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blatantly bad 70s music: sgt peppers lonely hearts club band (movie soundtrack)
Nov 16th, 2008 by wrekehavoc

this one gets personal.

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don’t get your panties in a twist. i’m not talking about the 1967 masterpiece. i’m talking about the 1978 film, sgt. peppers lonely hearts club band starring the bee gees and peter frampton.  a movie the bee gees begged to not be in. a movie i actually could not bear to watch with a soundtrack of beatles covers i could never stomach (save for aerosmith and earth wind and fire.)

a movie my cousin — rock critic, rock biographer, and all-around amazing writer — wrote.

using beatles songs to tell a story is an idea that gets revived every so often. there is the nearly-forgotten 1976 film all this and world war II (which is only available to collectors these days but which has a lovely version of strawberry fields forever done by peter gabriel). and of course, there’s 2007’s across the universe, a movie you’d expect me to like, as i’m a huge beatles fan — and which i loathe.

and there’s this mama-jama.

in 1978, i was 13 years old and at the height of my will-the-beatles-ever-get-back-together mania. i even bought magazines dedicated to that very topic. (no lie.) i would read anything and everything beatle-related. in fact, when the $64,000 question was revived on television as the $128,000 question, my brother suggested i try out, as i probably knew the length of ringo starr’s eyelashes. (i don’t.) in short, i liked EVERYTHING BEATLES. plus i had glasses. AND i was a smart girl. (yes, intermediate school was not fun for me.)

so you can imagine i was extremely excited to see this picture, especially since i knew the person who had written the movie. (i still have the paperback he autographed for me 🙂 i wanted desperately to go to the premiere, to which my cousin had invited me. i wanted to see peter frampton (the hell with the bee gees, i thought.) but my mother refused to let me go (probably afraid i’d be hanging around with coked-up grownups with no one probably looking after me. a few years later, when we visited my cousin henry in venice, ca, she also wouldn’t let me meet my cousin’s friend timothy for fear i’d end up running away to some far-flung place. like insanity-land, f’rinstance. sigh. moms can be such killjoys.)

so i saw the picture like everyone else did: at the theater. it was excruciating. the movie was filled with people i didn’t know in a story that leapt around in ways my little teen-aged brain couldn’t follow. and the music? i have written aplenty about how picky-picky i am about people covering other artists’ music. my idea of a great cover does not involve george burns. i also had the album (i think my brother larry has it now), but it didn’t get much airplay in my house beyond earth wind and fire’s cover of got to get you into my life (which i actually thought was catchy and interesting) and aerosmith, whose cover of come together still gets airplay even today on classic rock stations everywhere.

i always wish i could sit down and talk with my cousin about this whole era, not to mention his entire career. i think it would be fascinating. but i have not yet had that opportunity, and i’m not sure i ever will. he’s really a fantastic person; and while he may never know this, he is the person who inspired me — at age 13 — to be a writer. his advice: write every day. doesn’t matter what it is about, if you’re a writer, you simply need to write. it’s some of the most meaningful advice i ever got.

i don’t know for certain, but i imagine when this project was brought to his attention, my cousin was told: hey you, take this album, and a few songs from the other albums, and try to string a story together. considering the psychedelic nature of the material it couldn’t have been an easy task. the story of tommy is fairly improbable (and the movie is bizarre), but that story was woven as the songs were written. doing it in reverse, well, that’s got to be a nightmare.

everyone is entitled to have an off-year. not everyone has the opportunity to have their off-year so very publicly visible, i imagine.

poor henry. if you’re out there, i love you 🙂


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