Monday night saw the world premiere of Liverpool: Beyond the Beatles; a new documentary from director Brett Gregory and the third film in in a trilogy of music documentaries, including of Iceland: Beyond Sigur Ros and Manchester: Beyond Oasis. The documentary explores the development of the Liverpool music scene, what influences have come together to form the very particular ‘soundscape’ of the city and what impact having arguably biggest band in pop music history come from your home town has had on the local music industry.
The documentary itself is fairly standard fare. It is composed mostly of talking head interviews with writers, promoters, musicians and entrepreneurs currently working or who have worked in the local scene. These interviews are interspersed with clips from music videos from current Liverpool based bands and shots of various locations around the city. The shots of the local landscape are particularly well done. There is nothing especially challenging for a cinephile in the makeup of the piece, but, this traditional approach to documentary making does effectively engage the audience.
Rather than presenting a linear history of music in the city, the documentary is more episodic, jumping from subject to subject. This prevents the documentary from becoming a static history lesson, but, it can be slightly disorientating for those unfamiliar with the city and its music scene.
There are two sections of the documentary that are especially engaging. These are the discussions surrounding the cultural heritage of Liverpool as a port city and how this has impacted the musicality of the region. But, also more importantly the complicated – part antagonistic, part prideful, part ambivalent relationship local musicians have with the success of the Beatles and the impact they had on the city’s global reputation. It is in these discussions that the film’s title: Beyond the Beatles, is really given credence.
The film is obviously a passion project and is sure to be a hit for anyone interested in the Liverpool music scene or the development of the music industry in the UK more generally. For those more interested in the art of documentary film making, Liverpool: Beyond the Beatles is an engaging if slightly standard piece of work.