Sgt Pepper’s: when The Beatles got high on pomposity

Jethro Tull have their tunes reimagined by string quartets. Photograph: PA/PA Wire With few other options before them, they decided to retreat to the studio and make noises that no musician could reproduce on stage. In the space of five years they had gone from a cracking beat band to the defining creative force of their generation. Even if I did think these things, I would not be the first person to think them. Rejection of rock’n’roll The problem is not really the songs. It’s not even the most egregious example of the boys allowing their egos to over-run their judgment (more of that in a moment). Paul McCartney has written few more moving ballads than She’s Leaving Home. Revolver, placed at 11, was the highest-scoring Beatles record. By 1967, The Beatles’ fame had become so vast and dense that aircraft would fall from the sky if they dared go on stage. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: a bad thing. Yet there has been resistance. Everyone knows the myth. In 2003 it secured the title just ahead of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. (Space prohibits a comprehensive demolition of John Lennon’s mawkish Double Fantasy, which triumphed in the months after the singer’s death.) George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon of The Beatles pose in front of the press at Abbey Road Studios in London in 1967, the year Sgt Pepper’s was released. Henceforth rock musicians would seek something no rock musician should tolerate: respectability. Its influence on popular music is to be regretted. There were mentions lower down for Hard Days Night, Rubber Soul and the White Album. Oh, that Chuck Berry lived to see such indulgence. Belatedly accommodated to the postwar era, those awards went on to become a festival of drab, institutionalised conformity that made the Oscars seem like a drug-soaked warehouse party. The race is on to pen the opening evisceration of that exhaustingly lauded Beatles LP. Gird loins for its half centenary in November 2018. There are less than two months to go before we reach the 50th anniversary of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Pete Townshend became an acquisitions editor for Faber & Faber. Photograph: David Redfern/Redferns Who knows when Sgt Pepper was first declared the greatest LP of all time? But the sounds it makes are not all terrible. “But the Beatles could not get down.” Stuck up in the stratosphere, …

The mystery of the library book that went missing for a century

According to the library’s catalogues, the Galeni Librorum was last seen some time at the end of the 19th century. In February, a criminal gang stole more than £2 million worth of rare books from a warehouse in Heathrow Airport in a Mission Impossible-style heist, most probably for use as collateral in drug deals. The medical encyclopedia was written by Galen of Pergamum, physician to Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, in the first century AD. As McElligott explains, “it definitely wasn’t legitimately lent out, because we are not, and never have been, a lending library”. It was one of the most important books in Marsh’s collection when the library opened in 1707, as the first public library in Ireland. In the 19th century, “it was popular novels and popular science that went walking”. Once upon a time, a man wandered into a junk shop and found a dusty, battered book with a strange diamond pattern on the front. I really only bought it out of idle curiosity. There were also some really beautiful inscriptions that looked like amendments and corrections and were obviously written with a good-quality stylus, as well as some very old pins attaching extra material to the pages. Indeed, the library’s history is rich with stories of ghosts and ghouls. The Lost Library Book by Amanda Bell, with illustrations by Alice Durand-Wietzel, is published by Onslaught Press on May 14th “There is a culture of secrecy around the library, linked to the idea of the library as a perfect, infallible repository of knowledge. We would not have let it go.” Instead, McElligott suggests that the book’s disappearance was probably “an informal case of a librarian lending a book out to an eminent scholar, who got run over by a horse and cart, or something, and wasn’t able to return it.” There is, of course, the possibility that the book was stolen. Several books bear bullet wounds from 1916, when rebel snipers were fighting on the street below. Despite the treasures inside, you could easily pass the library by without noticing. A three thousand year-old mummy was discovered in a cupboard in 1888. It didn’t occur to me that it was valuable or that it would be of particular interest to anyone “I didn’t examine it very carefully,” he says, “but there were a couple of things that caught my attention. Indeed, the library’s catalogues tell a unique history …

YA reviews: Poverty, privilege and finding your place in the world

The late Siobhan Dowd’s The Pavee and the Buffer Girl (The Bucket List, £12.99) was originally published as a short story. Originally an attempt to prevent government corruption, the labelling of those found guilty by morality courts is just as corrupt as the system it has replaced – a theme familiar in dystopian fiction but still engaging here. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this unapologetically political debut novel is narrated by 16-year-old Starr. Eighteen-year-old Ryan is recovering from the twin traumas of drug addiction and temporary stardom; a fight with his abusive stepfather sparks a chain of events that culminates in his homelessness. Sara Keating’s first children’s books column appears on April 29th Told in verse, this novel carefully balances its portrayal of the power of friendship and love with an acknowledgment that love is not a cure for mental illness (“I can’t be your reason,” Alice gently reminds Beth). Attending school, however, means he’s forced to be reminded of his outsider status every day, in increasingly violent ways. You Buffers are the dogs, well-fed, well-trained, and we’re the roving foxes, lean and free,” Jim Curran explains to a new friend about what it’s like to be a Traveller. Like you’re expecting to be caught out at any moment and banished from society.” The idea of rules for life is a recurring theme in a novel that looks at what it means to be different, and to feel as though everyone else has all the answers, but also reminds us to be conscious of – and, one hopes, question – the unspoken guidelines that govern so many social situations. But the truth is that he doesn’t think much about it: it’s just who he is. It’s hard to describe, but it’s how I feel all the time and I can always recognize it in other people. We are dividing young-adult and children’s books into two fortnightly columns, to double our coverage of this important and growing sector. When a dog presses its nose against her window, and she meets both Mouse and his owner, Alice, she feels “a shy spark of hope” that her world might expand. I don’t think I’m unlovable. The smaller ways in which racism encroaches on Starr’s life are also noted; at her mostly white private school she is conscious of avoiding slang or seeming confrontational, aware that she is always at risk of …

