Let me to introduce to you Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Story by Jim Pennell

Photos courtesy of Charles Shafer

It was 50 years ago on June 1, 1967, when the world first heard those words. The release of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album by The Beatles ushered in the “Summer of Love” and forever changed the way popular music is recorded, presented and listened to. It is considered the first concept album and includes everything from traditional rock music to a 40-piece orchestra to recordings of barnyard animals. The album contains songs that are at times surreal, metaphysical, sensitive and light. They are varied in style and subject, but what makes them work so well together as a concept is they are all about life. The only love song, a staple of all other Beatles’ albums, is an ode to a meter maid. The record is widely regarded as the best album of all time and was the first rock album to receive the Grammy for Album of the Year. This was accomplished long before digital recording and editing, and was all painstakingly produced on analog tape by talented musicians, engineers and craftsmen.

The anniversary of the album’s release is not going unnoticed in Marquette. A concert is being organized to celebrate it and Dan Truckey is one of the producers.

Dan Truckey

“I have long wanted to do something like this, where a group of people come together and play a record live,” Truckey said. “Because it’s the 50th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band I thought ‘Wow wouldn’t it be great?’ I wasn’t sure if it was possible, so I contacted Dave Stensaas who had organized some Beatles themed benefits at the Ore Dock. He thought it was a good idea and we put together a committee of four people, Jon Teichman, Greg Sandell, Dave and myself to work out the details. That was about a year ago. In the last six months we started seeing who was interested and who was available and putting it together as a show.”

The concert is being arranged in two parts: First, a “Prelude to Pepper,” when musicians will play Beatles songs released before the Sgt. Pepper album. The second half will be the performance of the album.

“There are a number of musicians playing in both sections of the show, but we’ll have different lead singers for each song in the Sgt. Pepper section,” Truckey said. “It’s going to be quite an eclectic combination. In addition to the core rock band we have students from Marquette public schools playing horn and string parts and providing background vocals. We even have a harp player from Northern.”

The concert planners from the start wanted to use the event as a fund-raising opportunity.

Sgt. Pepper Mike Waite

“It’s a benefit for the Marquette Area Public Schools music program,” Truckey said. “The idea behind that was almost all of us are products of school music departments and our kids are involved in the Marquette schools’ music programs. They’re already getting an excellent musical education, but there’s always need for more support and keeping the arts in schools is something we all believe in.”

Dave Stensaas-Rockwood has some experience with benefit concerts and is another producer of the event.

“Dan asked me to organize the ‘Prelude to Pepper’ part of the show and I gladly accepted the job,” Stensaas said. “With the fundraisers I’ve organized there have been local musicians who have learned Beatles’ songs and a few bands formed just for those events. Out of that we have put together a group called The Moondogs to do the ‘Prelude to Pepper’ portion. It will be a set of songs that show the evolution of The Beatles from their beginnings as a teenage nightclub act to their role as musical and cultural trendsetters.”

It takes many people to put something of this scope together and sometimes it’s difficult to get volunteers. That’s not the case with this show.

“What is fascinating is how many people are willing to get involved with this,” Stensaas continued. “There are people working on all different aspects of this show, from the organization and promotion to the musical side with rehearsals to the scoring of the orchestral parts. There is also a dance company involved, a music production crew, narration scriptwriting and a video team working on visuals for the show. I think we’ve found a formula for making existing Beatles’ fans happy while helping cultivate some love for the Fab Four and their music among the uninitiated. It’s going to be a show that a lot of us will remember for decades.”

Dan Truckey agreed.

Sgt. Pepper Greg Sandell

“People have put some time into this,” he said. “It’s really great that people are so willing to donate their time. Sgt. Pepper is one of the things that made me want to be a musician and many of the other musicians feel the same way. We’re all just gassed about it and excited to be playing this music. It’s been a lot of work but everyone’s had a great attitude. At first I wasn’t sure if we could actually pull it off, but I think we’re actually going to,” Truckey added with a laugh. “In fact, it’s going pretty well.”

Dave Stensaas

The Sgt. Pepper’s Tribute Concert starts at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 8, at Kaufman Auditorium in Marquette. Tickets are $15 and available through NMU EZ Tickets outlets. Think of it as donating $15 to the MAPS music program and getting a free ticket to a fun show. After all, fun is the one thing that money can’t buy. Sit back and let the evening go. There may or may not be plasticine porters with looking-glass ties but a splendid time is guaranteed for all.

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