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By Posted on 0 5

Beatles Magazine set out to get the backstory for Alan G. Parker’s wonderful documentary, It Was Fifty Years Ago Today: Sgt. Pepper & Beyond. Parker has given us a fine list of credits including, Monty Python: Almost The Truth, Hello Quo!, Who Killed Nancy?, and Rebel Truce: The History of the Clash. Parker mixes a keenly developed filmmaker’s eye with the heart of a fan. Unseen footage and first hand accounts mesh together for a fun and enlightening account. If you love the Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and sixties culture, you are in for a delightful viewing.

BM: Can you describe when you first became aware of the Beatles? What effect did they have on you?

Alan Parker: I think looking back I’d been waiting for The Beatles or something like them to happen for a while, a band that would be bigger than just a band, that would include friendship, travel, all kinds of possibilities. I was born and raised in Blackburn, Lancashire, so Liverpool was pretty close. Once I started to travel there regularly I also started to meet new people and get involved more. It’s quite hard to believe looking at me now, but I was badly bullied as a young kid, and The Beatles/Lennon were kind of like my safety blanket. ‘4000 Holes in Blackburn, Lancashire wasn’t lost on me, and at one point I thought ‘Nowhere Man’ was written about me.

BM: Events that transpired touring in the Philippines and in America’s South took a heavy toll on the group. Can you describe what happened that was displayed in the documentary’s footage?

Alan Parker: They got a rough ride in the Philippines, no two ways about that, they (or in reality some of Brian Epstein’s staff) turned down a lunch with Marcos and everything else escalated around that! None of it was their fault at all, but they paid big for it, they even lost their gig fees! In the movie we were lucky enough to find some unseen press footage, where John actually says he’d never go back again. With touring taking a heavy toll on them I think it was the straw that broke the camels back.

BM: How revolutionary was it for a band like the Beatles to cease touring? How did this effect what they were doing in the studio?

Alan Parker: By the time they hit late summer 1966 they couldn’t hear a thing on stage, nor could they be heard. As Ringo said later “People came to see The Beatles” I think they felt a bit like exhibits A, B, C & D… And that can never be good for a creative situation, walking away was a big step, but I think they were savvy enough to know that even if they lost some of their core audience they were big enough to stand that, and of course a change in direction musically would pick up new fans along the way too.

BM: Brian Epstein has often been overlooked in telling the story of the Beatles. Can you tell us a little bit about Brian’s life, and his impact in the Beatles?

Alan Parker: A number of years ago here in the UK a BBC programme called ARENA did a really good documentary on Brian, but it seems to be his only really well researched visual legacy, this is the guy who both discovered and made The Beatles, his theatrical savvy put them two or three steps in front of a lot of the competition in the early days. I knew when we started our movie that we would be focused on a huge chunk of 1967, and I always felt that ‘Beatles Anthology’ as good as it is, almost skipped over Brian’s death. So we went out of our way to give him the recognition he deserves, and to overstep a few myths about his last days, or what may or may not have happened. I think, and a few fans have told me, that hopefully we managed to do that.

BM: Simon Napier-Bell speaks of phone message recording Brian Epstein left to him. What does his account tell us about Brian’s demise?

Alan Parker: I think it adds some honesty to it, from what might have been said before. Like a lot of big groups The Beatles are no strangers to re-writing history when they need or want to, so going down the unofficial documentary path gave us the freedom to just tell our story. With total honesty if you like. When I was doing my UK press tour I’d jokingly say on certain days that most Directors normally get about 2 or 3 months to research a project, I was lucky in that I got 43 years to research this one! But it’s not far from the truth, a lot of the stories that made the final cut are stories I heard years ago via various people, now they just needed to be put
onto camera for the world to see. And the Simon Napier-Bell story was among those.

BM: How were Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields left off of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band? How does their inclusion on the recent re-release change the record?

