The cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is one of the most famous in rock and roll; it’s a collage of about 60 celebrities and influential people. Dead center are the four Lonely Hearts, with that famous bass drum in the center, their namesake. Complete anonymity is just a dream, however, since the flower arrangements spell out BEATLES. But I’ve got to give them props for sticking to their concept. Right next to the Lonely Hearts are life-size wax figures of the Fab Four. The message is clear; this isn’t the Beatles you used to know.

The first track begins with the low chattering of a crowd, as well as an orchestra tuning up. John’s quivering guitar comes in on lead, and Paul’s voice dives right into the storytelling. Late in the song, the character Billy Shears is mentioned. He’s apparently going to sing the next song (and he wants you all to sing along!), and we wait with excitement. But when the second track starts, it’s Ringo. Even today, it seems like I’m getting gypped.

Ringo – how on EARTH did this guy marry a Bond girl?

Ringo has sung before, and it’s usually a pretty cheesy or maudlin experience. “Act Naturally” and “Honey Don’t” are both pretty groan-inducing. I kinda feel sorry for Ringo; he’s always been a bit of a pariah. Ringo-bashing has been a sport since he joined the band. When asked by a reporter if Ringo was the best drummer in the world, John responded, “he’s not even the best drummer in the Beatles.” In his famous SNL plea for the Beatles to get back together, Lorne Michaels offered a check for $3000, but added, “if you want to pay Ringo less, it’s okay; we understand.” I mean, yeah, the guy can’t sing and he looks like a frog, but throw him a bone once in a while.

I was familiar with the song “With a Little Help From My Friends” from an early age, but it wasn’t a Beatles song; it was the theme song for The Wonder Years. That intro with the old-style video camera and the Joe Cocker song were a golden part of my childhood. That’s pretty ironic because at that age, I simply couldn’t understand the nostalgia that show represented for people of the previous generation. The Joe Cocker version is 100% soul (sung by a white guy; more irony), whereas the Beatles do it pretty sing-songy and kid-like.

On Monday: Is “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” about drugs?

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