Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sgt Pepper's Lonely Darts Club Band

It's New Year's Day.  I'm not headache hung-over but just bleary hung-over, tired, trying to gain motivation to do something worthwhile as the night begins to approach.  As I'm recovering on the chair with my roommate and my friend by my side, we happen to stumble across The Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie on one of the HBOs.  HBO-Z or HBO-C or something like that.  Now, I had heard the legends of this movie before -"it's terrible," "the worst movie of its time," "the Gone With The Wind of its Generation," (that last one is actually from the Wikipedia page for the movie - its what it's producers expected the reaction to the movie to be) - but I had never managed to find it on TV or take the actual effort to try to rent it or buy it. 

Before going any further, I have to say that I have a terrible taste in movies and terrible movie watching habits.  When I say terrible, I mean that I don't usually seek out good movies to watch or take the time to sit down and watch a film.  My main medium of watching a movie is something that I catch on cable with the commercials and everything.  I went to the theatre to see that movie Moon this summer, but I fell asleep during it and I really just wanted a cold place to go to and also to eat popcorn and drink a large soda.  I also just saw Up In The Air, which was a good, poignant movie.  The movies I really thrive on are terrible movies, stupid movies - not Will Ferrell stupid, though; I just don't go that far.

Back to the movie:

The movie kicks off and we are introduced to a re-formed Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which is comprised of the Bee Gees aka The Henderson brothers and Sgt. Pepper's grandson, Billy Shears (played by a skeletal and disturbing looking Peter Frampton).  These guys live in Heartland, which is an idyllic country spot that Sgt. Pepper used to call home.  Sgt. Pepper is long gone as the narrator, and apparent mayor of the town, Mr. Kite (played by the immortal George Burns) tells us.  What has to be conveyed about the movie is that there are no speaking lines other than George Burns’ smoky narration.  The flow of the movie is relayed through pantomimes from the actors (the Bee Gees really mail this in, I have seen animals that give off more of an impression or feeling than these guys do in this movie, although there is some kind of genius to such a bad performance) and having Beatles songs forced to propel the plot.

This re-formed Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is pretty good and everyone in the town loves them, especially Billy Shears’ girlfriend, Strawberry Fields.  However, like all of our secret favorite indie bands, the call of the music industry is too much and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club bands is soon called to L.A. by the mega record label BDM Records (Boogie Disco Music).  So, the boys climb into their trusty hot air balloon and fly away to L.A., much to the chagrin of a very heartbroken and melancholy Strawberry Fields.  The trip to L.A. begins to turn sour when, while floating in their hot air balloon, a plane flies by and sucks the balloon into its jets and puts the boys on a flight that touches down at an airport where they are greeted by the record hot shot B.D. Hoffler and his sexy chauffeur who tells the boys that she wants them, she wants them so bad, she wants them so bad, bad its driving her mad its driving her mad.

A quick side note, when a Beatles song is covered in this movie, there is always a funky late-70’s bass line played underneath it.  No matter the tone or mood of the song.  Just keep that in mind as you imagine the songs played to this enchanting story.

The band is taken to B.D. Hoffler’s Hollywood mansion where they are wined and dined and then drugged into signing a huge contract (literally, the contract is a ten foot long scroll). The contract-signing goes on while an orgy ensues around them and each of the band members presumably has sex with the chauffeur.  The result of this party is that the boys are hung-over the next day as they are driven to their first recording session. They appear to have a lot to learn in order to make it in the music business and not blow the potential of their well-meaning music.

Meanwhile, in Heartland, Mean Mr. Mustard has been commissioned by the evil enterprise FVB to sabotage Heartland and bring decadence and corruption.  Mr. Mustard uses his house-car, robots and his assistant Brute to steal Sgt. Pepper’s original instruments: the French horn, the tuba, and the drum.  The French horn is taken to Dr. Maxwell’s, the tuba is taken to the “Sun King” Marvin Sunk, and the drum is hidden on his house-car.  The loss of these instruments is devastating to Heartland.  The town is soon overridden with mortgage companies, video arcades and whorehouses.  The gazebo on the village green where Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band played so many concerts is turned into a giant cheeseburger.  There is garbage everywhere, while Mean Mr. Mustard is raking in the cash.  Strawberry Fields is devastated and scared and thinking of her boyfriend Billy Shears and what the band is up to.

The band are selling out venues and making recordings left and right.  They have a tour set up where they play 46 shows in 26 days.  Their records are going to the top of the charts and they are the biggest stars in the world.  In fact, Billy Shears has even developed a relationship with the lead singer Lucy of the all-girl group on BDM Records, Lucy and The Diamonds.  Lucy bears a striking resemblance to B.D. Hoffler’s chauffeur who all of the guys in the band slept with.  Amid all this success, Billy and the Hendersons don’t realize what sort of decadence is destroying Heartland.

