It Was Fifty Years Ago Today! The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper And Beyond review

Over-familiar Fabumentary lacking magic and mystery

Cover art for It Was Fifty Years Ago Today! The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper And Beyond

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Another month, another Beatles documentary. Alan G Parker’ s functional film focuses on the dramatic period from late 1966 to early ’68, when the Fabs gave up touring, embraced Eastern philosophy, suffered the tragic loss of manager Brian Epstein, grew silly proto-hipster moustaches and made their career-topping psychedelic artrock masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper.

Unfortunately, Parker revisits this very familiar story in a dry, uninspired, talking-heads format which inevitably suffers from having zero access to key players. There are no first-hand insights from Paul or Ringo, and not a single note of actual Beatles music. Instead Parker interviews minor fringe figures and hires long-time tribute act the Bootleg Beatles to compose a weedy pastiche score. That said, original drummer Pete Best and John Lennon’ s sister Julia Baird share some warm personal memories. The section on Epstein’ s death is also richly detailed, while the extensive archive footage contains ample joyful reminder s of the Fabs in their wise-cracking, acid-dropping, world-changing prime.

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.