The summer of love began on Thursday, June 1, 1967, a day that now lies closer to World War I than to our time. As London sweltered and swung, two LPs landed in the record stores—one each from the two acts now rated the greatest in the history of British pop music.The first was the debut album by David Bowie, which was a resounding flop: “I didn’t know,” Bowie said later, “whether to be Max Miller or Elvis Presley.” (Miller was a British music hall comedian of the 1930s, known as the Cheeky Chappie.) If you’d asked for Bowie’s record that day in 1967, the shop assistant might have scratched her head. And you would have had to fight your way through the throng trying to buy the other new release. Bowie, later celebrated for his sense of theater, had chosen a terrible moment to make an entrance.
That other album was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles, which had aroused feverish expectations and lived up to all of them. For 50 years now, it has been more than a record. It is the high-water mark of hippiedom and a landmark in the history of music. It was the first rock record to capture album of the year at the Grammys, a bastion long held by the forces of easy listening. Its engineer, Geoff Emerick—the sixth Beatle—won a Grammy too. Its producer, George Martin—the fifth—ended up with a knighthood, as did its driving force, Paul McCartney. (It’s not clear what the band’s drummer and other surviving member has to do to arise to Sir Ringo.)
By: Tim De Lisle