29 May, 2013

Voices From the Blogroll III

What's that you say? You've a sense of deja vu about this post? You know, I've a strange feeling I've heard that phrase somewhere before, but I just can't put my finger on it...

Anyway, now that you've stopped rolling your eyes, I want to tell you that just like I've posted before, both here and here, there is a shitload of fabulously entertaining, confronting, thoughtful and considered writing out there in the blogosphere. These are some of the blogs I've been reading (benignly lurking in web-speak) and engaging with (commenting at) in recent times.

For those blogs where I haven't been able to discern the gender of the author, or indeed number of authors, gormless pillock that I am, I've used the neutral "singular they" pronoun. Just so you know.

I would also point out that, as ever, none of these very talented people need an endorsement from the likes of me. But, bugger that, they're getting one anyway.

A Baffling Ordeal:
"The Shadow Attorney General said some things in the Senate that, in light of the verdict, make his legal mind seem about as sharp as a knife made of diarrhoea."  Now, if I'd been drinking Coke when I read that, it would have come shooting out of my nose as if from the Bicheno Blowhole. And there are plenty of lines like that.

This blog isn't updated with anything like regularity but each new post ought to be eagerly anticipated, so good are they. This is not a blog I comment at frequently because I have nothing to add and don't want to fill up the comment threads with stuff like "Brilliant!" and "I wish I'd said that!".

This post, Amanda Vanstone Has Had Just About Enough of Your Bullshit is emblematic of A Baffling Ordeal's output.

There's a lot to like about this alternative news analysis site, the Australian Independent Media Network: thoughtful articles on a range of issues by a battery of good writers and thinkers; and it's updated regularly. This post was one of many that took my fancy: Goodbye MSM! I'm Just Not That Into You

Anti-Bogan is a very confronting blog, and makes for some unpleasant reading and viewing. You know, that I-really-want-to-look-away-but-I-can't feeling. Nevertheless, my view is that it provides an entirely necessary community service. And anthropological study.

Anti-Bogan re-posts the most shamefully racist, bigoted and misogynistic Facebook wall posts and twitter updates of our fellow Australians. It's not pretty on a number of levels, if you're anything like me: you might be saddened that people like the ones shown here exist outside of gatherings of your extended family; you may also wonder how they can be so proudly and wilfully ignorant; and you'll probably be appalled by their misuse of the opportunities that public platforms like social media provide.

This post delivers the output of one serving member of Australia's Defence Force Reserve and erstwhile Bob Katter's Australia Party candidate 

You might want to have a shower afterwards.

Bill's blog defies simple categorization in that he writes on a range of topics such as politics, rock music, economics and travel. His posts are invariably well-researched and well thought out.

Like this one on Pink Floyd's 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon that takes a different angle from the predictable classic album post.

Sydney-based Mitzi G Burger is a high school English teacher who masterminds BlogInBoots and also the Joycean Here Comes Everybloggy. There are lovely poems and personal musings. Bloginboots is only updated occasionally but enjoyable reading nonetheless.

This post is a particularly poignant one.

Cafe Whispers:
This political blog benefits from regular posting and devotes most of its energy to giving the coalition, its conduct and policies the kind of scrutiny the MSM just can't (or won't!) do on its own.

I thought this post was a really nice piece on the finite nature of humanity - and with a fabulous closing line. We really are just specks, all of us.

Cheeseburger Gothic:
Australian author John Birmingham is the brains behind this blog, and it's not a bad idea for published authors to do this sort of thing: as long as you don't make it too obvious, you can publicize both yourself and your recent publications for sale in a chummy online bookclub atmosphere - but I don't want to sell Birmingham short - he offers genuine engagement with his readership and the public far beyond mere salesmanship.

With opinion pieces also regularly published by Fairfax, Birmingham gets to have a bob each way: by ranting in the MSM opinionsphere; and then posting rational considered pieces on his blog. He therefore debunks the tired old stereotype of MSM columnist = authoritative wisdom, blogger = intemperate raving all by himself on occasions.

And as much as that's a nice straddling act, Cheeseburger Gothic also provides interesting posts of a literary nature and insightful musings on pop culture.

