The Sgt. Pepper Remix – Lefsetz Letter

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.

Indeed. I came to it a few years after it was released; I was too young to be interested in that when it came out. But it’s one of those rare albums where the entire album is close to perfect.

I don’t understand the remix fetish for an album like this. It’s like colorizing Casablanca. But, it’s worth noting that the original mix for Sgt. Pepper was the mono mix, that was carefully crafted over a period of several weeks. The stereo mix was slapped together more quickly, since not that many people listened to records in stereo at the time.

But Lefsetz also makes the point that you listened to it over and over, flipping the record continuously. People don’t listen to music like that any more. It’s too easy to skip to the next song on a playlist, or pass over a song that you don’t like on an album. Instead of listening to an album 100 times, most people listen to 100 songs once each. We’re missing out on so much by listening broad instead of deep.

Source: Lefsetz Letter » Blog Archive » The Sgt. Pepper Remix

14 thoughts on “The Sgt. Pepper Remix – Lefsetz Letter

  1. I do remember when it came out. My friends, David and Tom, and I would sit in David’s parents’ living room playing the album over and over and over again, straining to hear every little musical nuance, and studying the lyrics as though they were a sacred text containing revelations meant just for us.

  2. I do remember when it came out. My friends, David and Tom, and I would sit in David’s parents’ living room playing the album over and over and over again, straining to hear every little musical nuance, and studying the lyrics as though they were a sacred text containing revelations meant just for us.

  3. My understanding is that the Beatles thought in terms of mono sound for their recordings. It was not an issue of mono-versus-stereo. Even had more listeners owned two-channel equipment (most people listened on portable phonographs, and these were mostly two-channel), stereo would not have been a consideration. This is especially true of four-track mastering, which leaves little room for selectively panning instruments and vocals.

    “Sgt. Pepper” might have been a novelty to most listeners, but thematically based albums were hardly new, Frank Sinatra and Miles Davis having produced them. Of course, those who listened to the Beatles generally didn’t listen to such music — or classical music, for that matter, in which long works often present a coherent development of musical ideas. (The Fifth is an outstanding example, as are many of Wagner’s Musikdramas.)

    I remember when Rolling Stone (is that right?) announced its list of “The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time” — not “The 100 Greatest Pop/Rock Albums of All Time”. No other kind of music existed, or if it did, it wasn’t worthy of consideration. How musically arrogant can you get.

    • Good to see you here, Bill. That argument regarding Rolling Stone — and it’s “The 500 Greatest” this-and-that — is one I’ve seen before, originally out of my own fingers! But I’m glad to see it shared. Their list of “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” is even more arrogant in its way. Take a look at it sometime. “All Time,” really? Where is “You Are My Sunshine”? Where is “A Bicycle Built for Two”? “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”? “Aloha Oe”? “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”? “La Paloma”? “Pastyme With Good Company”? “L’homme armé”? It’s bad enough that Bishop Ussher persuaded some people that time began in 4004 BC, but the Rolling Stone editors seem to think it began in 1948 AD!

    • “Sgt. Pepper” is not a thematically based album. Only the first two cuts and the next-to-last are thematically connected, and weakly at that.

      With that out of the way, you are completely correct that the mono mixes of all of the Beatles’ albums are the ones to listen too, “Sgt. Pepper” included. Only the last three albums were mixed in stereo only; the others had a rushed stereo mix that was typically done by George Martin and a couple of engineers, no band involvement at all.

  4. My understanding is that the Beatles thought in terms of mono sound for their recordings. It was not an issue of mono-versus-stereo. Even had more listeners owned two-channel equipment (most people listened on portable phonographs, and these were mostly two-channel), stereo would not have been a consideration. This is especially true of four-track mastering, which leaves little room for selectively panning instruments and vocals.

    “Sgt. Pepper” might have been a novelty to most listeners, but thematically based albums were hardly new, Frank Sinatra and Miles Davis having produced them. Of course, those who listened to the Beatles generally didn’t listen to such music — or classical music, for that matter, in which long works often present a coherent development of musical ideas. (The Fifth is an outstanding example, as are many of Wagner’s Musikdramas.)

    I remember when Rolling Stone (is that right?) announced its list of “The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time” — not “The 100 Greatest Pop/Rock Albums of All Time”. No other kind of music existed, or if it did, it wasn’t worthy of consideration. How musically arrogant can you get.

    • Good to see you here, Bill. That argument regarding Rolling Stone — and it’s “The 500 Greatest” this-and-that — is one I’ve seen before, originally out of my own fingers! But I’m glad to see it shared. Their list of “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” is even more arrogant in its way. Take a look at it sometime. “All Time,” really? Where is “You Are My Sunshine”? Where is “A Bicycle Built for Two”? “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”? “Aloha Oe”? “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”? “La Paloma”? “Pastyme With Good Company”? “L’homme armé”? It’s bad enough that Bishop Ussher persuaded some people that time began in 4004 BC, but the Rolling Stone editors seem to think it began in 1948 AD!