Alan Parker: In the first instance they were left off because EMI were pushing George Martin for a Christmas 1966 single, that never happened of course, but continued pressure meant a single release in early 1967, which was of course ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ b/w ‘Penny Lane’ in my opinion at least, the greatest rock n’ roll single ever released on this planet we call home! Had those two songs been on ‘Sgt Pepper’ originally I think it would have been instantly hailed the greatest album ever made in a heartbeat, but released as it was with no commercial single attached to it, some critics found it hard to cope with, it’s hard to believe now in 2018, but there are reviews from 1967 that actually attack ‘Sgt Pepper’.  Last year of course all that changed and the two songs were added to the album for it’s 50th Anniversary release. That whole release, especially the box set, was just perfect for me.

BM: Some have said that Sgt. Pepper captures a moment in time? Can you please describe this moment for us?
Alan Parker: Oh, a big question is that one. I guess it would be different for everyone.
For me I know that it’s a right of passage album, it came into my life at the time I’d hit a huge turning point and I guess it opened the doors that got me up to where I am now.
I guess for me it’s bigger than just an album in many ways.

BM: The record cover for Pepper is quite ornate, and a story in itself. When you think of it, what comes to your mind?
Alan Parker: I remember first seeing it, and being utterly fascinated by it, I think a full 40 minutes had gone by before I actually put the vinyl onto the turntable! At first I thought are we supposed to know all these people? Or are we being tested? Is it all part of the journey. It was the first album
cover to contain the lyrics also, and that was quite special in itself, they stood up as stories, without the music. Even the candy stripped inner sleeve looked like it belonged more in a sweet shop than a record store!
BM: It was interesting in the film how Pepper’s cover was so complex, and the ‘White Album’ cover was so simple. Was this by design, and what are your thoughts regarding this?
Alan Parker: There is a cover knocking around somewhere for ‘The White Album’ which lest we forget is actually called ‘The Beatles’, which features their collective heads carved into the white cliffs of Dover, and a boat sailing in to shore, very Mount Rushmore. But I think by the time the album came along The Beatles had become much more a part of the avant guard art scene in London, so plain white was pretty cool. There is a story that Paul McCartney went to see Peter Blake to ask his advice on the cover of the new Beatles album, and that Blake said quietly “Keep it simple!”

BM: You have an interesting section in the film on Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, and it runs into Paul speaking about psychedelics to a reporter. Might John have learned from Paul, and disguised what the song was really about?
Alan Parker: I think the Lucy story is endless in someways, Julian’s drawing does exist. We have previously unseen pictures of Julian with Lucy O’Donnell in the movie. Yet, as a number of our interviewees said, the fact that the initials of the song spell out LSD can’t have been lost on John! Maybe, it was just a bit of good press, who knows.

BM: Was Within You, Without You put on ‘Pepper’ at a particular place for a reason?

Alan Parker: It’s at the start of Side 2 on the album because people might have wanted to skip it! George’s original offering for ‘Sgt Pepper’ had been ‘Only A Northern Song’ which George Martin deemed to be not good enough (it later turned up on the ‘Yellow Submarine’ album) for such a big project. So George came back with this much more Indian flavoured number, which Jenny Boyd tells the full story of in our movie. I think of all The Beatles George was possibly the furthest away from ‘Sgt Pepper’ as a lot of other things were occupying his time in 1967.

BM: How has this recording remained so popular this far down the road?
Alan Parker: There is no question that it’s a good song, but it’s possibly just not too ‘Sgt Pepper’ friendly. I’ve always thought it could have worked on ‘The White Album’ or indeed as part of the original ‘Yellow Submarine’ album.

BM: In the film, you showed a photo of Paul’s father Jim, and his band. This may have been an inspiration in part for the Sgt. Pepper cover, can you please tell us about this?
Alan Parker: The picture of Jim Mac’s Band was from a Liverpool newspaper in 1922, it’s main similarity is that they are all stood around a big bass drum, but there is also a young girl sprawled across one side, a little like the doll on the chair to the right of the ‘Sgt Pepper’ sleeve. According to a few of our interviewees Paul had a framed copy of this picture at his house. So I guess you never know.

