Talking Cinema: Director Alan G Parker Discusses New Sgt Pepper Documentary

Talking Cinema: Director Alan G Parker Discusses New Sgt Pepper Documentary

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of The Beatles album, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Andy Howells chats to the director of a new Beatles documentary, Alan G Parker, about his film on the making of the album and the events that surrounded it.

 “There are people who may say “Why on earth would you make a film about such an iconic album that you haven’t got any rights to the music for?” My argument would be, because it’s such an iconic album, why wouldn’t you?”

Alan G Parker on location shooting an interview for the new  Sgt Pepper  documentary It Was 50 Years Ago Today

Alan G Parker on location shooting an interview for the new Sgt Pepper documentary It Was 50 Years Ago Today

That’s the challenge film director Alan G Parker set himself when embarking on his latest film project last year.  

“It’s not like we’re making a film about a Frank Zappa album or the third LP from Hawkwind,” continues Alan, “I worked for EMI for years and statistically If you don’t own Sgt Pepper, your next-door neighbour has got one for the house and one for the car. That album sold enough copies for every single home in Great Britain to have one copy. So, I thought, "What if I do what most documentary makers do and tell the back story.?"”

Parker, a life-long Beatles fan has fulfilled a childhood dream by putting together a film about the fab four.

Through rarely seen archive footage and new interviews with The Beatles friends and associates the film follows the twelve months from August 1966 to August 1967 that would become the most crucial in The Beatles career.  Among The Beatles decisions to stop touring, discovering the effects of LSD and discovering Indian mysticism, they also created an alter ego in Sgt Pepper, with the desire to create a pop music first, the concept album.

Although some of the stories surrounding Sgt Pepper might be familiar, there will be some that will surprise. Much rare footage has also been uncovered including a rare interview given to HTV Wales in 1967 when The Beatles learned of the death of their manager, Brian Epstein while on a retreat in Bangor with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

The Beatles with The Maharishi in 1967 PIcture: Getty Images

The Beatles with The Maharishi in 1967 PIcture: Getty Images

A version of the Bangor interview footage has been used in several Beatles documentaries over the years, but on this occasion, an alternate version has been uncovered,

“Keith Badman, our archivist is well known in the industry, they call him the Columbo of rock n roll, if he can’t find it, it doesn’t exist,” laughs Alan.

“We’re sat one day chatting away and we’re at that point in the film where we are at the very early stages of the first cut, Keith goes “Hang on a minute, they’re the Beatles,. Presumably when something as big as their manager’s death happens there’s not one camera crew, but probably 150!”

"He literally got up and walked out of the studio returning 5 minutes later grinning like a Cheshire cat, (and saying) “I’ve just rung HTV in Wales, they had a crew down there. The lady I spoke to said yes we’ve got the clip here, it’s not a problem but do you realise we’ve never been asked to license it in 49 years?”

  • A must-see event for all Beatles die-hards. It Was Fifty Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper & Beyond is in cinemas on May 26 and available on DVD from June 5.
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