My mom gave me a tape of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band for Christmas when I was ten. I didn’t listen to the whole thing right away. First I couldn’t make it past “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” which made me scared to leave my room at night, and then I got stuck on “Within You Without You,” which gave me the unpleasant sensation of seeing into some interior chamber of the universe where the gears that powered cosmic movements churned away and had always churned, indifferent to the scope of human time. Each song posed a different aesthetic challenge, and a general spookiness reigned throughout, a sense that the music was addressed personally to me, that some disembodied, demonic personality was communicating through a sequence of warbling tones that it knew not just deep shapes of my mind that I could glimpse only fleetingly or not at all, but also how my bedroom was arranged. Maybe an account of the permanent strangeness of the album could begin with a review of children’s experiences of it, the way the buzz of the tamboura in “Getting Better” seemed to cut transversally across normal planes of space, making a clearing in the middle of the density of stuff where self-consciousness could emerge for the first time, the way the doubled notes of the harp on “She’s Leaving Home” seemed to cause designs on the wallpaper to ripple, the way the echoing breaths and moans at the end of “Lovely Rita” seemed to prove that Paul was dead, that Lennon was dead but still speaking to you directly, that sex and death were the same, the way the wordless vocal leading McCartney’s part of “A Day in the Life” back into Lennon’s seemed to suspend you in a column of colored light projected from the triple corner of walls and ceiling. Sgt. Pepper’s is kids’ music, after all, starting with the album’s first guiding concept: a collection of songs about their childhood. Julian Lennon’s drawing of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” that song’s Lewis Carroll park-world, opaque syllable sequences like “Blackburn, Lancashire” that drift into your mind out of the vocabulary of some adult who knows and worries about things whose names refract and echo for you in irrelevant patterns of other meanings, all the scenes of mundane, lower middle-class life in post-war England that are blasted out of into soaring aerial views of radical, ecstatic alterity, the universal rainbow palette of the colors on the cover, the Old Curiosity Shop of pump organs and whistles and pipes and resonating chambers of every antique timbre, the global reach of the animal sounds and sound effects, the absence of regular rock music, the rolling sidewalk streetscape in the stride of the quarter notes, and just the virtuosic musicality of the melodies, the carelessly good Mozart way they seem to just flow out of a heaven of always-existing music, plus the fact that the idea of a pop album as an aesthetic unit was only about one year old—all of this suggests that Sgt. Pepper’s sounds permanently new because it is itself a sort of child, an emerging awareness of mind and world, the construction of a transcendent self out of the accidental, uncool junk of one’s provincial surroundings, a collection of shifting and wondrous effects gathered around an absent core, the central, self-possessed non-knowledge that gives a child space to imagine anything.