's thoughts on 'Sgt Pepper' generated both nods and shakes of this reader's head, which I imagine is just what he intended. He is right to doubt that it was the Beatles' best album ('Rubber Soul' and 'Revolver' vie for my vote), right to observe that it includes its share of make-weight tracks, and right to wonder whether anyone listening to it now for the first time, and hearing the music purely as music, would share the fascination of those who listened through a cloud of perfumed smoke in 1967. Still, surely 50 years is long enough for most heads to have cleared at least a bit. Time enough, certainly, to respectfully lay aside a period piece like 'Within You, Without You' as pretty much unlistenable now, while remembering how perfect it sounded back then.
But, come on...'She's Leaving Home'? A gloopy, sentimental marshmallow of a song. The line 'She breaks down and cries to her husband, Daddy, our baby's gone' is glutinous enough for a Francis Gay annual, and there are several others just as sickly. What it lacks is the tongue-in-cheek charm that spares 'When I'm 64' a similar judgement. The best McCartney song on the album is the one for which posterity gives him least credit because it was sung by Ringo. 'With a Little Help from my Friends' is a brilliantly crisp and tight little tune, with an economy of tonal range that lodges it in the brain at a single hearing.
John Lennon himself described 'Good Morning, Good Morning' as 'a throwaway, a piece of garbage', and it would be impertinent to quarrel. 'Mr Kite' is of interest as a ground-breaker in recording technique and lyrical style, rather than as a durable pleasure. 'A Day in the Life' is, well, what it is. But why no mention of 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds'? The mnemonic may have lost its power to shock and the lyric may be very much of its day, but that opening figure still captivates.
'Lucy' takes the single-chord drone idea that Alasdair McKillop reveres in 'Tomorrow Never Knows' and shows it can be made beguiling to the ear. Still, I agree with him that the most startling 'departure' of this Beatles period wasn't on 'Sgt Pepper', but it should have been. The double A-side single 'Strawberry Fields/Penny Lane' was both musically revolutionary, and irresistibly listenable. It retains both qualities today. And it was kept off the album at the crass behest of the marketing people. Now that really does feel timeless.