Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Re-imagining

by Alex Hern

So it seems that for the 40th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the BBC got a whole bunch of bands to re-interpret the entire album. Clearly I’m behind on this knowledge, as the 40th anniversary was actually in June, but I don’t think I’ve been missing out that much.The problem is that while re-interpretations sound a good idea, they are very rarely carried off with the flair that is needed. The idea sounds fantastic; take something with proven success, and then pump as many different bands into it as possible. The end result will be a wide-ranging, eclectic album, with a solid foundation and as many different fan bases to tap into as there are bands on the disc.

The problem is, this is rarely the end result. Sometimes, this is because of following the money – the awful cover of Perfect Day that the BBC released is an example of that. Cram as many famous faces as you can in, without regard as to whether they will improve the song, and then release it to a celeb-hungry audience, and watch the sales grow and grow.

Of course, other times, it can be the reverse. No one can accuse George Martin of chasing the money while making In My Life, just of masturbating furiously at the mixing deck shouting “I AM A GENIUS” while Jim Carey sings performs I am the Walrus. The end result is an, uh, mixed album, although I’ll be the first to attest to the brilliance of Jeff Beck’s cover of A Day in the Life.

The problem with this latest series of covers is that they expose the fact that, in a way, every popular guitar band of the last 40 years is just doing their best Beatles impression. Without any creative direction, if you put Razorlight or the Kaiser Chiefs in a studio and ask them to cover a Beatles song, what you get is something that is almost, but not quite, a perfect reproduction. Which, of course, makes it completely pointless to listen to.

Lou Reed et al – Perfect Day [YouTube]
Jeff Beck – A Day in the Life [YouTube]
Kaiser Chiefs – Getting Better [MP3 Removed]