Alan G Parker’s entertaining time-capsule documentary film, ‘It Was Fifty Years Ago Today’, revisits twelve months in the life of the greatest band in rock history, The Beatles, interspersing talking heads interviews with 1960’s survivors with atmospheric footage of 1967’s swooning psychedelia.
Released to commemorate half a century since the unveiling of the Fab Four’s seismic ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ album, Parker’s affectionate film traces the group’s wide-eyed innovations against a patchouli-laced backdrop of shifting social norms, personal liberation and increased affluence.
Whilst the decade’s relentless pace of creativity is palpable, the documentary also exhibits a tender undercurrent of loss and pathos, from Simon Napier-Bell’s account of the aftermath of Brian Epstein’s suicide to the Fabs’ imminent break-up.
‘It Was Fifty Years Ago Today’ offers a rabbit hole into an era when popular music was at the vanguard of artistic experimentation, unleashing new thrills virtually on a weekly basis. As The Beatles began to tire of the circus of Beatlemania, the dense swirl and novelistic lyricism of 1966’s ‘Revolver’ whetted the appetite for a more opulent pop language, finding its apogee in the expressionist ambition, music-hall jocularity and existential verve of ‘Sgt. Pepper’ in 1967. George Martin’s crucial role in pushing the group to greater heights and moving into new territory is acknowledged, as are Paul McCartney’s magpie curiosity and bohemian art credentials.
‘It Was Fifty Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper & Beyond’ is in cinemas 26th May, including special Q&A previews and On Digital 1st June and DVD 5th June.