I once mentioned to someone that I didn’t get to hear the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper” album until I was 16 years old. He was amazed! For him, Sgt. Pepper was like a children’s record - something you listen to in grade school. But I came upon the Beatles in a more roundabout way.
For many years, all I knew about the Beatles was that they once existed. I was born the year they split up. I had no albums. When I finally listened to a beat-up copy of Sgt. Pepper that I had found at Value Village, I finally began to understand what all the fuss was about. This was a very well-done album. A lot of thought went into it. It was similar in some ways to the old Sesame Street albums! It was a presentation of something. And although it could be argued that it’s not their best, or that “it doesn’t hold together” as John Lennon once commented, the fact is that it is something. It has form even if the form is not always clearly defined. Plus, in many ways, it was better than most of the modern music I was listening to at the time.
Although I missed “Beatlemania” and all that, I still learned to appreciate the Fab Four through their musical talent. I knew their songs through other sources. The Seekers' version of “Yesterday” is still my favorite. One of my favorite school memories involves singing “Here comes the sun” with my class. And I knew the opening riff of “Day Tripper” long before I ever heard Day Tripper. Their impact was evident long before I ever heard “Sgt. Pepper.” But Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road kind of proved once and for all that these guys were brilliant, and I became a fan. I don't even have all of their albums. But it's quality over quantity. I have what I really like.
Sgt. Pepper partially inspired me to return to the world of making cassette tapes. Only instead of just putting one song I liked after another, I began to think about the tape as an “album” - a collection of songs that worked together somehow. I began to imagine what kinds of songs would sound well together, and also what kinds of songs meant the most to me. It would be as if I were doing the singing myself. It would be my own personal album.
The ultimate result of this was a cassette from circa 1990 that contained the following:
“The Snowman” intro. (“Walking in the air”)
“He” - Al Hibbler
“Cryin’ in the rain” - Everly Brothers
“Yesterday” - The Seekers
“Dreamin’” - Johnny Burnette
“It’s a Sin” - Pet Shop Boys
“Goodbye is Forever” (single remix) - Arcadia
“For Emily, wherever I may find her” (live) - Simon & Garfunkel
“The Boxer” - Simon & Garfunkel
“Sing” - The Carpenters
“Blowin’ in the Wind” - Peter, Paul & Mary
“When I’m 64” - The Beatles
“Walking in the Air” - From “The Snowman” soundtrack
“Bright Eyes” - Art Garfunkel
“A Day in the Life” - The Beatles
Now how’s that for eclectic? It’s almost like a diary for me. When I listen to the songs, I remember that particular time & how I felt. I learn more about myself. I’m a pretty weird guy, obviously. I praise the goodness of God while at the same time lamenting my own sins. I find myself fighting the world yet trying to find beauty in it. I’m wondering about death. I’m turning to the world of dreams in order to turn away from the loss of love.
Anyway, I continued making tapes for many years, although being a perfectionist, I often would get angry at tape dropout issues and such. The world of CD recording has helped eliminate much of that issue, yet I find that as I transfer those tapes to CD, I keep in many of the imperfections. Hey, they’ve been in there so long, it’s like they’re part of the album.
Obviously, I’m not the only guy who does this. I think making your own compilation album is one of the great joys of youth - or any age, for that matter. It’s a chance to gather together the things you like and enjoy them. It’s like “scrapbooking” for your ears. And as mentioned, you learn about yourself.
If you’ve never done this, I encourage you to try this exercise. You have an hour-long tape that needs to be filled. It’s your one chance to make a real album. But if you can’t sing or play an instrument, you’ll just have to put someone else’s music on there. Which songs will you choose? What kind of an album would you like? The answers will teach you about who you are.
FAVORITE BEATLE ALBUMS: Sgt. Pepper, Abbey Road, 1963-1966, 1967-1970, Please Please Me
FAVORITE BEATLE SONGS: Please Please Me, Yesterday, She Loves You, A Day in the Life, When I'm 64, Lovely Rita, Here Comes the Sun, Octopus' Garden, Something, While my guitar gently weeps, Twist and Shout, A Taste of Honey, Do you want to know a secret, Help!, A Hard Day's Night, We can work it out, You've got to hide your love away, With a little help from my friends, Yellow Submarine, I am the Walrus, Hello Goodbye, Norwegian Wood, and I'd better stop now or we'll be here all day.
FAVORITE BEATLE WIFE: Linda McCartney. (Sigh)
Hello, Mom? Uh, listen, Mom, would you mind not reading this next paragraph here? It’s got something kind of secret in it. Is that okay, Mom? It’s nothing bad, I promise. Just don’t read it. Okay? Thank you.
If you enjoyed Kim Thompson’s “All the great operas in ten minutes,” you can buy a copy of your own from Kim! Just contact her at her website:
http://http://www.giantsquirrel.com/. And if you haven’t seen the film yet, it’s in my favorites folder on my YouTube page:
It makes a great gift for your mom’s upcoming birthday!
Okay, Mom, you can come back now. Mom? Mom it’s okay to come back now!