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Rolling Stone

December 30, 1976

Peter Frampton

Peter Frampton will play Billy Shears in the movie version of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, a $6 million RSO production that looks to surpass Tommy for eclecticism in its casting. The Bee Gees are signed to play Frampton's Band, while Elton John, Olivia Newton-John, Donna Summer, Barry Manilow, Doris Day, Rock Hudson, and Bob Hope are reportedly in negotiations. George Martin, who after all produced The Beatles, is the music director. And Chris Beard, whose credits range from Sonny and Cher and The Gong Show, will direct.

Rolling Stone

Random Notes

February 9, 1978

Alice Cooper and Peter Frampton

Alice Cooper, once one of rock's more infamous boozers, is back in action after four months of sobering up in a New York sanitarium. Cooper threw himself a decidedly nonalcoholic welcome home bash at L.A.'s El Privado. The club's employees were dressed as doctors and nurses, and "Dry Out with Alice" cocktail napkins were printed for the occasion. Impromptu strains of "'tis the season to be sober" could be heard among the guests, who included Peter Frampton, Ringo Starr, Britt Ekland (sans Rod Stewart), Kim Fowley and namesake Al Kooper.

"It's easy to get along with everyone when you're shitfaced smashed all the time," confided Cooper, who served his guests a buffet of "stewed" vegetables, "on the wagon" chili and the Cooper Cooler - Schweppes Ginger Ale. "The fun thing about being sober is meeting all the friends I've had for years - especially the ones I've never met."

Rolling Stone
Sgt. Pepper Illustration by Carole Vaucher

'Sgt. Pepper' gets busted

By Paul Nelson, October 5, 1978

Since we've either hashed or rehashed the latest works by Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones to death here recently, I suppose it's only fitting that another great name from the sixties be subjected to the sky above, the mud below. The sky, in this case, is surely the Beatles' twilight classic, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. ("an ending that has never been matched," according to Greil Marcus), but the mud-though easily identifiable-is spread around a bit.

The major clods are Robert Stigwood and Dee Anthony, two entrepreneurs who, uh, masterminded a double fiasco so unique it should win some kind of award for ineptness beyond the normal call of duty. From the kernel of the Beatles' LP, Stigwood not only produced one of the worst movies ever made (Village Voice film critic Andrew Sarris can remember only two musicals more loathsome in the history of talkies), but also managed to trash whatever rock and roll reputations such seventies artists as Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees had before this excremental soundtrack was released.

Since the movie is now mercifully dead as Stigwood's and Anthony's consciences (so short was its run in Manhattan that those who were lucky enough to blink might have missed it), let's just say that the celluloid version of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band has set new standards--all of them lower. Frampton, whose macho cinematic presence makes Olivia Newton John look seem like Clint Eastwood, has absolutely no future in Hollywood unless he wants to redo the Tammy series, playing the Sandra Dee role. Stephen Schiff, writing in the Boston Phoenix, summed up the Gibb Brothers' thespian talents; "But the Bee Gees are so lifeless, you're always afraid they'll simply fall over and never get up."

Briefly, this was a film upon which every major decision was made wrong. Certainly their was no auteur, Michael Schultz would seem to need direction merely to find the set, let alone the camera. Henry Edwards, an erstwhile rock critic who's always regarded the music as camp, simply strung together twenty-nine Beatles songs (mostly from the title album and Abbey Road) in a childish, free-association style that was free to go anywhere but bound to go nowhere. The cast--to a man, a woman, and in the case of Frankie Howard's character, a whatever--expressed happiness by rolling their eyes and grinning like lunatics. To denote despair, they rolled their eyes, bit their lower lips, and pouted alot. And whoever had the undecidedly unbright idea of not allowing any of the "actors" (with the exception of George Burns) to speak not only underlined the impression that everyone connected with this movie was a certifiable Mongoloid, but also created the notion that the entire entourage couldn't muster enough collective intelligence to mutter so much as a simple-minded hello. Cynicism and contempt dripped onto these reels like butter onto popcorn.

Unfortunately, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is no better on vinyl than it was on film. It might even be worse. This two record set, with a price tag of $15.98 (about a dollar more than Stigwood's budget for the movie, whose color looked like it was printed on toast), sounds exactly like those once-ubiquitous $1.98 collections of Greatest Hits from the Sixties performed by anonymous artists for the South American market (Jimi Hendrix got his start working on such projects). Produced by of all people, George Martin, who steered the source LP through its 700 studio hours in 1967, the album proves conclusively that you can't go home again in 1978. Or, if you do, you'd better be aware of who's taken over the neighborhood.

