Alan G Parker (director)
Kaleidescope Entertainment (studio)
26 May 2017 (released)
The Beatles’ story before and well after their split is one of the most complex in music covering – by no means exclusively - inspiration, music, personality, money and control. The latter two could explain the gaping flaw in this film. It is also already very well documented through all media so this film is an attempt to focus on one aspect: the Sgt. Pepper album
On the positive side, some of the footage is remarkable. The band being interviewed in the Philippines, their early interviews when they were co-operative and frank – patiently taking questions before going into record, and Brian Epstein bravely defending them after the notorious bigger than Jesus statement by John Lennon.
However, a lot of what is in this long documentary has been covered before. Lennon and the Jesus remark, the strains of touring and not being able hear themselves play, Epstein’s problems, the period with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, though that is always good to return to as it reminds us that anyone can be taken for a ride, and of course there’s Apple.
What it doesn’t do is dig deeper into the concept and recording of the Sgt. Pepper album itself. That ideally requires input from the band which is not here. Granted two are no longer with us, neither is producer Sir George Martin.
That said Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr’s absences are not insurmountable, because of the quality and insight of the contributors. The biggest problem is that director Alan G Parker, for whatever reason, doesn’t have the music. He may have got away with that – the soundtrack by Andre Barreau and Evan Jolly just about evokes the spirit of the album and the time. But as one contributor started to talk about the pairing of Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields as a double A-side single, you want to hear those songs. Similarly, when they started wittering on about the done-to-death subject of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. After 50 years, who now really cares anymore, just listen to the music.
Credit to Parker for looking to try something new but one has the feeling that this well is now close to being dry.