Unlike other psychedelic classics, The Fabs’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band doesn’t sound like hippy idealism. Instead, the diverse, inclusive vision of English identity it promoted couldn’t be more necessary
Fifty years ago, The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band fired a starting pistol for the Summer of Love. It is now 2017 and, to judge by social media, we are entering a political Summer of Hate. In these circumstances, returning to Sgt Pepper might seem like a nostalgic retreat from our current woes. Yet that old, overfamiliar snapshot of long-gone sunshine can shed light on our current situation. According to Sgt Pepper, there is a route out of our current divisions.
Most psychedelic music from the 1960s focused on the inner journey; when it looked outwards to address the wider world it was typically divisive. From Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin’ to Monkey Island by the 13th Floor Elevators, the older generation and their culture was mocked, feared or uncategorically rejected. A famous 60s activist slogan was “Never trust anyone over 30.” Psychedelia positioned itself as separate from mainstream society. Sgt Pepper is such an integral part of psychedelic culture that it is easy to overlook just how different it is: the album is for and about everyone.