Psychedelic sum­mer

A BBC season cel­e­brates the 50th an­niver­sary of one of the Bea­tles’ best-known al­bums

BBC History Magazine - - Tv & Radio -

Sgt. Pep­per’s Mu­si­cal Revo­lu­tion TV BBC Two, sched­uled for early June

Though it’s peren­ni­ally “20 years ago to­day” since “Sergeant Pep­per taught the band to play”, it’s now half a cen­tury since the Bea­tles re­leased their eighth stu­dio al­bum, on 1 June 1967. Sgt. Pep­per’s Lonely Hearts Club Band topped the UK al­bum chart for 27 weeks and pro­vided the sound­track to a psychedelic sum­mer that saw a col­li­sion be­tween main­stream so­ci­ety and the coun­ter­cul­ture rep­re­sented by the hip­pies.

The BBC’s an­niver­sary season is an­chored by Sgt. Pep­per’s Mu­si­cal Revo­lu­tion, a doc­u­men­tary in­clud­ing ma­te­rial never be­fore ac­ces­si­ble out­side Abbey Road. Broad­caster and com­poser Howard Goodall presents an in­sight­ful take on the Fab Four’s world as, hav­ing given up tour­ing in 1966, they poured their en­er­gies into stu­dio work.

On Ra­dio 2, Sgt. Pep­per For­ever (Wed­nes­day 24 and 31 May) is a two-part de­tailed look at the record­ing process. Pre­sented by Martin Free­man, it fea­tures Giles Martin (son of Pep­per pro­ducer Sir Ge­orge Martin), who re­cently crafted a new stereo mix of the al­bum, re­flect­ing on the in­no­va­tive tech­niques em­ployed by his fa­ther.

In Paul Mer­ton on the Bea­tles (Ra­dio 2, Mon­day 29 May), the co­me­dian of­fers a coun­ter­fac­tual take on mu­si­cal his­tory: what if the Bea­tles hadn’t split up? Would John, Paul, Ge­orge and Ringo col­lec­tively have gone back to the rock’n’roll cov­ers of their mop-top in­car­na­tion, as they did in their solo ca­reers? Mer­ton also imag­ines what songs might have fea­tured on an al­bum that fol­lowed Abbey Road and Let It Be.

On Ra­dio 4 Ex­tra (Satur­day 3 June), Samira Ahmed in­tro­duces a 13-hour mix of doc­u­men­taries, dra­mas and come­dies that cel­e­brate the fa­mous faces fea­tured on Peter Blake’s Pep­per cover, in­clud­ing Mar­lene Di­et­rich, Al­bert Ein­stein, Mar­lon Brando and Os­car Wilde. And on BBC Ra­dio 6 Music, Mark Rad­cliffe and Stu­art Ma­conie’s show on Thurs­day 15 June cel­e­brates the music of Liver­pool over the past 50 years.

To get an in­ter­na­tional perspective, tune in to BBC World Ser­vice on Satur­day 27 May for How Sgt. Pep­per Changed the World, in which Brazil­ian mu­si­cian and po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist Gil­berto Gil ex­plores how the al­bum spread “the op­u­lent rev­o­lu­tion­ary op­ti­mism of psychedelia” around the world.

The Fab Four at the press launch of Sgt Pep­per in May 1967

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