sgt. pepper on blue jay way (beatles ’68 part 1)

Es­ti­mated reading time is 9 min­utes.

THE BEATLES AS A GROUPas a rock & roll-based pop band—are an ex­ample of a gestalt, as the abil­i­ties and the ac­com­plish­ments of the group far out­strip what could be ex­pected of the four mem­bers knowing their in­di­vidual skills and tal­ents. This is not be­lit­tling their skills, which are many, but as their solo ca­reers made too ev­i­dent, each on his own wasn’t even close to what he had been as a Beatle.

The album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is also an ex­ample of a gestalt: any at­tempt to dis­sect the album into its com­po­nent parts (the thir­teen in­di­vidual tracks, the per­for­mances on those tracks, etc.) will fall far short of the overall ef­fect of hearing those thir­teen tracks as an album.

There were good rea­sons for it being the Greatest Rock Album of All Time for years, even if they are for­gotten now.


Man­ager and mentor Brian Ep­stein was the glue that held the pieces of the Bea­tles gestalt together.


The word gestalt is German and simply means “form or shape” (even if it sounds nasty: “He was sen­tenced to five years hard labor in the gestalt mines”). In pop­ular use in the Eng­lish lan­guage, a gestalt is de­fined by Merriam-Webster as “some­thing that is made of many parts and yet is somehow more than or dif­ferent from the com­bi­na­tion of its parts.”

In common par­lance, that’s the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

There is also Gestalt psy­chology or gestaltism, which is a phi­los­ophy of mind of the Berlin School of ex­per­i­mental psy­chology but that’s not what we will be looking at today.


RIAA BeatlesPepper stereo

Peter Blake’s out­ra­geous three-dimensional, Pop Art con­struc­tion was used as the front cover for the Sgt. Pepper album on every jacket in every country in which it was dis­trib­uted. This was most un­usual for the ’60s when some coun­tries al­tered or re­placed cover art for often in­ex­plic­able so­cial, re­li­gious, or po­lit­ical reasons.

Guaranteed to raise a smile

On June 1, 1967, Par­lophone Records in­tro­duced Sgt. Pepper and his band—apparently made up ex­clu­sively of un­at­tached men—to the Western world with its of­fi­cial re­lease of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album in the UK.

On June 2, 1967, Sgt. Pepper was re­leased in the US and other major markets.

On June 3, 1967, it seemed that everyone in the Western world who owned a turntable had pur­chased a copy of Sgt. Pepper and was playing it around the clock, often with their win­dows open so they could share it with their neighbors.


Sgt. Pepper was re­viewed in The New York Times, which was a major step for­ward in that a major media was treating a rock album as a le­git­i­mate form of artistic expression! 


The ef­fect of that album was un­like any­thing anyone had seen or heard be­fore and was an im­me­diate sen­sa­tion in al­most every country in the in­dus­tri­al­ized world.

Within a week (or so it seemed at the time), the Bea­tles con­quered that part of the world that had fended them off for the pre­vious four years (the in­tel­li­gentsia). The album’s flam­boy­ance, its joie de vivre, and its sheer over-the-top en­ergy and good good good vi­bra­tions ex­hil­a­rated mil­lions of listeners!

Every­thing the Fab Four were doing was coming up roses: even the less than stellar re­view of Sgt. Pepper by Richard Gold­stein in The New York Times (“There is nothing beau­tiful on Sergeant Pepper, [it] is busy, hip and clut­tered”) was a major step for­ward in that the “news­paper of record” was re­viewing a rock album as a le­git­i­mate form of artistic expression! 


Beatles AllYouNeedIsLove Odeon PS Germany

This is the pic­ture sleeve for the “All You Need Is Love” / Baby You’re a Rich Man” single is­sued by Odeon Records in West Ger­many. It was ar­guably the most at­trac­tive sleeve for this single re­leased any­where in the world in 1967.

Learn how to play the game

On June 27, they fol­lowed this major tri­umph with an­other when they per­formed their new single,All You Need Is Love,” on the Our World tele­vi­sion spe­cial which was the first live, in­ter­na­tional, satellite-beamed tele­vi­sion production.

These two events—the re­lease of a new and oh-so-groovy Bea­tles album and single—coincided with the Summer of Love in San Francisco:

The ‘Summer of Love’ refers to 1967—not so much be­cause that year saw a rev­o­lu­tionary new move­ment, but be­cause that was when the media came to iden­tify and focus on the hippy phe­nom­enon, the un­der­ground al­ter­na­tive youth cul­ture that had been brewing in America and Eu­rope for sev­eral years.

