Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Album: No, Not Everyone Enjoyed the Show

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It was 40 years ago last Friday that the Beatles released “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” widely, though not universally, considered the greatest rock album of all time.

In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it No. 1 on its list of the 500 greatest rock albums, calling it “the most important rock & roll album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock & roll group of all time.”

Jim DeRogatis, pop music critic for The Chicago Sun-Times, who says he was born the year the Beatles invaded America, 1964, offers a revisionist assessment in an essay on his Web site, adapted from his 2003 book, “Kill Your Idols: A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics.” His most concise appraisal, offered in four words, can’t be reprinted here because it would violate the newspaper’s standards on vulgarity.

His more expansive view? “The Beatles have just given us 39 minutes and 52 seconds of rather unremarkable, uninspired music with a central theme that’s conservative, reactionary and retrogressive.”

Critics at the time were also divided.

Writing in The New York Times on June 18, 1967, Richard Goldstein found one of the album’s songs, “A Day in the Life,” to be “one of the most important Lennon-McCartney compositions, and it is a historic Pop event.” But overall, he was unimpressed, calling the album “an undistinguished collection of work.”...

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