Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Things We Do For Love

Thers is a genuinely amazing person. Though he has the demeanor (and often the memory) of an abstracted academic, every so often he'll pull out something fabulous (or just sort of scary) to prove that he is, in fact, paying attention.

Last night, he asked if he could put something on TV and I said sure. It turned out that he had DVRed (that's a low-tech Tivo, for you hipsters out there) a movie for which I have great residual affection, while recognizing its appalling artistic flaws.

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Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Look, I have absolutely no defense for an even residual affection here. This is, if you've never seen it, a BAD MOVIE. Bad bad. Bad bad bad. Peter Frampton stars as Billy Shears, The Bee Gees as the Henderson brothers (late of Pablo Fanky's fair, what a scene!). Together they are a band from Pepperland who sign to a Big Deal label in LA (literally, Big Deal Records) partly with the help of a racially ambiguous but overtly sexual girl band called Lucy and the Diamonds (and they're on a billboard, so in the sky... get it? get it?), partly because of drugs.

And this isn't even the improbable and retarded part of the narrative, which has to do with George Burns and magical musical instruments and female androids in spike heels and Aerosmith.

I am not making this up.

Anyway, Thers saw this thing on Sundance and DVRed it for me and didn't even complain when I sat and watched the whole damn thing last night.

Not a good movie. (shudder)

But it occurred to me, as it has before, that despite the execrable nature of this film, if it were pitched to film executives today, with cast members of a similar level of fame and accomplishment (this was Frampton after Frampton Comes Alive, The Bee Gees after Saturday Night Fever). They had established acts (did I forget to mention that Alice Cooper is in it?) and up-and-comers (Paul Nicholas, whose catchy "Heaven on the Seventh Floor" was a fave of mine at the time, and a young comedian named Steve Martin). They had, as my teen pointed out in a drive-by sneer, Star Wars graphics and uber-hip synthesized voices. And George Burns after Oh, God! And it was Robert Stigwood. I don't think any studio, presented with a similar package, would say no, even now. What do you all think?

But I have to confess that, even though I know it's a bad movie, I was annoyed at Sundance for allowing Alan Cumming to host it. He sneered his way through the introduction ("One thing good about the movie: you'll feel like you're up to your tits in psychedelic drugs without doing any.") and all I could think was "You were in fucking Spice World! You have zero moral authority!"

(Come to think of it, the existence of Spice World proves my point that Sgt. Pepper would get made again....)

Did I mention that the female lead is named Strawberry Fields?

More to come, possibly, since noted rock critic Steve Simels has promised me dirt on the premiere, which he attended.

And the addendum, courtesy of steve simels:
A lot of this has been lost in
the mists of memory, but...

the guy who wrote the movie was
a cat named Henry Edwards, who
was (IIRC) probably ten, fifteen
years older than me, and had been
one of the several appallingly
out of touch rock crits the NYTimes
used (Mike Jahn was another -- he
of the famously idiotic pan of
the Beatles White Album) before they
got smart enough to hire John
Rockwell and Stephen Holden. When
I met him initially, he was my
opposite number at High Fidelity;
he was a bitchy old queen who
had absolute undisquised contempt
for anything remotely connected
with rock music. Later, he started
hanging with the the
Robert Stigwood crowd (they made
the movie) and the usual 70s
Warhol suspects.

In any event, when the movie came
out, Andrew Sarris famously observed
that the screenplay sounded like
"it had been written between snorts
of cocaine in the Studio 54 mens
room." Which was way more accurate
than Sarris could ever have

As for the screening, like I said
every rock writer in NYC was
in attendance, and they were
pre-disposed to hate the film
for any number of reasons, including
the fact that it would doubtless
suck. (Punk was happening, and the
film was obviously soulless
corporate dinosaur crap at its worst. Not
Plus Beatle purists were primed to
hate it for obvious reasons).

Anyway, if memory serves, there
were drinks served before the
screening and the assembled rock
press got a bit lubricated.

Then...and like I said, this has
been lost in the mists of memory...

all I remember is there were was
a scene where Peter Frampton was
like on a roof or something, on
(I think) a burning building with
no chance of rescue.

And almost in unison, the critics
started screaming "Jump!!!!!!

It was glorious.

No replacement for actually being there, I know....


refinnej said...

Good for Thers! This movie is truly Craptacular.

And they're still making it too.. Wasn't there an American Idol movie a few summers ago? Justin and Kelly on the beach?

Anonymous said...

Well Yes it was bad but the Aerosmith scene and the Billy Preston covers were great IMO.

jas said...

Oh good lord!

I'm only 35, but I loved this movie when it finally made it's way to telelvision? VCR? I don't recall. I just know my sister had the album, full of wonderful, awful, cheesetastic covers of Beatles classics, and I adored every bit of it.

Dear god, I'm so TiVoing this if it's on again, and my wife, who voluntarily watches horrible movies, will roll her eyes and not understand.

I wonder if I'll be able to sit through it now, like I did all those years ago...