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It took a couple months for The Sun to notice The Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper' in 1967

The Beatles, at a May 1967 press party for the release of "Sgt. Pepper."
The Beatles, at a May 1967 press party for the release of "Sgt. Pepper." (APPLE CORPS LTD. / ABC)

It was 50 years ago this week that The Beatles and 'Sgt. Pepper' taught the world to listen to rock music in an all new way.

But sadly, like much of the mainstream media, the Baltimore Sun was a little late to the party. The release of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," a landmark in rock and roll history matched by few others, went largely unnoticed in The Sun. In fact, it appears the only mentions of The Beatles on or around the album's release date of June 1, 1967, were the occasional TV listing, ad or offhand mention in critic Donald Kirkley's "Look and Listen" column.

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Hard to say for sure, but it appears the first story about "Sgt. Pepper" to run in The Sun didn't appear until Aug. 24, when the album was nearly two months old. It was penned by the AP's Mary Campbell, a true pioneer when it came to writing about rock and roll who, when she finally retired in 2000, was a favorite of everyone from Mary Travers, of Peter, Paul, and Mary, to The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards. The article, despite its "Critics' Reactions Mixed" headline, was really more about Campbell's reaction than anyone else's.

De izq. a der. John Lennon, Paul McCartney ,Ringo Starr and George Harrison en 1964, in Londres. GETTY
De izq. a der. John Lennon, Paul McCartney ,Ringo Starr and George Harrison en 1964, in Londres. GETTY (Apple Corps Ltd. / ABC)

The album "is more sophisticated than the Beatles of old," Campbell writes, while quick to add the caveat, "there is nothing as hummable as the recent 'Yesterday' or 'Michelle.'"

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Of the 13 tunes that made it onto the album, Campbell writes, "There's a song about alienation, one about aging, one about futility, some obscure enough to be hard to decipher and some all for fun."

Several paragraphs look to ferret out any drug references that may have found their way onto the album, a common parlor game at the time, especially among the older crowd. A line from "With a Little Help From My Friends," she notes, announces that "I get high with a little help from my friends," while "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," inspired by a painting done by John Lennon's 5-year-old son, Julian, "sounds like an LSD trip to some people."

Overall, Campbell notes, struggling to rise above the fray a little bit, "The dope question, as usual in recordings, is a matter of finding it, or not finding it, if you want to."

In the end, Campbell sounded upbeat about the album, if a little guarded: "We'd say that people who think the Beatles have gone too far are too conservative; those who say their profundity is overpraised are probably right. But [the Beatles] are thinking more seriously…"

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Then again, maybe it's just as well no one at The Sun saw fit to write a full-fledged review of "Sgt. Pepper," an album that perpetually turns up at or near the top of lists of the greatest rock albums ever. The New York Times did publish a review on June 18, 1967, written by Richard Goldstein and headlined 'We Still Need the Beatles, but…" that doesn't come across as exactly prescient.

Outside of the album-closing "A Day in the Life," which he roundly praises and calls "a historic Pop event," Goldstein isn't exactly a fan of the album, calling it an "undistinguished collection of work."

At least no one at The Sun said that.

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