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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > May 2017 > Is Sgt Pepper still worth the hype?

Is Sgt Pepper still worth the hype?


On its release—on 1st June 1967— Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was hailed by the New York Review of Books as a work that “heralded a new golden age of song.” The critic Kenneth Tynan was so blown away that he reckoned its arrival was “a decisive moment in the history of western civilisation.” The New Musical Express, meanwhile, expressed its pleasure in more level-headed terms. “No one can deny that the Beatles have provided us with more musical entertainment which will both please the ear and get the brain working a bit too.”

All these verdicts were on to something, and 50 years on, the basic point needs restating: Sgt Pepper is a thrillingly brilliant, massively influential album that did indeed embody a watershed moment in the development of popular music, and the modern history of the west. In its most vivid moments, you can hear the end of the bowler-hatted, imperial, fusty England and the birth of the altogether more emancipated, self-expressive, chaotic modernity in which we still live. Sometimes, given the right mixture of accident and design, music captures changes like that.

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In Prospect’s May issue: Neal Ascherson, Simon Jenkins, John Curtice and Frances Cairncross examine the growing divide between England and Scotland. Ascherson argues that England has become Scotland’s “neurotic neighbour,” while Jenkins says we should learn from history and prepare for Scotland to leave the Union. Cairncross and Curtice debate whether Scotland could afford to break with England and whether a fresh referendum on independence is actually winnable. Also in this issue: Jason Burke questions whether the world will be a safer place after the downfall of Islamic State, Paul Hilder examines how politics got tangled in the web and Michael White reviews a new book charting the history of the Daily Mail