Monday, April 05, 2021

Open Letter to Peter Frampton and Sir Barry Gibb

Dear Sirs,

Please stop regretting being part of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie. There are very few people alive today who can say, "I did a really big favor for The Beatles!" but the two of you can. 

In the recent Bee Gee's HBO documentary, How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, no mention was made by Sir Barry Gibb nor anyone else of this monumental project. Peter Frampton's recent autobiography, Do You Feel Like I Do? laments his involvement heavily. The late Sir George Martin sighed remorsefully in an interview about re-producing the music that had seemingly changed the world a decade earlier. He took that regret to the grave. The two of you need not share that fate.

Sure, the movie was goofy and Beatles purists hated it. Truth to tell, such listeners probably didn't like your music anyway. The movie critics hated it, and why wouldn't they? 1978 was the year that brought us "Animal House" and "Up in Smoke" and "The Deer Hunter" and "Midnight Express" and "Grease" and the first Superman movie. 1978 could rival 1939 as a year filled with more timeless classics than can be remembered off-hand.

A quick glance at the script might have given you a clue about what you were getting yourselves into. But take heart! The movie made a $20 million profit at the box office, the soundtrack went platinum, and for good reason. The kids loved it!

And that's where you can pat yourselves on the back and take pride in the fact that your silly movie created a whole new generation of Beatles fans, who passed that love on to the next generation, and so on.  I thought of the two of you the first time I saw my kids playing, "The Beatles: Rock Band," enjoying how much they were loving it.

I am a perfect example of your impact. As an 11-year-old Bee Gees fan in 1978 I loved the Beatles well enough, the same way I loved Monty Python's Flying Circus. I loved British pop culture. I thought I knew all about the British Invasion because I'd seen the documentaries. But as a top-40s listener, it was the Wings hits I knew all of by heart. Until the Sgt. Pepper movie I never realized how many Beatles songs I'd never heard. In 1975 I had to be told that Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds wasn't an Elton John original. My mom's Beatles albums were relegated to the dusty oldies section of the family's LP collection. My parents were top-40s/rock listeners, too, and big Frampton fans. We listened to whatever was popular at the time. I knew fewer that a half-dozen Beatles songs by heart.

In 1978 I was a HUGE Bee Gees fan, and loved Peter Frampton (I still am and still do).

But in 1979 I became an even bigger Beatles fan. The few Beatles classics I grew up loving took a back seat the first time I heard the song "Penny Lane." The skies opened up hearing Abbey Road from beginning to end for the first time, and my new-found affinity for the Fab Four went on for decades. Revolver -- Rubber Soul -- each "new find" was a revelation for me. I spent the entire 1980s doing "Beatles research," and probably could have won trivia contests. 

I wasn't the Lone Ranger with this. By early 1980 my brother had fallen under the spell. That summer we heard about the "Butcher Cover" on the "Yesterday and Today" album, and spent a whole night steaming and scraping the album cover to reveal the forbidden original design. In our haste and excitement we pretty much butchered the Butcher Cover, making our "third state" find worth very little to the person who had graciously loaned us this album and, like us, had no idea of the history.

The assassination of John Lennon at the end of 1980 hit the world hard, and naturally a resurgence of Beatlemania followed. But the stage had already been set for this for the kids who loved the Sgt. Pepper movie. The grief in my household was palpable, sheer bereavement that would not have been so painful were my brother and I not already Beatle Freaks. It was not a coincidence that we had only recently really "discovered" the Beatles.

Thank you, Mr. Frampton and Sir Barry. You made us this way. And the Beatles, their heirs, and people who license and profit from Beatles merch have made many thousands of dollars from my family alone. They owe you some gratitude as well. To this day my brother will spend his last dime on any "new" Beatles anything he finds for sale, and I still love the both of you and hope you're getting your fair share of streaming and other royalties as I continue to indulge in your non-Sgt. Pepper endeavors. But please stop regretting making that movie, will you?

(This blog post is filed under, "Tying Up Loose Ends" ... Life is about to change and I want to start blogging again.)

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