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Saturday, December 14, 2013

The view from seat J31 at Mark Lewisohn's first (and last?) Pepper lecture

Before he delivered his hour-long presentation about Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band tonight Mark Lewisohn told me it had taken him three weeks to prepare.

A lot of that must have gone into organising the studio out-takes, rare photographs, old TV clips and newspaper cuts with which it was illustrated. It's a lot of work to put into something which he was delivering for free for the benefit of Pepper, a charity which raises money for the home care of seriously ill children in the Chilterns, where he lives.

If he did it again it would have to come out of time he really ought to be spending on the second volume of his mammoth Beatles trilogy. From what I could gather this will start in 1962, where the first volume finishes, and go up to Sgt Pepper. He hasn't started writing it yet and he has lots more research to do so it looks as if it'll be seven years before it's published.

He started his lecture with a whizz-through their albums. Just standing there and revealing one sleeve at a time is a reminder that never gets old of just how much they did - and how much they changed - in such a short period of time. As he pointed out, they gave up playing live just four years after they were first filmed by Granada TV at the Cavern.

His Pepper lecture makes many points. These are a few of them.

  • It's John and Paul's record. You can hear that in the nearness of their harmonies and the magical interplay which is "Day In The Life". 
  • It's not so much psychedelic as English and not so much futuristic as deeply nostalgic. 
  • The idea of Pepper's band was probably Mal Evans'. It was initially "Doctor Pepper" but that was changed for obvious reasons. 
  • You simply can never ignore the extraordinary role that chance plays in the story of the Beatles. On Pepper it's exemplified by the story of Melanie Coe, whose real-life flit inspired the song "She's Leaving Home". As you'll find out if you search her name on You Tube, she and Paul had met before.