The Beatles, “1967 The Sgt. Peppers Commemorative Issue” (TMOQ Gazette / HMC 043)
Disk 1 – Scene Special “Underground” / The Hollywood Palace – Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever / American Bandstand – Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane / A Day In The Life / Come Together / “Watch Out For Your Ears” excerpt / The Frost Programme (29th September, 1967)
Disk 2 – Entertainment Tonight Part 1 / Entertainment Tonight Part 2 / CD Release news / “It Was Twenty Years Ago today” – Preproduction trailer and preliminary work print.
Quite rightly for Sgt. Pepper’s 50th anniversary, the music world went Pepper mad again – Various televisual documentaries documenting the success and making of the album (From the back of the Giles Martin remixed version and its subsequent outtakes), Radio documentaries that spoke about the change the album made to the world and then, because they had them in their vaults and they were presented by famous fans, programming that was Beatles-related, but didn’t say much about the arrival of this pivotal album.
HMC had to step in on this action and, thankfully, they gave more value than a re-dredged set of familial outtakes from the John Barratt tapes or the Strawberry Fields home demos – No, the blossoming visual label have put out a two DVD set of some stunning quality footage, a lot of it seen for the very first time, on silver pressed disks – and outside of even the highest-end collectors circles. To say this set is a must is an understatement; although while the first disk is essential, the second is less so – although it makes for interesting viewing and contains slightly different versions of things that have been seen before.
The first segment of the first disk features Paul McCartney’s appearance on the Scene Special, ‘Underground’ programme. This is the complete 30 minute show, in the best quality ever to circulate. The film is slightly mottled but only in an archival way, improving towards the end; nothing worse than you may find repeated on any kind of BBC sanctioned programming. Bookended and not all McCartney but – as a leader from the heady days of the Summer of Love – it is a lot of fun to watch as a few hippies march around Leicester Square in London with placards, wrapping themselves in toilet tissue to lampposts, offering around copies of IT magazine, reportage on and footage from a poetry happening that took place in the Royal Albert Hall (Featuring Allen Ginsburg), interviews with the gang behind IT, a photoshoot session inside the Indica bookshop (Nice to see as I’ve only seen scant photos of this historic shop or read passages of prose regarding by one of its proprietors, (Barry) Miles. A ‘happening’ – in the form of a disembowelling scene and the less said about that the better – but also a performance by Pink Floyd of their own ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ at the UFO club – This is marred by narration a little but does contain the full performance. The sound is uniformly fantastic! To be noted, I was pleased that rather than just slap Macca’s contribution together, the producers left the full film intact – it’s a great artifact not only for Beatles and Floyd fans, but also for historical investment too.
The following clips from ’The Hollywood Palace’ and ‘’American Bandstand’ look great – The ‘Hollywood Palace’ films are upgraded from the original broadcast – maybe not ‘1’ brilliant – but certainly the best quality of the “true original” films (before later alterations) to ever circulate, although the sound is unfortunately a little tinny. The ‘American Bandstand’ clips, however, are a brand new selection of unseen outtakes from the filming of the promos. Despite these being outtakes, the colour is almost preferable too – certainly much closer to the film I’m used to seeing – and the resolution is certainly sharper. The (pointless) audience questioning (“I Don’t Like Their Hair”) before and after ’Strawberry Fields ..’ and ‘Penny Lane’ is in B&W.
The differences between the two promos are plenty. On the outtakes clips for SFF, we have footage of all 4 Fabs walking around in a circle over the rest, different backwards walking, a few more profile shots of the individual Beatles from the front and side, using the different colour filter slides for the camera lens and more footage of Macca up the tree – the last frames are the best as the Fabs take an extended jog backwards for the film – both Ringo and John take a tumble as they miss their footing.
The ‘Penny Lane’ promo has much more footage of the fireman on horseback, ariel shots of the community, longer footage of John walking solo. Different clips of the fabs on horseback and stills of the communities street signage – Not much more Beatles footage that we haven’t seen before but a broader 1967 glimpse at one of Liverpool’s most famous areas.