The Failed Estate:
Jim Parker is a former journalist who finds much to deplore among the MSM. One of these smart-alecks who thinks he's clever because he employs REAL analysis (and REAL analysis of crap analysis), he exposes the extent to which so much MSM journalism and opinion pieces are closer to spin doctoring than we'd realized.

If you don't already anticipate his next post as eagerly as I do, try this and this to get a sense of what The Failed Estate succeeds at.

Hoyden About Town:
A feminist collective that always gives the reader something to think about. This post, and the 2007 post it links to, really resonated with me - and should be compulsory reading for all blokes, however uncomfortable it might make them feel!

The name Julie Posetti will probably be vaguely familiar to many of you. Julie is a journalist and journalism academic who was caught up in a cause celebre not of her own making back in 2010, thanks to those fearless champions of free speech over at The Australian.

Media Watch covered it at some length, and you can delve into that here and here and read what Julie had to say herself here and a letter from her legal representatives here.

Needless to say, The Australian's pathetic, nasty, hypocritical bullying of someone who was not criticising that pompous rag herself, but REPORTING VIA TWITTER WHAT AN EX-JOURNALIST FROM THE PAPER HAD SAID AT A CONFERENCE, was terminated when legal advice based on logic, reason and the law managed to infiltrate a few thick heads. The same thick heads that sit behind such thin skins

At any rate, Julie's blog is mainly concerned with professional issues of interest to journalists. And since journalists are one of the filters through which all mainstream media news must pass, those issues are invariably of public interest.

Loon Pond:
Prolific, daily posts of a breathtakingly high quality that are quite simply, a must-read for me. That's pretty much what you get from this Sydney-based blogger: witty, scathing deconstruction of MSM cant - as seen here; here; and here.

You might wonder why they give lightweight contrarian buffoons like Gerard Henderson and Paul Sheahan so much oxygen, but I suppose the gullible might be lulled into thinking that if the SMH publishes them, there must be a skerrick of validity to their points of view. Loon Pond is there to disabuse you of that notion.

Naturally, The Australian provides a rich source of material.

News With Nipples:
The Harbour City is again the locale for this journalist (hmm, we're getting a few of those on board, aren't we?) and postgraduate student. Her blog title and header photo have given me cause to plead "It's not what you think..." on those occasions when I launch into The News With Nipples and there's a "Hey..." from close behind me.

Kim has a finely attuned and very sensitive bullshit detector and makes thorough use of it. It must be frustrating for someone like her to see professional standards ignored so often in the MSM.

This is the kind of crap that gets up her nose - as it should all of us.

John Quiggin: 
John blogs knowledgeably about science and economics and is always worth dropping in on. He even sought and gained an honourable truce with the extreme-right Catallaxy (and no, there'll be no link to that stinking, steaming pile of shit on this blog!) after some comment flame wars. So I'm probably breaching John's policy. Oh well.

Piping Shrike:
This political blog is always thoughtful and draws thoroughly evidence-based conclusions to support the views expressed there, as in this post on compulsory voting. I particularly liked the succinct summation of the non-mandated but predictable actions of the Newman Queensland government, which:
"...cut back services as though voter dissatisfaction at Labor doing the same never happened."

And is probably coming soon to a Commonwealth near you.

Politically Homeless:
If I've linked to Andrew Elder's blog before, I apologise, but in any event it's worth giving him another mention in dispatches, especially in a Federal election year.

And I hope his subtitle, Tony Abbott will never be Prime Minister of Australia, comes to pass. In any event, if Abbott's cosying up to the Essendon Football Club in 2010 results in the same fate for him as other red-and-black-draped Liberals like Andrew Peacock; John Hewson; and Peter Costello before him, then Abbott is destined, like them, to miss out on the top job.

The career of former Canberra Press Gallery doyenne Michelle Grattan came in for particularly withering and well-deserved scrutiny by Andrew.

PR Disasters:
This blog describes pretty much what happens when dickheads shoot their mouths off, taken from a PR Epic Fail perspective.

Here is a very recent discovery that has been an absolute godsend. It's kind of like the blog this one would like to be when it grows up, focusing as it does on rock music and being so damned entertaining and informative about it.. The blog's author, Mike Segretto, also has a second key focus on classic horror movies which will make for a delightful diversion whether it's a particular interest of yours or not.

