Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Sgt. Pepper's Sketch Revue

Forty years ago, The Beatles kicked off what became known as The Summer of Love with a mind-blowing explosion of music that raised the bar on rock and roll music and music albums. It's been known as the most influential record album of all time, extending its reach beyond musicians to artists of all type. Even me, who can't play a lick of music on anything and couldn't tune a kazoo.

I think of a sketch revue a lot like a record album. Not a CD, but a good old-fashioned vinyl record album. Each track is a sketch that tells a story. The best ones paint vivid pictures in your imagination, characters have strong wants and emotional investments, are relatable and only hang around for four minutes or less.

Don Hall and I have a lot in common as far as theatrical tastes go, but here's one place where we differ. He hates it - HATES IT - when there's down time between scenes. He doesn't want to watch actors setting up chairs in the dark. I don't mind it. Sometimes, I even treasure it. To me, it's a palate cleanser. Like the silence between songs on an album, the lights out and the music bridge as the next scene is set, completes one story and gets you ready for the next.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was the first ever pop/rock album produced with the intention that the listener enjoy it in its entirety. What became known as a concept album.

Paul McCartney has largely been credited with pushing The Beatles in this direction and I believe he pulled from his love of Music Hall entertainment in fashioning the flow of the album. Not only is it one of the most influential rock albums ever produced, it also makes a decent sketch revue.

Side one

1. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" – 2:04

- The Opener. A great little warm-up that introduces the band. It tells the listener who they are and that they are in for a great time.

2. "With a Little Help from My Friends" – 2:46
- Now that the audience knows who they are and they've warmed them up a bit, here's something a little more intimate to draw them in. Usually know as the Relationship Scene slot in a sketch revue.
The first track goes right into the second, just to make Don Hall happy.

3. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" – 3:30

- The tone of the show here is being explored here. The first track set up a concert by a mythical band. In this track, the group is letting their audience know that they're taking them to a whole new world that they created.

4. "Getting Better" – 2:49

- A nice character point-of-view scene with this.

5. "Fixing a Hole" – 2:38

- A nice, relatable situation. If one has never literally fixed a hole where the rain comes in, they can certainly apply a metaphor for their own lives.

6. "She's Leaving Home" – 3:37

- A character study, again, with a very relatable situation.

7. "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" – 2:39
- Act One closer. It promises a big show in the near future. Whets your appetite for Side Two.

Intermission - otherwise known as getting off your butt and flipping the album over.

Side two

1. "Within You Without You" (Harrison) – 5:07

- Side One has won over the audience. Shown them a fun, but safe world the group has created. Now, it's time to get a little weird and a little dangerous, stylistically. This is a complete departure from anything heard yet in the show.

2. "When I'm Sixty-Four" – 2:37

- This track, with it's classic good time feel, says, "Now, just in case that got too weird, don't worry! Entertaining you is still our priority. We haven't abandoned you!

3. "Lovely Rita" – 2:44

- Another quick character study and a relatable situation - getting a parking ticket - with the twist of falling in love with the meter maid.

4. "Good Morning Good Morning" – 2:43

- There's a lot about life on this album and this one has the most humorous take on just getting through the day. Life sucks, but I will continue to say "Good morning!"

5. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)" – 1:20

- Thanks for coming. Let's wrap up the show. Remind you that this was meant as a whole experience by referencing the opener. A false ending that bookends the start of the album. Strengthens the theme.

6. "A Day in t
he Life" – 5:33 - The Closer. The BIG Closer. Mixes both elements of the album - straight up, well-structured songwriting and the loopier, more dangerous stuff. Wraps everything in the show up in a very dynamic way.

Like most sketch revues, the "concept" isn't heavy-handed and necessary for all the scenes/songs to work. In fact, some of the songs would easily fit on other Beatles albums. In sitting down to write this, I could have sworn Lovely Rita was on Abbey Road. What can I say? While Sgt. Pepper's is their most influential, Let It Be is actually my favorite Beatles album.

1,000 - I must admit, when I started this blog, I had no idea who or how many would read this. I have nothing to measure it against. My expectations were very low. Imagine my surprise when I saw the visitor meter turned over 1,000! Woo-hoo! Site Meter tells me the 1,000th visitor is from Phoenix, Arizona. That's the other thing I didn't expect, people from all over the planet drop in on this place from time-to-time. Mostly by accident, but, hey, I'll take it.