“There’s a reason they didn’t let me see this in the theater.”
As it turns out, I was sick this past weekend. Very, very sick. That’s the only excuse I can offer for the story I’m about to tell. When we settled in for a Friday night movie, I thought, “Let’s do something wild, wacky.”
In my misspent youth, I’d watched the movie version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Yeah, the movie.
I vaguely recalled it being a sort of cute film, maybe a little sappy, but not totally unwatchable. As it turns out, memories are tricky and this film is a classic case of convergence gone bad.
Sure you can say that the seventies were a weird time — straddling the sixties and the eighties the way they did — but you have to wonder the following: a) What was Robert Stigwood thinking, b) What was Peter Frampton thinking, and c) What was Steve Martin thinking? Frampton and the Bee Gees (the title’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) have the charisma of standees and the entire cast is forbidden to speak — all narration comes courtesy of George Burns, apparently the only performer capable of putting a sentence together — and the songs are particularly uninspired (exception: Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “Got To Get You Into My Life”, which highlights the absolute lack of funk in Peter Frampton’s soul).
The setting is the impossibly innocent town of Heartland. Our town heroes, the band, makes it big and heads off for the evil big city where they fall into the clutches of all sorts of bad people. Bad people in a PG-veering-on-G sort of way. Throughout the whole thing, songs from the Sgt. Pepper album and others tell the story — except, of course, the songs generally have nothing to do with the story. There’s a delightful disconnect between what’s happening in song and what’s going on with the characters; it’s truly the only explanation for George Burns singing “Fixing a Hole” to a group of young children.
At the time this was released, Peter Frampton was inexplicably a huge star (nobody has ever been fully able to explain to me how he burst out of nowhere the way he did, but that’s how pop music works; Jim has noted that the purchase of a little vocal effects toy was the turning point). On screen, the man is slight and insubstantial and generally spends the movie looking like he’s a half-wit. The Bee Gees, also huge stars and peers of The Beatles, are more substantial men and presences, but they too suffer from someone’s vision of innocence-as-town-idiot. It doesn’t help that acting is not a skill possessed by much of marquee cast.
Since I was watching with Kirk, the comments started almost before the movie did.
He might have given the whole thing a chance had it made sense on any level, but it got so bad that I couldn’t explain why the movie featured songs from other Beatles albums. “Yes,” I said, “I know this song isn’t on Sgt. Peppers…” “Why is it in the movie?” he said. “I don’t know,” I replied, the soul of patience. “Probably because it helped move the story forward.”
Even I knew I was lying.
The kicker came at the end when someone had the brilliant idea to recreate the album cover in live-action format. You know it’s a bad idea when thirty years later, the most recognizable face in the crowd is Carol Channing.
We had to engage in an immediate brain-cleansing exercise after Billy Preston hit his last note — a shake the windows watching of The Kids Are Alright.
Convergence is good, but while you’re doing your mash-ups, remember the lesson of Sgt. Pepper: sometimes it’s better to just say no.
There are several points here that I’d like to make here:
1. My youth was pretty misspent, but not so misspent that I’ve ever seen Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. (I have, however, seen The Kids Are Alright dozens of times.)
2. Robert Stigwood owned the Bee Gees record label, RSO, and they were the biggest stars in the universe at that point. It probably seemed a no-brainer. Like From Justin to Kelly.
3. Frampton Comes Alive was a huge success for a couple of reasons: 1) he was pretty enough (by 1970s standards) for most of the girls to like him, but he still rocked hard enough for most of the boys to like him. “Do You Feel Like We Do” is still a perfect representation of everything good and bad about mainstream 1970s rock. I await The Hold Steady’s (or The Raconteurs) cover version. Plus, we thought that he said “I want to fuck you” with that talk-box thingy. He didn’t. 3) Payola?
4. I wonder if Kirk has the same problem with the non Yellow Submarine album songs in that movie.
5. The Aerosmith version of “Come Together” — which was the other radio hit from the movie — wasn’t bad, either.
Well, Jim. Since you haven’t watched the movie you completely missed the fight scene between Steven Tyler and Peter Frampton. Frampton by a knock out.
It was that kind of movie.
I’m actually waiting for Tim’s post declaring this to be a misunderstood tongue-in-cheek masterpiece.
Or at least a defense of Frampton Comes Alive!
Whoa! WHOA! Hold on a second.
Jim, I went to see this movie in the theater WITH you and Tim. I know you two had probably smoked a few bowls already but I remember this quite well. It was early afternoon. We went to the UA Cinema on Blackstone near Shaw. It’s actually my first memory of you (I was 8–I didn’t pay much attention to my brother’s friends up until that point).
My guess is that you were smoking a few bowls this morning when you came up with that little tale.
OK, whatever, maybe it was one of our neighbors (Jeff or Greg). All of Tim’s friends looked alike to me at that age.
Hmm, Tyson has conclusive evidence that places Jim at the scene of the crime. Jim refutes. Tyson backtracks with the “they all look alike” defense. Sounds like some money changed hands in this thread.
I think we need call in more witnesses. Tim?!
I’m just glad they didn’t make a Axl Rose, Pearl jam movie with U2 songs….October:the movie!!!
One more reason to not miss big record companies as they slowly fall ill to the internet.
mike kostanski says
i was wacthing this sgt. peppers lonely hearts club band
on tv just today i saw the who’ll thing this afternoon
it was very cool to see the beegees and peter frampton
it has all the songs That i really liked since the beatles
did that cover right of it during 1967 and the movie was
great to see them on tv