Sunday, September 11, 2011

Peter Frampton, The Bee Gees & George Burns in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)

Bloated? Yes. Insipid? Decidedly. But if you have a soft spot for the seventies, then all of that can be overlooked when delving into this overproduced, hubristic spectacle of titanic proportions. The film features more of a manifesto than a plot. It deals with the grand issues of commercialism, selling out, good and evil in rock opera style featuring an endless array of the stars of the day including Aerosmith, Steve Martin, Alice Cooper and Earth Wind and Fire, among others. The story, told by the only speaking character, the mayor of Heartland, Mr. Kite (Burns) is about Sgt. Pepper's grandson, Billy Shears (Frampton) who re-forms his grandfathers band with the Henderson brothers (The Bee Gees). They become an instant success and set off for fame and fortune in La La land. Meanwhile, mean Mr. Mustard (Frankie Howerd) sets his sights on Heartland and the magical musical instruments left to it by Sgt. Pepper. Will the boys be able to resist the lure of fame and fortune long enough to save their town?
This film signaled the beginning of the end of the epic rock musical, with most of the subsequent examples of the form appearing as animated films. If you can set aside its silliness, there are some flashes of fun to be had, including Steve Martin's rendition of Maxwell's Silver Hammer, Aerosmith's cover of Come Together the inspired cover of Got to Get You Into My Life by Earth Wind and Fire and the beautiful cinematography of Owen Roizman. Also appearing in the film are Donald Pleasence and a panoply of stars singing the reprise of the title song at the end of the film, including Carol Channing, Peter Allen, Tina Turner, Connie Stevens and Dame Edna Everage.

You can find this film on DVD and it's available in full on YouTube. I suggest watching it in its best possible format, however, because one of its only redeeming qualities is it's physical beauty. Above is the trailer for it, uploaded to YouTube by throthelens.

Obscurity factor: 3 (somewhat notorious, available on DVD & YouTube)


  1. A somewhat interesting sidebar: in Freddie Gershon's roman a clef novel, Sweetie Baby Cookie Honey he offers an explantion of the pirating and false sales numbers for a hit film soundtrack - the soundtrack in question is a thinly disguised Srgt Pepper soundtrack and since Mr Gershon worked with Robert Stigwood at the time, it MUST be true.

  2. There can only be one word to describe why this movie was made...DRUGS!

  3. I have to admit that I really enjoyed this movie when I was 15 years old and saw it when it was first released. I also bought the soundtrack album! However, I have never seen the movie since that time. I do recall seeing Sandy Farina on, I believe, "The Mike Douglas Show." I thought she was so pretty and charming and I thought her recording of "Strawberry Fields Forever" was great! I have not heard it in over 30 years, so I would have to give it another listen to hear if it holds up.

  4. I can recall being much more kind to this movie in '78. But even back then it fit primarily into the, "Let's get high and go see (fill in the blank)", category. I may check this out again and see if it triggers flashbacks.