Another Message from Bob….and more Sgt. Pepper

Bob Stockton 1967

Once again, Life has conspired to delay a column, this one being Part Two of the Sgt. Pepper/Beatles thread. It will be posted this coming Friday.

In the meantime, here are some related items from past columns, a little more back story for the uninitiated, and some amusing pictures that prove Sgt. Pepper has always been an obsession with some people…especially musicians.

On December 3rd, 1965, The Beatles released Rubber Soul, their 6th album in 2 years. It was a much more sophisticated and diverse collection of songs than they had previously released. In August of 1966, they followed it up with Revolver, an album that was even more adventurous and demanding of the listener. The Beatles were evolving, and other artists began to evolve as well. The Beatles made it possible for everyone to experiment and try new ideas and musical forms. It was the fulfillment of the promise laid out in rock and roll’s earliest recordings. This music is of worth. It has a future. It is timeless.

In August of 1966, as Revolver was being released, The Beatles played their last live concert in North America at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. They decided to quit touring because it was becoming increasingly difficult to reproduce live what they were accomplishing in the studio. At the same time, more and more bands were experimenting with sound in the studio as well, and the radio friendly 2 or 3 minute song was beginning to disappear and be replaced by longer, more complex compositions.

The record companies, now enjoying a full move to albums as well as their ‘hit single’ paradigm were encouraging their artists to stretch out and pursue new sounds and ideas. The major labels were continuing to seek out and sign new bands and solo artists and were adding tour support and development money into the mix.

By the summer of 1967, the record industry was awash in new, exciting product and the Monterey Pop Festival introduced some of the local Bay Area music scene to the press and public as well as bringing everyone from Otis Redding to the Mamas and Papas to the stage for what would be the first ever event of its kind. There were acts on the bill that defied description at the time and the music they were making was a far cry from the radio friendly ditties of the British Invasion years. A secondary band from the Invasion became stars overnight, as did a Seattle based guitarist who had come back from England with a new sound that would see guitar players everywhere looking at their instruments in a new light. Even the audience was looking different, Carnaby Street was being replaced by exotic clothes from India and Asia, and lyrics were addressing issues that only folk music had targeted earlier. Sloe Gin and Beer was shunted to the side, and the sweet, pungent odor of cannabis wafted across the an audience whose hair was much longer, clothes much more colorful, and taste in music was more eclectic. The most amazing aspect however, was that this new music, which would usher in the  Rock era, leaving the ‘roll’ by the wayside, was eagerly championed by the record labels and promoted and supported as much as their most successful career artists. It was the summer of love, and San Francisco was the nexus. Mods and Rockers became Hippies and Straights, and there was plenty of music for all.

Where the record industry had rejected the status quo and sought to expose new and interesting forms of contemporary music, radio had a more difficult time. Having discovered and accepted a format that allowed them to play the most popular music more often while adding less new artists and forms of music to the mix, they were drifting away from the free-form spirit of the new rock era and leaning more towards keeping teenagers attention with the youthful sound that had been so successful in the past. When the more progressive DJ’s started to play the new music on their shows, some stations drew a line in the sand, and sided with the more familiar sounds and artists they had been playing. Still, the demand for the new music was quickly spreading and growing and needed an outlet where it could be heard. Since Sgt. Peppers, a faction of music fans were no longer satisfied with just a hit song on the radio, they wanted to hear more from their favourite artists and labels. The solution was one that would impact radio for all time. Radio was about to split into two unique animals. One continuing to play the hits on the familiar and raucous AM dial, and the other, subdued and serious about the music it played, treating it as more than just popular entertainment.

The man that initially made the move was one of the ‘progressive’ DJ’s from a powerhouse AM station (KYA) named Tom Donahue, the station he was about to launch was an FM outlet that served as a Chinese language station during the day, and the city that was about to give birth to this new, freeform style of radio was San Francisco, which was about to be shaken up far more than it was by the 1906 earthquake. Rock music was about to go underground

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In 1967 radio was faced with an increasing amount of releases that were pushing the tried and true forms of popular music off to the side for many of their listeners…and alienating others at the same time. For some, the new music was an exciting and revolutionary departure from what had gone before. To others, it was simply an annoyance and referred to by many as “That hippie crap…” Like it or not, the new music was about to change the course of radio history, and open the door to the wealth of music that most young people had never been exposed to.

