Monday, March 31, 2008

The Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Scrapbook

For anyone who stumbles in here before this is entirely online, this blog is going to feature "The Official Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Scrapbook," a picture book by Robert Stigwood and Dee Anthony (the producers), chronicling the making "Sgt. Pepper," a film which frequently tops the 'worst movies ever made' lists. With its stylized, living comic-book feel and comically campy, over-the-top performances, the film has developed a cult audience -- many of whom were young children when they discovered the movie. A lot of the photos and information in the book haven't surfaced elsewhere, and used copies are becoming harder and harder to come by, so I figured it was high time that the book was available online -- after all, we're rapidly approaching the 30th anniversary of the film. I also intend to offer a downloadable pdf file with the entire book once it's fully scanned.

Because of the way blogger is laid out, I'm adding pages in reverse order so that they appear sequentially once it's entirely online.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Benefit Concert

The Lonely Hearts Club Band returns to Heartland.

"For the benefit of Mr. Kite
There will be a show tonight on trampoline
The Hendersons will all be there
Late of Pablo Fanques Fair -- what a scene!"

-- John Lennon/Paul McCartney

Alerted by Strawberry of Heartland's corruption, Billy, Mark, Dave and Bob agree to stage a benefit concert in Heartland. It may not save the town but it will raise some money for a national search for the musical instruments. The momentous occasion will also bring hope to the depressed citizens of the unfortunate town.

The ballyhoo for the benefit -- clowns, tumbling acrobats, a dancing horse...

The day of the benefit is full of festivity as the Lonely Hearts Club Band, now rock superstars, return to their hometown. They bring with them dancers and acrobats, clowns and tumblers, even a dancing horse, as the whole town is swept into the excitement.

At the concert that night, Earth, Wind and Fire are the main attraction.

The guest-stars for the benefit are Earth, Wind and Fire. The lead singer is Maurice White.

Earth, Wind and Fire too time out from a 70-city tour to join the filming of the benefit sequence. Their first motion picture appearance had been in "That's the Way of the World," the soundtrack of which still continues to be one of the group's biggest sellers. Their latest album, "All 'n All," had just shipped platinum on top of rave reviews.

Their rendition of "Got to Get You Into My Life" is the culmination of the Benefit sequence, a scene which took quite a few days to shoot. Dancers and acrobats were rehearsed carefully by Michael Schultz and Pat Birch. Extras were brought in to fill the town square for scenes with as many as four cameras that were running simultaneously. Peter Frampton, The Bee Gees, and George Burns proved themselves to be an agile dance team. During the evening sessions, the hot-air balloon often was tossed by the winds and took additional men to restrain it from breaking its moorings. But as Earth, Wind and Fire with their lead singer, Maurice White, took over the stage, the days of hard work were soon forgotten. Their song is one of the special highlights of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

"The band begins at ten to six
When Mr. K. performs his tricks without a sound.
And Mr. H. will demonstrate
Ten somersets he'll undertake on solid ground
Having been some days in preparation
A splendid time is guaranteed for all..."

--John Lennon/Paul McCartney

Mr. Kite dances with the Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Peter, Barry & Robin wait for Maurice to ready the balloon for the chase.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Future Villains

Aerosmith as the "Future Villains."
Steve Tyler is the lead singer for the group.

The final battle to save Heartland and the world takes place in the War Room, where the Army of the Future Villains has been assembled. Their slogan is: "We Hate Love, We Hate Joy, We Love Money," and there is no end to their treachery. Mr. Mustard, Father Sun and Doctor Maxwell Edison are al part of this same plot to defile the world. The Lonely Hearts Club Band must foil their evil plan before it's too late.

"Here come old flat top
He come grooving up slowly
He got Joo Joo eyeball
He one holy roller
He got hair down to his knee
Got to be a joker, he just do what he please
He wear no shoeshine
He got toe jam football
He got monkey finger
He shoot Coca-Cola
He say I know you, you know me
One thing I can tell you is you got to be free
Come together, right now, over me."

-- John Lennon/Paul McCartney

We chose Aerosmith, a group famous for their raw energy and driving sound to portray the sinister leaders of the plot. Brian Eatwell's set is a perfect symbol of unchecked greed and Aerosmith (Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Joe Kramer and Tom Hamilton) romp over the huge stacks of dollars with fiendish enthusiasm.

The battle between the L.H.C.B. and the "Future Villains."

"Draw the Line," the group's fifth consecutive platinum album, had just recently been released with sales of over one million copies and seemed destined for the same successful status as their previous, "Toys in the Attic," which topped sales of three million copies. Aerosmith was also halfway through a massive nationwide tour of major music arenas when they leaped abruptly into their first film venture.

Michael Schultz's positioning of cameras around the giant set gives the scene an unusual dramatic perspective and sets the scene for the ultimate battle between the Lonely Hearts Club Band and the diabolical Future Villains. In the end, Billy, Mark, Dave and Bob prove the winners. The conspiracy has been stopped but not without sacrifice: Strawberry Fields is dead!

