Liverpool Plans Extravaganza for 50 Years of ‘Sgt. Pepper’

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 will also be a singalong 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.

Tired of touring

By the second half of the 1960s, The Beatles had tired of touring. They played their last live concert in August 1966 and devoted their energies and creativity to the studio. “Sgt. Pepper” was recorded at London’s Abbey Road studios over five month 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,” said Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson. “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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