June 1st 1967: Sgt. Pepper released

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The final version of the Sgt. Pepper album cover – which has now become famous

On this day in the 1967 the British band The Beatles released their iconic album ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. Their eighth album, Sgt. Pepper was an experimental piece as one of the world’s first concept albums, and represented a marked break from the Beatles’ earlier work. The concept of the album came from bassist Paul McCartney and is that the album is being performed by a fictional band – the titular ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. Each Beatle took on a new persona in the band, most prominently drummer Ringo Starr as Billy Shears.

 

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The picture of the band in the album (from left: Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison)

 

Having decided to stop touring in 1966, the band were freer to write songs that would be difficult to play live, including the famous ‘A Day In The Life’. Other songs on the album have acquired equally legendary status, including ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’, ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ and ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’. The album cover was designed by artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth based on a sketch by McCartney, and featured cut-outs of famous figures. The figures depicted include Bob Dylan, Edgar Allan Poe, Marilyn Monroe, Robert Peel, Stuart Sutcliffe, Laurel and Hardy, Karl Marx, Oscar Wilde and wax versions of the Beatles themselves; John Lennon was denied his request to feature Adolf Hitler and Jesus Christ. This article gives a great account of the reasoning behind some of the choices and includes a handy chart to help identity the figures behind the band. Sgt. Pepper was an instant success, spending 22 weeks at the top of the UK album chart and winning four Grammy Awards; it is still considered one of the band’s best albums and one of the greatest albums of all time.

 

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Outtakes from Sgt. Pepper cover shoot (source, and for more of the alternate covers: http://www.thatericalper.com/2014/02/24/outtakes-from-the-beatles-sgt-pepper-cover-shoot/)

 

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January 12th 1895: National Trust founded

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The National Trust logo

On this day in 1895 the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty (‘National Trust’), a conservation society, was founded in the United Kingdom. It operates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They own many historic houses and gardens, industrial monuments and social history sites. The Trust was founded on 12th January 1894 by Octavia Hill, Robert Hunter, and Hardwicke Rawnsley. They were originally concerned with protecting open spaces and a variety of threatened buildings. Its first property was Alfriston Clergy House in East Sussex, purchased in 1896 for £10. Its first nature reserve was Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire in 1899. Its first archaeological monument was White Barrow in Wiltshire, a Neolithic long barrow (an earthmound considered a collective tomb), in 1909 for £60.

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Helmet found at Sutton Hoo

The National Trust continues to operate today to preserve Britain’s past, and its sites attract thousands of visitors. Its sites include Sutton Hoo (two 6th and early 7th century burial sites in Suffolk), St. Michael’s Mount off the coast of Cornwall, and 251 Menlove Avenue & 20 Forthlin Road in Liverpool (childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney respectively).

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St Michael’s Mount

The National Trust is a crucial part of British heritage. The accessibility of its sites encourages members of the public, with little prior interest in history, to find an interest they never knew they had. The Trust also ensures that places of natural beauty remain untouched. As a Brit myself, I feel very lucky to have an organisation like the National Trust working to ensure that our country’s history is preserved for posterity.

December 8th 1980: John Lennon killed

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John Lennon (1940 – 1980)

On this day in 1980, musician and peace activist John Winston Ono Lennon was shot outside the Dakota Building in New York City. He was killed by a deranged fan, Mark David Chapman, for whom Lennon had given an autograph just a few hours earlier.

 

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Lennon signs an autograph for Chapman

John Lennon is of course known for being a founding member of one of, if not the most, successful act in the world: The Beatles. His first band The Quarrymen later evolved into the Beatles, as eventually, the Fab Four came together. Paul McCartney joined after seeing the Quarrymen perform at a village fair, and George Harrison joined after being recommended by Paul and impressing John with his rendition of ‘Raunchy’ on the guitar. The final member was Ringo Starr, the drummer of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. And thus John, Paul, George and Ringo came together. John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote many of the Beatles’ early hits, such as ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’, which catapulted them into worldwide fame and ‘Beatlemania’.

 

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The Beatles: Harrison, Starr, McCartney and Lennon

But on this day we do not just remember John Lennon the musician. We remember the man, and the message. Later in life, especially after having met Yoko, Lennon became very involved in peace and activism. He and Yoko staged their famous ‘bed-ins’ for peace, and expressed opposition to the Vietnam War. Lennon was an inspirational figure to millions of people, conveying his simple message of hope and peace. This message is exemplified in his song ‘Imagine’, with its peaceful simplicity and inspirational words.

 

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John and Yoko’s ‘bed-in’ for peace

Lennon lives on as a musical and artistic inspiration, an icon, and a symbol of peace. His poignant message has inspired generations:

 

“Give peace a chance”