we knew was this was a dreamy song sung by the most emotive Beatle, who always seemed to believe what he was singing, and it made you want to drop out and join the circus. Never forget, the Beatles caused kids to question all their precepts, to jump the tracks, no Beatles, no San Francisco and Summer of Love.

I used to get mad at my school
The teachers that taught me weren’t cool
They’re holding me down
Turning me ’round
Filling me up with your rules

HUH? Only scant years before the Beach Boys were singing we should be true to our school, we got no truth in popular culture, and suddenly the Beatles were singing what we felt inside, calling a spade to spade, with optimism underneath. There’s the sixties right there, the younger generation thought about the possibilities, it wasn’t millennials saying they’re mired in debt and they’ve got no future, the world was our oyster!

As for “Fixing A Hole”… How many times did you have to listen, to contemplate the lyrics, this wasn’t a straightforward ditty, this was a vision from beyond, a place where you wanted to go, where you questioned EVERYTHING!

And leaving home… We were misunderstood, people were voyaging from the homestead in droves. Your parents weren’t your best friends, they didn’t get you, you wanted to cast off the reins.

“Mr. Kite” was part of the concept, ethereal and otherworldly, the words and changes resonated.

As for “Within You Without You,” if you got it immediately, you’re lying. But if it was on a Beatles album it deserved our trust, we had to listen, we had to unpack it, we had to get it. And sure, some boomers were old, in their early twenties, but most were just teens, this Eastern philosophy was new to them, they knew the Beatles had gone to India, they wanted to know what it was all about.

But they never thought they’d be 64, they just listened and bopped their head.

But you fell in love with Lovely Rita, were woken up by the rooster in “Good Morning Good Morning” and after the reprise, which was brief but even more energetic than the original opening anthem, you were forced to contemplate at length how many holes it took to fill the Albert Hall.

WHAT WAS THAT?

No one listened to “Sgt. Pepper” and immediately pronounced it a classic, it was just too different. But because funds were limited, you flipped the record over and played it again and again until it revealed itself. AND IT DID! There were no clunkers, you developed favorites, you learned the lyrics, and you started to break away from the paradigm, you were no longer a slave to the radio, you’d been set free.

Hell, it wasn’t until the White Album that the paradigm permeated the public at large, when everybody bought the double LP not caring whether there was airplay or not, but they’d been primed by “Sgt. Pepper” and the cascade of imitators. And everybody seems to forget that the White Album cover was, white that is, as a rebellion against overspending on artwork, the music had to speak for itself. That’s right, the Beatles were innovators, testing limits, not doing market research afraid of pissing off potential customers. They didn’t come to you, YOU CAME TO THEM!

But now they’re coming to us. With this inane remix.

It’s just not the same. It’s not like “Sgt. Pepper” wasn’t released in stereo to begin with. And it was the wash of sound that knocked you down and overwhelmed you. It wasn’t about the individual voices or instruments, but the entire passion play you were exposed to.

Fifty years ago.

I kinda get anniversaries, not that the Beatles, or “Sgt. Pepper,” have been forgotten.

But in this era of streaming the focus on the original would have been good enough. A few minutes with the remix and you’re offended and tune out. As for the extras, you can’t even listen through, they’re curios. But when you put on the original LP, you’re brought back to what once was.

When music was the hottest art form in the world.

Practiced by men secure in their abilities and vision.

Who decided to push the envelope, creating the modern music business in their wake.

That’s how it was, don’t let them rewrite history.