A new documentary celebrates the classic 1967 Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The film, It Was 50 Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt Pepper & Beyond, focuses on the 12 months around the recording of the album.
The movie, directed by Alan G. Parker, features archival video and interviews with people like John Lennon’s sister Julia and former Beatles drummer Pete Best. Check out the trailer for the movie.
It Was 50 Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt Pepper & Beyond will be in U.K. theaters on May 26, 2017 followed by release on DVD later in the summer.
Also, as part of the celebration of the anniversary of the album, a new box set special edition is being released of the album featuring 34 bonus tracks of outtakes.
For more about Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, check out the video of “Things You Didn’t Know” about the album below.
On January 30, 1969, the Beatles went to the rooftop of Apple headquarters for their first live performance in more than two years. The impromptu show continued for 42 minutes until the band was shut down by the police.
The Rooftop Performance
The performance was in some ways a last gasp of a group that was coming apart. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr were trying to get back to their roots with some help from keyboardist Billy Preston.
Of course, the performance did not save the band. But it gave the world one more glimpse at the genius that was The Beatles. And they rocked.
The rooftop concert was part of The Beatles’ work on a project that was entitled Get Back at the time. The album would ultimately be entitled Let It Be, as would the film that included 21 minutes of the performance.
Currently, the full performance is not available for embedding, but below is the Beatles performing “Don’t Let Me Down” on the roof.
Release of Let It Be
The Beatles released the album from the sessions, Let It Be, in May 1970. The release came soon after the band had broken up.
Let It Be was the final studio album released by The Beatles. However, they recorded their album Abbey Road after Let It Be. But they released Let it Be earlier, releasing it in September (U.K.) and October (U.S.) 1969.
On August 3, 1965, the Beatles released the album Help! in the United Kingdom, releasing it ten days later in the United States on August 13. During this time in their careers, the Fab Four were reducing their promotional appearances. So they only appeared on only one U.K. television show to promote the new album, Blackpool Night Out.
ABC TV made Blackpool Night Out, filming the show at the ABC Theatre in Blackpool, a summer seaside resort city with other connections to John Lennon. The live broadcast with the Beatles ran from 9.10 pm to 10.05 pm.
The Beatles performed several songs on the Sunday, August 1, 1965 show. They started with “I Feel Fine,” “I’m Down,” “Act Naturally,” and “Ticket To Ride.”
Next, Paul McCartney sang “Yesterday” by himself in the song’s first performance on British television. The band returned, with Lennon carrying flowers and joking, “Thank you Ringo, that was wonderful.” The band closed with “Help!” Below you may hear the audio of part of the 1965 show.
Although some thought the video of the show was lost, a video of the show popped up on YouTube recently. Unfortunately, they had to take it down for copyright issues.
The album Anthology 2 (1996) included fours songs from this performance, “I Feel Fine,” “Ticket To Ride,” “Yesterday,” and “Help!”
What is your favorite Beatles TV appearance? Leave your two cents in the comments.
If you watch a movie about the 1950s or early 1960s, it is likely that at some point you will hear a familiar instrumental song that you recognize but might not know its name. If you have wondered about the story behind the familiar song with the steel guitar, the name of the song is “Sleep Walk,” written and recorded by brothers Santo & Johnny Farina in 1959.
“Sleep Walk” was recorded at the end of the 1950s, so the song was probably still playing on the radio as the 1960s began. And in retrospect, it seems like it was a last gasp of capturing the perceived innocence of the 1950s before the start of the turbulent changes of the 1960s, as well as following the tradition of 1950s instrumental guitar songs. Perhaps those reasons are why “Sleep Walk” is so often used in movies to evoke the 1950s, such as when the song pops up at the end of La Bamba (1987) after Ritchie Valens’s family learns of his death in February 1959.
In this video, Santo and Johnny perform the song on the August 1, 1959 episode of the Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show. Dick Clark tells how the brothers wrote the song at 2:00 a.m. after one brother woke up the other because he had the idea for the song in his head (although another article just reports that the brothers stayed up late to write the song). The story explains the name of the song.
For more information about Santo & Johnny and “Sleep Walk,” Johnny Farina is interviewed by Tom Meros in this video. Johnny gives some background on how his father encouraged the brothers to learn the steel guitar.
Although it is the Santo & Johnny version that everyone knows, others have covered the song, including My Morning Jacket and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. Blake Mills and Carlos Santana play that version you hear in La Bamba.
In this video, Garrison Keillor introduces Chet Atkins and Leo Kottke playing a sweet version of “Sleepwalk.” Check it out.
We love the song as an instrumental piece, but that has not stopped some folks from trying to add words. Modest Mouse turned the instrumental into “Sleeepwalkin'” on their 1999 album Building Nothing Out of Something when they added some lyrics.
About.com explains that a jazz standard “Softly As In a Morning Sunrise” inspired “Sleep Walk.” But Farina disputes the existence of any relationship between the two tunes: “It’s not even close to it, really, if you listen to the two. But it’s become part of the mystique of the song.” Listen to Michael Brecker’s take on “Softly As In a Morning Sunrise” and judge for yourself.
Farina, however, does note that “Sleep Walk” has inspired others. For example, the tune inspired John Lennon to write “Free as a Bird,” which was later made into a Beatles song by the other Beatles after Lennon’s death. You can definitely hear a little “Sleep Walk” in “Free as a Bird.”
In addition to La Bamba, “Sleep Walk” has appeared in other movies like Coupe de Ville (1990), Mermaids (1990), Jack (1996), The Butcher Boy (1997), Hearts in Atlantis (2001), and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003). The tune also pops up in television shows like Mad Men, Heroes, Ken Burns’s Baseball series, and Quantum Leap.
Santo and Johnny, fortunately, are still with us. According to Wikipedia, Santo is semi-retired and Johnny still tours and records. I am not quite sure what it is about “Sleep Walk” that makes us automatically think of the certain time period of 1950s America. But Santo & Johnny certainly captured a certain time as well as a certain sleepy feeling.
What is your favorite use of “Sleep Walk”? Leave your two cents in the comments.
The 2000 release of number one songs by the Beatles, The Beatles’ 1, is getting a new updated release in a couple of different forms with music videos and the group’s short films. Among the video content, the new Beatles 1+ package includes the Beatles’ original video for “A Day in the Life” from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967).
The video for “A Day in the Life” shows the playful side of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. The video footage of them hanging out with friends like the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards also includes shots of an orchestra during the 1967 recording sessions. Check out the video for “A Day in the Life.”