It’s no secret that two of my very favorite wrong-headed movies are Xanadu and Can’t Stop the Music — but quite possibly the most wrong-headed music-related movie ever made is Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978), starring Peter Frampton and The Bee Gees. Don’t misunderstand — I’m a fan of both Frampton and the Brothers Gibb (check out their earlier, more proggy stuff), but Sgt. Pepper is a true test of one’s endurance (but in a really good way, if that makes any sense).
Produced by Robert Stigwood, the man behind Saturday Night Fever and Grease (among many other movies, both good and bad), the movie version (based on a stage production) of Sgt. Pepper was an obvious attempt at “rock opera” along the lines of Stigwood’s earlier production, Tommy — but one very big difference is that Tommy is based on an actual concept album that tells a story. Lots of folks like to call Sgt. Pepper a concept album but it ain’t, at least not in the strictest sense, and even John Lennon said so (not to mention the movie uses songs from various Beatles records, not just Sgt. Pepper). But using Tommy as a model wasn’t necessarily the best jumping-off point to begin with, considering it was struggle enough to get through every moment in that film when Oliver Reed or Jack Nicholson are singing, so imagine toughing it out through George Burns singing “Fixing a Hole” or Donald Pleasence croaking “I Want You” (a song from Abbey Road, by the way). Steve Martin performing “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” (also from Abbey Road) is kind of fun, but again, I dare you to sit through that sequence with your mouth closed.
However: as the title of this post might lead you to believe, we’re not here to judge the presumably-cocaine-fueled madness that led to this movie’s existence; we’re here to talk about the awesome fight scene towards the end, wherein Peter Frampton, Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb and Maurice Gibb battle it out with Aerosmith. Steven Tyler and the boys do a freaking monster cover of “Come Together” (again, from Abbey Road) before they’re attacked by our heroes, and what ensues is one of the most awkward girl-fights ever put on film.
Note: the following clip does contain a spoiler or two, but it doesn’t really matter.
Aside from this great fight scene, the movie contains the goofiest thing I’ve ever seen in my life: Peter Frampton running like a little girl while clad in a pink plaid shirt and white bib overalls with the name “Billy” embroidered on the front.
Do yourself a favor and check out Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band — it’s currently on Netflix streaming — then get back here and tell me how many dang people are actually in Earth, Wind and Fire (who appear during the Benefit for Mr. Kite) — it’s like Oingo Boingo times ten up on that stage.
Meanwhile, here’s a little old-school Bee Gees for you, circa 1967: “New York Mining Disaster 1941.”