At first, it occurred to me to write about big name 70's acts redoing important Sixties material, et cetera, but the more I listened, the more I threw that idea out the window. Because this twaddle isn't worth a think piece, much less a second thought. Then I figured my turntable must be running at the wrong speed; everything here sounded so slow and laborious that Sisyphus could have been pushing it uphill. Or maybe all the passion and conviction was leaking out the hole in the center of the record. How could twenty-nine Beatles' song sound so embalmed, and bereft of humor and joy? (Well, maybe not all humor: by the time I got to the fourth cut--Dianne Steinberg mooning "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds"--I was laughing hysterically).

Some questions remain. Is Peter Frampton really this bad? Yes.

Couldn't the Bee Gees, carbon copies of the Beatles in the mid Sixties, have played and sung these numbers somewhat passably had they been smart enough to utilize their own production team? Probably. Mustn't an LP be truly terrible if Aerosmith (Come Together), Earth Wind and Fire (Got to Get You Into My Life), artists who at least had the brains to bring their own producers and tell George Martin where to get off, provided just about the only tolerable tracks? Absolutely. Is this reprehensible version of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band the epitome of soulless Ultimate Product? Unquestionably. If Robert Stigwood and Dee Anthony can sell us this amount of manure through hype, are we stupid enough to buy anything? For sure. Am I depressed? You bet. Should we waste anymore space on this? Not a bit of it."

Rolling Stone
Bee Gees on the cover of Rolling Stone

Earthly Angels: How the Bee Gees talk dirty and influence people [*excerpt*]
WEBMASTER'S NOTE: This was a cover article on the Bee Gees, and it was huge. This was the only section where the movie was mentionned. As I noted above, if you'd like the full manuscript, check with Rolling Stone.

By Timothy White, May 17, 1979

Attempting to turn the conversation to something less grim, I ask [Robin] about his earlier remarks concerning the Bee Gees' poorly received Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. He is very critical of both the film and soundtrack album, saying that the project was "too innocent for these times." What did he mean by that?

"It should have been more like Superman," he explains. "It should have had more excitement poured into it. As we were making it, I kept thinking 'I hope they are gonna put some visual effects in here.' When I saw it, it was exactly as we shot it, nothing was improved. On the set, the camera is pointed at you you're thinking to yourself 'it's gotta be more than me just sitting here in this room, 'cause nothing's happening. But then you see the film and that's all there is."

What approach would he have preferred?

"Well, Saturday Night Fever had fucking in the back seat, you know," he observes evenly. " I mean, that is the kind of film people are seeing these days. Sgt. Pepper comes out and people sort of expect to see fucking every now and then. After Saturday Night Fever, they expect to see a little bit of sex, but there were no fucks, you know? It was too goody-goody.

"I knew the film wasn't going to be a big hit," he concludes with a swallow, dropping another empty potato skin onto his plate. "Well, better luck next time."

People Online's R 'n R Hall Of Shame
Rock flops on film: Before there was MTV there were -- echh -- rock movies.

From "Rock Around the Clock" to "Spinal Tap," this genre has chronicled the music and the madness of America's most dubious contribution to world culture. But for every highly acclaimed oeuvre like "The Last Waltz" there's a corresponding "Renaldo and Clara," Bob Dylan's excruciating 1977 foray into cinema verite. Given rock movies' predilection towards excess, is it any wonder that four out of the top five Shamers came from the '70s, the era of the Kiss comic book? And now, the top five (or bottom, as it were) rock films of all times. (And yes, I paid money to see each and every one of these losers.)

Peter Frampton


Audiences booed this 1978 clinker, which to the delight of rock purists worldwide, marked the beginning of the end for both the Bee Gees' and Peter Frampton's late-'70s domination of the record charts. In this Technicolor morality tale, Frampton and the Brothers Toothy play four musical ingenues who battle the big, bad music industry while acting out -- literally -- the words to Beatles songs. While the idea of Frampton and the Bee Gees as industry outlaws is a joke in and of itself, it becomes even more so in light of the fact that the two musical behemoths duked it out in court before the film was released to see who would get top billing (Petey won). But off-camera antics aside, not even the likes of Aerosmith, Earth Wind & Fire, and a bevy of other big-name guests could save this flick from bad "acting" and a never-ending torrent of Beatles lite renditions.

--Lorraine Goods

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