Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
The Movie: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
Starring: Peter Frampton, Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb
Director: Michael Schultz
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A small-town band hits it big, but they must battle a nefarious plot in the music industry.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 11 percent
Froemming: Last week, Brown (REDACTED) around with the worst movie I have ever seen: “Drop Dead Fred.”
This week, he finds out.
There is no topping the awful of the last movie we watched, but there sure are films on the same level. And given he chose that the same week my friend Paul picked a godawful Molly Ringwald album to review on our podcast, I figured I would drag both of my friends to one of the darkest pits of hell known to popular culture. Why, you may ask? Well, the answer is:
(REDACTED) I spent a week watching and listening to this….
Anyway, this was a vanity project so full of hubris and cocaine, I am shocked anyone in the making of it lived to tell the tale. I am talking, of course, of the pop-culture juggernaut that was the Peter Frampton-Bee Gees team-up to give the world the definitive version of an album by some nobodies from England called the Beatles. This is the definitive version of their 1967 release: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
Don’t believe me? Well, here is Bee Gee Robin Gibb before the release of this movie:
“Kids today don’t know the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper. And when those who do see our film and hear us doing it, that will be the version they relate to and remember. Unfortunately, the Beatles will be secondary. You see, there is no such thing as the Beatles. They don’t exist as a band and never performed Sgt. Pepper live, in any case. When ours comes out, it will be, in effect, as if theirs never existed. When you heard the Beatles do ‘Long Tall Sally’ or ‘Roll Over Beethoven,’ did you care about Little Richard’s or Chuck Berry’s version?”
So, obviously, this is the version Brown and I are most familiar with, as it spoke to a whole generation! Unlike that garbage from the Lads from Liverpool.
Brown, as I hop in my creepy van and talk to my sex robots like Mr. Mustard, why don’t you give us your first thoughts?
Brown: I felt like we did this movie already.
Like when you had deja vu when we did “Judge Dredd,” because that and “Demolition Man” are awfully similar, I was doing that with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Across the Universe.” It probably doesn’t help when I remember nothing about “Across the Universe” other than Bono being the Walrus.
Now, the only thing I knew about this movie was that it starred the Bee Gees. And that seemed like a slight against both the Beatles and cinema.
But as we’re about to get into, the Bee Gees are FAR from the worst thing in this movie. And there’s a lot of worst things about “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
So Froemming, why don’t you get this review started while I work with Dr. Maxwell on making an army of scouts/young fascists.
Froemming: This movie begins with narration from the hippest, coolest man of the late 1970s: George Burns. He tells a yarn of the Great War, WWI, in which the whole world united in trying to kill one another. And what stopped this bloodshed? Why, the marching band sent into combat: Sgt. Pepper and his Lonely Hearts Club Band. And not a few minutes into this movie, I yelled:
See, their music stopped the war. Why? Because shut up, that’s why. And the world began a new peaceful era.
Until a few years later, when the world decided to unite in killing everyone again. Good thing Pepper was able to stop that war too with his big band jazz music. Though, he was not quick enough to stop, you know, the atrocities that happened at the hands of the Nazis. This movie glosses over that oversight from old man Pepper.
Anyway, one day he is blowing his horn and dies on stage. And I think it made everyone happy, because horn sections are the (REDACTED) worst in any song.
Anyway, he died in his hometown of Heartland, which is next to Anytown, U.S.A. And his red blooded American tradition is continued by his British (?) grandson, Billy Shears, and his British friends, the Bee Gees (?).
Brown: I like that through the years, all the way to Sgt. Pepper’s death and the emergence of Billy Shears that they’re playing the same tune over and over again. It’s like how I expect that the only song Foghat plays in a concert is “Slow Ride.”
As far as the Lonely Hearts Club Band through the years:
- I’m stunned the Kaiser’s men wouldn’t just shoot these guys in WWI.
- I feel like the band would have to sell their instruments during the Great Depression so they could buy loaves of bread and government cheese.
