'Sgt. Pepper' at 50: Liverpool Plans Festivities to Honor the Beatles Classic

Photofest
From left: Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison

The English city has planned a festival including fireworks, dance tribute and newly recorded works for the upcoming anniversary.

It was 50 years ago today — almost — that Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play.

The English city of Liverpool is getting set to celebrate the half-centenary of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, one of the most influential albums by local heroes The Beatles.

The city announced Wednesday that it has commissioned 13 artists to create works based on the album's 13 tracks. They include choreographer Mark Morris' dance tribute to the title song, cabaret artist Meow Meow's "outlandish procession" based on "Lovely Rita" and a mural by U.S. artist Judy Chicago inspired by "Fixing a Hole."

There also will be a sing-along by 64 choirs of the jaunty "When I'm Sixty-Four."

The works will have their world premieres at venues across Liverpool between May 25 and June 16. On June 1 — the anniversary of the album's release — the city will host a fireworks extravaganza by French pyrotechnic artist Christophe Berthonneau.

By the second half of the 1960s, The Beatles had tired of touring. They played their last live concert in August 1966 and then devoted their energies and creativity to the studio. Sgt. Pepper was recorded at London's Abbey Road Studios over five months in late 1966 and early 1967, and released on June 1, 1967.

Incorporating technological innovation and diverse musical influences — including Indian classical, English music hall and trippy psychedelia — it topped the charts in Britain and the U.S. and was instantly hailed as a rock 'n' roll landmark.

"Sgt. Pepper pushed creative boundaries and we want to do exactly the same," Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson said in a statement. "This is a festival which brings high-end art into the mainstream and gives it a Liverpool twist which is thought-provoking, sometimes cheeky and always entertaining."

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