More about the new Beatles documentary

Alan G Parker at home.

We have interviewed the EMMY/BAFTA nominated movie director Alan G Parker, about his upcoming, unofficial “Sgt. Pepper” documentary.

Are you a fan of the Beatles? 

– I was a fan from the age of 9 because I was bullied a lot as a kid, and I found it helped. I first went to Liverpool in 1980, as I was born and raised in Blackburn, Lancashire (4000 Holes country). So it was easy to get to by train, I joined Cavern Mecca early on, I’m in the new documentary about the place. I saw Liverpool change a lot of the years and blossom into the fan friendly city it is now. When I first went, The Beatles were kinda missing! My first favourite song was ‘Nowhere Man’ because it struck a chord in me. My favourite single without doubt is ‘Strawberry Fields/Penny Lane’. And albums wise I love ‘Rubber Soul’ through to ‘The Beatles’ (aka White Album). I started collecting big time in 1982 and first met Keith Badman in The Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool at a Convention, 1983 or 84, we’ve been friends since, and worked together a bit too.

How did you enjoy last year’s official “Eight Days A Week” film by Ron Howard?

– I had high hopes for ‘Eight Days A Week‘, and I did enjoy it, attending the premier and two other private screenings, here in London, ahead of owning the Blu-Ray (both UK & Japanese copies). I enjoyed it, but I do believe we were sold a false bill of goods, and indeed sold short a little. To me it was very much aimed at the Red & Blue audience, not the die hard fans, otherwise where was Pete Best? And how did Hamburg and Liverpool almost vanish?? For me ‘Anthology’ (especially Directors cut bootleg), or even ‘Compleat Beatles’ (which I played to death when we had little else) remain better movies. While both ‘LENNONYC‘ and ‘Living In The Material World‘ are both head and shoulders above it.

Why this new documentary?

– Not long after my Monty Python movie ‘Almost The Truth – The Lawyers Cut‘ (which was official) I thought it was as good a time as any to see if my team could work with The Beatles officially, so I sent copies of the movie to Apple, MPL, man all over the place. Olivia (Harrison) was in my Python film so I thought y’know maybe? The only thing I’ve ever heard back was that Paul enjoyed the Python movie. And that remains it. Over Christmas of 2015 into 2016 I thought, Well, kiddo your not getting any younger, I’m 52 in April, so you’re either doing it or your not!! I knew a lot of footage didn’t need third party clearance, and I have 14 shelves of DVD/Blu-Ray on The Beatles or solo, either official or bootleg. So I thought, lets see what we can do? I rallied the team around, and next thing I knew Alexa Morris (my Producer) and Keith Badman were at my place watching through DVD’s and making notes.

Some of us were a bit worried about the level of research when Andy Peebles was described as “the last man to interview John Lennon” in the press release.

– The guys who wrote the press release aren’t fans, they are press guys – thus they were likely to include a line like that. I was busy cutting the film eight hours a day when that side of things got done.

 The music in your upcoming movie is provided by The Bootleg Beatles. Tell us about it.

– I think there is some confusion here to in what’s been reported across the board thus far. My movie is about story line, and footage, the music provided by The Bootleg Beatles and composer Evan Jolly is an orchestral score, like that of a major feature film. To set the scene as we didn’t have The Beatles music. Nobody is singing covers of Beatles songs, as a fan I think that would be a bit silly.

What was Pete Best interviewed for, was it just that Mona Best lent some medals of hers to be used to adorn the Sgt Pepper costumes?

– Pete isn’t in the movie a huge amount, just to cover that story. But the DVD/Blu-Ray extras contain a good hour plus of extra stories from him.

What did you think of the 20th anniversary documentary “It Was Twenty Years Ago Today” by John Sheppard, and the 25th anniversary “Making of Sgt Pepper”, which was a special edition of the South Bank Show? And have you found any footage which wasn’t in those two documentaries, which will be of interest to Beatles fans?

