ForeWord Reviews

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The Act You've Known For All These Years

A Year in the Life of Sgt. Pepper and Friends

Foreword Review

On June 1, 1967, the pop music world was “turned upside-down, its resultant sounds proving to be the shape of all things to come,” with the release of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the author writes.

Often cited by musical critics and fans as the greatest album of the twentieth century for its innovative lyrics and its impact on rock and pop culture, it remains on many “best rock” lists, including Rolling Stone magazine’s, and the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry. In 1967 it was the first rock album to win a Grammy for Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Album. In praise of the Beatles and the album, The Act You’ve Known for All these Years, is a narrative that chronicles the making of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Though the book is not strictly written in chronological order, readers are treated to a detailed eyewitness account of musical geniuses as they strive to create a body of work to surpass their previous albums. The book is divided into three parts. The first part provides historical background about the Beatles’ ebb in popularity and their struggle to change in order to remain on music charts. The second provides insight into their creative process as they develop the album at the Abbey Road Studios in London from December 6, 1966 to April 13, 1967. The last part continues the story beginning with the 1987 release of the album on compact disc: “The digital format not only codified the Rock cannon for consumption as [pop music], it allowed a new generation of music fans to hear the sounds,” the author writes.

In addition to content from interviews with the Beatles, the book is seasoned throughout with parallel stories about popular music icons of the time, such as Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, The Who, The Doors, The Byrds, Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, and others.

Author and former magazine editor Clinton Heylin writes about high-profile rock artists and pop music culture. He co-founded Wanted Man, a British magazine about Bob Dylan. Heylin has received accolades for previous books for the exhaustive research and detail he incorporates into his work.

Drawing on hundreds of interviews from articles and books of the last forty years, Heylin has written a dense tome which hardcore Beatles’ fans will love. Approximately half of the book includes long paragraphs of direct quotes taken from interviews of artists, producers, and agents involved with the album’s production. The Act You’ve Known for All these Years is a written documentary about a legendary band and the making of their most famous work of musical art.

John Lennon said, “…we were too big to touch,” and, given this look back over the last forty years, he may have been right.

Angela Black