With a score consisting of 29 compositions by John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band must have sounded like a great idea at the time. And with Robert Stigwood at the helm and “fifth Beatle” George Martin producing the soundtrack, it must have looked like Box Office Gold. . .
The inspiration was embellished by top casting Peter Frampton and The Bee Gees, and surrounding them with a bunch of featured guest stars as varied as George Burns, Alice Cooper and Frankie Howerd.
Unfortunately, “folly” simply doesn’t do justice to this fevered mess.
The movie has a mindless and skeletal plot revolving around a number of peculiar characters who set out to steal the musical instruments belonging to Sgt Pepper’s band.
Peter Frampton is Billy Shears – the grandson and spiritual heir of the original Sgt Pepper, a World War I bandleader whose magical music had caused opposing armies to lay down their arms.
The Bee Gees are “the Hendersons” (as in “the Hendersons will all be there, late of Pablo Fanques Fair”), who are Billy’s boyhood friends and members of his band. Their home is Heartland.
Inevitably, Billy’s band is discovered by B D Brockhurst (Donald Pleasance), president of Big Deal Records, the world’s biggest record company. He brings the boys to L.A. where they are seduced and promoted.
But while the boys are away becoming superstars, Mr Mustard (Frankie Howerd) is taking over heartland and, in cahoots with Dr Maxwell Edison (Steve Martin), Father Sun (Alice Cooper) and a gang of Future Villains (Aerosmith), is scheming to take over the world with an army of brainwashed teenage fascists.
The band foils the plot but in the process, Billy’s girlfriend Strawberry Fields (Sandy Farina) is killed. A disconsolate Billy is in the act of committing suicide when the Sgt Pepper weather vane atop Heartland City Hall comes miraculously to life (in the person of Billy Preston), saves Billy Shears, resurrects Strawberry, and transforms the redeemed Heartlanders into the world’s largest rock & roll band, whose members include Tina Turner, Wolfman Jack, Carol Channing, Donovan, the Doobie Brothers, Helen Reddy and dozens of other musical personalities in cameo appearances.
There was no focus to Michael Schultz’s direction of this fantasy, which was clouded by an excess of electronic visual effects and an obtrusive soundtrack.
Comedy legend Steve Martin was so embarrassed by his cameo that in later interviews he refused to acknowledge it as his feature film debut.
The end product really was B.A.D.
As for Aerosmith – their involvement put their career in the doldrums for the next 10 years – perhaps fitting punishment for any band stupid enough to appear in a movie where they get beaten up by Barry Gibb.
WHAT THE FUCK WERE THEY THINKING??!
Mean Mr Mustard
B D Brockhurst
Dr Maxwell Edison
Old Sgt Pepper
Jay W MacIntosh