The focus was San Fran­cisco, where young people trav­elled from across America and be­yond, at­tracted by the promise of the chance to cast off con­ser­v­a­tive so­cial values and ex­per­i­ment with drugs and sex.


San Fran­cisco at­tracted young people with the chance to cast off con­ser­v­a­tive so­cial values and ex­per­i­ment with drugs and sex.


The Human Be-In rally in San Fran­cisco on 14 Jan­uary is con­sid­ered the starting point. Beat Gen­er­a­tion speakers and poets gath­ered in Golden Gate Park to cel­e­brate key ideas of the 1960s re­bel­lion: com­munal living, po­lit­ical de­cen­tral­i­sa­tion, en­vi­ron­mental aware­ness and ‘drop­ping out’. Jef­ferson Air­plane played and LSD was dis­trib­uted amongst the crowds when a power failure led to a break in the music.

The Haight-Ashbury dis­trict, where dis­af­fected stu­dent groups gath­ered, be­came the focal point of hippy coun­ter­cul­ture, and 100,000 young people ar­rived there over the summer. The local council sup­pos­edly came up with the title ‘Summer of Love’ to put a pos­i­tive spin on the druggy, hairy, hippy gath­er­ings that were por­trayed neg­a­tively by the media.” (The Guardian)

De­spite the Bea­tles’ en­deavors and those of the plan­ners of the Human Be-In and the Summer of Love fes­tiv­i­ties, having nothing what­so­ever to de with one an­other, for many the two are in­ex­tri­cably linked in their memory spools.

If it can be said that there was a time when the Bea­tles were sit­ting on top of the world, it was during June and July 1967. John, Paul, George, and Ringo were no longer merely the biggest pop stars in the world, they were now among the most im­por­tant and in­flu­en­tial people in the world!

The group’s fu­ture looked greater than ever.

What­ever would they do next?


Beatles MagicalMysteryTour 8Track US 600

Mag­ical Mys­tery Tour in this medium. The format was con­sid­ered a joke by col­lec­tors for decades but have been items of in­terest for years. Shrinkwrapped copies such as this are rather rare; these are usu­ally found without any box and in well-used condition.

Turn on and drop in

On Au­gust 26, 1967, the Bea­tles trav­eled to northern Wales to at­tend an in­tro­duc­tory sem­inar on Tran­scen­dental Med­i­ta­tion (TM) by Ma­har­ishi Ma­hesh Yogi.

Af­ter­ward, they held an im­promptu press con­fer­ence where it cer­tainly sounded like they were de­nouncing the use of mind-manifesting chemicals.

George de­clared, “LSD isn’t a real an­swer. It doesn’t give you any­thing. It en­ables you to see a lot of pos­si­bil­i­ties that you may have never no­ticed be­fore, but it isn’t the answer.”

Paul added, “You cannot keep on taking drugs for­ever. . . . It was an ex­pe­ri­ence we went through. Now it’s over and we don’t need it anymore.”

John ap­peared to be in ac­cord, al­though his state­ment was rather vague: “Don’t be­lieve that jazz about there’s nothing you can do, and ‘Turn on and just drop out, man,’ be­cause you’ve got to turn on and drop in or they’re going to drop all over you!”

This ap­parent de­nun­ci­a­tion of what everyone else seemed to be doing reg­u­larly re­ceived wide­spread media attention.


Beatles BrianEpstein June27 1967 1100

Brian Ep­stein with John and Paul in the studio on June 25, 1967, as they worked on the prepa­ra­tion of their pre­sen­ta­tion of “All You Need Is Love” on the Our World tele­vi­sion spectacular.

He was one of us

On Au­gust 27, 1967, Brian Ep­stein died from an over­dose of pre­scrip­tion drugs. He had been the group’s man­ager, mentor, and friend. Caught off-guard by jour­nal­ists at their TM sem­inar, John told the press, “He was one of us.”

Brian was also the glue that held the pieces of the Bea­tles gestalt together.

Nothing about the Bea­tles was ever the same again.


Beatles MagicalMysteryTour US poster PeterRauch 1974 500

This is the poster used by New Line Cinema for the pre­sen­ta­tion of Mag­ical Mys­tery Tour in se­lected the­aters around the country in 1974. Very few fans saw this poster in the ’70s; fewer still saw the movie on a big screen in the ’70s.

Dying to take you away

On De­cember 26, 1967, the Bea­tles’ mock-psychedelic ex­trav­a­ganza Mag­ical Mys­tery Tour was broad­cast on British tele­vi­sion. It was a homemade-type film in­spired by the LSD-fueled shenani­gans of Ken Kesey and his band of merry pranksters and their gar­ishly hand-painted bus Fur­ther.