This post in particular, which was Mike's list of the best albums of 1968, I found really compelling. And in a similar vein to The Rising Storm, he's not afraid to go out on a limb and champion albums that are often dismissed by the general run of critics and fans alike.
Seriously Whimsical:
Her recent post on religious belief made me sit up and take notice. With a nod to Richard Dawkins, she challenges atheists who are ambivalent about religion and faith to justify their stance. There's a dichotomy alright, and the way she compellingly argues, it isn't a false one.

That's So Pants:
Comments on her blog are disabled, so lurkers aweigh! Her post on population provided a super-sized take-away pack of food for thought. And on that basis, you might find her archive worthy of exploration.

This quote really tickled my fancy:
"that thing that is as mysterious to us as would be the complete works of Thomas Pynchon set to music by John Cage - public transport."

Victoria Rollison:
There's an entirely justified sense of despair starting to creep into Victoria Rollison's Federal politics-focused blog. She can't fathom how the electorate is rushing headlong towards electing an Abbott-led coalition government in September 2013.

Actually, that's not completely fair: it's more that she can't believe how a gullible public seems to be falling for concerted MSM spin doctoring on how lousy the Gillard government is and how wonderful Abbott would be in her place. There is a sense of history repeating itself in this: press coverage of the Whitlam government went in a similar direction.

And like me, she probably wouldn't mind if it wasn't so bloody obvious.

War Tard:
The author here is exceptionally knowledgeable about history, technological advancement and global politics. Wartard is also a very witty, stylish writer with a terrific handle on explorations of historical What if...? scenarios. He combines world-weary cynicism with a these-people-deserve-better humanity that is the hallmark of the seen-it-all-before war correspondent.

This post on the German WWII-era jet fighter the Messerschmidt 262 was extraordinarily comprehensive.

The brains behind this blog is American author John Scalzi. He doesn't need your traffic but it's a warm, welcoming  blog that keeps you up to date on his output, gives numerous opportunities to aspiring writers and is, like his books, witty and entertaining.

This recent post explores the publication of fan-fiction, a fascinating tangent to the issue of intellectual property for writers. While here, here and here he discusses a sexual harassment incident at a sci-fi fan convention that has wider implications - and applications.

And we're in Sydney again. Blogs like Peter's are not just lively reading but, I would assert, essential in a robust democracy. He has been providing insightful additional information about the Health Services Union scandals that you won't find in the MSM - and indeed run counter to the prevailing MSM zeitgeist on embattled MHR and ex-HSU National Secretary Craig Thompson.

So there you have it folks. Go ahead, knock yourself out. You could do a lot worse than make this lot part of your essential regular reading. Like sticking religiously to MSM outlets exclusively, for example.

I should make a point of commenting at these blogs more regularly, but sometimes there's nothing to add to something that hits the nail pretty much on the head.

Incidentally, while putting this piece together I wondered if  there were any blogs I DON'T think much of. Well, yes there are. And ooohhh, what a post that would be. Voices OFF The Blogroll as it were.

Coming soon. Maybe.

22 May, 2013

Classic Albums Augmented V: Their Satanic Majesties' Request

Rolling Stones Their Satanic Majesties Request: We Love You; Dandelion
This latest post might make the series a bit like the law of diminishing returns. I don't think Sgt Pepper's is anywhere near The Beatles' best album, and this Stones' LP is the first album not generally regarded as a classic to receive the Lad Litter track listing makeover. However, this is the only album that would find itself transformed by the addition of two songs from a contemporaneous single release.
It's not a stretch to describe Their Satanic Majesties as a disappointment. The Stones ended up producing the album themselves after Andrew Loog Oldham, their Svengali-like producer-manager, threw in the towel early on during the aimless, indolent sessions. In a foreshadowing of what was to occur during the making of the Jimi Hendrix Experience's Electric Ladyland in 1968, the Stones used the studio as party central, all hangers on and good times, when they showed up at all.

But even so, 1967 had been a fairly turbulent year.