- I also think that playing brass instruments at Normandy would alert the Nazis to your position. But, no.
Then when Billy Shears arrives on the scene, we get a performance of “With A Little Help From My Friends.” Frankly, this performance would have been enhanced if Peter Frampton did his whole voice box bit.
Also, I want to know if the Bee Gees would steal food from Frampton like Sonic Youth does.
Froemming: I still have not forgiven that sunofabitch Thurston Moore for denying my uncle his free cup of coffee at Henry Miller’s cabin.
Also, I love this project does not utilize what Frampton was great at: Guitar. It utilizes something Frampton was not known to being good at: Singing. This movie somehow made a Ringo song worse.
Anyway, Billy spots a woman named Strawberry Fields in the crowd, even though Penny Lane would have made more sense for a (REDACTED) person’s name.
And, in the middle of this show, the band decides to read their mail on stage to the audience, which is something I have never seen at a concert before in my life.
Brown: I believe in my heart that Frampton and the Bee Gees didn’t get a telegram. Rather, it was a letter from the Beatles telling them repeatedly to STOP singing their songs.
The New Lonely Hearts Club Band is invited to Hollywood to potentially sign a record deal. The band decides to leave Heartland and head west.
Froemming: I don’t blame them. I would hightail it out of Heartland after hearing this too:
Brown: Somehow, this is only the second weirdest musical choice of this movie. Just wait until we get to Steve Martin later.
But yeah, George Burns singing “Fixing A Hole” in a manner befitting William Shatner is… a choice? Also, there’s some young girls dancing with Burns as he’s singing this and I found that more disturbing than Garland Greene playing dolls with a little girl in an empty pool in “Con-Air.”
Hell, Froemming, you listened to a Shatner spoken-word album recently. You prefer that or George Burns here?
Froemming: George Burns has more range. So, if given a choice between the two, I would prefer suicide.
After Burns aggressively sings this song at some children, we have a few more Beatles tunes to hear before this movie takes an …interesting turn. I should also remind everyone this is a children’s movie.
First we get “Getting Better” which is the biggest lie this movie will ever tell us. Then, we have Billy and Strawberry hook up in a barn, because being in a band means Shears is dirt poor. I think he is a mud farmer, and his last name should be Murphy. And she sings what I can only describe as “Cher sings the Beatles” with a cover of “Here Comes The Sun.” And, in this scene she wakes up Frampton by butchering this Harrison classic.
And so, our band makes their way to Los Angeles via hot air balloon…
Brown: It’s not only hot air balloon, but all of a sudden, a jet flies into said hot air balloon and they’re all of a sudden in said jet?
Brown: Frankly, I think they only have a hot air balloon because Heartland’s police force is the Hot Air Balloon Patrol.
When we get to California, we’re greeted by *checks notes* Michael Myers’ doctor who sings the most off-putting version of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” ever recorded.
It’s at this point where the movie quits being this whimsical Beatles romp to the worst Pink Floyd album you’ve ever heard.
Froemming: Impossible. Nothing is worse than “A Momentary Lapse of Reason.” Also, let me point out they drive past a porn theater with hookers hanging outside of it.
A children’s movie, ladies and gentlemen!
We skipped over the introduction to Mr. Mustard, who hates all this hippie bullshit, and I am right there with him. Where I am not with him is when it comes to his sex robots.
A children’s movie, ladies and gentlemen!
Brown: OR, when B.D. Hoffler (Pleasence), who dresses like The Edge from U2, hosts a “typical record biz dinner” and it turns into a full-blown orgy. Peter Frampton gets roofied, for God’s sake! This may as well have been the way to get into the house:
Froemming: I love when he is being drugged, this is exactly the look on Hoffler’s face:
Also, this party and Hoffler is one snort of blow away from being this:
Brown: Hoffler literally takes the hand of an incoherent Bee Gee (Maurice Gibb, I think) and forces a signature onto the contract. There’s witnesses; that should be a simple lawsuit/arrest for fraud.
