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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Its main flaw is the title
This is a much maligned book, mostly, I suspect, by outraged Beatle fans who have taken umbrage at Heylin's unwillingness to revere the Beatles' hallowed magnum opus properly. And okay, if you're after yet another book detailing the minutiae of Pepper then this isn't it, and the cover and title are somewhat misleading. But as an overview of the 1966/67 period, when it...
Published on 4 Mar. 2008 by Archy

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars misjudged and cynical
Under the guise of giving us the inside track to the evolution and production of SERGEANT PEPPER, Heylin merely uses his book as an opportunity to give the Beatles and their producer a bit of a kicking. If there was some point to this, it would make sense. But there isn't. Forty years after this album, The Beatles are a global institution whose standing - whether Heylin...
Published on 10 Nov. 2007 by S. Block


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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars misjudged and cynical, 10 Nov. 2007
By 
S. Block (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Act You've Known For All These Years: A Year in the Life of Sgt. Pepper and Friends: The Life, and Afterlife, of Sgt. Pepper (Hardcover)
Under the guise of giving us the inside track to the evolution and production of SERGEANT PEPPER, Heylin merely uses his book as an opportunity to give the Beatles and their producer a bit of a kicking. If there was some point to this, it would make sense. But there isn't. Forty years after this album, The Beatles are a global institution whose standing - whether Heylin likes it or not - is unassailable. So why waste time trying to assail it?

While not looking for an uncritical assessment of the making of this album, I was hoping for some real insight into the band's methods and dynamics. Essentially, all we get on this score is that bored, lazy Lennon was on LSD, switched-on, careerist McCartney wasn't. Even this would have been fair enough had Heylin exercised some self-control, and not made the gross misjudgement that I had bought the book to read 'a book by Clinton Heylin' and not to read something interesting about The Beatles.

But Heylin cannot resist inserting himself throughout, chipping in with his personal asides (low, bitter jibes at other muso authors) and adolescent wisecracks (unfunny puns). Even this would have been bearable had Heylin come up with a book stuffed with information about the album and its making. But clearly he had little to go on.

To compensate, Heylin inserts vast tracts about The Beach Boys and Pink Floyd. While passingly interesting as context, this starts to feel like padding the further into the book we go. Perhaps I would buy a book about LSD Pop casualties, perhaps not. But if I am buying a book about one album then I really do expect it to be more or less entirely about that album - and not a rambling, personal discourse about the era in which the album was made.

Ultimately, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. Heylin purports to not be a great fan of the Fab Four (or, as Heylin would have it, the "not-as-Fab-as-you-tasteless-sheep-really-think Four") and yet is nevertheless making a nice buck off the back of their work.

Heylin's cynicism and self-regard shines through. He may have written a better book on Dylan (who he so obviously prefers) but based on this, I wouldn't waste my time trying to find out.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poorly written attempt to put Sgt Pepper in some kind of cultural context, 10 Jun. 2007
By 
russell clarke "stipesdoppleganger" (halifax, west yorks) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Act You've Known For All These Years: A Year in the Life of Sgt. Pepper and Friends: The Life, and Afterlife, of Sgt. Pepper (Hardcover)
40 years on from it's release and all the hyperbole about Sgt Pepper is building up nicely . So a cerebral meditation on the albums cultural impact and legacy is most welcome. Unfortunately this rather sour "li,l tome" as Heylin hilariously calls it in the prologue is about as cerebral as a GMTV staff party.

Clinton Heylin has previously written about punk and grunge and err Bob Dylan and while this book isn't a complete hatchet job its abundantly clear that Heylin is not only not a fan of The Beatles but views this revered album as an overambitious sprawling mess. It's a curious stance to take given that that most people who read this book will be Beatles fans but those looking a radical touch of iconoclasm will find this most tantalising. Rather disingenuously the sleeve notes give no hint of the abrasive attitude taken by the author citing the book as "The story of the life and times of one of the most iconic albums ever made".