Mean Mr. Mustard is the kingpin of Heartland.  He receives sensual massages from his robots and has a steady cash flow from his mortgage and arcade business.  However, this sad state of affairs has become too much for Strawberry Fields as she decides to leave home and tell Billy and the Hendersons about what is happening to their fair town.  What she doesn’t know is that Mean Mr. Mustard’s robots are watching her escape from their video surveillance system on the house-car.  The robots narrate her escape and explain that she is leaving home, bye-bye.  They alert Mean Mr. Mustard to Strawberry’s escape and he takes off in his house-car to catch her.

When Strawberry arrives in L.A., her paranoia begins to get the best of her and she imagines that she sees billboards of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Lucy and the Diamonds come alive.  Billy and Lucy seem to be getting too close and Lucy is disheartened.  She remembers that it is only her paranoia and remembers the task at hand and goes to the studio where Billy and the Hendersons are recording.  She breaks up the recording session to tell them the terrible news of what is occurring in Heartland.  Once the boys hear the news they decide they have to do something.  So, they leave the studio and find Mr. Mustard’s house-car left unattended in the parking lot.  They take the car and use its systems to find out about the evil plan of the hidden instruments.  They follow FVB’s instructions and go to Dr. Maxwell’s to retrieve the French horn.

Dr. Maxwell (Steve Martin) is an eccentric doctor who turns people into younger, plastic versions of themselves. He puts them on a conveyor belt, transforms them and puts them into Boy Scout outfits.  He also has a silver hammer that lights up like a laser.  The band surprises Dr. Maxwell in his laboratory and he attacks them with his hammer.  Billy is able to get another one of the hammers and a hammer-laser battle ensues.  The rest of the band grabs the French horn while Billy and Dr. Maxwell duel.  Strawberry knocks out Dr. Maxwell from behind, but not before Dr. Maxwell injures Billy with his hammer.  The Hendersons and Strawberry rush Billy onto the house car.  Strawberry Fields sings her song to Billy and cries that he may not awake.  However, when her tears hit Billy he is awoken much to everyone’s delight, because they will need his help as they try to get the tuba back from “Sun King” Marvin Sunk.

Marvin Sunk (Alice Cooper) is brainwashing FVB’s army by repeating the FVB motto of “We Hate Love, We Hate Music, We Love Money.”  His face then appears on screen and tells the army that because the sky is blue, it turns him on and that love is all, love is you.  This is a confusing message, but the army is brainwashed into FVB’s service.  However, Strawberry and the band arrive to take out Marvin Sunk. The band then finds the drum hidden on the house-car.  All of the magical instruments have been retrieved.

Despite all of this, things are still not well in Heartland so the boys have to get back as soon as possible.  They decide to have a benefit for Mr. Kite in order to turn things around. So, the boys enlist B.D. Hoffler to help them organize and promote the benefit.  B.D. loves the idea and comes to Heartland with the band to set up the benefit and to have a parade. This benefit, mixed with the return of the magical instruments to Heartland begins to turn things around.  During the benefit, Lucy and the boys’ manager Dougie find all of B.D Hoffler’s earnings and decide to try and take the money and drive away on Mr. Mustard’s house-car.  While this is occurring, Earth Wind and Fire play “Got to Get You Into My Life,” to the packed crowd, which is distracting enough so that Mean Mr. Mustard can sneak back into town and kidnap Strawberry Fields.  Mr. Mustard takes off on his house-car to bring Strawberry Fields to FVB headquarters.  The band see the house-car take off and realize what has occurred.  So, they set off to rescue Strawberry Fields.

At the FVB headquarters, we are introduced to FVB themselves – Future Villain Band.  They are played by Aerosmith, who perform “Come Together” in a licentious manner in front of Strawberry Fields who has been bound and gagged.  The band comes just in time to break up this vulgar performance.  The Hendersons and Billy fight off Future Villain Band, but during the melee, Strawberry Fields is knocked off the performance area and crashes to a violent death.

Bill Shears is devastated as is the rest of Heartland.  Strawberry Fields’ funeral is conducted at the town gazebo, which has been restored from a giant cheeseburger. Billy sings “Golden Slumbers” and “Carry That Weight” as Strawberry’s glass coffin is carried through the town.  “Everything was back to normal in Heartland,” Mr. Kite tells us, “but was it worth it?”  Billy is distraught about what has occurred and walks along a dusty path up to Strawberry Fields’ old house, which has been deserted and emptied.

Meanwhile, the Hendersons are at the old family farm.  They sing about a man who has killed himself in a car crash on the same day as Strawberry Fields’ funeral.  This prompts them to reflect on their journey to the top of the music world. However, the boys look next door to Strawberry Fields’ old home and they see the distraught Billy Shears on the roof of the house.  Billy can’t live without Strawberry so he is going to commit suicide by jumping to his death.  Billy takes the leap and as he is falling, the weathervane on the roof of town hall spins and comes to life. 

