The “13” foreshadowing (one and one and one is three) in the Sgt. Pepper drum. Of course, most people believe it’s 11/9 and signifies Paul’s death. I happen to believe that interpretation to be a classic Paul false flag and the Come Together line signifies it’s real meaning.
For 3 years, a revolution has been building. 1966 saw people starting to believe that they actually could change the world.
And then right in the middle of it, first Bob Dylan went underground and then almost immediately afterwards, the Beatles did too.
From their last concert in August of ’66 they had more or less disappeared from the music scene. Everyone had Revolver to keep themselves occupied late in ’66 but it was becoming clear from the occasional Beatles sightings that Beatlemania was dead.
The mop-tops were gone, and mustaches were on each of them now. And no one really knew what their plans were, heading into 1967.
There was a movement threatening to explode in 1967; peace and love and protest were not just ideas blowing in the wind anymore, the youth of 1967 were serious about changing the world and maybe the Beatles would be left in the wake of the coming revolution.
But in February, they released a single and everyone stopped for 5 minutes to listen…and what they heard was-
Let me take you down, cuz I’m going to…
Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys pulled off the road to listen; he knew before the song was finished that he could not match what he had just listened to. And in Pet Sounds, he had just finished what ranks today in Rolling Stone as the second greatest LP of all-time. (The entire top 5 come from the 1965 to 1967 era)
The song was almost sickening, like a trustworthy friend trying to talk you into something terrifying and exhilarating. Lennon was beckoning for you to go somewhere, but you weren’t sure exactly where that somewhere was.
The effect of Strawberry Fields Forever was that the Beatles were becoming something new and dangerous; it was no longer about the sixties leaving the Beatles in the dust as the precursor to the revolution; now the question had suddenly become where were the Beatles going to take everyone?
For all of the fanfare that accompanied Sgt. Pepper by the time it was released on June 1st, it was Strawberry Fields that most point to as the moment they knew they were part of something special; something the world had never seen.
The kids were going to take over.
That isn’t to say the Beatles were alone, but the band that could have been left behind was clearly now leading everyone else again.
And then came Sgt. Pepper.
June 1st, 1967 might be the apex of Pop Culture; to this day it is probably still the top of the mountain in musical history.
…and really, the album musically might be overrated.
But it’s importance can’t be overstated. Sgt. Pepper released and stunned everyone. The color, the printed lyrics, the artwork.
And the first “concept album” in history, at least the first one that everyone heard; all of the rules went out the window with Sgt. Pepper, a study in contrasts and mystery and mysticism and real life people with real life problems.
June 1st, 1967 was when the sixties became a revolution. The Beatles didn’t cause it with Sgt. Pepper, and in fact a year later John Lennon quite famously stayed on the fence with the Out/In lyrics of the song Revolution; but what they did was empower it, they both normalized the counter-culture and made it something special at the same time. The “kids” were still looking for something, and took Sgt. Pepper as their license.
The LP starts with the Beatles “death” and re-introduction as this new band, and closes with a reprise of the same song, a send off from the Sgt. Pepper band that has been with you for all of these years, although no one really quite understands just what that means.
But then afterward, as the applause for Sgt. Pepper on the record fades, there’s a final song; on the album but in some unexplained way outside of the Sgt. Pepper show which has just completed.
Song number 13.
A Day in the Life might be the greatest song in rock history in my mind, and there isn’t much question in many people’s minds that I’d love to turn you on is quite possibly the most stunning moment on a rock LP; given that the Beatles did just that to an entire generation from the moment it was first heard.
(What isn’t heard as often is the audible counting of bars from 1 to 24 immediately following as the crescendo starts to build, ending with the alarm clock before Paul’s verse starts)
…and this isn’t said to diminish a period that absolutely drips with mood and passion; but there is a clear agenda in Sgt. Pepper.
It’s agenda was the permission to be turned on that a generation wanted, that a good portion of the youth of America still needed to really break away, one they would obviously not get from the establishment.
In the case of the Beatles, they wanted to make an album that set them apart and helped change the landscape of pop culture and the entire sixties generation.
They succeeded magnificently. The summer of love started when Sgt. Pepper hit stores. Some of the greatest artists we’ve ever heard; Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Stones, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, and on and on, all took their rightful place on the rock horizon over the summer of ’67 and yet all did so on a level somehow below the “magical” plateau that the Beatles had now achieved.
And although the Sgt. Pepper album as a whole was considered the experience, there was certainly plenty of room on the mountain for Monterey and the San Francisco scene to ignite; as well as other seminal classics such as Light My Fire to climb to the top of the charts and further help the mainstream become exposed to the counter-culture.
Jim Morrison “forgetting” to change the lyric get much higher to get much better as Ed Sullivan’s staff had instructed him, by the end of the song you can actually hear Sullivan screaming “stop” in the background.
When you look back at rock history, one would expect to see something of an evolution; a growing complexity in music through the years.
You wouldn’t expect that the most complex and electrifying music ever created came in 1967 and then was never equaled or possibly even rivaled in the 43 years since.
When you hear A Day in the Life, Light My Fire, White Rabbit, Eight Miles High or Nights in White Satin, you hear magic, for lack of a better word.
The production has improved since 1967, but did the music itself ever rise beyond this?
The open question was, just what had the Beatles turned everyone on to?
I’ve spent umpteen hours looking for what I believed to be a logical answer to “It was twenty years ago Today, that Sgt. Pepper taught the Band to play”. I found an answer in Doctor Faustus, a manuscript that did in fact coincide with the completion of the Sgt. Pepper song, that actually makes me think I could have gotten it right.
Did I? Well that’s sort of the problem, isn’t it?
Actually, the biggest problem isn’t in having a pastime that traces back through significant events, it’s in using the search to justify something that inherently doesn’t make any sense; or worse, to justify actions that are morally wrong.
So, this isn’t really about trying to lump any obscure connection into a basic premise; Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd are two mental illness casualties of the sixties that it might be unfair to put into the context of this article.
Barrett, who’s schizophrenia as well as his legendary drug usage is quite well documented, was a flame that burned out so quickly that it’s hard to view his sad story and apply it to this one.
However, he was the author of Pink Floyd’s initial LP, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (a story about Pan that fits this premise quite well in fact) and contained in the LP also is the song Chapter 24 with it’s haunting lyrics taken from the I Ching about a movement being accomplished in 6 stages and the 7th bringing return, being accomplished during the month of the winter solstice (December).
In addition to possibly foreshadowing the bigger picture, Barrett’s breakdown in 1967 culminated in David Gilmour being brought in to replace Barrett for live shows by December of ’67. (The most eerie and possibly telling story about Barrett also having more than just illness to contend with was when the band decided in 1975 to do a song about Barrett; Shine on You Crazy Diamond, and inexplicably Barrett, who no one in the band had seen in 7 years, happens to walk into the studio during the recording of the song, sit down and brush his teeth. They didn’t even recognize him for almost an hour… so yeah, maybe he actually is a part of this too.)
So, when we look at the weekend of December 8th, 1967; there obviously is something pretty remarkable about those couple of days. The Stones release the first outright Satanic themed album ever in Their Satanic Majesties Request on December 8th; the Beatles release Magical Mystery Tour on the same date, Jim Morrison has his 24th birthday as well as his New Haven arrest and 24 year old Sharon Tate appears in her greatest role in Eye of the Devil (also called 13) which opens in the US that weekend also. (Otis Redding also recorded “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” on the 8th and tragically died 2 days later, although again I have a tough time fitting that event into the context of this article.)
December 8th, 1967 is the start of our 13 year journey towards December 8th, 1980 when John Lennon is killed.
The “clues” aren’t quite as blatant at this point as we’d prefer for a demonic conspiracy; we’d rather see a 7 foot winged creature with glowing red eyes stalk a town beginning about when Paul supposedly died and ending exactly 13 months later in December of ’67 with a large bridge collapsing and dozens of people perishing; that is the sort of drama we require to see what we are dealing with.
Actually, that happened too, but we’ll come back to that…