Re­sponse to the show from fans to ca­sual viewers to critics ranged all over the place, which of it­self was un­prece­dented for a Bea­tles project: the Fab Four were used to im­me­diate and sus­tained ap­plause. While there were cer­tainly those who en­joyed the show without reser­va­tion, many viewers were baf­fled by the af­fair and even others thought the whole thing was a pile of poo.

What­ever the ac­tual num­bers of pos­i­tive to neg­a­tive rat­ings among British viewers, sched­uling it for broad­cast in the US was pooh-poohed. It found its way to US fans in a few in­di­rect ways:

•  In 1968, it was first shown in the US on Au­gust 11 at the Fill­more East as part of a fundraiser for the Lib­er­a­tion News Ser­vice.

•  In 1974, New Line Cinema ac­quired the rights for lim­ited the­atrical dis­tri­b­u­tion and it played in a few cities.

•  In 1985, an edited ver­sion was broad­cast on the cable TV se­ries Night Flight.

•  In 2012, it was fi­nally broad­cast in its en­tirety on US tele­vi­sion as a PBS spe­cial!


Beatles MagicalMysteryTour EP 600

In the UK and most of the rest of the then-civilized world, Mag­ical Mys­tery Tour was is­sued as a 7-inch al­bumin a gate­fold jacket with two pockets for two 45 rpm records with six tracks. The jacket also in­cluded a 24-page booklet af­fixed to the in­side. As clever a piece as it was, Capitol deemed it un­suit­able for re­lease in the US as the EP was a de­funct format by 1967.

The soundtrack EP and LP albums

The Fabs recorded six new songs for the sound­track to the movie and they were is­sued as the 45 rpm, seven-inch, mono-only, two-record EP album Mag­ical Mys­tery Tour in the UK and else­where. Need­less to say, it was a huge hit and sold over 600,000 copies in a matter of weeks.

In the US, the EP album format had been com­mer­cially dead for sev­eral years and as clever and en­ticing a package as the EP was, Capitol wisely opted not to issue it that way in the States.

In­stead, they col­lected five sides from three re­cent Bea­tles sin­gles and com­piled the 33⅓ rpm, twelve-inch LP album Mag­ical Mys­tery Tour, which was is­sued in both mono and stereo.

This LP was an even bigger suc­cess, selling 2,000,000 straight off in the US. Over time, most of the coun­tries in the world deleted the EP album from their cat­a­logs and re­placed it with the LP album.

Whereas Sgt. Pepper had been per­ceived as a “whole” and (er­ro­neously) judged the first “con­cept album,” Mag­ical Mys­tery Tour was a com­pi­la­tion from four sep­a­rate sources, a psy­che­delic pot­pourri of sorts.

Mag­ical Mys­tery Tour the movie and tele­vi­sion spe­cial was the Bea­tles’ first real failure since be­coming the Fab Four.

It would not be their last.

Man­ager and mentor Brian Ep­stein was the glue that held the pieces of the Bea­tles gestalt to­gether. Click To Tweet

Beatles Rishikesh Ashram Sajish 2 1000

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page was taken from the ar­ticle “The Bea­tles — Their Ashram and Their Cathe­dral” on the Tra­vails and Travel blog (March 23, 2015). The cor­re­spon­dent Sajish GP re­marked, “I had four days to kill in Rishikesh be­fore the start of a trek up in the snowy hills. On that par­tic­ular day, I de­cided to roam around a bit on foot and ex­plore Ma­har­ishi Ma­hesh Yogi’s aban­doned ashram more pop­u­larly known as the Bea­tles’ Ashram be­cause of its one-time res­i­dents who were here in the late ’60s.”

The units that the Bea­tles, their en­tourage, and other celebri­ties oc­cu­pied in 1968 have been left to the rav­ages of time and tourists, who have cov­ered the ex­te­rior and in­te­rior walls in mes­sages and art. Sajish posted more than 80 photos of the ashram and the graf­fiti within and without. To see these photos, click on over to “The Bea­tles – Their Ashram and Their Cathe­dral.

The Beatles ’68 (Tetralogy)

Here are the four parts of this not-particularly-deep look at the Bea­tles and The White Album:

•  Sgt. Pepper on Blue Jay Way (Bea­tles ’68, Part 1)
•  In Search of the Lost Mentor (Bea­tles ’68, Part 2)
•  Un­plug­ging the White Album (Bea­tles ’68, Part 3)
•  We’re All Get­ting Back to Our Roots (Bea­tles ’68, Part 4)



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