Bill Hayes and Oliver Sacks: How to love and lose one of the world’s smartest men

“I tried in the book to portray the intimacy of our relationship without it being explicit. We were both curious people by nature and life-loving, and we would make time to do things like go up on the roof and have a bottle of wine.. “Don’t make me repeat it!” They called it deaf sex. Marijuana now legit, he added playfully. But it was delightful to be with Oliver as he was discovering this kind of life anew, at age 75.” Before meeting Hayes, Sacks “would eat sardines over the sink” but he took great pleasure in their new domestic life. “New York allowed me to start a new life. “I came out as a gay man in 1984 right when the Aids epidemic exploded in the US. “But I think he always wondered and wished. But Oliver really knew in his gut. “We would get stoned in the apartment and sometimes go up to the roof. Enjoyment Allowed. “He’d had his heart broken very badly as a young man and then he shifted his focus to his work, to his patients and his amazing writing.” He wrote many books, hundreds of essays, reviews and articles. “If it wasn’t completely full he’d take clean cups and mugs from the cupboard and put them in to keep the others company. “Not only because he was elderly, but also because I had experienced a great loss before and he had had a bout of cancer. “It wasn’t until I finished the book that I saw how often Oliver would bring up the subject of pleasure, sort of interrogating what is pleasure and what is pleasure compared to happiness. A lifelong insomniac, Hayes would set off into the city with a photographer’s eye and a storyteller’s ear and collect stories. .” They would swig from the bottle while the sun set over Manhattan. “You create the need which you fill, the hunger you sate.” At the age of 75, much-loved neurologist and author Dr Sacks, who made literature from his case studies with his books, Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His wife for a Hat, was experiencing a romantic relationship for the first time, after 35 years of celibacy. “He never sent an email or a text in his life, there was no computer, no wifi, so there was a sense of quiet. Number 6a. “It was very beautiful,” Hayes says. And …

‘We’re not free, liberty is an illusion, we’re not responsible for our choices’

“To live as if you are already free in a society which exists to curtail your freedom in so many profound ways.” Creating Freedom is published by Canongate “People hear this argument and may very quickly accept the ‘lottery of birth’ idea but will then think that, as we develop and mature, some form of responsibility must develop. Being receptive to those things is deeply motivating, inspiring and empowering. Or, perhaps, you’d imagine a head-mic-wearing Ted talk guru, full of dotcom puff or chakra-bending bluster; the kind whose book covers scream things like THE POWER OF WHEN or UNLEASH YOUR INNER OMBUDSMAN from airport bookshelves. But when I look back in my past, there are so many key moments that I didn’t have control over. “It’s not something you can keep in mind every second of the day,” he says “but the more you contemplate these issues, the more you erode your sense of blame. In the end, this encourages empathy, compassion and humility as a general trend. “So, let’s say on your 10th birthday, you decide to reflect on your character and make positive changes in your life. But it’s not all bad news. “Well, I never expected to have a book published 10 years ago. If you happen to have incredible powers of reasoning, or empathy or self-control then in all likelihood that will be a route to more moral behaviour, and admirable behaviour, but you can’t really take credit for it.” Conceiving a philosopher Martinez’s own route to exploring these heady concepts is hardly typical. People who say, for example, ‘I didn’t have loads of of material resources and yet I ended up rich so anyone could do it’. “It’s not about shying away from the apocalyptic realities of modern civilisation, it’s about realising that our actions can reduce the risks of creating catastrophic futures, or reduce the effects of those catastrophes should they occur. Well, those are not the only kind of resources, they’re not even the most important ones. I ask him if he looks at the successes with the same cool detachment. All these quirks of fate come into play. How to stay positive: Raoul Martinez’s reasons to be cheerful Free will is an illusion, the government is corrupt, and the media is lying to you. To live according to values that seem noble, worthwhile and inspiring to you is incredibly valuable. “So, instead …

Poetry: Bees on Pillars of Ivy

Diurnal platinum that gives them the stoles the measure, the bright abjectness. The sound laps at unascertained edges. As vast as a radio transmitter was once in the war. A pure adverse to what the flat bone helmet of the soldier says. They fuse a net. A pitch gravitating to the pole. A chantry of breeding flow. Listening is swimming. But what is it saying. Its asteroid. Their banded bodies affect the sun. A flux of magnetism so that each tree the ivy has knit away bears the flow from its height to earth. They reach up, the trees are unstable, so tall so thin. His second volume of poems, Human Work, was published in 2015 following his selection as one of Next Generation Poets. Sean Borodale’s collection, Bee Journal (Cape), was shortlisted for the 2012 Costa Poetry Award and the TS Eliot Prize. Stand in the woodshadow sparred in the woodshadow I hear the bees on pillars of ivy. A form of marble caught in wilderness. Tonight they will be quiet. A column that draws in the ear. Terrible positions of sound that hatch or flame, flammable emission. There is also a box.