Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Produced by Robert Stigwood
Reviewed by Mike Mosher
Fear, Faith and Pie: Alice Cooper's "Because"
The 1978 movie musical Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band deserves some credit for its naive, Saturday Evening Post-sentimental attempt to shelter a segmenting pop music market in the big tent of a 1950s-style Hollywood schmaltzy musical. I mean, everybody still loved the Beatles' songs and now those disco BeeGees, right...?
Be afraid. Very afraid. Producer Robert Stigwood must've thought this mess would ride the coattails of Tommy. The Who's long pompous muddle warning of cult-hero worship had been spun by director Ken Russell's rich visuals and ham actors into an amusingly pompous 1975 movie and box-office success. The sole significant Sgt. Pepper's segment, however, is the only part that alludes to the deepening drumbeat of Punk, that implies Hey kid, you don't have to take all this--this product--seriously and at face value. In years prior to the Sex Pistols, Clash and "class of '77", a successful practitioner of the Punk rasperry (implicitly razzing the likes of Beatles, BeeGees and Who) was Alice Cooper. So imagine if you will, Cooper as a religious cult leader as he intones one of the Beatles' last, tired songs, "Because".
Religious cults were a troublesome, growing part of the 1970s. Shortly after cell doors slammed on the Manson Family, Synanon's leader Chuck Dederich went to prison when one too many newspaper reporter found a rattlesnake in his mailbox. Krishna devotees jingled finger cymbals and sold Baghavad Gitas in airports and door to door in dormitories. A college friend of mine, prodigal son of an English professor, dropped out for a couple years then returned to freely discuss in dad's classes how those years he'd given up all his posessions and free will to Reverend Moon's Unification Church. Look, said Don unabashedly, it had provided answers to all of my questions, and his father only nodded, remembering adolescent struggles which he was unable to placate. There is nothing more frightening to a parent than a child too smart to accept "Because I said so, that's why".
In Sgt. Pepper's" Alice Cooper's character "Father Sun" placates his followers' fears by inculcating safe and easy hero-worship and money faith. Amidst the groovy symmetrical video-art effects (pioneered by Steven Beck of Orinda), the Sun king's dénoument is a drunken collapse into a pie. Now, pies have often been used politically to awaken the godfearing. I immediately thought of the 1974 pie-ing of Fourteen Year Old Perfect Master Guru Maharaj Ji, except his pie thrower was severely beaten two nights later by mysterious maharajingos. Bill Gates was facially served with a pie about the time he was handed a federal subpoena. And two decades after this film, Mayoral guru Willie Brown's pie throwers served time, and frightened people around the world still give their power up to leaders in exchange for assurances as vapid as the Beatles' most throwaway songs. Why? Just...Because.
Fellow members of the Bad Subjects Collective wonder how even Mike Mosher