There was the February Redlands drug bust that saw Mick Jagger sentenced to three months in jail for being in possession of tablets only available on prescription in Britain, but which he'd purchased legally over the counter in Italy and then left in a jacket pocket. Keith Richard copped a whole year for allowing his premises to be used for the consumption of marijuana. These convictions were subsquently quashed on appeal, but it was a scary time.
And not to be left out, Brian Jones was convicted and fined when a May 1967 police raid discovered marijuana in his London flat. To make matters even worse, Jones' girlfriend Anita Pallenberg ended up leaving him for Richard during a decadent Moroccan holiday, heightening tensions within the Stones. And like The Beatles 12 months before them, it was the year they announced the taking of an extended break from touring. As Bill Wyman observed in the documentary 25 X 5 (1988): "With all the things that were going on, it's a wonder we put any music out at all, really."
While all of the high legal drama was being played out, the Stones' US label, London Records, released the hastily assembled compilation-outtake collection Flowers, so that the public wouldn't be starved of product while Their Satanic Majesties took shape. The Who even showed admirable solidarity by releasing a cover of The Last Time to keep the Stones' music in the public eye.

As a result of the success of Beatles albums like Revolver and Sgt Pepper's, more attention was being paid to LPs by both artists and the public by this time. So much so that 1968 would see albums outsell singles for the first time ever. To reflect this, Their Satanic Majesties became the first Rolling Stones album with uniform track listing for both the UK and US markets. Finally, in December 1967, 10 months after recording had begun, the album finally saw the light of day.

But after all of the factors affecting Their Satanic Majesties' genesis had been overcome, the Stones had really only caught the tail end of the boom. Other groups had already put out psychedelic opuses in the wake of Sgt Pepper's June 1967 release: The Grateful Dead's Anthem of the Sun had been in the shops since July; Jefferson Airplane had beaten them to the punch by a whole fortnight with After Bathing At Baxter's; Cream's Disraeli Gears came out in November; and even The Jimi Hendrix Experience with Axis: Bold As Love managed to sneak in a whole week ahead of The Rolling Stones after Track records delayed their second album's release.

Although Their Satanic Majesties initially reached 2 and 3 on the UK and US charts respectively, sales nosedived from there as bad reviews and word of mouth took its toll.

I've always loved the cover, the Stones' first gatefold. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if quite a few sales were made on the basis of the cover alone. Okay, it's obviously inspired by Sgt Pepper's and it's true there are many similarities: the extravagantly-costumed Stones facing the camera; fantastic technicolour backdrops and props; and hidden artwork like Beatles faces visible in the foregrounded foliage. The inside cover is a very busy montage of almost every possible motif that could be construed as psychedelic, including a maze that can't be navigated, while the back cover employs a tapestry-like design. Rare early versions of the front cover included a 3-D version of the photograph, but this was soon scrapped after printing proved too expensive. 
In essence though, Their Satanic Majesties is truer to the spirit of psychedelia than Sgt Pepper's, which drew on a wider range of random influences. Howeverits unevenness in production values, performance quality and material make it pale by comparison.

Brian Jones plays an extraordinary range of instruments across all ten tracks, (mellotron; organ; electric dulcimer; recorder; percussion; piano; theremin; sitar; and [presumably] guitar in there somewhere too! and this would be the zenith of his status as a multi-instrumentalist. The overall sound of the album is saturated with his contributions. However, even he hinted in a Jan 1968 interview that the album was very hastily completed in the final month before its release.

So it was probably inevitable that there is a lot of dross on the album: Sing This All Together and it's eight-minute reprise; the mockney vaudevillian On With the Show; and the shapeless Gomper must have seemed unintelligible to Stones fans back in the day, and they haven't weathered well either. Much early commentary was critical of the Stones for "selling out" to the latest fad. Jagger himself lamented in a 2003 interview that Their Satanic Majesties was an unhappy by-product of the Stones having too much freedom, too much time on their hands: "believing everything you do is great".

But as with much of the music of the psychedelic era, the good stuff is mind-blowing. For starters, the album contains two fabulously iconoclastic Stones songs that do a lot more than just fit the psychedelic groove: She's A Rainbow, with Nicky Hopkins' music box piano riff, complementary child-like harmonies sped up for effect, and backwards string arrangements courtesy of John Paul Jones; and 2000 Light Years From Home, a haunting space-rock song that authentically evokes colourful yet desolate science fiction fantasies in both form and content.
Of the other tracks, Citadel comes closest to a straight rock song with its bluesy riff and crashing chorus, while In Another Land is the only Bill Wyman composition and lead vocal to ever make it onto a Stones album - and delivers more than just curiosity value - there's a baroque feel overall with tinkling harpsichord and a surprisingly catchy chorus. 2000 Man has a strong folk-rock sensibility and probably deserves better than to be buried on an album that even Stones fans wouldn't play regularly.

