Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sgt. Pepper Trivia

Robert Stigwood has a lot to answer for.

Let's start with disco. RSO Records did more to inflict stupid records (built upon a foundation of insipid beats and mountains of cocaine) on the public than anyone in recent memory.

How about Saturday Night Fever? Not just the movie (best known to me as the movie where John Travolta, when asked about the future, responds "fuck the future" and his boss says "you don't fuck the future, the future fucks you!") but the soundtrack album.

And then there's this. (Click on poster for a larger view.)

It's hard to know where to start with this, the most horrendous of all bad rock movies, starring Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees (along with the about-to-break-up Aerosmith, Alice Cooper before he became a golf fanatic, Steve Martin, Earth Wind & Fire, George Burns, and Billy Preston -- who played with the Beatles and really should know better). I'd love to know exactly how high you'd need to be to think this movie was a good idea, let alone how high you'd need to be to predict that it would be the "Gone With the Wind of the 1970s."

A few facts about this movie to collect and trade:

The final scene of the movie (filmed on the old MGM lot), features a dizzying array of late-70s stars including Peter Allen, Mark Lindsey and Keith Allison (from Paul Revere & the Raiders), Keith Carradine, Bette Midler's backup singers the Harlettes, Leif Garrett, the lead singer from Black Oak Arkansas, Rick Derringer, Donovan, Yvonne Elliman, Ann and Nancy Wilson from Heart, Bruce Johnston from the Beach Boys, Nils Lofgren (now of the E Street Band), Nona Hendryx, Peter Noone (from Herman's Hermits), John Mayall, Alan O'Day (of "Undercover Angel" fame), DJ Cousin Brucie, Robert Palmer, Wilson Pickett, Bonnie Raitt, Helen Reddy, Chita Rivera, Minnie Riperton, Johnny Rivers, Sha Na Na (who also played Woodstock -- insert your own "from the sublime to the ridiculous" joke here), Del Shannon, Connie Stevens, John Stewart (the Kingston Trio and "Gold" guy, not the Daily Show guy), Seals & Crofts, Tina Turner, Franki Valli, Wolfman Jack, Gary Wright (of "Dreamweaver" fame), and many others.

George Harrison and Paul and Linda McCartney visited the set that day and planned to appear in the scene, but wisely thought better of the idea.

The movie was a critical and commercial disaster and wiped out all the disco profits RSO had amassed over the past several years. (Insert your own "pride goeth before the fall" and/or hubris joke here.)

Oddly enough, the movie was a smash in one country. Although rock 'n' roll music had been outlawed in communist Poland for decades, the ruling party allowed the movie to play in Poland in 1979. It became an unexpected hit, with more than a million Poles paying to see it. (This may or may not have anything to do with the late-70s popularity of Polish jokes.)

And, most importantly, my friend Sarah and her brother Alec -- diehard Beatle fans both -- picketed the theater in Washington, DC where the movie opened. Given how popular the Bee Gees were at the time, this was an act of true courage.

One more thing: Think I'm exaggerating about how bad the movie was? Take a look at this.


Kinky Paprika said...

The weird thing is, I've always thought that the record mogul played by Donald Pleasence was supposed to be a parody of Stigwood.
(The fictional record label in the movie, BSO, is clearly a takeoff on Stigwood's RSO -- the Robert Stigwood Organization.)
I have always wondered what led to Stiggy's getting so rudely treated in his own movie.

Ralph Hanson said...

Have you given a listen to Cheap Trick's live cover of Sgt. Pepper. That, on the other hand, was a project well worth doing.

Alex said...

Ralph, I've heard the Hollywood Bowl Sgt. Pepper's that Cheap Trick did a few years ago -- is that the one you mean? -- and you're right, it was terrific.

Ralph said...

It may be. Though I think it might have been recorded at the Waldorf in New York. But I really don't know. I bought it through iTunes and it didn't come with album notes.