The Beatles are the most documented band in history, with hundreds of books and films covering the Fab Four’s career from the Cavern Club and beyond. Ron Howard’s documentary The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years put the focus on the years between 1962 to 1966, when the band were on the road and 2017’s It Was 50 Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt Pepper & Beyond looks at the pre and post Pepper period when they decided to create music that couldn’t be replicated on the stage. Alan G. Parker’s film might be light on present day Paul and Ringo, but delivers on a level that will please fans of The Beatles.
In a career of great accomplishments, Sgt Pepper might just be John, Paul, George and Ringo’s finest. 50 years on the album is still a stupendous sonic achievement, catapulting its listener into a world of music which is still without compare (man, I still remember the 25 anniversary like it was last year). It Was 50 Years Ago Today looks at how the album was born from the band’s displeasure at touring and how they decided to break new ground based on their use of mind-expanding drugs (Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds).
Parker’s film might not be an Apple sanctioned piece, but that doesn’t mean it’s light on interviewing talent. The film includes a plethora of key names from The Beatles inner-circle including fifth Beatle Pete Best and the band’s official biographer Hunter Davies. Coupled with archive footage (some of which I haven’t seen before), this manages to tell a comprehensive story – with certain topics that probably wouldn’t have made the final cut in an official film. The only major flaw is that it doesn’t feature any of the band’s music. This isn’t a real problem, but it’s a shame when you know how much this could have added to the story that Parker wanted to tell. At least you can get out the album once the credits roll and delve back into the world of Sgt. Pepper and his Lonely Hearts Club Band.
It Was 50 Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt Pepper & Beyond is a highly captivating film. It’s well researched and cut together in a way that entertains and informs. It’s got everything that you would want from a documentary on The Beatles and the Sgt. Pepper (plenty on the Maharishi Yogi and the death of Brain Epstein), in a word this is ‘Fab’.