Doubleshot Tuesday: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band/Surrealistic Pillow


[Today: Talking overrated…]

I take a fair amount of heat in the comments section of this blog – most of it deserved, some of it semi-coherent, drive-by noise that goes on all over the internet. Certain posts have drawn sustained ire over the three-year run of this blog, most particularly those that aren’t kind (although none more than my selections for the greatest Hip-Hop albums – that post practically has gunshots ringing out in the comments section). I’ve come to expect and enjoy the inevitable friction that some of my opinions stir up, and I appreciate passionate fans speaking out, even when their passion is pointed angrily at me.

One of my early posts on this blog was a list of the most overlooked albums of all-time. As an addendum to that post, I included a list of what I considered to be the most overrated albums of all-time (now I would totally make that into its own post, but whatever…). The overrated list included Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run, any Jimmy Buffett (shudder), Dave Matthews (double shudder), The Eagles’ awful Hotel California and The Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness, which unbelievably is the best selling double-album of all-time.

But the two albums on that list that have earned me the harshest fire over the years are The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s… and Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow. The comments from incredulous Beatles fans are there for your enjoyment. I know it’s hard for some people to believe that I can simultaneously like this album and think it’s overrated, but that is the case. Sgt. Pepper’s was important because it elevated the LP to the place of art. The iconic cover image, the lyrics printed inside (the first album to do so), the “concept” behind it – all of this made people take music more seriously, which made musicians take themselves more seriously, which was both a good and bad thing. It’s a great album, but Sgt. Pepper’s is not the greatest album of the 20th century, which means it’s overrated by the army of critics who call it that.

Surrealistic Pillow‘s inclusion on that list has drawn little in the way of reader comments. Instead, it was a red-faced friend of my hippie uncle who lowered the boom on me for daring to besmirch the name of the Airplane. His voice rising an octave or two, he scolded me that they were “a great band that could tear it up on stage.” From there we quickly progressed to I’m-shaking-my-head-sadly-because-you’re-a-worthless-piece-of-crap-who-will-never-get-it. In the years since that conversation, I’ve spent more time on Jeff Air, and I’ve come to think of them as a band whose whole was actually less than its parts. Their stage harmonies were horrible, and they had no business out-selling SF contemporaries like Moby Grape and Quicksilver Messenger Service. But that said, Jefferson Airplane had a few great tunes and some charismatic personalities on board (I’m not crazy about Grace Slick’s voice, but she carried herself like a superstar), and they wouldn’t be on that overrated list if I were compiling it today. Sgt Pepper’s however, still isn’t the greatest album of the 20th century, so it stays put…

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9 Responses to “Doubleshot Tuesday: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band/Surrealistic Pillow”

  1. Stu Stribling Says:

    Hey DK,

    Cool concept. I’ve frequently talked about overrated bands/albums around the water cooler and am always ridiculed for my dismissal of the usual suspects (Springsteen, Beatles, Stones, et. al). Like you, I can actually LIKE these artists, but simultaneously declare them grossly overrated in the same sentence.

    I don’t know, but I THINK I went to college on a music scholarship, so of course, I always feel more qualified than the average listener when discussing the merits of music. However, over the years, I’ve started enjoying music that is otherwise not very musical (White Stripes, Weezer, and yes, Smashing Pumpkins). I sorta get it when people rave about music that is just so/so on the musicality scale, but have never been able to justify the supposed greatness of Springsteen and Sgt. Pepper’s, let alone why Jimmy Buffett still gets radio play (that guy hasn’t been relevant in over two decades, and his beer is piss water to boot).

    I think you may be letting the Dave Matthews image skew your listening skills. That is an amazing band with great song writing–Grover’s vocals be damned.

    Two cents from a guy who: a) doesn’t care about the depth of lyrics, and b) plays drums.


    • dkpresents Says:

      Thanks for the comment(s) Stu – it’s great to see your name on here. Seems like about a million years ago that we were playing high school baseball together…

      Glad you dig the concept – a couple of things worth noting:

      *I’m actually a big fan of the Smashing Pumpkins first two albums. Gish and Siamese Dream are the real deal, but Mellon Collie… just seems like a parody of the whiny, angsty, slacker 90’s. Yuck! More on this stink bomb coming soon…

      *I’ve seen Dave Matthews in concert a few times and he’s a no go for me. The musicianship is fine, I guess – it’s his voice that puts me off. Also, their music seems smug to me. I get a whiff of Prog Rock’s love of its own virtuosity with DMB and it grates. That said, I saw him sing an amazing version of ‘Cortez The Killer’ with Neil Young at the Bridge Benefit Concert one year. Great moment…

      Thanks for stopping in Stu!

  2. Chris Says:

    Ha ha, love it. I don’t always agree with you, but I certainly always find you entertaining and can easily “agree to disagree”. However, in this case, I DEFINITELY agree with you. I’m pretty sure I was sitting in your music room when I saw your “modern day” version of the Sgt. Pepper’s cover (or was it a hip-hop version?? no matter….)

    I looked at the cover and said, “You know, a lot of people would probably say I’m crazy, but I just don’t really get Sgt. Pepper’s. It’s a fine album and all, but I’m just not crazy about it and really don’t find any songs on the album that particularly interest me.”

    I was expecting a 15 minute diatribe expounding the greatness of Sgt. Pepper’s and pointing out how foolish I am for not annointing it as the greatest album in music history….

    Instead, you just smiled and said, “Funny you should say that…….”

    Of course, my first exposure to Sgt. Pepper’s was watching the stupid BeeGee movie with my parents when I was, what….7? 8?? So perhaps that influenced me a tiny bit!

    • dkpresents Says:

      That’s right – we’ll have to agree to agree that Sgt Pepper’s is overrated. But try that line of reasoning on someone from our parents’ generation and you’ll end up in intensive care. Thanks for mentioning the Hip-Hop Sgt Pepper’s cover and the Bee Gees film – both are worth mentioning in the context of this post, and both are linked in your comment…

  3. devil dick Says:

    The Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness, which unbelievably is the best selling double-album of all-time.

    ??? WTF?

    is this TR00)))….?

    fuck me…

  4. World B. Furr Says:

    To quote the late, great Patrick Baxter roughly one week after the album’s release:

    “Mellon Collie & The Infinite Lameness.”

    So true.

  5. Sean Says:

    I kind of wish people would get it that when you say something is overrated, it’s not necessarily an attack on the quality of that thing, but a comment on whether rating it so highly actually makes sense. I think you’re right about Pepper, but even if I disagreed, it’s not as if you said the album sucked.
    I love that record dearly, but it’s not the greatest album of all time.
    The greatest album of all time is Surrealistic Pillow.

    Feh! Reactionaries.

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