I've always been most fond of the transitionary era of The Beatles and for many years have proclaimed Rubber Soul and Revolver as my two favourite albums, and that the band's pinnacle was the Strawberry Fields/Penny Lane single. The proclamation would normally have been followed by a dismissive sneer at Sgt. Pepper and pretty much all their subsequent albums. My thinking was that with Pepper they threw all their ideas and imaginings into a bloody great bucket which was then stirred and stirred into an over-rated mess that left them pretty much bereft of any pop sensibility for the rest of the band's existence. The rest of their career was spent churning out tiresome rock music (with a rare treat here and there) until they, thankfully for all of us, imploded.
Having Ian MacDonald's awesome Revolution in the Head in the toilet for a couple of months urged me to reassess that position. My opinion was so firmly entrenched that it turned out that Sgt. Pepper was the only Beatles album we hadn't bought on CD. Having acquired a digital copy I gave the album a listen for the first time in probably 10+ years.
And here I am, and nothing is tempting me to change my position. The opening track is a great opener but the unbearable run up to Fixing A Hole is a section that I have no desire to suffer ever again. She's Leaving Home is the one pop gem in amongst all that cacophonous/pretentious/smug/silly nonsense.
I never had the opportunity of hearing the album in 1967 and it may well have been stunning on first release but without that, I can hear nothing but a confused and confusing muddle that just reaffirms my position that The Beatles started their very steep downward slide with Sgt. Pepper and for me there's no Beatles-related release worth more than a cursory listen until McCartney's first solo album
A Day in the Life is astonishing but it doesn't change my opinion of the album because it sits bolted onto the end after the reprise of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. That, and the fact that it succeeds where so much of the album fails, gives the impression that it's not a part of Sgt. Pepper and the fact that it shares vinyl with it is merely chance.
Actually I think I'll declare that A Collection of Beatles Oldies is my favourite Beatles album - just for contrariness, for the timing of its release and because I picked up a beautiful copy of it in a second hand shop while on holiday in Jersey in 1984 for a quid.