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A real quick word on The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper

If you’re a fan of rock-and-roll history, today is a noteworthy day. It’s the 50th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, an album that many music critics still regard as the greatest rock album ever made.

The year 1967 was a big year for rock and roll in general. The Jimi Hendrix Experience released their “Are You Experienced?” album, Jefferson Airplane released “Surrealistic Pillow;” Pink Floyd, “Pipers at the Gates of Dawn”; The Velvet Underground, their eponymous debut; the list goes on. But Sgt. Pepper was farthest ahead of them all, a groundbreaking musical achievement both technically and artistically, it even caused Beach Boy songwriter Brian Wilson to have a nervous breakdown while listening to it in his car. He had one of those, “How am I going to top this?” kind of moments.

But I’m not really here to talk about Sgt. Pepper’s artistic or musical achievements or the reaction to it. Enough has been written about all that already.  I’m more interested in what the album represented to the Fab Four themselves who, really at that point, were sick to death of touring and performing. And there’s very important reason why.

To understand Sgt. Pepper, you have to go back one year to their final concert at Candlestick Park, San Francisco, 1966. You have to see the black-and-white film of the event. The fans were going berserk in their seats. It was absolute pandemonium. It wasn’t too unlike it was onstage. John and George are hammering on the piano keys, laughing and grinning like they’re going nuts, while Paul does pirouettes with his bass strapped to him. They’d figured something out about the whole thing: the fans weren’t there to hear great music; they just wanted to see the Beatles, the brand.

See, there’s this thing that marketers and advertisers rush to when they see or hear of a winner: merchandising. Is it a hit? Stick a label on it. Ergo the following: posters, lunchboxes, trading cards, board games, movies, bumper stickers, you name it. All of it backed by the illusion they create: four guys who walk into your house, play instruments and entertain you. That’s what the fans had come to see. And the real Beatles – the actual guys behind the microphones – were absolutely sick of it. I mean we’re talking about four blokes from a largely blue-collar fishing/shipping town on the shores of northeastern England. What did they know about fame or success?

So that was it: no more touring, no more TV appearances, no more movies, no more shows.

Marketers and talent agents thought they were crazy at the time. Career suicide, they said. To which the band members replied: “We don’t care. It’s time to make music our own way.” So they teamed up with their producer George Martin and spent several months in the studio and this is the album they came up with. No concert schedules, no marketing blitz, no hype. Just the album itself. That’s it.

And it changed rock and roll. All over again.

In the business of copywriting, I think it’s important to explain to the client how vitally important it is to tell the truth about his or her product or service. That’s really what sells. How well you can convey the truth and how it will help the customer. Anyone can put a Beatles label on a lunchbox. But only a wise and skillful content creator will explain why a lunchbox is better than a paper or plastic bag.

 

 

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This entry was posted on Friday, May 26th, 2017 at 2:46 am and is filed under Online Marketing, Web Writing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.