– I really enjoyed them both. I have them both on bootleg DVD so I watch them quite a bit.  I wasn’t trying to emulate them in anyway, our story goes from August 1966 (picking up where somebody else left off) to roughly late 1967. We have some footage which wasn’t included in those, but I can’t say what just yet as that is part of our sales campaign, just lets say we went looking. And I’m very proud of what we found, very proud indeed. The movie is roughly 2 hours long, and the extras are over four and a half hours! So it’s all good.

At home with Alan G Parker.

Are you aware of the bootleg compilations about Sgt Pepper’s and 1967 from Fab Productions, and if so – what do you think of them?

– Aware of them? Man, I’m looking at a shelf full of them while typing this out, I love the FAB DVD stuff!

Do you take a chronological approach to the events of 1967?

– Pretty much, we’ve had to take the odd liberty, but nothing that should upset anyone. The narrative of the story never stop moving. And we have a few new tales or twists on tales too. We’ve been lucky with interviewees. Remember, I’m a fan, so I’m here to piss no-one off, rather just to add something to the story of a very important time period. There is footage in here that’s not in other Beatles movies, and depending on the size of your bootleg collection possibly even unseen! Yeah, I did just say that.

We aren’t just focusing purely on Pepper, but the 14 months around it too. Simon Napier-Bell, Barbara O’Donnell, Ray Connolly, Hunter Davies, Philip Norman and the rest of the gang, bring something new too it also. It’s been hard to cut, knowing what to leave out.

What kind of an audience are you making this film for?

– I hope essentially Beatles fans. Our investor is a Beatles fan, most of his staff are Beatles fans, a lot of our team are Beatles fans! Hell, I’m a Beatles fan! So I guess to some degree I’m aiming it at us, and anybody else who enjoys a good story. In a way not having the music isn’t a huge problem, it’s not like it’s a documentary on Frank Zappa’s 27th album! Or the third LP by Can. It’s about one of the biggest selling albums/acts on planet earth. So let’s assume our audience know the record before they see the movie – I don’t think that’s such a huge step is it?

I was happy to see that Tony Bramwell was interviewed for the documentary. He seems to be one of the few remaining people who were with the Beatles all the way from Liverpool to the break-up.

– I like Tony… I’ve always liked Tony, from the earliest Liverpool Conventions to London Beatles Days.  So I was keen for him to be on board, and, as I expected he’s pure gold, in every way, You’ll see! It was very valuable having him here in this movie.

What have you learned about The Beatles or “Sgt Pepper” that you weren’t already aware of?

– When we started I remember thinking the whole process would be surprise free! But when your un-earthing things daily, and Keith Badman is your ‘go to guy’, then things start to shift. One story was completely locked, but we were aware the footage in it had been around forever, 23rd hour in comes brand new footage!! And we haven’t coloured anything in. For purists, but we have found colour stuff. I’ve read lots of books on the group, and yes I’m still a little surprised by what we have. I think we’ve done as well as anyone can who isn’t in bed with Apple or The Beatles, indeed we’ve crossed that line, and made something very special. I’m proud of it.

What’s the feeling you hope the audience will have after seeing your film?

– I hope they understand more. I think if the movie had been official then certain stories wouldn’t have made the cut. So we had that freedom, that said we’ve hung no-one out to dry or upset anyone. I think we’ve just brought another story to the table and with luck it’s one the fans will love. I just watched it for the ninth time, and I’m still enjoying it!

Alan G Parker’s documentary film, “It Was Fifty Years Ago Today! The Beatles, Sgt Pepper & Beyond” is due out on Thursday, June 1, from RENIOR Pictures along with A Geezer & A Blonde Productions London Ltd.

2 Responses

  1. angel says:

    On the interview, Alan makes the point of having the British and Japanese versions of the Eight Days a Week documentary. Are there differences between both versions ?

  2. Martin says:

    Some more Fabs news… Deagostini (with the cooperation of Apple and Universal) have started a Beatles Vinyl Collection series. The first issue is tempting: with the remastered 180g vinyl Abbey Road album (plus book and binder) for 9.99 (UK Price). I dare say the eventual complete set will be collectible in years to come.

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