BM: Where can fans go to view the film, and what can we expect from you in the future?
Alan Parker: The movie ‘It Was Fifty Years Ago Today!’ is currently on Netflix, or they can get 4 hours and 30 minutes of extra footage by purchasing the DVD or Blu-Ray versions. We always believe in good value regarding the extras. As regards what’s next, well there are currently a number of things being looked at, last I heard we have 6 projects moving forwards. So just keep your eyes open on Facebook and Twitter, plus in the press.

by Bob Wilson


By Posted on 0 4

The Beatles’ debut album was rush-released on this day . Parlophone rush-released the album on 22 March 1963 in the United Kingdom to capitalise on the success of their singles “Please Please Me” (No. 1 on most lists though only No. 2 on Record Retailer) and “Love Me Do” .

Of the album’s 14 songs, eight were written by Lennon–McCartney (originally credited “McCartney–Lennon”), early evidence of what Rolling Stone later called “[their invention of] the idea of the self-contained rock band, writing their own hits and playing their own instruments.”In 2012, Please Please Me was voted 39th on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”

The singles had both been recorded in 1962. They were contained on the Please Please Me LP, along with their b-sides. The rest of the album had been recorded during a mammoth session on 11 February 1963, which lasted just under 10 hours.
Producer George Martin originally wanted to call the album Off The Beatle Track, but later dropped the idea.
On this day only the mono version was issued. Its catalogue number was PMC 1201. A stereo version – PCS 3042 – followed on Friday 26 April. Both were released on EMI’s Parlophone subsidiary.

Please Please Me was a huge success. It spent 70 weeks in the UK album charts from 6 April, and was at the top position for 30 weeks from 11 May. The sleeve notes were supplied by The Beatles’ press officer Tony Barrow.

In 2013, the album’s 50th anniversary was celebrated by modern artists re-recording the album in just one day, the same time it took the Beatles to record it 50 years earlier. Stereophonics recorded a cover of the album’s opening track, “I Saw Her Standing There”. It and the other recordings were broadcast on BBC Radio 2, and a documentary about the re-recording of The Beatles’ debut album was broadcast on BBC Television.


By Posted on 0 4

A Weston-super-Mare poet and author has immortalised the moment the world’s most famous band visited Birnbeck Pier.

Anthony Keyes has penned a poem on The Beatles’ 1963 visit to the town after performing at the Odeon, which saw the legendary Liverpudlians pictured on a rock overlooking the pier by GD Smith. The poem has been etched on a plaque which this week was installed at ‘Beatles Rock’.

Mr Keyes said: “The poem is an experience not a plaque to say the Beatles visited in 1963, although reference is made to that point in time. “Birnbeck is a place where culture meets the sea; heritage and regeneration go hand in hand.”



By Posted on 0 , 9

From May 2018, the Museum of Liverpool will show a ground-breaking exhibition, exploring the personal and creative chemistry of this iconic couple and their ongoing Imagine Peace campaign.

Double Fantasy – John & Yoko, at Museum of Liverpool from May 18, 2018 to April 22, 2019, is a free exhibition, celebrating the meeting of two of the world’s most creative artists who expressed their deep and powerful love for one another through their art, music and film. They used their fame and influence to campaign for peace and human rights across the world, transforming not only their own lives, but art, music and activism forever.
Featuring personal objects alongside art, music and film produced by John and Yoko, the exhibition is drawn from Yoko’s own private collection, some of which has never been displayed.
Yoko Ono Lennon said: “I am so happy and grateful that we are having our Double Fantasy -John & Yoko show in Liverpool.“This is where John was born and I know John would be very happy too.“We were a very simple couple just loving each other every day and I just wanted to show the simple truth of us.“In our personal life we were pretty simple people, and we made all sorts of things with love for each other. Everything was made out of love.“We found that we were both very strongly interested in world peace. I feel John and I are still working together. I always feel his warmth next to me.”