The only way to put the Monkees/Hendrix tour into perspective would be to imagine a Lady Ga Ga tour with the Allman Brothers as the opening act. One, a pop culture phenomenon whose prescence was elevated by her visual accesibility and show business savvy, the other, a group of musicians whose sole selling point was the incredible music they make and their complete lack of artifice. Not to say that Jimi’s concept of showmanship was lacking…far from it. An intimidating black man dressed like a peacock who would make sexual references with his guitar, play it behind his back or with his teeth, and occasionally set it on fire at the beginning of his career in London and when he followed The Who at Monterey (which he reportadly hated and quit doing as soon as people started showing up at his performances to see him torch a Strat instead of listen to his music) his main interest was playing, reinventing his material time and time again, jamming it out and wringing every possibility out of the material, and the instrument he played it on. A lion brought to sheep provided by a musically motivated, but comparitively lightweight enabler, The Monkees.

The Monkees core audience at the time were tweenage girls and the mothers and grandmothers that accompanied them to concerts. You can imagine the dropped jaws, raised eyebrows, and shocked (not to mention uncomfortable) reaction when Jimi strutted onto the stage instead of four fresh faced, well scrubbed television approved teen idols whose series was all pastels, running and skipping, and dressing up like the Three Stooges and getting into trouble which would always have a happy ending by the time the episode was over. At least on the surface.

The Monkees were wonderfully, insidiously, subversive, their drug references and sexual energy subtly infused in their program, that worked subliminally with the more astute hip crowd, but lay just beneath the surface for most. And let’s face it, there never would have been a public outcry about Hendrix if some grandmas and moms didn’t feel a twinge ‘down there’ and be terrified that little Debbie just might get one too. Hypocricy aimed at Jimi, ignored in the case of non threatening boys like the Monkees, even though everybody was getting laid by teens, moms and grandmas left and right. It was the ‘60’s, baby, and being a musician was like having money and power without all the bullshit. Kind of like being a ‘celebrity’ is now.

In a nutshell, Jimi and the Monkees did not mix well. Like gin and rootbeer, they were destined not to be. Hendrix lasted 7 shows, most of which consisted of his set being interrupted by teenyboppers screaming for individual Monkees, and although the Monkees themselves were in awe of him, Jimi had had enough and in New York, gave the finger to the audience in mid set, and walked off stage. The Monkees let him leave the tour, which was no longer worth the trouble for Hendrix because he was finally starting to break in North America. Radio had discovered The Experience and he could now tour on his own.

For an absolutely fascinating (and accurate) sumnation of this event, go here.

One of the reasons radio had begun playing Jimi’s single was due to a little FM radio station in San Francisco called KMPX. Record companies on both sides of the Atlantic were popping out albums and singles in ‘record’ numbers from bands no one had ever heard of, and the tastemakers and musos, especially the members of existing, well known acts, were touting this stuff to anyone who would listen.

The Beatles had already reacted (and had been an inspiration to some extent) to the new music with Sgt. Pepper, and the Rolling Stones had added a psychedelic element to their music with Her Satanic Majesty’s Request, throwing out an existing album-in-progress after hearing Sgt. Pepper and starting all over again. The Monkees were spreading the word and adding depth to their music as well. Kootch and I spent more than one night jamming with The Monkees in studio C at RCA playing music that Monkee fans would have choked on.

In England, the Yardbirds, Donovan, Cream, Arthur Brown, Pink Floyd and others were making waves. In Canada, the Paupers, Kaleidoscope and more were making headway, and in America, bands like the Blues Magoos, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Vanilla Fudge and the Doors were having hits. Even with all of that, traditional AM radio was ignoring a huge amount of material that just didn’t fit in with their now structured formats. All of that music was being played on KMPX, and AM was paying attention, cherry picking what worked for them, and leaving the rest behind, even creating edited versions of songs like Light My Fire to shorten them so they would fit into the current  radio format.