    • “Sgt. Pepper” is not a thematically based album. Only the first two cuts and the next-to-last are thematically connected, and weakly at that.

      With that out of the way, you are completely correct that the mono mixes of all of the Beatles’ albums are the ones to listen too, “Sgt. Pepper” included. Only the last three albums were mixed in stereo only; the others had a rushed stereo mix that was typically done by George Martin and a couple of engineers, no band involvement at all.

  5. It’s one of the all-time great albums and was every bit as influential as everyone agrees it is. It also contains the best rock/pop song of all time (“A Day in the Life”). Sonically, it’s a treat, and the mix—even the stereo mix—is an endless delight. But…no clunkers? “She’s Leaving Home” is shallow and absurd (“Fun is the one thing that money can’t buy”? It’s the one thing money can always buy!), “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” is as creepy as a scary clown, and at least two other songs are filler. For a Beatles album without clunkers, look to “Revolver.”

    • Wow. The author of this piece either wasn’t around during the Summer of ’67 when Sgt. Pepper was released, or if he was he’s suffering from a very faulty memory.

      “Almost nobody was buying albums! It was still a singles world, dominated by AM radio.” Yes, it was still mainly a singles world, and rock n roll radio was most certainly dominated by AM radio, but a ton of rock n roll albums were already being sold when Sgt. Pepper was released.

      “The point being, “Sgt. Pepper” was a REVOLUTION!” He’s correct on this point.

      “It was not on the radio, because there were no singles.” It was all over AM rock n roll radio, with a majority of tracks from the album receiving heavy airplay.

      “And word did not spread immediately.” Nonsense. The album hit like an explosion. Upon its release it was inescapably everywhere on rock n roll radio and in popular culture. Sgt. Pepper was the number 1 Billboard album for 12 straight weeks, and was in the Top 10 for 33 straight weeks.

      “So “Sgt. Pepper” comes out and a small fraction of Beatle fans buy it.” That does it. The author couldn’t have been around when the album came out, or his memory is totally shot.

      “No one listened to “Sgt. Pepper” and immediately pronounced it a classic.” More uninformed nonsense.

      “That’s how it was, don’t let them rewrite history.” Even though the author of this piece is most definitely attempting to rewrite history. And what’s his problem with a 2017 remix for more sonic clarity? The original is still available, and no one is taking it away.

  6. It’s one of the all-time great albums and was every bit as influential as everyone agrees it is. It also contains the best rock/pop song of all time (“A Day in the Life”). Sonically, it’s a treat, and the mix—even the stereo mix—is an endless delight. But…no clunkers? “She’s Leaving Home” is shallow and absurd (“Fun is the one thing that money can’t buy”? It’s the one thing money can always buy!), “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” is as creepy as a scary clown, and at least two other songs are filler. For a Beatles album without clunkers, look to “Revolver.”

    • Wow. The author of this piece either wasn’t around during the Summer of ’67 when Sgt. Pepper was released, or if he was he’s suffering from a very faulty memory.

      “Almost nobody was buying albums! It was still a singles world, dominated by AM radio.” Yes, it was still mainly a singles world, and rock n roll radio was most certainly dominated by AM radio, but a ton of rock n roll albums were already being sold when Sgt. Pepper was released.

      “The point being, “Sgt. Pepper” was a REVOLUTION!” He’s correct on this point.

      “It was not on the radio, because there were no singles.” It was all over AM rock n roll radio, with a majority of tracks from the album receiving heavy airplay.

      “And word did not spread immediately.” Nonsense. The album hit like an explosion. Upon its release it was inescapably everywhere on rock n roll radio and in popular culture. Sgt. Pepper was the number 1 Billboard album for 12 straight weeks, and was in the Top 10 for 33 straight weeks.

      “So “Sgt. Pepper” comes out and a small fraction of Beatle fans buy it.” That does it. The author couldn’t have been around when the album came out, or his memory is totally shot.

      “No one listened to “Sgt. Pepper” and immediately pronounced it a classic.” More uninformed nonsense.

      “That’s how it was, don’t let them rewrite history.” Even though the author of this piece is most definitely attempting to rewrite history. And what’s his problem with a 2017 remix for more sonic clarity? The original is still available, and no one is taking it away.

  7. My apologies! Somehow I inadvertently posted my comment above as a reply to John Cooper’s post, rather than as a reply to the article referenced in the link. When I refer to “the author”, I’m referring to the author of the Sgt. Pepper article in the Lefsetz Letter.

    Moderators, if possible, could you please reposition my comment so it does not appear as a reply to John Cooper’s post.

  8. My apologies! Somehow I inadvertently posted my comment above as a reply to John Cooper’s post, rather than as a reply to the article referenced in the link. When I refer to “the author”, I’m referring to the author of the Sgt. Pepper article in the Lefsetz Letter.

    Moderators, if possible, could you please reposition my comment so it does not appear as a reply to John Cooper’s post.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.