Film Review

It Was Fifty Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper & Beyond (dir. Alan G. Parker)

It’s easy to sneer at The Beatles, for a lot of people at least. Pop music for people who don’t like pop music. A band who were more than the sum of their parts (reinforced by several decades of four very very variable solo careers). A band who were too successful for their own good, and everyone else’s, with the regards that their back catalogue is constantly repackaged and their story constantly retold, without (m)any new angles. 

There are, of course, some people who delight in sacrificing sacred cows, to the point that such an activity is as clichéd as those they believe they are attacking. But life is too short to deal with such idiocy.

The Beatles’ eighth studio album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, will celebrate its 50th anniversary on June 1. That’s how old it is now, and it still has a hold on people. Why is it so lauded? Because it was groundbreaking in so many ways, in which this documentary explains.

In many ways – and I mean this with the greatest respect to all involved – it continues this important story where Ron Howard’s excellent documentary from last year Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years reached. It starts off with the Beatles  about to go off to the US on what would be their final tour. This was against a backdrop of protests in the Bible Belt of religious objections to John Lennon’s remarks that the Beatles were now bigger than Christ. This included record burnings in Memphis, and Lennon having to apologise and explain his remarks.

This was a time of transition. Though the most recent Beatles studio albums – 1965’s Rubber Soul and 1966’s Revolver had seen them up their game, they were still looking to take their music further. Yet much of these albums weren’t played on the tour as it was felt that they couldn’t be replicated live.They were talking about quitting live performance, something that worried manager Brian Epstein, who was in his element organising tours. His death, a matter of months after the album’s release is handled sensitively.

The musical world was changing. There’s exploration of the move from being described as pop to rock, notion of long term rather than disposable. This wasn’t some controversy along the lines of Dylan going electric, but certainly musically and lyrically the band had left three chord tunes about love far behind them.

This documentary explores the making of the album, the response and what followed. It transpires that ‘When I’m 64’ had been played by McCartney at the cavern back in ’63. EMI were somewhat aghast at how much the album cost and how long it took to make. Three months and £25,000 on one album were unthinkable for the time.

The documentary is a mixture of archived footage with the Beatles and new interviews with associates. The latter include their authorised biographer Hunter Davies and Jenny Boyd (sister of Patti, George Harrison’s first wife). They explore how The Beatles were pushing back against the image of the ‘loveable moptops.’ Not for the first time, the theory is pushed again that it was McCartney not Lennon who was the avant-garde one.

Sure, much of the story may be familiar. But it’s beautifully told and explored, and far from a cash-in or rehash. Given that there were still a few more chapters to be written, I hope that Alan G. Parker will get the opportunity to explore this for us, too.


The return of The Cure!

At some point this year, The Cure (my all-time favourite band, and whose second album gives this blog its name) will release their fourteenth album 4:14 Scream.

In the meantime, this video is doing the rounds of them covering The Beatles ‘Hello Goodbye’ for a forthcoming tribute album to Paul McCartney entitled The Art of McCartney (and the tracklisting for that can be found here). It’s a faithful cover, featuring James McCartney on keyboards and yet it is unmistakeably The Cure.

The bonus disc features Robert Smith covering ‘C Moon’ though I’ve yet to find any evidence of that on the web, apart from a listing…

Does there have to be a reason?

beatles 1967

Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is often -not without reason -described as being the first music video.

But is this not a music video, made by The Beatles for Strawberry Fields Forever in 1967, a mere eight years earlier?

Psychedelic as anything, and one of the best double A-sides ever (with ‘Penny Lane.’) Odd that it ‘only reached no.2, held off no.1 by Engelbert Humperdinck’s ‘Please Release Me.’ An even bigger injustice than Ultravox’s ‘Vienna’ being held off the top spot by ‘Shaddup Your Face’.

Hey ho…

More music from my inbox

Yet again, I’m hearing lots of new stuff and hardly having time to write about it all.

So here’s a things that have taken my fancy that I have heard recently.

First up, Azealia Banks continues to surprise and delight. Having hosted her free single recently, I was impressed to see that a huge number of people had downloaded it.

