The Atlantic

How the Hippies Hijacked Vinyl

Originally, records were the province of classical-music fans. The Beatles changed that.
Source: AP

This week brings another Beatles-related 50th anniversary, and arguably the grooviest of them all: The release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It landed, for reasons that remain mysterious to me, on June 1, 1967 in England, and June 3 in the United States. Maybe that’s just how trans-Atlantic shipping worked in those days, or maybe the lads wanted to give the mother country a wee head start. In any case, land it did, and, as the cliché goes, everything changed.

A hundred thousand paeans—and one famous pan, by Richard Goldstein in The New York Times, back before the paper of record was in the habit of regularly reviewing rock records—have been written about the album. The world doesn’t need another one. What I think the world may need, however, at this point in history, is a tribute to the form—to the physical thing itself. I was born in 1960, and as such I witnessed a lot as I sprouted toward puberty: the first war brought into American living rooms every night via television; those first post-Kennedy shared cultural moments, everyone watching Archie Bunker, Olga Korbut, and the moon landing in real time; and the primordial expansion of the commercial and cultural ganglia that bound Americans together as a nation of ravenous consumers, from cable television to the proliferation of the chain stores that seemed so novel then but are so inescapably banal now.

That was all fascinating. But

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