Beatles Pepper Inspires "Cover Song"

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Nashville songwriter Luke Powers, who specializes in quirky takes on pop culture, has released a song about the famous album cover of the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Luke Powers, professor-cum-songwriter whose quirky takes on pop culture and religion, have yielded popular internet songs “I Saw John Kennedy Today” and “I Shoulda Been God,” turns his sites on the Fab Four's most fabulous album cover. His “Cover Song” is available for free download at http://www.phoebeclaire.com and will be included on the CD "Picture Book" to be released in 2005.

“I'm pretty sure it's the first song written about an album cover,” Powers says. “Actually, I don't know that for a fact, but it sounds like pretty good PR.”

The plethora of famous (and not-so-famous) faces provides much fodder for lyrics—and even a few rhymes. The song begins:

“I'm looking at the cover

of Sergeant Pepper,

crowd of famous people

standing round the Beatles:

Mae West, Karl Marx, Edgar Allen Poe,

Bob Dylan, Einstein

and Marilyn Monroe--

some faces I don't know...”

“If you're like me,” Powers says, “you've looked at that album cover hundreds of times and wondered who the hell some of these people are. Between John's obscure footballers and George's maharishis, it's worse than Jeopardy.”

Powers' lyrics duly note the album cover lore: “There's Aleister Crowley,/Gandhi in a palm tree.” According to Beatles legend, record execs insisted that the Mahatma be airbrushed out of the picture(he was subsequently replaced by a palmtree) to prevent boycotts on the Indian subcontinent. Jesus Christ, one of John's perennial fixations, was apparently also nixed.

Powers also weaves the supposed “Paul is dead” hoax into the song:

“Young George, young John and Paul

dressed like a funeral.

And the rumor says that Paul has died,

and the guru smiles as he recalls

his past lives...”

Powers admits: “The 'Paul is dead' stuff never made much sense to me. I mean, the fake Paul (or 'Faul') wrote “Hey Jude,” “Let it Be” and “Back in the USSR.” I'd take any one them over “I Want to Hold Your Hand” or “Happy Just to Dance with You.” Of course, Faul did write “Maxwell's Silver Hammer,” so you never know . . .”

Ultimately, Powers contends, the album cover is an enigma. And probably more important than the album inside—with the exception of “A Day in the Life.”

Ethnomusicologist and website host Reggie "The Record Man" Rudebaker, who wrote his master's thesis on Egyptian iconography and time travel in Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon, says that Powers' song: "is okay."

He adds: “Sergeant Pepper's is supposedly a concept album. But there's really no concept at all. Just some songs strung together. It's nothing like Dark Side.”

Rudebaker observes that the Pepper cover's use of a cloudless blue sky as backdrop is a nod toward a zen sense of emptiness. And the congregation of famous people paradoxically diminishes their fame.

Rudebaker explodes: “To be a celebrity is to be an individual. The ultimate individual! No one else can be Marilyn Monroe! But if you throw a bunch of celebrities together, it's sort of like Zeno's paradox. Or Fame as nothingness.”

“It's so anti-conceptual conceptual,” he shudders, “it almost makes you wonder if Yoko were lurking around!

The refrain of Powers' song takes the ultimate message of the album cover to be a human commonality beyond fame:

“It's okay, it's alright

we all laugh and we all cry

we all think we know why

we all fall down

and we all fly

away

one day...one blue day”

Powers said he's considered doing songs about other famous album covers.

“But nothing by Pink Floyd,” he insists.

About Luke Powers

Luke Powers is a college professor with a Ph.D. in English from Vanderbilt University and M.A. in Folklore from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (which he attended on the prestigious Morehead Scholarship). The specialist on British poet William Blake sidelines as a songwriter. He collaborates with Austin, Texas, producer and wild man Tommy Spurlock (who has worked with Rodney Crowell, Chip Taylor, David Olney and The Band). Powers' song "I Saw John Kennedy Today" (produced by Spurlock) has been widely distributed on the internet and picked up by internet radio stations such as WSVN. His song "I Shoulda Been God" has been selected to appear on BBC Liverpool's "Jukebox Jury." Powers has also worked with such Music City luminaries as Brian Ahern (producer of EmmyLou Harris, George Jones and Johnny Cash), Mark Collie and Earl "Bud" Lee (author of "Friends in Low Places"). He also writes and records with his brother Sam Powers, who has played with bands including Superdrag and Guided by Voices. Poetry, song-clips, illustrated lyrics and scholarly work are available on Luke’s website (http://www.phoebeclaire.com).

About Phoebe Claire Publishing, LLC

Phoebe Claire Publishing, LLC, is a limited liability company established in 2001 to produce, publish and release creative work including original songs and literature. Its motto is “Words & Music.” As a music publisher it is affiliated with BMI. In cooperation with Waterline Records, it released Sandy Madaris' debut CD "Way Back Home" (2002) featuring songs written by Powers. Powers’ own album “Picture Book,” produced by Tommy Spurlock, will include "Cover Song" and "I Saw John Kennedy Today" and is scheduled for release in January 2005.

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