Heylin attempts to put Sgt Pepper in some critical context by citing albums by other artists released around the same time as more original and superior musically. He cites Pink Floyds "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" recorded in the same studio's as the more revolutionary work ( which to be fair it probably is)but then undermines his argument by saying the same about Dylan's "Bringing It All Back Home". There is also some blathering about the Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones which with the Beach Boys again is fair enough to a point but the Stones ...gimme a break. In fact so much space is given over to other acts he sometimes seems to forget he's actually writing about The Beatles.

Heylin most annoyingly is not even a particularly good writer. You could take some of the guff written here if it was done with a pithy turn of phrase or with genuine wit but there are clunking malapropisms galore hence Joe Boyd was "shocked but not totally surprised " at the collapse of Syd Barrett .Some of the statements border on the truly bizarre and his attack on Ian MacDonald's "Revolution In The Head" is just spiteful and given this effort laughable .

Let me say here that as a fans of The Beatles I don't think Sgt Pepper is their best album by any means , and I think a lot of people think the same. I personally prefer Abbey Road, Revolver, The White Album and Rubber Soul but I can acknowledge that on it's release in 1967 it caught the cusp of the psychedelic revolution while still harking back to more traditional song writing .With one song -"A Day In the Life" they did both at the same time. Originally meant as a song suite about the north the album emerged as a concept album with no real concept . But Heylin chooses to overlook the fact that this massively successful band strove to take their music forward rather than stagnate like so many of his beloved punk bands. The Beatles meant nothing to me he declares in his introduction. So why write about them then you Muppet? Never mind ,I will console myself with the fact that Sgt Pepper will still be talked about in another forty years while this bitter "L,il tome" will be forgotten about in forty days.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Provocative but okay as intro, 2 Aug. 2007
By 
Pismotality (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Act You've Known For All These Years: A Year in the Life of Sgt. Pepper and Friends: The Life, and Afterlife, of Sgt. Pepper (Hardcover)
Beatle-centric reviewers have perhaps been too harsh about this book. If you don't know much about the period, it does a reasonable enough job in giving the context of the other music happening around Pepper (the Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and the Velvet Underground feature heavily), though I admit the dismissive attitude to the album which is his ostensible subject and the unnecessary sideswipes at the better-written "tomes" by Ian MacDonald and Joe Boyd do grate. If this book was your only source it couldn't be recommended; it's best viewed as a provocative appetiser for the wealth of other writing about individual groups and artists out there. Maybe it would have been more suitable as a series of magazine articles so you wouldn't have to live with it forever, but that's another question.

Nevertheless, it's a handy one-stop shop for giving you some sense of the importance of key figures like Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson and Syd Barrett. The Beatles, as John Lennon said in 1980, drew from the times as well as informing them: "Whatever was blowing at the time moved the Beatles too. I'm not saying we weren't flags on top of the ship. But the whole boat was moving."

If you're entirely without nautical experience, then, this might help to illuminate the play Rock'n'Roll by Tom Stoppard (which explores the political and cultural impact of these groups in Eastern Europe) and Derek Taylor's It Was Twenty Years Ago Today (an account of the Summer of Love by one of the key Beatle insiders).

