On June 1st 1967 I was 14 years, 4 months and 17 days old. It was the release date of a record that changed popular music for everyone and became the album that I still regard as the best album I have ever heard.
The album was “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by The Beatles.
My own personal story of when I first heard this story links with the ongoing Vietnam War which was raging at this time amidst huge protests at America’s involvement in a war that they eventually had to disentangle themselves from after the victory of North Vietnamese Communists over the western supported South Vietnamese regime.
I had developed a real interest at the time in military strategy. I cannot recall how, but although I lived in Hackney, I was able to become a lender from Theobald’s Road Library (in Camden). (This may have been caused by the proximity of the library to my school, I could walk there in about 30 minutes, or the fact that my father worked in the West End of London which was not a great distance away either).
At any rate, I used to enjoy taking two buses on a Saturday morning and going to the very modern (at that time) library and getting books to read. On Saturday 3rd June I was on my way to the library to get a book on the military history of the Vietnam War.
I remember getting off the bus just before the junction of Theobald’s Road and Gray’s Inn Road. I needed to cross at two sets of lights. At the opposite side of the second crossing was a pub. Above the pub was a flat (apartment). It was, I remember, a really hot and sunny day and the windows of the upstairs flat were open.
As I walked across at the lights I heard the opening bars of the new album played very, very, loud. I had never heard anything like it before and it was my introduction to the album of my life (so far!).
I did a Google Maps Streetview search for the pub and much to my amazement it is still there (name much changed of course) 50 years after! (see above).
June of 1967 was about Vietnam, protest, race riots in the U.S.A. (the beginning of the long hot summer of riots) and on June 5th the start of the Arab-Israeli War that lasted six days and resulted in a huge change in the map and politics of that area the repercussions of which are still with us to this day.
I was 14, young, and idealistic, living in what was at that time the most exciting city to live in, in the world, London. I was, as the Google Map search above shows just 4.7 miles by road or two tube stations and a short walk away from the Abbey Road Studios where the album was recorded!
In just over two weeks time (as I write) on June 1st 2017, the great album will be 50 years old! One of the songs on the album is the wistful McCartney number “When I’m 64”. As I sit typing this blog post I have travelled, like the album through 50 years (which feels like fifty days!!) and am indeed 64!
For those interested there is to be a digitally remastered version of the album coming out to celebrate the 50th anniversary. I can’t wait to get my copy.