While AM radio was skimming the top of the new musical force that had been unleashed by playing selected tracks they thought would break through to their mainstream audiences, Tom Donahue’s little FM station was tearing a rift in the very fabric of what music radio was all about. Artists would hang out at his station whenever they could, bringing newly recorded records to whoever was on the air, and more often than not, be invited to sit in, play the music, and chat about their band or songs or whatever.

I was listening to KMPX one night when someone I had worked with, Mike Olsen, better known to older rock fans as Lee Michaels, walked into the station with his new (and first) LP called Carnival of Life. It was around midnight. Did he drop off the LP? Did it go into a music meeting the next week? Did he sit in the lobby waiting to talk to someone?

Nope.

He was ushered into the control room, invited to sit in, and spent the next hour or so on the air with the disc jockey playing every track on the album and discussing the music and taking calls between songs. Imagine that.

This was common practice at early FM ‘underground’ stations in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, and The Family Tree, Roxy, and The Wackers, the touring bands I was in in those days, saw the inside of the many FM stations that sprang up in the wake of KMPX’s successful arrival in 1967. Record promo guys, radio people and artists got to know one another, friendships developed, and the simbiotic relationship between the was enhanced by the shared love of music, and the desire to be around like minded people who followed the latest acts and genres. The first time I was ever in Montreal, the WEA (Warner Atlantic Electra) rep, Roger DeJardien, picked us up at our hotel and took us to the groovy record stores like Phantasmagoria and Caravan Records, and to the local FM outlet, CHOM, a statio that had started out simulcasting it’s sister AM station, CKGM, switched to beautiful music in 1963, and re-invented itself as an ‘Underground’ station in 1969. The disc jockeys became close friends, and the station itself became a home away from home when we were in Montreal. The bands, the stations, the record companies, we were all part of a community. Not one artist in those days could brag he had been shot 9 times as a selling point for his music. We were all interested in each other’s music, hanging out with one another whenever tours took us to friends home towns, running into each other on the road, and depending on local jocks and record reps who had befriended us earlier to plug us into whatever was going on in their cities while we were there. There were even AM stations like CKOC in Hamilton Ontario and jocks like Pete Daly that would allow interviews at night, and play album cuts when you were a guest, but during the day, you sat in the lobby, cooling your heels, until someone had a minute to see you.

Musically, things were moving pretty fast. After Sgt. Pepper, everybody just went nuts. You never knew what kind of music would be on an album from artists you were familiar with, let alone new artists. Experimentation, trying new things, cross breeding genres…it was open season on complacency, and creativity was the weapon of choice. Some artists were re-inventing themselves with every release.

By the end of the ‘60’s the pyschedelic movement gave way to pure musical adventurism. Artists who had had their minds opened to new possibilities by the rampant drug use and cross pollinating musical influences began to take this new information and knowledge and apply it to their preferred genre of music. Interesting things began to happen.

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A Sgt. Pepper Gallery

This link will take you to a complete list of every person and prop on the cover of Sgt. Pepper

Just in case you missed them over the last 50 years….

Just SOME of the Sgt. Pepper influenced covers used by others as tribute, parody, and marketing tools.

A Japanese Cover

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This coming Friday, Part Two of : A  Short Dissertation on the Cult of Sgt. Pepper and Why I am Totally Sick of The Beatles

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Your Comments are Welcome. Please scroll down and let us know what you think

Segarini’s regular column appears here whenever he pictures himself in a boat on a river.

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

One Response to “Another Message from Bob….and more Sgt. Pepper”

  1. Dennis Kane Says:

    That was great, Robert. My teen years were in that era, I was 20 in 1970, and I considered myself to faitrly knowledgable about music. You put perfectly into words what I knew and loved about that time. I’m waiting for your part two of Sgt Peppers, and I’m worried because you said earlier that you’re sick of the Beatles. I’m only a few years younger than you, and I know I’ll never be sick of them.

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