Imagine if EMI Recording Studios (later to be known as Abbey Road Studios) was a gallery where the sonic tapestries created by The Beatles there were mounted and framed for all to see. What images would we see displayed from the Sgt. Pepper Era? Perhaps, we would see Paul McCartney laying down the fluid and melodic bass tracks for “With a Little Help from My Friends.” Maybe, an image of George Harrison directing his guest Indian Musicians for the ethereal raga drone of “Within You, Without You.” John Lennon demoing on piano the surreal landscape of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” would make a beautifully framed portrait. The percussive answers of Ringo Starr locked in lyrical synchronicity of “A Day in the Life” with his drums providing well-timed responses to the ebb and flow of the song.
The image I prefer to envision is the band gathered around a battered piano in the cold, echoed confines of Studio 2. Producer George Martin is in a crisp, pressed dress shirt with a tie swaying in time to the chords being played on the piano. Our Fab Four, no longer in their “A Hard Day’s Night” suits and Beatle Boots, are moustached and wearing the paisley, crushed velvet of Carnaby Street. A knowing smile is exchanged by the band as they run through a rough tune entitled “In the Life Of.” This song pieced together from separate scraps written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney will serve as a shining example of the album’s majesty, timelessness and impact.
Proclaimed by many to be the band’s most revolutionary era in their recording oeuvre, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band takes the template of Pop Music and smashes its established standards against a day-glo wall of rebellion. The album stands as a paradigm shift for expression in Music. After its June 1, 1967 release date, bands will forever embrace or avoid comparisons to this album. The words “masterpiece,” “psychedelic,” and “concept album” are freely associated with the “Sgt. Pepper” album.
Books, tributes and documentaries fill the space of Sgt. Pepper. It is an album that is often met with a pious pause like Excalibur being pulled from the stone.
Esteemed Beatles Authors have explored all kinds of interesting permutations of this “little band from Liverpool.” Upcoming guests on the radio version of The Pepper Mindset, Jim Berkenstadt and Donovan Day have mined fresh perspectives on The Beatles with their respective books. The Beatles impact is far-reaching and their studio work still challenges and inspires today as we have seen with the fresh takes provided by these two authors.
The studio innovations embedded within the album have served as the basis for analysis and discussion. The dated trappings of the Summer of Love are aligned with the release of the album. The final haunting chord of “A Day in the Life” or the album’s groundbreaking gatefold cover are freely referenced by Beatles fans and scholars alike. What I believe is often missed in the equation of Sgt.Pepper is this culture of creativity, collaboration and innovation evident within the band. I call this The Pepper Mindset. The Beatles harnessed this mindset with the need to do something different with their recorded work. The band was intentional in this progression and very much aware of the studio production race that was happening with prime movers like Brian Wilson, Phil Spector and Berry Gordy.
The Pepper Mindset fueled experimentation within the studio during the recording of their masterpiece. Their collaboration pushed and nudged them to collective new heights and allowed them to embrace risk-taking moves like adding comb and tissue paper on songs like “Lovely Rita” or adding a forty-one piece orchestra to play what producer George Martin called “a giant orgasm of sound” for “A Day in the Life.”
Imagine visiting a 7th Grade Math Class filled with a diverse group of learners. Their Math Teacher is co-teaching a lesson with the Library Media Specialist. They have decided to take a Problem-Based Learning Approach to a particular lesson. Students are working in collaborative groups in the school library’s Makerspace. Each group is inspired to provide a creative solution to a complex real-world problem involving application of statistics, probability and computation. They are creating meaning and visualizing their learning. The teachers have established a culture that is positive and inviting for all learners.
The 4Cs of Education (Collaboration, Creativity, Communication, Critical Thinking) are alive and happening in real-time as students are pushing their thinking with intentional purpose. This is not a traditional classroom where students are aligned in rows and the teacher is lecturing. The Makerspace has the feel of Studio 2 circa 1967 at EMI Recording Studios. (For more on Makerspace, be sure to check out Laura Fleming’s dynamic and invaluable website: Worlds of Learning.)
The Pepper Mindset is resonating in dynamic actions among the students in the schoolhouse. Students are creating their own masterpiece with differentiated support and encouragement from their teachers. Everyone is included and inspired to innovate. It is almost as if you can hear The Beatles and George Martin nodding in approval at the creativity taking place in the classroom.
What if schools embraced The Pepper Mindset in service and support of all kids? Where would the schoolhouse head if we continue to push to embrace this mindset? What if teachers embraced the collaborative spirit as The Beatles did in creating their 1967 album masterpiece? As The Beatles shifted the landscape to change world with their music, schoolhouses are encouraged to do the same. Our students have so much to offer and with a dash of The Pepper Mindset we just might change the world.
Tune in for the companion radio series for #ThePepperMindset starting May 3rd at 5pm CDT/6pm EDT. I am co-hosting with Author Lanea Stagg of Recipe Records. We have authors Jim Berkenstadt and Donovan Day joining us. The radio series is found at the following link: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/recipe-records-cookbook/2017/05/03/the-pepper-mindset
A very splendid “Fab” thanks to Nicole Michael of 910 Public Relations for support, encouragement and gear organization! I am so grateful you caught the bus for my “Magical Mystery Tour” Tweets on Boxing Day.