When most music fans think of the Beatles and the avant garde, John Lennon comes to mind, what with his “Revolution 9” experiment, the snippets of Shakespeare in “I am the Walrus,” and the backwards guitars in “I’m only Sleeping.” Fans of the band have always known that it was Paul McCartney’s laugh that became the seagulls in the tape loops that went into “Tomorrow Never Knows,” and his unreleased “Carnival of Light” sound collage predated Lennon’s. A new exclusive clip from It Was Fifty Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper & Beyond says Lennon took some time to catch up to his musically adventurous partner.
Lennon was a “lazy bastard,” says journalist, author and screenwriter Ray Connolly, who wrote That’ll Be The Day, which starred Ringo Starr.
“John did a lot of reading, and a lot of songwriting but most of it at home,” Tony Bramwell, who headed Apple Films and Apple Records, explains in the clip. “Paul was ahead of him in his ‘let’s explore London,’ let’s explore the underground movement … John wasn’t bold enough at that stage.”
It Was Fifty Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper & Beyond was directed by the Emmy nominated director of Monty Python: Almost The Truth, Alan G. Parker, who also made Rebel Truce: The Story of The Clash, Hello Quo, Never Mind the Sex Pistols, Who Killed Nancy. The documentary mixes archival footage with interviews with The Beatles’ original drummer Pete Best, John Lennon’s sister Julia Baird, Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein’s secretary Barbara O’Donnell, Steve Diggle of the Buzzcocks, Beatles associate Tony Bramwell, Pattie Boyd’s sister Jenny Boyd, Hunter Davies, Simon Napier-Bell, Ray Connolly, Bill Harry, Philip Norman, Steve Turner, Andy Peebles, Freda Kelly and The Merseybeats.
The documentary “examines the year 1967, the year 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,” reads the press synopsis.
“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.
“We’re combining first-hand accounts of the events that allowed Sgt. Pepper to happen with rare and unseen footage that we’ve forensically unearthed from mainstream archives and private collectors,” Parker said in a statement. “The last days of touring…. the execution of the album…. and the aftermath that it left behind will, I hope, give the audience an intimate sense of the band, the time and the impact of this extraordinary album.”
It Was Fifty Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper & Beyond will be released on VOD and DVD on September 8.