EMi studios in 1966; the Beatles, working on “Revolver,” get a visit from Mick and Keith.

NANCY CARR * That headline about Keith Richards calling Sgt. Pepper’s “rubbish” in an Esquire interview — I’ve finally seen it enough times to post about it. I’m mostly inclined to give Richards’ opinion of the album the big shrug. Some people are going to prefer the Beatles, others are going to prefer the Stones, and that’s how it’s going to remain. But here’s the relevant quote, and a few observations about it.

[Note: Scott Raab is the interviewer; one of the first things he says to Richards is “I brought a miniature joint, but I’m not thrusting it upon you. I just thought it would be wrong to meet you and not bring a little something.” Just to give you the flava.]

Esquire: “I’ve been thinking about Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, and The White Album and listening to Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main St. Over the past 20 years, I’ve listened to that Stones stuff far more often.”

Richards: “No, I understand–the Beatles sounded great when they were the Beatles. But there’s not a lot of roots in that music. I think they got carried away. Why not? If you’re the Beatles in the ’60’s, you just got carried away–you forget what it is you wanted to do. You’re starting to do Sgt. Pepper. Some people think it’s a genius album, but I think it’s a mishmash of rubbish, kind of like Satanic Majesties–“Oh, if you can make a load of shit, so can we.”

My observations:

  • It’s rather sad when your interview–with someone who’s as much of a fan as Raab clearly is–grabs headlines only because of your opinion of another band’s 48-year-old album. “Also talks about his new solo album, Crosseyed Heart, and riffs on stamina, image, the blues, the road, and working” gets relegated to the subhed.


  • His reference to Satanic Majesties as a response to Sgt. Pepper’s underlines who was leading and who was following in 1967/1968.


  • One of the roots of the Beatles’ music is the British music hall tradition; the Stones roots are transplanted from America. Sgt. Pepper’s also features Indian roots (“Within You and Without You”) and at least one song (“A Day in the Life”) that is the kind of genius leap forward roots can’t account for.

“Paul, in 48 years Keith Richards is going to call this album “a mishmash of rubbish.” “Whatever.”

My questions: At what point does Richard think the Beatles stopped being the Beatles? What exactly does he think they got “carried away” from? And why does he think it would have been better if they hadn’t gotten “carried away”? Discuss.