The weathervane was in the image of Sgt. Pepper who has come to life to save the life of his grandson. The black Sgt. Pepper shouts out “Get Back!” and shoots a laser at the white Billy, which stops him in mid-air. Sgt. Pepper then places him safely on the ground.  Sgt. Pepper then flies down from the roof and tells everyone to “get back to where they once belonged.”  Sgt. Pepper teaches Mean Mr. Mustard a lesson by zapping he and Brute into the pope’s garments.  Sgt. Pepper does an intricate dance and zaps Strawberry Fields back to life.  Strawberry and Billy are reunited.  Sgt. Pepper’s job is done and so he flies back up to the top of the town hall and turns back into a weathervane, to watch over his grandson and Heartland.

Everyone in Heartland is overjoyed at this turn of events and the whole town comes out to sing.  Led by Billy and the Hendersons the townspeople sing the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Song” and we get to see that Heartland is home to a variety of celebrities like Tina Turner, Curtis Mayfield, Sha-Na-Na, Dr. John, Heart, Wolfman Jack, Hank Williams Jr., Frankie Vallie and Donovan.  The town finishes the song and the story of Billy Shears and his band is over.

As you can see this is one of the most entertaining and strange stories of all time.  It is truly a singular viewing experience.  My recommendation to you is, take a break from all those career and art aspirations, all of your little schemes to try and get laid and sit down with some friends, some beer and watch this movie and see how many great jokes you can make.  That is the true reward and the true meaning of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band The Movie.

Next, my review of the Van Morrison album Veedon Fleece.

Now, the next installment of “From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt.”


    Once a dick always a dick.  I can’t believe I’m caught.  I don’t think the term “red-handed” applies here, but we’re at the door – the portal of escape! – and of course I bump right into this guy and his gelled up pieces of jet black hair.  I know  Mike, I know what he likes and he’d like it if I got sassy; if I got high and mighty and pretentious.  He has to know what I’ve been doing because even if you get away you can’t stop the local paper from sucking your parents for information so that they can print your name and recent accomplishments up in the Thursday Herald, next to pictures of the most recent wedding of high school sweethearts.

    And with all of this, Liza and I are now holding dripping Bud Lights in our hands.

    “Gee, thanks, Mike.”

    “You never told me you had such a good looking younger sister, Maggie.”

    Once a dick always a dick.  I punch him on the arm.  If I’m not careful he’ll think I’m flirting.  Maybe I should do it once more; a little harder; just for the hell of it.  No, I should try to keep some of my womanly manners.  I think I’ve grown into some of those.

    “That’s because she was like…” I look at Liza.  She’s not blushing. She’s standing her ground, awkward as it might be. “How hold were you when we were in high school?”

    “Two, I think? Three?”

    “Yeah, that’s why,” I say and take a slug from the bottle.

    Mike looks me up and down again.  He has no shame.  He can’t be real, he’s like a walking charicature.  I’d give him more credit for his portrayal if he knew he were doing it, but I never was sure if he was.  He’s still in shape, though – have to give him that.  And he’s gotten a nice stubble.  It sort of reminds me of…

    “So,” he pauses deliberately.  A bit of self-awareness. “I heard you just got back from Siberia.”

    “That was almost two years ago actually.”

    “Well, well.  Who would’ve thought a stoner like you would become a world class jet setter.”

    I give him an ironic smile.  He enjoys this game.  I know he likes to get a rise out of me and he always has.  I should be able to help it.  But something about its oldness – not its not familiarity, because I’ve become so foreign – the fact that it is stale and tired and grey makes me fall into it.  Nevertheless I’m taking a big long gulp.  I’ve finished.  Time changes when you’re drinking with people you don’t want to.

    “We should be going.”

    “So soon, O’Donnell?”

    “Yes, I’m not here to be out getting drunk.  I’m here on family business.”

    He stops for a second and eyes down the neck of his bottle.  It’s like he tasted something wrong or felt a tingling in his throat and he’s looking for the insect, the tiny life mishap, that caused him discomfort.

    “I know,” he says.  He catches a glimpse of himself in the bar mirror. “That’s why I bought you the drink.”

    Then I feel complete guilt.  My pettyness after all this time to keep his character the same.  To use the same lens, the same color and light to outline him.  He’s not so bad and he’s probably just like me, looking for an answer to the youth that we don’t necessarily have anymore.  Is he alone like me?

    “Anyway,” he goes on. “I figured you’d be drinking this one down.  Knowing your family and all.”

    And it’s a dick thing to say, but it’s the truth in the same way that this town is the truth.  He finishes his too.

    I laugh and smile and I’ve got to give him one more punch right in the sweater. “Always a pleasure, Mikey.  I mean it.”

    He nods. “Nice to meet you…”

    “Liza,” Liza says.


    He takes her hand and holds it a little longer than I’d like.  Finally – it seems like that – he releases and Liza and I begin back towards the door.

    “Hey, Maggie,” Mike says.

    I turn. “Yeah?”

    “Didn’t you get married?”

    I give him the finger and turn back.  I hook Liza’s arm and we hit the door striding.  And this time we make it out clear, we’re free to the street and the long sloping hill home.


  1. You can't forget Father Sun dunking his face in a cream pie - twice! That's so priceless!! :-D

  2. Thanks Steve. There are too many great nuances for one man to recount.