It Was 50 Years Ago Today: Looking Back On My Summer of Sgt. Pepper’s

Sgt. Pepper’s Band Album Cover, 1967

 

If you’re a person of a certain age, you likely remember where you were the first time you heard the breakthrough Beatles’ album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”  In June of 1967, I had just turned 15 and completed my freshman year of high school. Since I’d first heard them in 1964, The Beatles had been my favorite band. I couldn’t wait to listen to all of the new songs and look at the artwork on the album cover. Back then, we played the album on a record player and spent hours looking at the cover art and analyzing the images.  I first heard the album while attending a party at my friend Dee’s house. The big, old Victorian had a wrap-around porch where all of us partygoers could dance and talk. I had dated Dee’s older brother, Eddie, the summer before, and still had a bit of a crush on him. But we’d broken up after a few months and he’d moved on.  That night would be the first time in a year that I’d seen him.

I wore a new, yellow, cotton dress and took extra care with my long hair to get it as straight as possible–no easy task for someone with naturally curly hair. Dee and Eddie lived less than a mile from my house, so I walked into the warm June evening, anticipating seeing Eddie again and wondering if I’d get a second chance with him.

When I arrived at Dee’s house,  the porch was full of people–dancing, eating, and talking. I heard some really weird music–to my young ears–but then I recognized the unmistakeable voices harmonies of the unmistakable Beatles. I remember hugging my girlfriends and flirting with a couple of the boys I’d gone to grade school with, all the while scouting the crowd for Eddie. The music of Sgt. Pepper’s played loudly and drifted out into the streets where people walking by could hear. Dee and I talked for a bit and she showed me the cover of the album–then everyone gathered around, pointing to the famous people who filled the crowd. In typical teen fashion, we all agreed it was the most amazing cover we’d ever seen.

I finally saw Eddie walking towards me through the crowd, smiling. Maybe he’d want to dance with me. Maybe we could go out again. My heart beat faster and I smoothed my dress and patted my hair. He kept walking towards me with that smirky smile that I’d fallen for last year. Eddie was 6’7″, so he towered over everyone else at the party as he made his way towards me.  Now my palms were sweating. What would he say? What would I say?  Butterflies filled my stomach.

And then I saw her by his side–Toni, one of my best friends from grade school.  Eddie held her hand as he said hi to me and then put his arm around Toni. Dee and Toni went to the same high school, and I guess she’d fixed Toni up with Eddie the same way she fixed me up the year before. I wanted the porch floor to open up and swallow me. The butterflies in my stomach turned to weights and a sinking feeling filled my whole body. My mouth was dry and the words tumbled out in pat phrases about summer and swimming at the neighborhood pool. I wanted to run away.

But I didn’t. I stayed and survived my encounter with Toni and Eddie, up until people started slow-dancing–and then I knew I had to leave. Not the happiest teen memory I have, but I’ll never forget the first night I heard Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  And over the years, I realize that I got through that night like I’ve gotten through every other tough situation–with a little help from my friends.

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