Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father (NME PEP LP-100)
There are a number of records I view almost like they're my children, and I'm their deadbeat dad who took off without leaving a note. I watch them grow up from afar, hoping to someday reconnect and remedy my wrongdoing.
Generally, these are records that I never went so far as to buy, and which subsequently disappearred without a trace, never to be heard from again. In some cases I find it difficult, even with the help of the almighty Internet, to prove their existence. Sometimes, an unexpected CD reissue occurs, and I can finally start making up for lost time. Other times, the journey remains that of a bereaved parent whose kid either ran away or was kidnapped always searching for a body, or even a decapitated head, to emerge, for closure.
Ew. I think I'm a little too invested in records I don't even feel that strongly about my real son, who was kidnapped and beheaded. Maybe because in that case, at least I had closure. That, and I was actually the one who beheaded him.
Hm well, anyway, Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father was a charity record issued by NME in '88, when I was still a huge Beatles fan, but on the cusp of dispensing with nearly all my childhood musical interests for the bold, exciting new offerings of what later became known as "modern rock." It's a cover of the entire Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by a diverse assortment of mostly British artists of the day I found it shortly after its release, but it was an import-priced LP, and I couldn't justify spending that much money on it, especially since it wasn't on "Compact Disc Digital Audio."
Fifteen years I waited for this fucker. I honestly thought about the album quite a bit in that time, and it took on the Holy Grail status of a forever-lost opportunity. What's wrong with me?
Finally, a rather sarcastic trip to Beatlefest revealed the record in a bin of half-price records, so I was able to nab it for $10. Search over! Child found alive!
Now, I'm sure I'm the only person on earth who has applied this much energy toward this record since it came out. And now, listening to it at last, I'm a bit chagrined to find that it's precisely how I figured it would be.
That is, as with most tribute records, so-so. Some cuts hold up better than others (Sonic Youth's well-assigned "Within You, Without You," The Wedding Present's "Getting Better," The Fall's "A Day in the Life"), while some are throwaways from a disposable era (Hue & Cry with "Fixing a Hole," "Lucy in the Sky" by The Christians, and the title track and reprise by The Three Wize Men incidentally, not XTC's side project, which would have been a better choice).
Hovering just above mediocre are Michelle Shocked with a fair, sort of Cat Power-ish "Lovely Rita," Billy Bragg with a nearly ridiculous yet touching "She's Leaving Home," and Wet Wet Wet's "With a Little Help From My Friends," which sounds like something you'd hear in a Hugh Grant movie. Courtney Pine provides a welcome change of pace with a sprightly jazz version of "When I'm Sixty-Four."
The most radical remake belongs to forgotten Brit comic Frank Sidebottom, about whom I know nothing, except that he's massively irreverent (in a good way), and apparently looks like this:
So no, it wasn't worth the 15-year wait, but as with all my children, I still love it. Someone has to.
Review by Brian Patch