You could say Anthology ruined Sgt. Pepper for me.
I would later read that Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is often considered the best rock album of all time, the springboard for the Summer of Love, and the apex of The Beatles' creative energy. I would also later read that it wasn't as one-unit as it might been intended to, with the opening track and its reprise forming the only unifying thread. I would ALSO later read all about how it was made, and that Paul reasoned that creating a new persona outside of The Beatles freed the band from built-up expectations, allowing new wonderful sounds instead of the old wonderful sounds, even if that persona was only asserted at the start of the album.
But when I first heard the original album some time in freshman or sophomore year of high school, my first thought was, "I've heard this before."
My second thought, though, was, "I've never heard this so perfectly before." In my reckoning at the time, the album was revolutionary, and despite the wandering from the central "premise" (whatever that was) in songs like "Getting Better" and "Lovely Rita," it formed a complete whole. It helped when I learned that it was one of the first albums, if not the first album, to not include the standard 2-second break between each track, which allowed the smooth transitions to "With A Little Help From My Friends," the reprise, and "A Day In The Life."
But I had heard nearly every song already:
- Title track and reprise: Yellow Submarine and Anthology 2 (early take), respectively
- "With A Little Help From My Friends": Joe Cocker's cover, The Wonder Years
- "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds": Anthology 2 (with less instruments and a drier vocal)
- "Getting Better": a cover in an HP commercial
- "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!": Anthology 2 (with outtakes and incomplete ending)
- "Within You Without You": Anthology 2 (instrumental; [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_HyZ5aW76c "There's no words there!"]
- "When I'm Sixty-Four": Yellow Submarine
- "Good Morning Good Morning": Anthology 2 (early take)
- "A Day In The Life": Anthology 2 (early take, with Mal Evans countdown and rising orchestra piece, but without final piano chord)
Of course, I have to say that this post's premise is an exaggeration. Unless you began your Beatles listening with crappy covers or being tortured while listening to "Help!", any discovery of new Beatles music is very hard to ruin. Sure, I had heard so many of these songs before, and my first reaction had a touch of "same old, same old," but that was only a small part of the experience. Once I listened to the album three, four, five, six, and seven times, I realized that I really, really liked it the whole time, and I liked it even more with each listen. (This was before my uncle gifted me a second copy, not knowing that I had already bought one myself!
And although I had heard all of "A Day In The Life" in pieces strewn across Anthology 2 and 3, the album version still shook me to my core. Even without understanding the psychedelic undertone of "I'd love to turn you on," I loved the mish-mashed manner in which the four verses wove together from John and Paul's partial lyrics. I still haven't found a song ending that moves me more than the final orchestra rise and the five-player E-major chord. Even when I hear it in public, everything I'm doing stops so I can soak it all in.
I react the same way when I hear the original release of "I Am The Walrus." That song will get a post all its own in two weeks, after I discuss Rubber Soul. In the meantime, enjoy a discovery I made early in college.
For the release of Anthology, the surviving Beatles turned a Lennon demo tape loaded by Yoko Ono into a new single, "Free as a Bird." I always liked it, despite the understandable dead-panning by some music critics. During my freshman year at IU, I discovered that Joe Pytka produced a fantastic music video with, by Apple Corps' count, over 80 references to lyrics and real-life events. It won the 1997 Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video. This is it: