Some things should just be left to stand by themselves and rest on their own merits. But since Hollywood is always looking for a way to bring a new spin to an already profitable venture, I guess they just had to go ahead with the decision to try and make a movie out of the Beatles' pièce de résistance and add a touch of tarnish to what was widely considered pure gold. Shit, they even had to borrow some tunes from Abbey Road to help the “plot” along.
In some strange convoluted way, I guess you can’t blame them. The year is 1978 and MTV is still two years away from assaulting our eyeballs and eardrums and turning mediocre bands into household names. It’d already been eight years since the Beatles decided to go their separate ways and in order to bring their music back to life, a deal was struck and filming began. If you ask me, if you were putting together a time capsule of the worst moments of the 1970’s, this film belongs right in there along side such things as earth shoes and perms for men.
Cast of Characters
As the one and only bandmaster extraordinaire and all around nice guy, Billie Shears.
A nobody in real life but in the movie goes by the name of Strawberry Fields, Billie Shears girlfriend. To prove her love to Billie, she’ll croon “Here Comes The Sun” at some point in the movie.
The Bee Gees
Yes, all three of three of the brothers Gibb were still riding the coattails of Saturday Night Fever and contribute their talents as the “Henderson Brothers” and band mates of Billie Shears.
Was he already already he an octogenarian back then? Oh well, he narrates the tale and in between playing Mr. Kite, the town mayor, he even lends his signature singing style to the tune Fixing a Hole.
In his only American film appearance, plays an evil real estate mogul who goes by then name of Mr. Mustard and drives around in a souped up yellow school bus replete with a couple of robots.
As record mogul B. D. Blockhurst who coincidently manages another band that is aptly named “Lucy and the Diamonds”.
When I first saw this I thought to myself “What the fuck?” but Alice being Alice I figured he’d do anything to turn a buck. He portrays the Reverend Sun and brainwashes unwitting teens to an as yet unnamed cult that goes by initials F.V.B. by showing them psychedelic images over and over again to the strains of Alice singing “Because”. Dear lord….
Probably the only one in the cast who actually gave a shit playing Sgt. Pepper himself. If you ask me, it’s a weird bit of casting since the original Sgt. Pepper was an aging white dude with graying hair while Billy is big, black and sports an afro the size of basketball. In the end, He brings it all together with (can you believe it?) his sterling rendition of Get Back
That’s right, the “wild and crazy guy” himself lends his comedic stylings to the role of Dr. Maxwell Edison who was majoring in medicine and made some phone calls along the way.
Ah, the bad boys of rock and the reason behind the aforementioned F. V. B. which, if haven’t deduced by now, stands for “Future Villain Band”. If only Steve Tyler and the rest of the boys knew what lay in store for them in the form of heroin addiction and near bankruptcy in the coming years, perhaps the might’ve passed on the gig. Later on they thankfully managed to resurrect their once failing careers however for professional reasons; I believe they left this movie off their resume
Earth, Wind and Fire
I have no freakin’ clue as to why they were in the movie or where they were involved in the plot other than somebody had to sing “Got To Get You Into My Life”.
Plot?...Did I say plot?
Ok, here goes.
Our story begins during World War I as a raging battle is underway to save a little French town that goes by the name “Fleu de Coup”. That should be enough for you right there but out of nowhere a brass band shows up playing a version of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band arrives on the scene and all hostilities come to and end. Soon after we’re told by the narrator (George Burns) that this band has mystical powers, that wherever they went and whenever they started playing all fighting would stop and people would lead peaceful lives.
We follow the band through the ensuing years and just as they’re about to retire, Sgt. Pepper himself (Billy Preston) keels over during the bands farewell concert. His decrees that his grandson, Billie Shears (Peter Frampton), will inherit his mantle and continue on with his good works.
Since the rest of the band is aging, Billie (Frampton) decides to scout out some new talent. Along the way, he runs across a group calling themselves The Henderson Brothers (The Bee Gees) and recruits them.
The Narrator (Burns, who is the only one to actually speak during the movie, the rest is all singing) lets us know that the group has been “discovered” by a record company called “Big Deal Records” and ask for a demo tape. The boys respond by sending him their version of “Getting Better”.
The demo is heard by the president of the label, one B. D Brockhurts (Donald Pleasence) and he tells the band to pack their bags and head for Los Angeles. He was going to make them superstars.
For God knows what reason, the boys in the band choose to get to LA via, I shit you not, a hot air balloon. Upon their arrival and safe touchdown, they are serenaded by BD and other assorted recoding artists (Lucy and the Diamonds) to the sounds of I Want You (She’s So Heavy).
For those of you who might be thinking this is getting a bit too surreal, fasten your seatbelts, we’re just getting started.
Just kidding, I’ll make this short.
The gist of the story is that somewhere along the way the band's instruments get stolen and they are duty-bound to recover them. Along the way they must fight the villainous Mr. Mustard, the evil Dr. Maxwell Edison (Steve Martin), the nefarious Reverend Sun (Alice Cooper) and dark and gloomy visage of F.V.B. (Aerosmith). A confrontation ensues when the band, still in their hot air balloon, tries to pursue FVB and recover their instruments before FVB can use them for their own evil purposes.
Along the way, Strawberry Fields sacrifices her life to the cause. Ten bonus points to anybody who can name the tune that is played at her funeral proceedings and an additional twenty to those of you who can name the one that’s played as they carry her coffin during the funeral procession.
Naturally Billie Shears (Frampton) is pretty bummed out on the loss of his girlfriend and is soon seen meandering all by his lonesome down, of all things, a long and winding road. His route takes him to Strawberry’s doorstep and he makes his way up to the roof. Realizing the depths of his sadness, the rest of the band (The Bee Gees) tries to cheer him up by playing, of all things, A Day In The Life. As the song goes on and build to its climax you can see the emotion in the form of fake tears streaming down Billie’s. The final note on the piano is just too much for him to bear and it pushes Billie literally over the edge as he jumps from the roof.
Enter one Sgt Pepper, this time in the guise of Billy Preston and blowing his magical trumpet. Somewhere along the way it seems the good Sgt. also learned to shoot lightning from his fingertips and he aims said bolts towards Billie and plants him safely back on the roof. He then directs his attention towards the evil doers and the crowd in general. In a feat never before seen by the likes of mankind, he converts them to a life of good works and charity, raises Strawberry Fields from the dead and in general sends good vibes all around.
Fifty bonus points if you can guess what tune inspires him to such acts of kindness?
I’m wondering if the Beatles themselves had to put their stamp of approval on these shenanigans or maybe if they just left it up to the discretion of their respective managers. What’s done is done though. I’m sure if they were faced with such a prospect today, they’d think twice about messing up a perfectly good thing.