By Sebastian Modak. Photos: Getty.
Fifty years ago, a band from Liverpool, already on top of the world, shot into the stratosphere with an album that changed rock music. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band—released on June 1, 1967—saw the band experimenting with new studio techniques, bringing in musical influences from as far afield as Hindu devotional music, and, depending on who you ask, was the original concept album, the first progressive rock record, or just the best pop album ever made. Now, the town that birthed the Beatles (and attracts pop music pilgrims looking for Penny Lane) celebrates the 50th birthday of the timeless album with a month-long multimedia celebration.
From May 25 to June 16, Sgt. Pepper at 50 features 13 different events in Liverpool pegged to the 13 different songs on the album, spanning music, dance, theater, and a pop-up circus (naturally). "She's Leaving Home" has been interpreted as a play to be performed in living rooms around the city that delves into the meaning of home. "With a Little Help From My Friends" inspired conceptual artist Jeremy Deller to build two public art installations meant to "examine the nature of friendship and self-sacrifice, not just with those we know but also between strangers." Ragafest takes the sitar-drenched "Within You Without You" and builds an entire day-long festival-in-a-festival that features Indian musicians showcasing the sounds that so captivated George Harrison. A circus, inspired in part by the legendary experimentalist John Cage, will be on show for the benefit, naturally, of Mr. Kite, and you can join a mass, multi-generational singalong—with singers from the ages of 14 to 64—for a raucous rendition of "When I'm Sixty-Four." On June 1, the anniversary of the actual release, filmmakers will spend 24 hours shooting a movie that captures the essence of Liverpool, inspired by the album's closing tour-de-force "A Day in the Life," to be premiered on the final day of the festival, June 16. And that's just six of the songs...
As if you won't be busy enough, there's plenty of other Beatles pilgrimage locations scattered around Liverpool to check out in your down time between events. Among the year-round attractions are the Beatles Story in the Albert Dock, which will have new memorabilia on display in celebration of the album; the Cavern Club, the dive where the Beatles played in the early 1960s; and Penny Lane, the real-life Liverpool street that gave the song its name.
Whether "the one and only Billy Shears" will make a cameo during the celebrations is yet to be confirmed.
This story originally appeared on Conde Nast Traveler.
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