The groundbreaking Beatles album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band marks the 50th anniversary of its U.S. release this week, and it remains a cosmic, jovial, psychedelic journey worth retaking to traipse its strawberry fields and diamond skies. To celebrate the occasion, local recording enthusiast and producer Joel Jerome is releasing a tribute EP, Sgt. Papa's Lonely <3's Club Band.
Jerome, born Joel Morales, started the album back in 2014, when he heard The Flaming Lips were putting out a tribute to the record called With a Little Help From My Fwends. He didn’t like the sound of that. “That immediately got my blood boiling, and I took it as a challenge to record the album and release it on the same date as theirs.”
Unfortunately, he didn’t finish in time. “Life happens,” Jerome explains. By that he means being busy with recording myriad other bands and his own solo album, Psychedelic Thriftstore Folk, which came out a month before the deadline. “To this day I haven’t heard it,” he says of The Flaming Lips' tribute. “So I decided to release what I had so far as a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the album.”
Where the original included a 40-piece orchestra, almost all the instruments and voices appearing on Jerome’s seven-track tribute are Jerome himself, with guest appearances from The Creation Factory's Slim Pacheco and Tashaki Miyaki's Luke Paquin. The “Papa” in the title refers to his nickname among friends, “Papa Joel.”
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The Beatles' influence has always been strong in Jerome’s solo music, as well as his recently reunited band Dios. “Like most of us, The Beatles' music was all part of our subconscious after years of hearing it on K-Earth and in grocery stores,” he says. "Once I got into playing music and discovering music, my deep dive came courtesy of The Beatles Anthology series in 1995 [and] '96. That collection blew my mind and opened my eyes to the genius of The Beatles.
"Listening to these alternate takes and tracks and behind-the-scenes sounds from various Beatles sessions and eras just completely had me enthralled. I still go back and listen and pick apart sessions and alt-takes and can hear the engineering a little better since it was rawer and not as mixed or produced. I was able to see what decisions they made, what they decided to change, what vocals to keep. So informative. It was like going to Music University, Beatles College.”
While the anthologies are his favorite artifact, Jerome holds Sgt. Pepper dear for its experimentation. “The arrangement, instrumentation, the sound collages were like painting with music. I loved seeing how weird they were getting while still writing the most beautiful melodies and music.”
Sgt Papa's Lonely <3's Club Band is available for free download today, which Jerome has decreed the unofficial first day of summer, and as a precursor to more releases on the way, including a new Dios album (their first in seven years) and the wide release of his solo record, Cosmic Bear Jamboree, through Elite Records and Lolipop, on Aug. 11.