However, over at Psychobabble, there is a comprehensive track-by-track analysis of the album that, dare I say it, leaves no Stone unturned.

So if there was ever an album that needed a quality infusion, it was this one. And their double-A side single release from earlier in the same year could have provided it.

We Love You; Dandelion
This August 1967 release was designed to be a thank you to fans of the group, who had been very supportive during the Stones travails at the hands of the wicked Establishment. With a manic opening piano riff that represents Nicky Hopkins' debut on a Stones record, We Love You betrays the Moroccan influences on Brian Jones' mellotron playing that were evident through much of Their Satanic Majesties. The song also features jailhouse sound effects and uncredited backing vocals by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. According to Lennon in a 1968 interview, We Love You is the Stones' equivalent of the Fab Four's earlier All You Need Is Love.
Although We Love You charted well in the UK, its flip side Dandelion was very much the A-side in the US. Dandelion was recorded late in 1966 and so predates the Satanic Majesties sessions by a few months. It always struck me as a follow up and companion piece to Ruby Tuesday and a precursor to She's A Rainbow, with its nursery rhyme lyrics, high harmonies and overall baroque feel. It must have had a significant influence on Keith Richard, who would soon after name his daughter Dandelion. She would later opt for the less trippy Angela in adulthood.
So Which Tracks Would Miss Out?
The album is 44:06 in length. We Love You and Dandelion come in at 4:35 and 3:32 respectively, putting them way over my self-imposed 45-min limit. Seeing as how Sing This All Together (See What Happens), is 8 minutes and 33 seconds of complete crap, it can take a powder with no harm done.

21 May, 2013

"But This Goes to 11..." Meme

I don't mind memes too much. Our own take on a defined set of questions. Variations on a theme, something I've always found fascinating in movies.

So thanks to Kath Lockett over at Goofing Off in Geneva for throwing this my way. She put me onto it ages ago and it's been languishing in my drafts folder forever.

1. When and why did you start blogging?
I'd been enjoying reading many brilliant blogs for about two years from say, 2005 to 2007 until finally it occurred to me to give it a go myself. I was apprehensive about whether I could add anything to the blogosphere but liked the idea of having a creative outlet and an audience for it, however small.

2. What is your middle name and why did your parents select it?
Joseph. Apart from being a good old-fashioned Mick name, I think it must have just flowed with my first given and family names. And thanks to mum and dad for making it happen that way. Flow is important where names are concerned. When we were choosing names for Moe; Larry; and Curly there needed to be no alliteration, and nothing that would sound funny when put together, like Evel Knievel or Loudy Tourky.

3. Toilet paper folder or scruncher? Provide your reasons
Probably a combination of the two depending on my disposition and the type.

You're sorry you asked, I know. But if you're reading this on the toilet, I hope you're in the Type 3 to Type 5 range.

4. What do you do at home when everyone else is out?
Play MY music. At MY volume.

5. You've been given five hundred bucks (two hundred and fifty quid, say) to spend on nothing useful and just your self. What do you do with the cash?
Amazon, folks. Five hundred bucks would clear my wish list out very nicely. I've listed mostly albums I've always wanted to own but never got around to buying and DVDs of my favourite rock artists.

In particular, The Complete Monterey Pop Festival, which is a 3-DVD expanded edition of the film Monterey Pop (1968) and includes the original Monterey Pop release and another disc containing the complete Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix performances plus a further disc featuring artists and performances that didn't make it into the original film. I already own it but I loaned it out to someone a couple of years ago and can't remember who.

There is also a DVD set of The Caesars, a 1968 BBC series that closely follows Robert Graves' I, Claudius, that I've had my eye on.

6. It's finally come true. One of the "five celebrities you're allowed to sleep with" has walked into your kitchen and is up for it. Who is it?
This assumes we're in a parallel universe where I'm both single and unencumbered, right? Okay, it's probably way too obvious but the one making goo-goo eyes at me from the kitchen doorway while I'm busy unloading the dishwasher is Jennifer Love Hewitt.