Ian MacDonald's Revolution in the Head is a useful counterbalance to Heylin: he sees Pepper as the apex and his book is widely regarded as the best single account of the Beatles' output. I'm delighted, though, that the Move are included here among the groups in the vanguard of psychedelia, though apparently it was beer, not LSD, which got them hearing the grass, and watching the garden, grow.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sad old Punk goes postal, 3 April 2008
By 
Modzilla (Maidstone, U.K.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Act You've Known For All These Years: A Year in the Life of Sgt. Pepper and Friends: The Life, and Afterlife, of Sgt. Pepper (Hardcover)
I agree with a lot of what other reviewers have already said. On top of several lame metaphors and some very poor turns of phrase (at one point he calls his book a "li'l tome" and bizzarely, often refers to 'The Sargeant' in the third person), Heylin's condescending and dismissive attitude to both his subject matter and those who dare appreciate it, along with his snide observations on the work of other writers who don't share his views just comes across as nasty. His whole purpose seems to be to troll through the bands he considers worthy (mainly Dylan and the Velvet Underground, who appear to be his favourite hobbyhorses) and to rubbish The Beatles by comparison.
He epitomises that very worst product of the late 70's - the Punk Rock Snob who holds the almost autistic view that the only valid sort of music is the one he deems worthwhile whilst everything else is crap and those that enjoy it must be sheep. This is an absurd stance which may have seemed cool for a teenager to adopt in '77, but today it's akin to saying that one should only like one genre of film or only read one type of book. I'll admit I love The Beatles to distraction but equally I worship at the feet of The Velvets and that includes listening to Metal Machine Music on a regular basis. In fact, I find greatness in all kinds of music from Albert Ayler to The Carpenters and really can't see any contradiction in that. Heylin himself admits that he does so it makes one pause to wonder why he bothered to spend so much time and effort turning out this stuff in the first place if not to satisfy some onanistic urge to parade his tunnel vision for all to see.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars BITTER, TWISTED AND A BIT SAD....., 26 July 2007
By 
Kenneth Melville (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Act You've Known For All These Years: A Year in the Life of Sgt. Pepper and Friends: The Life, and Afterlife, of Sgt. Pepper (Hardcover)
I BOUGHT THIS BOOK BECAUSE I'M A BIG FAN OF THE BEATLES. I LOVE THE SGT.PEPPER ALBUM. IT MAY NOT BE THE BEST ALBUM EVER MADE, BUT IT'S CERTAINLY THE MOST ICONIC.
THE FACT THE AUTHOR DECLARES THAT HE IS NOT A BEATLES FAN WAS NOT A PROBLEM. I THOUGHT I MIGHT GET AN INTERESTING PERSPECTIVE ON AN ALBUM I LOVE. HOW WRONG WAS I ?? THIS BOOK IS NOTHING MORE THAN A BITTER RANT FROM SOMEONE WHO COMES ACROSS AS A BIT SAD.
FOR BIG CHUNKS OF THE BOOK HE SEEMS TO FORGET HE IS DEALING WITH THE BEATLES ! WE GET MENTIONS OF BOB DYLAN NON-STOP ! WE GET TOLD HOW JUST ABOUT EVERY ALBUM FROM THAT ERA IS BETTER THAN SGT PEPPER. WE GET BILE AND WE GET A BADLY WRITTEN, POORLY RESEARCHED BOOK.

THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE PEOPLE WHO WILL BUY THIS BOOK WILL BE BEATLES FANS..AND THEY WILL FIND PRECIOUS LITTLE TO INTEREST OR STIMULATE THEM.
I WOULD ADVISE AVOIDING THIS BITTER LITTLE BOOK AND INSTEAD LOOK OUT IAN MACDONALDS EXCELLENT READING OF THE BEATLES CAREER IN "REVOLUTION IN THE HEAD"
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars what do critics know anyway, 23 Aug. 2010
This review is from: The Act You've Known For All These Years: A Year in the Life of Sgt. Pepper and Friends: The Life, and Afterlife, of Sgt. Pepper (Hardcover)
I'm a big fan of the Beatles and I'm not really too bothered what the critics say. I am fascinated by the music and the image they pionered. There's no denying their success as song writers so why bother trying. Some of the Fabs recordings proved more successful but I guess the real issues is who qualifies success. The UK has a history of critics trying to be over anaytical about music and the down side is this negatively affects some artist's careers. But the real issue surely is that music is made to be listened to for whatever purpose. If people enjoy listening to it who cares what some hack has to say. There are too many 'smartarse' writers out there caught up in their own self importance and in my view, this author is one of them. Sgt Pepper is a landmark of it's time and a number of it's tunes will pass down through time - that's the importance and relevance of the album. The book has some useful insight on related events but that's about it in my view.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Its main flaw is the title, 4 Mar. 2008
By 
Archy (ALTRINCHAM, Cheshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Act You've Known For All These Years: A Year in the Life of Sgt. Pepper and Friends: The Life, and Afterlife, of Sgt. Pepper (Hardcover)
This is a much maligned book, mostly, I suspect, by outraged Beatle fans who have taken umbrage at Heylin's unwillingness to revere the Beatles' hallowed magnum opus properly. And okay, if you're after yet another book detailing the minutiae of Pepper then this isn't it, and the cover and title are somewhat misleading. But as an overview of the 1966/67 period, when it seemed to some that The Beatles were changing the world and to others that they'd lost their senses, it's a great book. Fans of Pink Floyd are more likely to find this interesting than fans of the Fab Four, though, and there lies its problem. It isn't really about Pepper. But as one fascinated by the period (I was 11 when Pepper hit the shops) I was engrossed. I was particularly interested in the contemporary reviews; not all people thought Pepper was the bees' knees at the time, but their views seem to have been airbrushed out of pop history.