This is her latest track ‘NEEDSUMLOV’ which bears little or no ressemblance to ‘212.’ At this stage of her career, that’s probably a good thing. She’s getting a lot of coverage in the UK at the moment, to the extent that she’s moved here. Check her Soundcloud for more


NEEDSUMLUV (SXLND) by Azealia Banks


Not content with putting out Howler’s debut album, Rough Trade have picked up Alabama Shakes and will release their debut album on April 9, Entitled Boys & Girls. The band are vocalist/guitarist Brittany Howard, guitarist Heath Fogg, drummer Steve Johnson and bassist Zac Cockrell, and count Jack White among their growing band of admirers. Stream ‘Hold On’ below…

This is a Dubstep remix of The Beatles’ ‘A Day In the Life.’ To some this will be little short of Blasphemy. It’s my favourite Beatles’ track and I love what’s been done here by Voodoo Farm.


Finally, this track by Gotye has only just come out in the UK – but I’m making up for lost time:

The best double A-side ever?


There’s a common belief that ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen was the first music video ever. The reality is that promotional films had ben getting made for music since back in the forties, and there’s sections of musical films which would probably have been able to be used.

This wasn’t the Beatles’ first double A-side (‘Eleanor Rigby’/’Yellow Submarine’ in the UK) and even though I still hold Revolver up as my favourite album ever, I think those two tracks were probably the weakest on it – though I obviously understand why Parlophone might have baulked at putting out ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’/’Love You To’ as a single, had it been discussed.

This was the first Beatles single in several years not to get to no.1 (held off by Engelbert Humperdinck’s ‘Please Release Me – oh the indignity!) yet it was one of their strongest singles, pulling together two of their best songs together ‘Strawberry Fields Ever’ and ‘Penny Lane.’ Both of them had ‘promotional films’ made for them – and this well over a decade before MTV launched in the US! NB I suspect the sleeve at the top was not the UK one – but can you guess why?

Oh and call it what you want, but this is a flippin’ well-iconic music video/film clip/promotional video.

From D.A. Pennebaker’s Bob Dylan documentary Don’t Look Back

Finally, another early example of a promo video. This is the Rolling Stones doing ‘It’s Only Rock’n’Roll (But I like It)’ in 1974. Years ago, I met bassist Bill Wyman (he was doing a signing in the bookshop where I worked at the tiome, Ottakar’s on George St, now gone). He told me that they’d each been insured for £1,000,000 for this video. Not surprising when you get to about three and a half minutes in…

Happy Birthday Dad!

In April it was my Mum, in May my darling Mrs. 17 Seconds and today it’s my dad’s Birthday. So happy birthday dad, here’s some for you.

My Da’s a legend, he’s encouraged music-making and writing and has alsways been very encouraging of this blog.

For car trips -Abba ‘The Winner Takes It All.’

…and Pet Shop Boys ‘It’s a sin’

For your university days Procul Harum ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’

…and Animals ‘House Of the Rising Sun’

And finally the track that got me into music originally: The Beatles’ ‘Hard Day’s Night’

Have a good ‘un, Da.


An Apology

You never know quite whose reading a blog.

Sure, you know from the people that leave comments and there are various things you can do to track readers, but sometimes you don’t know who’s reading, until some follow-up happens.

This morning Mrs 17 Seconds and I came in from doing our weekly food shop, to find a phone message from Mother Seconds, asking if I was ok, as she had just been reading 17 Seconds, and I had said I was stressed, and was I OK?

Well, I was touched she had rung to ask. I’d managed to unwind slightly over the weekend.

And then embarassed that I had forgotten her and Father seconds’ wedding anniversary a few days ago.

So folks, these are few you. lots of love, a lot of apologies and hopefully we will have spoken by the time you read this. Hell, I’ve dedicated several posts to Mrs 17 Seconds and Brother Seconds, it’s time you had one too.

The Beatles -‘A Hard day’s Night.’ mp3

Abba -‘The Winner Takes It All.’ mp3

Bob Dylan -‘Like A Rolling Stone.’ mp3

And our family favourite…Tom Lehrer:

Tom Lehrer -‘Poisoning Pigeons In The Park.’ mp3