Taking a chronological journey, the exhibition starts with two unique individuals – a leading figure in the avant-garde art world and a global rock ‘n’ roll star. From a tender first meeting at Indica Gallery in London, it was 18 months later that the album, Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins was issued. What followed was breathtaking in its rapidity and productivity until John’s tragic and untimely death on 8 Dec 1980.
Through interviews, quotes and lyrics, the story of their personal and creative relationship along with their political activism and peace campaigning, will be told in their own words for the very first time.
From the intimate to the iconic, the exhibition brings together unmissable objects and artworks including:

  • Hand-written lyrics by John Lennon, including In My Life, Give Peace a Chance, Happy Xmas (War is Over) and Woman.
  • Grapefruit –Yoko’s artist book, which she gave to John as a gift in 1966. Published in 1964, the book represents a seminal piece of conceptual art and was a direct influence on the lyrics and ideas behind Imagine.
  • Original artwork by both, including Yoko’s Ceiling Painting/Yes Painting, Painting to Hammer A Nail and Apple, as well as The Daily Howl, a hand-made book by John from his childhood and numerous examples of his distinctive line drawings. The exhibition also features conceptual work the couple produced together, such as War is Over, Plastic Ono Band, and elements of their first collaboration Acorn Peace.
  • Many personal items, such as John’s wire-rimmed glasses, Yoko’s large Porsche sunglasses, iconic items of clothing, such as John’s New York City t-shirt, and items from their wedding outfits.
  • An extremely rare Sardonyx guitar used by John on the album, Double Fantasy, and the acoustic Gibson guitar, illustrated on by John, from their 1969 Bed-Ins.
  • John’s hard-won Green Card.
  • Items from the couple’s famous 1969 Bed-Ins in Amsterdam and Montreal.
  • A rolling programme of the films that John and Yoko created, and music videos made under Yoko’s supervision. A music room, overlooking the Mersey with the couple’s albums played for visitors will feature album cover art.
  • A recreation of the Imagine mosaic circle in Strawberry Fields, Central Park, New York. An intimate and contemplative space, it will also reflect on the global impact of John’s death.

Sharon Granville, Director of the Exhibition for National Museums Liverpool said: “We have worked closely with Yoko and her team for several years to tell an intimate story of the couple’s relationship and work, using her and John’s words wherever it was possible. Setting this against a backdrop of the volatile late 1960s – Vietnam War, civil rights protests and social unrest and revolution across Europe and the USA – reveals just how creatively and bravely the couple harnessed their fame and influence to express their radical ideas, challenge preconceptions of the role of artists in society and promote universal themes of peace, love and equality, which continue to have strong resonance and importance today.”
Liverpool remained with John throughout his life. Testament to this is Yoko’s own longstanding connection to the city and her decision to have this incredibly personal exhibition celebrating their life and work at the Museum of Liverpool.
Double Fantasy – John & Yoko is a major part of Liverpool’s celebration of its 10th anniversary as European Capital of Culture.

This exhibition has been made possible with the kind permission of Yoko Ono Lennon.


By Posted on 0 15

The Duke of Cambridge bestowed the honour on the Liverpool-born star at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

“It means a lot actually,” the musician told the BBC. “It means recognition for the things we’ve done. I was really pleased to accept this.”

The honour comes 53 years after the Beatles were all awarded the MBE – and Starr said he had missed his bandmates’ companionship this time round.

“I was a bit shaky today on my own,” he said.

When The Beatles received their MBEs in October 1965, the occasion was not without controversy.

Rock and roll was still viewed with suspicion by the establishment and several previous honourees returned their medals in disgust.

John Lennon later claimed that the Beatles were so nervous at the idea of meeting the Queen they sneaked into a bathroom at Buckingham Palace for a cigarette.

“Who said that?” laughed the drummer after Tuesday’s ceremony. “I’m not keeping that rumour going.”

He arrived at the investiture with his wife, Barbara Bach, offering his trademark peace sign for fans and photographers.

Asked whether he wanted to be known as Sir Ringo, the musician, whose real name is Richard Starkey, replied: “I don’t know yet. It’s new and I don’t know how you use it properly.”

Turning to BBC reporter Colin Paterson, he added: “But I expect you to use it.”

Ringo added he knew exactly what he’d do with his medal.

“I’ll be wearing it at breakfast,” he joked.

His honour comes 21 years after fellow Paul McCartney was knighted.

Ringo said the pair had met for dinner last week in Los Angeles, and Sir Paul had offered him some advice for the ceremony: “Keep smiling.”