SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEART CLUB BAND made $20,400,000 back in 1978, including a few from me, the $18,000,000 travesty thus producing a memory that enshrines this awful p.o.s. in my personal Gallery of Suaveitude.* Misdirected by Michael Schultz (the amusing Car Wash and a lot of junk), produced by hitmaker Robert Stigwood, it drew reviews scathing enough to sink Australia, and torpedoed several careers. A concept film if there ever was one, but then a tunnel to the Earth’s core is also a concept. Fans of the Beatles and of their besmirchers in this toad were so upset they resorted, in many cases, to extensive use of marijuana, cocaine and alcohol, sometimes for long periods.
Pre-release quote from ‘Bee Gee’ Robin Gibb: “There is no such thing as the Beatles now. They don’t exist as a band and never performed Sgt Pepper live in any case. When ours comes out, it will be, in effect, as if theirs never existed.” Post-trauma quote, on the Bee Gees, from George Harrison: “I think it’s damaged their images, their careers, and they didn’t need to do that. It’s just like the Beatles trying to do the Stones. The Rolling Stones can do it better.”
111 minutes carries just a handful that were bearable four decades ago. With Peter Frampton (I owned that Frampton Live album—-but then so did you. Played it through approximately once), The Bee Gees, Frankie Howerd, Donald Pleasence, Steve Martin, Aerosmith (KISS turned this down because it would “hurt their image“), Sandy Farina, Earth Wind & Fire, Alice Cooper, Billy Preston and George Burns. Old film buffs can spot Max Showalter and Hank Worden (what a weird movie when you think about it—but try not to). The finale features a dazzling lineup of pop stars from the era, too numerous to list more than a few: Carol Channing, Heart, Donovan, Jose Feliciano, Etta James, Curtis Mayfield, Del Shannon, Helen Reddy, Connie Stevens, Sha Na Na, Frankie Valli, everyone but Idi Amin and Sigmund Freud. No avail availed.
* Oh, yeah, my story….First date. Hot Southern California Fox. Borrowed my sisters beater, some dented turdbrown clunker the size of a PT boat (not good impression maker in Autotopia). In line, holding hands. I’m somewhat nervously, somewhat playfully sliding my hand back & forth in hers, (as in you know–‘holding hands’) and she snarls, disgusted “Are you gonna hold hands or what!?” Drive home was a lot of fun, but maybe the silence was part-stun from the work of art we’d witnessed. Thank you, Bee Gees. Believe me, what you’re reading at this moment, confessions of a stranger— is better than the movie. With apologies, I have to borrow a comment from some Pepper-choked soul on the Internet Movie Data Base, who said “this is what the Nazis saw when they opened the Ark in Raiders…” And yes, I bought her popcorn. I’m sure she made three or four husbands very happy.