Watch With The D-Media Mom: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

figIn which I presume to add my own commentary track to a noteworthy film.

I have probably watched Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band twenty or more times by now, and I expect I’ll watch it at least twenty more times before I shuffle off this mortal coil. I saw it the first time in a theater, at about the age of 12, so many of the observations I’m about to share are from my 12 year old self, back then. Hopefully, more than a few of you can relate.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is one of those movies that was pretty universally panned when it was first released, and entire generations of movie watchers have been hating on it ever since. But I LOVE this film, and I think that by the end of this commentary, many readers will at least find a lot to marvel at—if not exactly “appreciate”—in it.

In particular, pay close attention to the “Are You High, Or…” headings; they highlight the most jaw-dropping moments and sequences in the movie, and there are MANY. The AYHO moments are what make this movie worth watching, and so very, very entertaining.

If you’ve never seen the film you should either see it before you read this, or print this out* and and follow along in it as you watch. If you wanna cheat and look ahead a little bit to see if the movie’s even worth watching at all, go ahead. I’ll never know.

*Use the Print Friendly button at the bottom of the post – button only shows up if you’re viewing the post as a separate page – if you don’t see the button, click on the post title to display it as a separate page.

First, let’s start with the IMDB description of the movie:

A small town band makes it big, but loses track of their roots, as they get caught up into the big-time machinations of the music biz. Now, they must thwart a plot to destroy their home town. Built around the music of the beatles, this musical uses some big name groups like Peter Frampton and Aerosmith. – Written by Aaron Sherman 

Opening Sequence

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band performs and spreads peace and joy wherever they go from WWI through the forties, accompanied by a voiceover from George Burns and featuring numerous, period arrangements of the title song: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The period musical arrangements are well-written and clever.

The New Band Performs In Heartland Town Square

In this scene, the first thing you’re going to notice (unless you’re a straight guy, probably) is how unbelievably tight The Bee Gees’ pants are, and how incredibly tiny their butts are.  As the camera pans around the circular bandstand, first you’re thinking how tiny Barry Gibb’s butt is. Then you see Maurice’s. And you’re thinking, “Geez, and I thought Barry’s was small,” until you see Robin’s. Then you’re thinking, “I didn’t believe a butt could possibly be any smaller than Maurice’s, but I stand corrected.” And then you see Peter Frampton’s, which is really more like just a slight swelling at the top of his thighs.

And this brings us to our first “Are You High, Or…” moment in the movie.

Are You High, Or…

Is Peter Frampton wearing white overalls embroidered with “Billy” in huge, girly lettering and a flower, both in red?!

You’re not high. Well, unless you are; I have no way of knowing. But yes, someone in wardrobe thought it’d be a good idea to put the rail-thin Frampton in embroidered, snug, white overalls with a pastel plaid shirt underneath.

And The Crowd Goes Wild!

This crowd of extras has obviously been trained to go nuts with the cheering and arm-raising anytime Frampton raises his guitar pick in the air. Watch Frampton get a little drunk with power on this.

A Little Help From My Friends

When Billy’s brother Dougie moves in on Billy’s girlfriend…wait for it…I’m not making this up…Strawberry Fields (played by Sandy Farina), Billy notices from onstage and looks all concerned. Right then, as a 12 year old girl, I thrilled to the realization that not only was Peter Frampton a great musican who was hot (in a totally androgynous and non-threatening way), he could also ACT!

Are You High, Or…

Is George Burns fantasizing about being a rock star, playing an electric guitar and singing Fixing A Hole?! Yup, he is.

The Band Records A Demo

In the open, in front of a barn. Because outside, in front of a barn, is where the acoustics are best. Any sound engineer would tell you the same.

Mean Mr. Mustard’s Van Is Like A Freaking TARDIS!

SOOOOO much bigger on the inside than the outside!

Meanwhile, Back At BD Records…

Yeah, at one time, satin pants were a thing. Evidently a BIG thing, judging by how many pairs you’ll be seeing in this movie.

Barely Time For Tender Farewells…

Billy and Strawberry spend one final, totally chaste night together before he and the rest of the band head out to Los Angeles. This is where my 12 year old self hated Sandy Farina for being Frampton’s pretend girlfriend, and being so pretty, and having such a nice voice.

That truck Billy drives in the morning is great-looking; I want one.

Are You High, Or…

Is the band really leaving Heartland in a hot air balloon? Yup, they totally are. Because apparently, Billy’s truck is the only motorized transport in all of Heartland and despite their tiny butts, Frampton and the Gibbs can’t all fit on that one bench seat.

I Want You / She’s So Heavy

In Los Angeles, when the female chauffeur for BD Records starts making eyes at Frampton, my 12 year old self shifted her hate from Strawberry to the chaffeur. How dare that skank try to steal Billy away from Strawberry?

Notice how, at the pool at record exec BD’s mansion, the Gibbs act like they’ve never seen a woman in a bathing suit before.

Later, at the crazy record biz party: no, Billy! Don’t make out with that skank on the giant, rotating, record-shaped water bed!

Are You High, Or…

Is there totally an episode of How It’s Made at this point in the movie, showing how vinyl record covers are printed and assembled?! Yup, there totally is. I owned that vinyl album back in the day, and it looked exactly like the ones in this sequence.

