Last week Robert Hilburn argued that the "Sgt. Pepper" LP--despite remaining a "landmark work"--is not the Beatles' best album because it is weighted down by seven songs that "represent the longest stretch of mediocre material" the group ever recorded. Calendar letter writers were not pleased--by a 9-1 ratio.

For some people, hindsight is a blessing--for Robert Hilburn it's a curse.

In his reconsideration of the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" LP album ("Demoting 'Sgt. Pepper,' " May 31), he displayed the awful symptom of critic's remorse; it's a disease that strikes critics who lose touch with the core of what they're criticizing.

In Hilburn's case, we see that he tuned out the most important aspect of this classic album--its music. He goes on and on about the lyrics and the techniques, using descriptive terms like "sentimental" and "irreverence" as if they were the essential tools of a critic's work, but he fails to even recognize the unique melodic/rhythmic structures and the enduring melodies and harmonies of the songs.

Did he listen to the album or just read the lyric sheets?

The fact that he admits to not having listened to the album for a "long, long, l-o-n-g time" is proof enough that he's lost touch with music, itself. And when he finally did return for a listen, it was too late.



Santa Monica

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