7. Name one famous person (so that all our readers know who it is) that you think 'has their shit together'. Explain why.
This is difficult, but only because I think there are many worthy candidates. Just at random, I'm going to nominate film director Martin Scorsese. There's his ultra-impressive and profoundly influential feature filmography going back to Taxi Driver (1976) through to Shutter Island (2010) but it's easy to forget that he's also helmed exhaustive, beautifully rendered documentaries such as A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies  (1995); The Blues (2003); and Living In The Material World (2011). Two brilliant careers in one.

8. What makes you get out of bed in the morning?
There's a clock-radio next to the bed that ushers in the new day for me. I'm alternately grateful and resentful for the invention of the snooze button.

9. Who would you like to smack in the face, publicly disprove all of their stupid opinions and freeze their bank accounts?
I'll eschew the personal violence and attempt at impoverishment. But there are just far too many extreme right-wing lickspittle commentators infesting the Main Stream Media in Australia, particularly News Ltd and commercial talk radio. And I would so like to see them all come a complete cropper that to pick one at random seems almost unfair. However, Brendan O'Neill will do very nicely for the moment.

Certainly, this self-styled "contrarian" (and it's a very selective form of "contrarianism") is a dream come true for neo-conservatives, and it's simply a serendipitously delightful coincidence that all of his opinions, every single one of them, on every issue, no matter what it is, err on the side of advancing News Ltd's interests and prevailing worldview.

And err he certainly does: the first time I saw him on ABC-TV's QandA he likened the Leveson Inquiry's investigation into phone hacking by the News of the World and other News Ltd outlets to the Nazis' persecution of Jews. That should have been the end of the ratbag's sojourn in Australian public life, dismissed as little more than the political equivalent of a front-row soccer hooligan. But he got off lightly by comparison with others who try to use the Holocaust as an analogy.

Which brings us to Brendan O’Neill’s bizarre claim on QandA that criticisms of Murdoch were somehow equivalent to a Jewish hate campaign. O’Neill’s strident defence of extremist commentary on the Right ignores the obvious historical fact that Hitler’s rise in Nazi Germany was supported by some right-wing media owners.

Unfortunately, this clip concentrates on Stephen Mayne's rundown of News Ltd excesses and concludes before the audience's opprobrium at O'Neill's particularly stupid analogy becomes apparent. But no-one should have been surprised.

O'Neill and his ilk see themselves as brave bulwarks against the evils of political correctness, valiantly tilting at the windmills of the insidious left with only the collective resources of a rapacious, spiteful and vindictive multi-national media organization to back them up.

Jim Parker regularly analyses the Disneyland of spurious justifications so-called libertarians construct, among other things.

10. Low slung jeans on boys - how do we eradicate this disease?
I must have mellowed quite a bit. The latest clothing, hairstyles, slang expressions, you name it, they're all like water off a duck's back to me these days. Because as a fashion statement, they're transient, like all fads.

My worry is what happens when tattoos go out of fashion. Still, it's not like they're permanent or anything...

11. Tell us about an invention for the home that we desperately need.
I've given this some thought. A Fuck-Up Warning Light and Siren™, suitable for indoor and outdoor use, would be very handy at my place.

There is already a half-baked version of this operating inside my head. You see, having committed numerous atrocities against home maintenance over the years, I have developed a useful sense of self-awareness. The warning usually kicks in when I reach a point in a task like, say, drilling two holes in sheet metal a precise distance apart, with little margin for error.

I’ll realize the potential for fuck-uppery as it approaches, and go away and have a cup of tea while I contemplate how I might sidestep the looming cock-up.

More often than not, this approach means I narrowly escape making a balls of whatever enterprise I’m engaged in. So when fuck-ups do occur, I can rationalize them as being statistically insignificant and therefore both unforeseeable and unavoidable. And live harmoniously with their consequences.

The major issue with all of this is when I just sail right on, not realizing until too late that I’ve entered the Republic of Fuckupia’s territorial waters. Hence the need for the flashing light and wailing siren.

Hope that's okay. Thanks for the heads up Kath!

