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GONZO MAGAZINE #255/6: Jon meets Tony Palmer

Tony Palmer is undoubtedly one of the best known British film directors of the past 50yrs. However, music lovers will be more impressed by the fact that he was the bloke who wrote the liner notes for the Yellow Submarine album by The Beatles, and was – as far as I am aware – the first person to compare them as songwriters with the classical composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828). Over the years, Tony Palmer has been involved with a number of Beatles-related projects, but I had never heard how this relationship began until one day several years ago, when Tony, my wife and I were sitting down, eating cake and swilling back tea.

Back in 1976, the legendary Lou Reizner came up with one of the more peculiar Beatles related projects. All This and World War II is a 1976 musical documentary that juxtaposes Beatles songs, performed by a number of musicians, with World War II newsreel footage and 20th Century Fox films from the 1940s. It lasted two weeks in cinemas. I only ever saw it once and thought it was a horrendous idea, executed so slickly that it was bordering on the worst possible taste.

So, when I heard that Tony Palmer was directing a reboot of this, my heart sank. I had no idea that he had been involved with the original film, but apparently, he had been in some minor capacity. When the DVD arrived on my doormat, I will admit that I took a long time to get around to watching it. I was too afraid of what I would be likely to see. But I really shouldn’t have worried. Tony Palmer takes what was a terrible idea, that either upset everybody that watched it or left them totally baffled, and truly did something really rather remarkable with it.

So, in order to mark this outstanding – and, believe it or not, very emotional – film, I tracked down Tony Palmer, and got him to tell us the story of how he first met John Lennon. After this, we went on to a detailed look at ‘the Beatles and World War II’.



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