Ever since they were sent into World War I battle in 1918, Sergeant Pepper and his Lonely Hearts Club Band of Heartland, USA have been spreading the message of joy and love to the world, which has made them and Heartland famous. Upon Sergeant Pepper's death in 1958, the band's instruments have been housed on display at Heartland City Hall as symbols of that love and joy. Before his death, Sergeant Pepper asked his adolescent grandson Billy Shears to take on the reins of forming his own band to continue to spread the message of joy and love. With Billy's brother Dougie Shears as their Manager, Billy, now an adult, and his three best friends, brothers Mark, Dave, and Bob Henderson, embark on their lives as a new Lonely Hearts Club Band. They quickly come to the attention of Hollywood music producer B.D. Hoffler Of B.D. (Big Deal) Records. With the boys off to Hollywood to spread the words of joy and love to the world, enter into Heartland the evil and demented Mr. Mustard, an ex-real ...Written by
Take probably THE greatest rock-n'-roll album in recorded history, bring together the combined powers of producer Robert Stigwood, fresh off the awesome force that was the Brothers Gibb and the incredible magic of Saturday Night Fever, and its equally legendary follow-up, Grease --- and Dee Anthony, manager/guru of then-hot rocker Peter Frampton --- and then call critic-journalist Henry Edwards and have him put together a storyline involving Lennon and McCartney's classic legends, Billy Shears and the Henderson Brothers, as they take on a star-studded cast of evildoers out to take over the world. What do you have? Ladies and gentlemen: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band!
The film version, long dismissed and celebrated by many students of 'bad' filmmaking all over the world, remains a topic of discussion for many of us who just can't get enough of the Beatles. Still, one has to wonder: why is it that this one movie, which dares to take over 30 of the Fab Four's most legendary hits and bring them together for one of the 1970's biggest-ever musical programs to be captured on celluloid --- why is it that that even now, some call it one of the true guilty pleasures of popular entertainment?
Part of the answer lies in the fact that this movie was, pure and simply, a product of its time. Indeed, the balance of this film was shot at MGM Studios in Culver City, even as its back lot was being destroyed and/or being prepared to be sold. In fact, this was the last film to be shot at MGM under the management which controlled that studio at that time.
Even now, I still own the Official Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Scrapbook, wherein Stigwood and Anthony attempt to justify in print their reasons for spending $12 million on bringing the Beatles' magic to the big screen. In describing Paul Nicholas' role as Dougie Shears, we read: "The success of the [film version of The Who's rock opera Tommy] proved to its makers that an audience can be entertained in a novel way by a movie without en] dialogue. Get rid of all the talking and let the songs and music carry the storyline along. With 'Sgt. Pepper,' we carried that concept forward by building a marvelous original story around a collection of songs by the Beatles. We were sure it would work, and we knew that Paul Nicholas was destined to be part of this plan." Ah! But Stigwood has obviously forgotten that he produced the movie version of Jesus Christ Superstar --- and there was an extremely limited amount of spoken dialogue in that one, too!
Nonetheless, you still can't help but get a groove going with all those marvelous tunes --- from Aerosmith's ultra-scream rendition of "Come Together" to Earth, Wind and Fire's cool-jazz style take on "Got to Get You Into My Life"; from Steve Martin's hilarious take on "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" to British comic Frankie Howerd (in the only movie he ever made, by the way) practically talk-crooning "Mean Mr. Mustard"; and of course, Sandy Farina's two haunting solos, "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Here Comes the Sun". And of course, who would dare grumble at the sight of George Burns, with those two sweet little girls, tapping magically to the old coot's version of "Fixing a Hole"?
In my case, the closing sequence, with the title song arranged in 'Medium light disco' format, has always made me smile. Who can ever forget December 16th, 1977, when over 100 of the biggest names in pop and rock music, musical theater, and radio and television entertainment were assembled to sing en masse, "We're Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. We hope you have enjoyed the show...." It is this one sequence that reminds the viewer that this movie, when all is properly said and done, stands as a tribute to the always exciting power of music in all its forms, and that the power of all great music to bring happiness to everyone can and will always give us hope, no matter what! That said, we here in cyberspace owe a great deal to a New York-based up-and-coming actress/performer named Denise George. She was the first to put out her passion for this particular film on the world wide web --- and, although her Sgt. Pepper Movie Website no longer exists (at least, to my knowledge, anyway), it stands to reason that, were it not for Denise, those who continue to love and respect their favorite bad movies would not be able to post online their undying affection and admiration for some of cinema's greatest clunkers --- whose number just happens to include a little thing called Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
And on that note (no pun intended), we're sorry, but it's time to go.
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