The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by Allan F Moore (Cambridge University Press, pounds 7.99)

thursday's book

Aiming to "provide accessible introductions to major musical works", the 36 monographs of the Cambridge Music Handbooks have been hitherto irreproachably high-minded. From Bach: The Brandenburg Concertos to Vivaldi: The Four Seasons, only once has the series dipped its toes in the murky waters of popular culture with Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue. Now, like a maiden aunt suddenly sucking on a spliff, it has taken the plunge with its first full-blown rock exegesis, a mere three decades after Sgt Pepper first appeared. It claims, rather oddly, to be "the first detailed study to be made of this or any other such album".

Of course, it had to be Sgt Pepper, though many pop aficionados rate Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys as a more significant achievement; and Revolution has come to be regarded as the finest of all the Beatles' records, despite the drawback of "Yellow Submarine".

Not only was Sgt Pepper a "concept" album (of sorts), it was replete with cultural references. The core of Moore's study is an in-depth technical analysis of the music. Fans of the Fab Four will be intrigued to learn, for example, that "Lovely Rita" has "a very strong sense of harmonic direction, traversing cycles of fifths either side of the tonic E". Dr Moore's keen ear also reveals non-musical elements: four minutes and 50 seconds into "A Day in the Life" he detects "the creaking of a piano stool (the first real intimation on the album that we are hearing real, lived time)".

Though he refers en passant to Beethoven and Dostoyevsky, the knowledgeable author does not avoid less exalted cultural associations. Reflecting on the range of influence on the Beatles, he notes that other bands shared the same eclecticism. We even find "such an avowed pop band as Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Titch producing pop pastiches of Greek and Latin `ethnic' sounds (`Zabadak' and `Xanadu') as early as 1965". He also suggests that the dream sequence of "A Day in the Life" influenced the "early 1990s UK advertisement for only the crumbliest, flakiest chocolate... In this way a musical sequence can assume a near iconic quality".

In Moore's conclusion, Schumann rubs shoulders with the Boo Radleys, Schoenberg with King Crimson. Sgt Pepper, he exuberantly affirms, marks "the paradigmatic shift towards a more flexible, less guilt-ridden appropriation and utilisation of musical materials". Ringo himself couldn't have put it better.

Christopher Hirst

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

    £40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

    Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

    £26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

    £17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific