The Herald Bulletin

November 1, 2012

The Beatles and all the lonely people

Brooks: 'Eleanor Rigby' influenced 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'

By Scott L. Miley
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Fans of the Beatles — and of pop culture for that matter — recognize “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” as one of rock ‘n’ roll’s first “concept” albums.

“But what’s the concept behind it?” asks Jonathan Brooks, a Beatles aficionado who is a music professor at Anderson University. “I never find anybody who tries to describe what that concept is.”

Brooks, however, will offer his take on the album and 1960s culture at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5, in the Delaware Room of the Anderson Public Library, 111 E. 12th St.

His talk is free and open to the public.

He plans to discuss the 1967 album in light of the historical backdrop of the 1960s drug culture and that culture’s impact on the Beatles’ work.

As a professor of music theory, Brooks will also tie together the Beatles’ melodies, harmonies, words and the famous “Sgt. Pepper’s” album artwork in presenting all the emotions associated with the No, 1 album that sold more than 11 million copies.

His talk is titled “All the Lonely People: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Reconsidered.”

Granted, the line “ah, look at all the lonely people, where do they all belong” is from the song “Eleanor Rigby.” That hit, which only reached no. 11 on the Billboard U.S. charts, was on 1966’s “Revolver” album. The song also appears in the movie “Yellow Submarine.”

But Rigby’s loneliness may be the “concept” behind the later “Sgt. Pepper’s.”

“It’s (loneliness) there in the title but you never really stop to think about it.”

Besides finding the emotion of emptiness in lyrics, Brooks found the theme in the Beatles’ lives and in the album’s artwork — that iconic Grammy-winning package that featured about 60 celebrities posing behind the Beatles.

At 40, Brooks, who is married and a father, came to appreciate the Beatles when he was about 5 and heard the band’s songs at home.

“To be honest it’s what turned me onto a career in music, trying to figure out what those chord symbols were in their music,” he said.

His favorite Beatles’ albums are “Revolver” and “Sgt. Pepper’s.” Brooks holds a doctorate in music theory; his dissertation was on classical Austrian composer Anton Bruckner.

Brooks has studied the Beatles’ union of lyrics and music.

“They were able to pair music with the text in such a way that the music carries the meaning of the text and actually enhances what it says,” he said.