Music prof to discuss Beatles album "Sgt. Pepper's"

Fri, 2012-11-02 09:53 -- univcomm
November 2, 2012

Fans of the Beatles — and of pop culture for that matter — recognize Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as one of rock ‘n’ roll’s first “concept” albums.

“But what’s the concept behind it?” asks Jonathan Brooks, a Beatles aficionado who is a music professor at Anderson University. “I never find anybody who tries to describe what that concept is.”

Brooks, however, will offer his take on the album and 1960s culture at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5, in the Delaware Room of the Anderson Public Library, 111 E. 12th St.

His talk is free and open to the public.

[Photo: Jonathan Brooks, music professor at Anderson University, looks over some of his research about the Beatles. Credit: Scott L. Miley/The Herald Bulletin.]

He plans to discuss the 1967 album in light of the historical backdrop of the 1960s drug culture and that culture’s impact on the Beatles’ work.

As a professor of music theory, Brooks will also tie together the Beatles’ melodies, harmonies, words, and the famous Sgt. Pepper’s album artwork in presenting all the emotions associated with the No. 1 album that sold more than 11 million copies.

His talk is titled “All the Lonely People: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Reconsidered.”

Granted, the line “ah, look at all the lonely people, where do they all belong” is from the song “Eleanor Rigby.” That hit, which only reached no. 11 on the Billboard U.S. charts, was on 1966’s Revolver album. The song also appears in the movie Yellow Submarine.

But Rigby’s loneliness may be the “concept” behind the later Sgt. Pepper’s.

“It’s (loneliness) there in the title but you never really stop to think about it.”

Besides finding the emotion of emptiness in lyrics, Brooks found the theme in the Beatles’ lives and in the album’s artwork — that iconic Grammy-winning package that featured about 60 celebrities posing behind the Beatles.

At 40, Brooks, who is married and a father, came to appreciate the Beatles when he was about 5 and heard the band’s songs at home.

“To be honest it’s what turned me onto a career in music, trying to figure out what those chord symbols were in their music,” he said.

His favorite Beatles’ albums are Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s. Brooks holds a doctorate in music theory; his dissertation was on classical Austrian composer Anton Bruckner.

Brooks has studied the Beatles’ union of lyrics and music.

“They were able to pair music with the text in such a way that the music carries the meaning of the text and actually enhances what it says,” he said.

— Scott L. Miley is features editor for The Herald Bulletin. Story reposted with permission.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.