But no, each member of the Lonely Hearts Club Band signs the contract and now become shills for the record company. It all ends with Billy Shears about to have sex with a woman on a rotating record bed like he’s Austin Powers.
Now, with all this debauchery, record deal treachery and later, fascists … are we sure we’re not watching Pink Floyd’s “The Wall?”
Froemming: Feels more like “Boogie Nights.” And they wake up with their coke hangovers to the song “Good Morning Good Morning,” and it is here I should remind everyone that this is a children’s movie. What do they do next, in this children’s movie?
They get hammered while recording in the studio. Hell, Billy is hair-of-the-dogging it with a Heineken, which as Frank Booth once told us:
I honestly think this movie is more jarring than “Blue Velvet.” This is one startling scene after another.
Brown: One of my favorite moments is during one of the recordings, they have a black bongo player who dances like Clarence Clemons in the “Dancing in the Dark” music video.
So as the Lonely Hearts Club Band is recording, we see a lovelorn Strawberry at home desperately missing Billy Shears. So she leaves Heartland by bus to Hollywood. When she exits the bus, it’s not unlike when Axl Rose was welcomed to the jungle.
Well, it’s not quite like that. Instead, she sees the Lonely Hearts Club Band playing a rooftop concert to “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.”
Brown: While the band has been gone, Mr. Mustard has penetrated Heartland with his *checks notes* evil real estate powers. And instead of being this idyllic midwest paradise, Heartland has blackjack and hookers. It’s basically Bender’s dream.
Also, we get more scenes with Mr. Mustard and his robots, which are honestly more terrifying than the Dennis Reynolds sex doll.
Froemming: His sex robots get TWO songs in this movie and still only comes in at No. 3 and 4 on the most questionable musical choices in this movie.
The second one later on? Pure nightmare fuel.
But during his robot orgy of the damned, Mustard receives a message to steal the instruments. Messages like old Charlie Manson got from listening to “The White Album.”
And so Mustard, dressed in the worst Dr. Who cosplay I have ever seen, along with The Fireman from “Twin Peaks,” steal the old instruments of the Lonely Hearts Club Band and…split them up?
Brown: So apparently Mr. Mustard, when he isn’t getting into shouting matches with Tim Curry, develops a crush on Strawberry?
Sure. It makes as much sense as anything else in this (REDACTED) musical.
In California, the hippie freaks in the Lonely Hearts Club Band steal Mr. Mustard’s van and use its computer to steal back the instruments. And that leads us to one of the more baffling choices in this movie: Giving Steve Martin a singing part.
Not only that, he’s singing a song that’s reviled by all the non-Paul McCartney members of The Beatles: Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.
I mean, I have so many questions. Why Steve Martin? Why are the dollar bills in the world so (REDACTED) huge? Why did Steve Martin also go the Shatner route of singing this song? Why is Steve Martin creating henchmen for the Scoutmaster?!
Froemming: I hate this song like this assassin hates cans.
Also, Brown, I am not sure you know this, but the producer of all these songs in the movie? George (REDACTED) Martin. The fifth Beatle himself.
Brown: Hey now, we get one of the other fifth Beatles at the climax of that movie. Only that one is enjoyable.
Froemming: Another question I had when this scene came on: Did anyone bother listening to the lyrics before making scenes about the songs? Maxwell is a serial killer in the song, not a plastic surgeon who makes old people into Nazi Youth.
Brown: Also, why do Steve Martin and Peter Frampton have the worst slow-motion lightsaber fight ever?
Froemming, is this what drugs are like? Was this whole movie a bad trip?
And so, Maxwell gets away with his army of Nazi Youth, but the band has gotten one of the magical instruments back. That instrument?
A crack pipe A horn of some kind.
This was my reaction to every single frame of this movie after they head to LA:
Brown: So we go from one baffling casting choice to one I love on paper but is done terribly: Alice Cooper as a man charged with brainwashing Hitler youths.
I somehow found this sequence more disturbing than when Cooper sings about necrophilia.
