“It was 49 years ago today …”

“It was 49 years ago today … Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play”. The Beatles album “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (Universal Knowledge for most English-speakers over 35) was released on 1 June 1967. I don’t remember it myself but I do remember the ITV documentary that was aired on 1 June 1987, called (appropriately enough) “It was 20 years ago today”, which is (as most people over 35 will know) the first line of the title track.

By 1987 I was already in the habit of taping TV programmes and movies that I would never watch. There were, literally, thousands of VHS tapes. At least 80% of these tapes (and I spent so much money on them during a 20-year period) have now been recycled or sent to land-fill, many of them unwatched. I have kept most of the pre-recorded VHS tapes that I bought (even though I am now unlikely to watch them again) and a few hundred recordings, “just in case”. That 1987 documentary about Sergeant Pepper is one of the few shows that I planned to watch but erased without doing so. I decided, some evening when there were no empty VHS tapes to hand, that I’d never get around to watching it, recorded something else over it, and then regretted it. If I had kept the recording I probably still wouldn’t have got round to watching it yet. It appears to be on YouTube, though, divided up into 8 sections. Today would have been the right day to watch it but I’ll leave it till the weekend and I’m playing the CD through headphones instead.

It’s been re-mixed. The original vinyl album, as I recall (I never owned a copy), had a very simple stereo mix: music out of one channel, vocals out of the other. If you altered the Balance on your speakers you had do-it-yourself karaoke. I remember a music producer, many years older than me, telling me what a break-through it was for him as a teenager. It was the only album that he and his mates played through that summer of 1967 and that simple example of stereo mixing got him started on the road to producing records himself. I haven’t got as far as “A Day in the Life” this time round, so can someone remind me how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall?

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