14 May, 2013

Classic Albums Augmented IV: Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: The Beatles
This is the latest in a series of posts where I take a look at a classic album and explore what-might-have-been if contemporaneous single releases had been included on that album's track listing. So far, I've talked about: Rubber Soul; Highway 61 Revisited; and Revolver.

Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is a hell of an album to be piss-farting about with but I think it needs it. In previous posts in this series, I've been at pains to stress that the albums discussed are already super, but that adding one or two kick-arse songs would make them well, super-duper. However, in Sgt Pepper's case, the additions would be a necessary improvement.
Let's be frank, shall we? I don't think there's any doubt Sgt Pepper's was a ground-breaking, watershed album that both led and followed what was at the cutting edge of rock music in Britain and the US around its 1st June 1967 release date. The depth and detail in the recordings and the innovative blend of what would be categorized as baroque pop and psychedelic rock was nicely mirrored by the album's phenomenal gatefold cover. Up until that point, most LPs had a colour image on the front cover and then reverted to black-and-white for the back. No-one explored the idea of album covers as art, much less pored over them for hidden meanings, as happened after Sgt Pepper's.

It was also much-much-anticipated, coming some 10 months after the Beatles' previous LP release, Revolver. This expectancy was even more pronounced than the usual buzz around what the Fab Four were going to come out with next, due no doubt to the knowledge that the Beatles were spending an inordinately long time putting the record together and had hinted that the new record would be different from anything that had come before it.

And so it was. This would be the first "concept album", informed by McCartney's central thesis that it was not so much a new LP by the Beatles as an album by the characters they invented, from which the album took its name. A charming idea, and one that is realized especially by the first two tracks. So all of the songs were designed to fit in with this theme, that the album was a performance by this group Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. So the record is ostensibly filler-free, with each song essential to the narrative. Think rock-operas like The Who's Tommy and Pink Floyd's The Wall.

The only trouble with that is, you invariably have to put up with a lot of songs sung in silly character voices. And for me, although the album hangs together nicely as a whole, and contains great songs like: the title track and its double-time reprise; Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds; Getting Better; Lovely Rita; and A Day In The Life, there are a few that stray too far from the Beatles' sound for my liking, such as: With A Little Help From My Friends; Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite; She's Leaving Home; and When I'm Sixty-Four.

And this is not me trying to be an iconoclast just for the sake of it. For all that's been said and written about this album, it would be a new shade of superb with the addition of a couple of handy Beatles tunes released as a double-A sided single at around the same time.

Strawberry Fields Forever; Penny Lane
This double-A sided single, released three months before Sgt Pepper's, contains two quintessential Lennon and McCartney songs, the former written by Lennon and the latter by McCartney. These are intensely personal songs of a nostalgic nature that would not jar with the album's overall theme.

Strawberry Fields Forever started out as an acoustic guitar demo that everyone in the Abbey Road studio loved instantly when Lennon played it to them. The real Strawberry Fields was a Liverpool Salvation Army children's home with a garden that Lennon had played in as a child. The muted vocals are suggestive of a child's cry and the almost-nonsense-verse lyrics are designed to obscure the impact on Lennon of recent upheavals like the Bigger Than Jesus shitstorm, his marriage breakdown and LSD use. The songs haunting mellotron intro, combined with a languid melody and ominous orchestration evoked what George Martin described as a "hazy dreamworld".
Penny Lane has always struck me as sounding like a really good children's song. Its lashings of warm nostalgia for Liverpool (specifically, a Liverpool bus terminus and surrounds) makes it the song that caused untold street-sign thefts. The imagery conjures a rich cast of eccentric characters and the enigmatic musical structure (ie "very strange" and "meanwhile back" to come out of the chorus) make it one of those "loved by all ages"-type songs.
Indeed, producer George Martin thought this double-A side The Beatles' finest single. The inclusion of these songs on the Sgt Pepper's album would have augmented and enhanced it.

So Which Tracks Would Miss Out?
With a combined running time of 7:08, the two welcome additions could only come in at the expense of one other track, otherwise the 39:42 running time of the album would go over the 45min limit I've stipulated for this exercise.

There are no standout candidates for worst track on the album as such, but When I'm Sixty-Four has always got on my nerves. So off with its head. There, that's better.