It re­ally was 50 years ago to­day

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

LIVER­POOL: The band is long gone, but the music of The Bea­tles still re­ver­ber­ates – and nowhere more loudly than in Liver­pool, where the 50th birth­day of Sgt. Pep­per’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the spark for a cel­e­bra­tory ci­ty­wide fes­ti­val.

Half a cen­tury on, Liver­pool has asked 13 artists to re­spond to the al­bum’s 13 tracks, for the fes­ti­val.

The fes­ti­val is en­dorsed by sur­viv­ing Bea­tles Paul McCart­ney and Ringo Starr, who have both sent mes­sages of sup­port.

Claire McCol­gan, di­rec­tor of public body Cul­ture Liver­pool, said: “These four boys from this city never left here. Their songs tell a story of this place.”

Ex­hausted by tour­ing, they played their last live con­cert in Au­gust 1966 and de­voted their en­er­gies and creativity to the stu­dio. Work­ing with pro­ducer Ge­orge Martin at Lon­don’s Abbey Road Stu­dios, they made a mul­ti­lay­ered, tech­no­log­i­cally in­no­va­tive al­bum that was never in­tended to be played live.

Half a cen­tury on, Sgt. Pep­per- in­spired art­works are spring­ing up across Liver­pool. A dock­side grain silo sports a colour­ful pop-art mu­ral by Amer­i­can artist Judy Chicago. Road­side bill­boards, the work of Turner Prize win­ner Jeremy Deller, pro­claim “Brian Ep­stein died for you.”

There are con­certs of In­dian clas­si­cal music, a ma­jor in­flu­ence on Ge­orge Har­ri­son, and a film set on a city bus route in­spired by A Day in the Life. Me­ter maid Lovely Rita is the start­ing point for an “out­landish pro­ces­sion” through the streets by cabaret artist Meow Meow, clad in a fab­u­lous dress made from park­ing tick­ets.

To say Liver­pool is proud of The Bea­tles is an un­der­state­ment.

The group is a cross be­tween guardian spirit and ma­jor in­dus­try, one that has helped the port city re­build af­ter the de­cline of its once-thriv­ing docks.

Di­rec­tor Ju­lia Sa­muels of youth the­atre com­pany 20 Stories High said that for younger Liver­pool res­i­dents, the band is “part of their sub­con­scious.”

Her col­league Keith Saha com­pared it to the way Liver­pudlians are ei­ther “red or blue” – a sup­porter of Liver­pool soc­cer club or its ri­val Ever­ton.

“Ev­ery­one’s got their favourite Bea­tle,” he said. “Ev­ery­one’s got their favourite al­bum.

“The good thing about Liver­pool is we haven’t Dis­ney­fied The Bea­tles, and that’s what’s re­ally im­por­tant about this fes­ti­val.”

The troupe’s con­tri­bu­tion to the fes­ti­val is a play in­spired by the song She’s Leav­ing Home, per­formed in a house around the cor­ner from Ringo Starr’s child­hood res­i­dence. – AP

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