Froemming: Well, this scene answers one question:
No. No he does not. In fact, this is the worst cover of a Beatles song I have ever heard, and I heard the other songs on this album.
Brown: I love Alice Cooper but this… isn’t great. It’s a weird choice to put him in this to begin with. He looks like an extra from “Zardoz” in this. Though somewhere, this scene was catharsis for those who wanted to see Alice Cooper choke a Bee Gee.
But whatever, the Lonely Hearts Club Band gets the tuba back. And, they find a bass drum in the van. But they’re still missing a saxophone.
But before we can find that, there’s a benefit concert to save Heartland, which has become nothing but brothels, arcades and a giant hamburger at the center of town
Froemming: Well, Barry Gibb kicks the sex robots and they burst into flame and wreck the computer, so they can’t find the last instrument. Also, him kicking a sex robot seems like it should be a crime. I am shocked Twitter did not cancel him for that act of aggression.
So, they do this benefit concert, where they sing “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” And, like many of the songs in this movie, it is lousy.
We also get a pointless side story with Dougie Shears and Lucy, where they want to *checks notes* steal all the money from the benefit concert.
Brown: They like sleeping on top of a pile of money with many beautiful ladies, like McBain.
Also, one of the performers is Earth, Wind and Fire. They’re performing as… Earth, Wind and Fire. Now, their version of “Got to Get You into My Life” is one of my favorites in this movie, but keep in mind that that’s a low, low bar. And I’d MUCH rather want to see them perform “September.”
Froemming: Also, Mustard kidnaps Strawberry (her name should be Penny Lane, damnit!) in his creepy, creepy van. And he sings “When I’m 64,” for no (REDACTED) reason other than to shoehorn another Beatles song in this.
And so the band decides to follow Mustard in…their hot air balloon that I thought was demolished by that 747 earlier in the movie. And, of course, they find it hard to trail a vehicle from the sky in a balloon that relies on wind and shit to guide it.
Well, it all comes to a head in the greatest part of this movie: When the Bee Gees murder that shit band Aerosmith.
Yes, a movie exists where Peter Frampton murders Steven Tyler with his bare hands. And it is the only time I was happy watching this movie.
Brown: Strawberry is chained to a neon light on the stage and during the battle between Aerosmith and the Lonely Hearts Club Band, the light falls. Strawberry falls to her death. And it was the funniest (REDACTED) thing I’ve seen in months.
I can’t find a clip of it, but man, it was terrible dummy work on par with the ending of “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”
Froemming: I would like to point out that, during her funeral, the Bee Gees sing “Carry That Weight” as they carry her coffin, which seems kinda rude to imply the recently deceased was overweight. She looked like she weighed 80 pounds, and 50 of that was pure cocaine.
Billy, distraught that Steven Tyler killed his girlfriend — though he got to kill Steven Tyler and is not in prison, so be thankful, buddy — decides he is going to kill himself as Barry Gibb sings a very bizarre rendition of “A Day in the Life.”
At no point when I have listened to a Beatles record had I thought “needs more disco beats,” but I guess I am in the minority here because in 1978 the world must have demanded this.
Brown: I was hoping Billy Preston’s arrival would have brought us Hugo Stiglitz.
Instead, Billy Preston is this movie’s deus ex machina. He rewinds time to prevent Peter Frampton from killing himself. He brings Strawberry back to life. And he turns Heartland back to a conservative wet dream.
Froemming: By shooting lasers out of his hands while singing the only good cover in this movie: “Get Back.”
And really, it shouldn’t count since he played on the original version. But I will take what I can get.
Brown: Literally nothing matters in this movie, thanks to Billy Preston. His “KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park” powers and Dayman suit makes the last two hours irrelevant.
Froemming, let’s get to recommendations before Mr. Mustard shows up with his sex robots.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: No. No, I don’t think I’ll be doing that.
Froemming: Nope! This is perhaps one of the weirdest movies we have watched. And not in a fun way.
Here is what’s coming up for the next JOE-DOWN: