The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper & Beyond’ in UK Cinemas 26th May. Peter Morrell reviews
I was 14 years old when The Beatles first entered my consciousness after hearing ‘She Loves You’ a short, simplistic catchy number that got them noticed. They very quickly moved from very simplistic to highly complicated and a new film charts that period in their collective careers which was a musical rollercoaster.
I have seen the film and for me and many people of my age it is a walk down memory lane. However it’s also a very useful reference for younger people who don’t understand the relevance of The Beatles and the effect that they had on shaping the culture of the nation.
On 1st June, 1967 The Beatles released their ground-breaking studio album, SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND. Described by Rolling Stone magazine as “The most important rock & roll album ever made…”, it left an indelible mark on the 60s and went on to become one of the biggest selling records of all time.
IT WAS FIFTY YEARS AGO TODAY! THE BEATLES: SGT. PEPPER & BEYOND examines the twelve months (Aug 1966 – Aug 1967) that would arguably be the most crucial in the band’s career, a year in which they stopped being the world’s number one touring band and instead became the world’s most innovative recording artists, pushing the boundaries of what could be achieved in the studio.
Unable to hear themselves perform and mired by controversy, the band decided to stop touring in August 1966. What followed was a period of extreme creativity and rebirth during which they embraced Swinging London, the ‘avant-garde’, LSD and the advent of the Summer Of Love. The result was the creation of their new alter ego, Sgt. Pepper, with the desire to create a pop music first, the concept album.
A devoted fan since the age of nine, the film’s director Alan G. Parker has set out to explore this period by filming interviews with former employees, fellow musicians, family member and journalists, all of whom were there at the time. These stories are in turn supported by a vast array of impressive archival footage, much of it not seen since first transmission. The result is a detailed examination of why the band stopped touring, how the album was conceived and its recording at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios, its lyrics, the creation of its sleeve and finally its release. All this is set against a background of the band’s changing relationship with their manager, Brian Epstein and the tragedy of his death, the creation of Apple and the powerful influence of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
As an aside I recently met Sir Peter Blake who was the artist responsible for creating the Sgt. Pepper album cover and talked to him about the making of the image. There was no photoshopping of the image, it was created as a full size model in his studio.
For me it answered many of the questions about why they stopped touring. As the touring stopped the influence of their manager Brian Epstein dimininished while in the ascendancy was their musical arranger George Martin.
Younger people will find some of the detail in the film amusing, the archive footage shows the Beatles smoking during interviews and everything was done with email, the internet or mobile phones.
An interesting film for both Beatles fans and younger people who often wonder about why the mania around them existed.
Kaleidoscope Entertainment will release the new Beatles documentary: IT WAS FIFTY YEARS AGO TODAY! THE BEATLES: SGT. PEPPER & BEYOND in UK cinemas 26th May 2017