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period the Sex pistols were active there had always been an intention to produce a film based around the band. It was always part of McLaren's master plan that the Pistols were more than merely a band

why not had been as it is the same duration as the intention of producing a film .First was the intention of producing a film then became the idea for McLaren that the sex pistols should be more than a band, I think that it did not work like that : first was for McLaren the idea that the Pistols should be more than a group and to achieve this goal to produce a film with them .

I don't understand the meaning of this past simple

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The author could have used "had been" but simple past is also correct. This is a past fact and so you can use past tense. The fact is prior to some other past event so you could use past perfect. The meaning is only slightly different. Using "had been" suggests that the plan was before the film. Using "was" suggests that the plan continued before and after the film.

There are very few examples in English in which you have to use past perfect. You can nearly always use past tense, sometimes with a slight change in meaning.

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