The Band’s One-Week Climb to Fame

There are lots of great little bits of music and performance in this montage. And lots of white teeth.

How did Frampton and the Gibbs have such white teeth in the days before bleaching and bonding? Seriously, since Frampton’s from England, the great teeth alone have to account for at least 20% of his stardom. (joking!)

Side note: Why does this stereotype about Brits persist? Didn’t the UK’s development in the dental arts and sciences more or less keep pace with the rest of the Western world? Was there truly ever a time when all other developed nations had discovered dental hygiene, but England had not? I’m just askin’…

Back in Heartland, Strawberry’s Lonely

Where did Strawberry get that big Fathead-type cutout standee of Billy for her bedroom? And isn’t that an awful lot of stuffed animals for a woman who’s what, 23? 24?

Mean Mr. Mustard

The Computerettes’ vocoder version of Mean Mr. Mustard is pretty cool.

Once Mustard steals the original Sgt. Pepper’s instruments from city hall, the town goes to pot overnight. Apparently, those instruments were the only thing standing between Heartland and the scourges of prostitution, drugs, and (GASP!) video game arcades!

She’s Leaving Home

The Computerettes’ vocoder version of She’s Leaving Home is surprisingly tender.

Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds


This disco-fied version of the song is an abomination, but those chicks in Stargard could teach Nicki Minaj a thing or two about eye makeup.

When Strawberry shows up at the recording studio, she just walks right in. Because that happens. If you show up uninvited and tell the guards you’re the girlfriend of a huge rock star, they let you right in.

Maxwell’s Silver Hammer

Steve Martin got 3rd billing in the closing credits, right behind Frampton and the Bee Gees, for appearing and singing in this one scene. Note how the nurses in the scene are wearing ballerina slippers, and that they go ‘on toe’ quite a bit. Interesting, but kooky, choreography.

Are You High, Or…

Is Peter Frampton wrestling with Steve Martin?! Yup.

Are The Bee Gees fighting ballerina nurses—and losing?! Yup.


Those Alice Cooper videos that go along with this song are freaky-deaky. And could Cooper’s bizarre green jumpsuit be clutching his ‘area’ any more tightly? I don’t think so.

Strawberry Fields Forever

In which we learn that cool compresses applied to the forehead cure electrocution administered at 10,000 volts.

For The Benefit of Mr. Kite

The band’s flamboyant re-entry into Heartland, to give a benefit concert, rivals any gay pride parade I’ve ever seen. And I’ve been to several that were held in West Hollywood.

Mr. Kite tells us musicians were invited from “all over” to play the benefit, but apparently only Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Earth Wind and Fire accepted.

Got To Get You Into My Life

Earth Wind and Fire’s cover of this song is pretty darned good, and man, do they know how to put on a show! Lady Gaga could learn a thing or two about theatrical costumes and spectacle from this band.

You Never Give Me Your Money

In yet another totally on-the-nose interpretation of a Beatles song, Dougie and the L.A. skank basically try to embezzle the benefit proceeds. You can tell that’s what they’re trying to steal by the giant dollar signs silkscreened in green on the bags.

Are You High, Or…

Are the boys speeding after the kidnapped Strawberry in the hot air balloon?  Yup. Seriously, does no one in this town own a car?!

Notice that when the guys all quick-change into their flight gear, Barry’s the only one who’s not wearing an aviator hat. Nothing must obscure that cumulous cloud of blow-dried and feathered magnificence he calls hair.

When we see the boys next, catching up to Mustard’s van in their hot air balloon (you really just have to go with it), Barry’s got a hat on just like everyone else. And he looks really bummed about it.

Future Villain Band

Lamest. Band. Name. Ever. FVB is played by Aerosmith, and their cover of Come Together is excellent. I’ve never been a big Steven Tyler fan, but I can see the appeal here. He’s like a dirtier, sexier Billy. The Anti-Billy, if you will.

Are You High, Or…

Is Peter Frampton fighting to the death with Steven Tyler?! Yup.

At The Funeral

Maurice Gibb wears a neck scarf with his black velvet suit. Because even at a memorial service, Maurice Gibb is going to bring the disco-liciousness.

If you don’t mist up at least a little during Frampton’s rendition of The Long And Winding Road, you’re just not human.

Get Back

What a talent Billy Preston was! His cover of Get Back is fantastic, and he knows how to rock a bright yellow, skintight, satin military uniform! This is the same guy who had Billboard hits with Will It Go Round In Circles and Nothing From Nothing.

Are You High, Or…

Is everyone who was famous for anything in the seventies standing on the bleachers, singing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for the big finale?! Yup.

Thrill to Helen Reddy! Marvel at a Robert Palmer so young, he’s barely recognizable! Wonder what the hell Carol Channing, Sha Na Na and Dame Edna Everidge are doing there! Watch big-time, professional musicians struggle to remember the lyrics of one of the most beloved Beatles songs of all time—the song on which the entire movie is based!

The logistics alone of pulling this off must’ve been mind-boggling for whatever poor sap had to do it, and that’s before you take the rockstar and celebrity egos into account.

So Admit It –

Whether you think the movie was silly, stupid or even bad, you still have to admit: it was pretty damned entertaining.