Now and forever playing: The Seattle guitarist who transformed the palette of his instrument and the sound of rock music like no one before or since, and the Liverpool band that bottled the zeitgeist only three years earlier.

Two watershed sounds of a watershed year

In 1967, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Beatles fired back-to-back broadsides on our expectations. And changed everything.

Michael Eric Ross
May 30, 2017 · 11 min read

All the innovation in the world won’t help you if no one’s listening. Neither record would have mattered — maybe neither record would have happened — if there wasn’t a public ready to receive it. By 1967 rock as art form had been confirmed in the mind of the public; the latitude and permissions of society had evolved enough in other spheres of the social life to make open minds at least possible. The public was ready for the distillation of rock’s best practices, the music in its highest and best use.

Jimi Hendrix in 1966 or 1967 (Alamy)

Maybe no other song on the album gets that point across quite like “Hey Joe,” the Experience’s cover of a song by folk singer Billy Roberts. To hear it now from a remove of 50 years is to rediscover a brittle gem of a song inhabited by misfits and loners; a wide-open Western space. Within a tale of domestic violence and vengeance, Hendrix & Co. fashioned a taut, muscular soundscape, stark, languid, desert. Sergio Leone dreamscape on acid.

Life Magazine (Asia edition) July 24 1967

Despite its general cheerfulness, Sgt. Pepper is an album liberally laced with pondering of mortality. Consider “Good Morning Good Morning” (death in the opening lyrics). Or “A Day in the Life” (death in the opening lyrics). Or the overall live-life-to-the-fullest spiritual message of “Within You Without You.” Even the jaunty, home-body friendliness of “When I’m Sixty-Four” is tinged with the intimation of something ending.

The Beatles’ vocal tricks, inspired recording techniques, and novel choices of instruments are startlingly apparent (now that you can hear what’s always been there). It adds up like never before, giving us something rare as the album itself. Despite the cliche, it’s true: The Giles Martin remix is an opportunity to hear Sgt. Pepper again, for the first time.

The Omnibus

Whatever, et al.

Michael Eric Ross

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The Omnibus

Whatever, et al.