I recall a fine article by Pete Fowler in the early 70s, which looked at the top 100 best selling singles of the 60s. Fowler points out that though The Beatles early singles occupied four of the top five places, All You Need Is Love was at 53 and Eleanor Rigby at 59. "For all those who thought The Beatles were the saviours of rock" he wrote, "there were at least twice as many who thought John Lennon was going round the twist". Lennon himself dismissed much of Pepper: "it worked because we said it worked," he said. Heylin is doing no more than making similar comments; this is no mere hatchet job, and I wouldn't be without it!
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pure hackery, 7 Aug. 2008
By 
Paul Ryall (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Act You've Known For All These Years: A Year in the Life of Sgt. Pepper and Friends: The Life, and Afterlife, of Sgt. Pepper (Hardcover)
Heylin has previously opined- in Bob Dylan, "Behind the Shades"- that Sgt. Pepper was The Beatles', "...most unsatisfactory album..." that it was "...a cornucopia of studio gimmicks designed to obscure lightweight tunes," and that it, "...caused a lemminglike rush of hippies intent on recording psychedelic versions of their most recent acid trip."

Should you now feel inspired to buy his book about this "talismanic, iconic album" and its "afterlife"?

I think not.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cheer up, this is a great book, 27 Jun. 2010
This review is from: The Act You've Known For All These Years: A Year in the Life of Sgt. Pepper and Friends: The Life, and Afterlife, of Sgt. Pepper (Hardcover)
I got this book for Christmas and only picked it up today, assuming it contained a few familiar stories about the erstwhile greatest album of all time. My mistake. It's really a history of pop music between 1965-69 and a very good one at that (I read it in one sitting). Great Beatles stories plus Syd Barrett, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Wilson and Bob Dylan. What's not to like? Contrary to what some reviewers have said, Heylin doesn't have it in for 'The Sergeant' (what's wrong with calling it that, then?). He neither worships nor hates it, and is equally dismissive of those who do. Towards the end, he considers Pepper's position of 33 in an all-time greatest LP list to be "about right". I would agree, but it's a tribute to his balanced approach that it is only then that you really find out how he views the record.

I've read more Beatles books than is probably healthy and for sheer enjoyment, this is way up there. After all these years, we can't expect any breath-taking new revelations about this period of musical history so books like this stand or fall on how well the tale is told and, for my money, Heylin tells it very well indeed. Sardonic but affectionate, highly knowledgeable and with some genuinely thought-provoking slivers of criticism. Things get particularly feisty when discussing other music journalists and what he sees as the missed trick of the Anthology albums, but it's all good fun and, more often than not, he has point. This is far from being a mean-spirited book. Rather it is passionate, well-informed and remarkably even-handed one. For example, he criticises Ian MacDonald for his nostalgia and scoffs at his 'scholarship' (his quote marks, which he uses far too frequently), but on the same page praises his "command of the milieu [and] grasp of musical finesse". Fair comment, no? And if no then it still doesn't hurt to hear it, does it?

Not that I agree with everything. For example, it seems odd to criticise George Martin for closing the album with what Heylin admits is an "obvious album closer" ('A Day in the Life'). And I'm not as sure that the 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds'/LSD coincidence was as deliberate as the author seems to believe. Considering all the other things Lennon owned up to in the warts n all interviews he did in the 1970s, I can't see why he would be coy about admitting complicity here.

Nevertheless this is a hugely entertaining and frequently very funny read. Ideal for those who have read a few books about them four lads from Liverpool and didn't think they needed another.
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