This week marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles‘ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was officially released in the U.K. on June 1, 1967, and in the U.S. the following day. One of the many Fab Four aficionados who was influenced and inspired by the inventive album was E Street Band guitarist “Little Steven” Van Zandt.
“It’s just the greatest album of all time, by far,” Van Zandt tells ABC Radio. “We can all talk about other [albums] that have better songs if you separate [them] song by song. There are…certainly more innovations on Revolver…but the truth of the matter is Sgt. Pepper has something that was just completely different and unique at that moment. It…was the ultimate album of that ‘Summer of Love.'”
Reflecting on that summer, Little Steven says he considers Sgt. Pepper‘s arrival as “the most unifying moment in the history of Western culture.” As he recalls, “That first week in June, you could walk down MacDougal Street [in New York City] and you’d hear it coming out of every single restaurant, clothing store, record store…The cars driving by had it…It was just everywhere at once…You know, it was just like this magical sort of crossroads for our generation.”
Van Zandt says even though many other classic psychedelic-era records were released around the same time as Sgt. Pepper, The Beatles’ album stood out, noting, “It was different in every possible way.”
As for the record’s impact and influence, he explains, “It just felt like at that point you can do anything. This rock ‘n’ roll art form would now encompass anything…whether it’s an orchestra or crazy instruments…nostalgia. You could address any subject…It was just wide open, and they’re the ones who opened it.”
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