The newly created promo for ‘A Day In The Life’ is totally compiled from new outtake footage from these sessions – A rakish Mal Evans, Paul’s arrival at the sessions, George looking pensive, chatting to Mick Jagger with Patti, girls with sparklers, bubbles, orchestral shots, Cynthia Lennon, John talking to Mike Nesmith, what appears to be Keith Richards wearing a mask – All are presented in cut up, sped up, slowed down form. It’d be great to see the film from this session in full along with its audio but the film is no doubt stored away in the annals of Abbey Road’s archives and was almost certainly shot silent.
Next, the biggest surprise of the set – a brand new video for ‘Come Together’ or new in the respect that it was thought to have been lost for quite a few years after its broadcast (The full story is inside the gazette). The audio that runs alongside the original footage is new and different – a dryer mix with the organ almost entirely mixed out, the guitar is much higher in the mix while the drums sink a little further down, it is also ever so slightly longer but – apart from maybe an extra ‘Yeah’, there is nothing markedly different towards the end. An absolutely incredible find and yet another exclusive first for the HMC label!
The ‘Watch Out For Your Ears’ segment features a multitude of different sources – first and foremost are clips from the then-brand-new ‘Day In The Life’ promo film, this is cut up with footage from the ‘Christmas On Earth Continued’ festival held at the Kensington Olympia in December 1967 – The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Joe Cocker, The Who all played and are featured here with other acts that I can’t put my finger on – these images are all interspersed with pieces of classic art (‘Ophelia’ by John Everett Mills, ’Nebuchadnezzar’ by William Blake) and cut up with psychedelic imagery.
Also here for the first time, a David Frost interview with John and George – we’re no doubt familiar with the interview that was broadcast the following week, but this interview will be new to essentially all but the highest rung of collectors. This is not the full Frost show but just the interview portion of the show. In pretty much broadcast perfect quality, the interview isn’t especially fascinating – they are after all discussing transcendental meditation and the Maharishi. Both sounding very laconic, the only funny moments are John discussing his energy levels after meditation while sounding as sluggish as a man who has stayed up for three days straight while his body language suggests a severe bout of boredom and a slight jovial jibe at the guru towards the end of the interview. Both Beatles are taking all of this very seriously indeed at first, to the point of annoyance to anyone who might want this interview to specifically entertain, John tends to brighten towards the end as he realises they about to wrap up.
The second DVD focuses more on the 20th anniversary of this album – pretty much guaranteed to whip up nostalgia for the folks who bought the album on the week of release, bit may make you feel just that bit older now. The first feature uses a contemporary interview of David Frost interviewing George Martin in Abbey Road studios tacked together with event or home interviews with Paul, George and Ringo along with clips of the Fabs at the time – Running for the train at Bognor, out in Rishikesh,etc .. and stills from the very same sessions. Nothing new at all, beyond the interview. The report from Channel 5 with regards to the premier of the release of Sgt. Peppers is incomplete – a snap shot of where we were by the time of the 20th birthday for this album, the presenter looking back, a fan who had grown in to a just as enthusiastic listener, a clip of Macca announcing the release at Abbey road studios. Nice but not earth-shattering.
The last two segments are British Independent Television productions – The first, the pre-production trailer for the main programme which was made to sell the programme around the world to different broadcasters. The second, the main event titled, ‘It Was 20 Years Ago Today’ – What we might just term a clips show featuring short interviews with the Fabs, Allen Ginsburg, Derek Taylor and a cast of bystanders from the time, talking about the time. Musical interludes are from Pink Floyd, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and their ilk. It should be noted that this is not the common broadcast version, but a work print with slates, editing marks, etc. Most of the vintage footage is straight from VHS tapes, looking dull and well-worn with a few artifacts; but the sound is reasonable enough. It may not be the kind of thing that you might watch many times – although if you enjoy ex-hippies grumping about life before Sgt. Pepper, you might look upon this with fondness. In all honesty, I preferred the first disk but maybe future generations might get a kick out of seeing how lousy 80’s produced musical documentaries really were without too much hindsight dropped in there – and completists will certainly want it.
The gazette features the usual write up on the genesis of these disks and the work put in to each – why you’ve sunk your hard earned in to it, really – alongside screen grabs from the SFF outtakes, a launch party interview with the Beatles taken from the NME and the press for going veggie and the latest Sgt. Pepper official deluxe set.
Another absolutely fantastic set to own, even if only the first disk will totally blow you away multiple times.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)