Saturday, February 19, 2011

Are You a Pepper?

If i hadn't seen it myself, I wouldn't believe in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - a movie featuring the songs of the Beatles, starring the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton? Seriously? Yes, and it's all that and worse.

It seems that Sgt. Pepper and his band were small town American WWI heroes. Their descendants, Peter Frampton as Billy Shears and the Bee Gees as the Hendersons, have resurrected the band at the request of the mayor, Mr. Kite (George Burns!). Like the Beatles, Frampton and the Bros. Gibbs are seen as symbols of pure middle American  virtue - like rock 'n' roll and other things that conservative rural Americans have always championed.

But lads are tempted away to the big city by music promoter Donald Pleasance, and oh, I just can't go on. There are some side plots about a non-musical brother who is greedy, and a disco group called Lucy and the Diamonds. Then a Mr. Mustard steals the original Lonely Hearts Club instruments and the hometown becomes Potterville. The instruments go to Steve Martin, Alice Cooper and Aerosmith, who are all evil and each gets a musical number. Martin is over the top, Cooper is under the weather, and Aerosmith does a pretty fair version of "Come Together".

But get this: Peter Frampton kills Steve Tyler in a fight. Frampton! That gives you some idea of the wrong-headedness of this whole enterprise.

In my opinion, Frampton and the Bee Gees are talented musicians, well suited to the Beatles carefully crafted pop harmonies. But, while they don't insult the music, they fail to put their own stamp on it. George Martin is producing, and perhaps that contributes to the feeling of slavish imitation./ One exception was Sandy Farina, embarrassingly named Strawberry Fields. She has a nice pop voice, with a little roughness, sort of a Rita Coolidge feeling. Actually, any feeling at all was welcome - she was the only singer who seemed didn't seem to be singing the music by rote. Of course, this movie ended her career.

Actually, Earth, Wind and Fire did a pretty funky "Got to Get You into My Life".

I hate disco as much as the next guy, but I think I would have preferred a full out Saturday Night Fever disco version of these songs. In fact, at the very end, you get a couple of "Can't Stop Dancing" style "Sgt. Pepper" shout-outs. Refreshing.

So - totally worthless? No! About the ending. The last song is performed by the band and just about anybody they could round up in LA 1978, ala the Sgt. Pepper album cover. We watched it with hand on the Pause button, playing Where's Waldo with a crowd of notables and nobodies. There's Carol Channing and Tina Turner, Dr. John and Bonnie Raitt, Curtis Mayfield, Rick Derringer and Leif Garret, Jose Feliciano, Dame Edna Everage and I don't know who all.

Does that last scene make it all worthwhile? I wouldn't go that far. Throw in Earth, Wind and Fire and I guess you get your money's worth.


Mythical Monkey said...

Oh, man, I paid money to see this in the theater back when it was first released. And while even with compound interest, the price of those two matinee tickets would only be worth about $50 today, the damage done to my psyche is incalculable ...

mr. schprock said...

I knew someone - someone whose opinion I respected - who saw the movie when it came out and said he liked it a lot. Given the facts that I knew about the movie, all I could wonder was, how? It's like thinking OJ Simpson was innocent with all that evidence against him.

Oh, wait, they did find OJ innocent. Crap. What was my point?