Strawberry is dead!

"Hold you in his armchair, you can feel his disease.
Come together, right now, over me."

-- John Lennon/Paul McCartney

The funeral for Strawberry.
Heartland is saddened and Billy grieves for Strawberry.

Sgt. Pepper Comes Back

Billy Preston as Sgt. Pepper come back.

The sun is high in the sky in the town of Heartland. Gusty winds stir the historic weather vane atop the Heartland City Hall, and suddenly the vane begins to spin. In a flash, the weather vane becomes the original Sgt. Pepper -- now rock star Billy Preston -- come back to life. Just as he is not about to let his grandson, Billy Shears, kill himself, he also has come back to set things right again in Heartland, to end the pain, the sorrow and the fear that has deeply affected the Lonely Hearts Club Band and all of the good people of Heartland. Once again, Sgt. Pepper's music brings joy and magic back to Heartland.

And Strawberry Fields is reunited with Billy Shears...

"Get back, get back, get back to where you once belonged.
Get back, get back, get back to where you once belonged."

-- John Lennon/Paul McCartney

Billy and Strawberry reunited.

Billy Preston, making his special appearance as Sgt Pepper, is indeed "getting back." It was Billy who played piano with the Beatles on the original hit single before he recorded two top-selling albums on the Apple label. Flying high over Heartland, lasers flashing from his fingertips, Billy is dazzling as he turns a group of humble Heartlanders into the most impressive array of superstars ever seen together on film.

Carol Channing, Tina Turner and Robert Klein
are just a few of the celebs in the chorus.

George Martin, Dee Anthony, Michael Schultz, Pat Birch,
Robert Stigwood (with scarf) watch the filming of the finale.

Tina Turner

Music Director George Martin guiding the finale chorus.


A very good show deserves a finale. We decided that for the ending of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," we should create a moment of spectacular movie magic and have Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees and all the other stars of the movie joined by the collective starpower of scores of famed recording artists and musical performers in a chorus singing the famous lyrics, "We're Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band..."

December 16 was the day chosen for the filming of this climactic moment. Formal invitations were engraved and mailed to our guests many weeks in advance of the event. The guests were treated royally -- first class transportation to Los Angeles from wherever they happened to be, limousines, luxurious hotels, the finest champagne and food -- nothing but the best.

When the day finally arrived, we were overwhelmed at the large response and we knew that something very special was about to happen. As the director, Michael Schultz, put all the participants in their places on the massive set, a facsimile of the famous "Sgt. Pepper" album cover began to appear.

Peter, Barry, Robin and Maurice donned their bright satin band uniforms and took their places at the head of this VIP choir. George Burns was greeted by a standing ovation from the illustrious group, and we were underway. Our choreographer, Pat Birch, gave the ensemble some last-minute coaching for the march-in-place and the high vaudevillian flourish. George Martin explained the key changes and the chorus variations. Then as the cameras rolled, the group sang the finale song, swinging and waving in chorus.

The revelry that night spilled over into three adjacent sound stages with strolling violinists, a disco dance floor, lavishly catered dinner and a garden room with private tents for each of the stars. It was a party that continued well into the wee hours of the next morning. It was a special day in the making of "Sgt. Pepper," and we were glad to have been joined by so many others in a moment of celebration.

Alice Cooper and wife Cheryl are guests at the party following the finale filming.

George Burns receives a standing ovation from the finale chorus.

George Martin directs the chorus.

Behind the Scenes

"We're Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
We hope you have enjoyed the show..."
--John Lennon/Paul McCartney

Peter Frampton, a real camera bug, learned a lot about
film making during the production of SGT. PEPPER.

We hope everyone enjoys the show as much as we enjoyed making it. We began filming in October 1977, and the production was completed just after the start of the new year. We had shot hundreds of thousands of feet of film which would be edited into the final picture. Always patient through take after take, Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees had proved adept in their quick adaptation to the special rigors and often long hours in filmmaking. We had heard great music in the making. We had seen parades in the street, exciting concerts, thrilling battles and daring balloon chases. For months, the music and excitement ran through the air. Then it was over. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" was committed to film, later to be enjoyed by an audience that would span the generations and the globe.

Dianne Steinberg, Peter Frampton, Barry Gibb and Robin Gibb.

Filming on location proved a lot of fun for The Bee Gees and Peter Frampton.

Hundreds of celebrities were brought in for the filming of the finale.

Filming of the scenes with the oversized limousine.

Maurice Gibb, Barry Gibb, Peter Frampton & Sandy Farina.

The Bee Gees found that film making takes a lot of stamina.

Peter Frampton, Barry Gibb and Robin Gibb
take a moment to relax between shots.

Clowning for the camera: Maurice Gibb, Peter Frampton,
Donald Pleasence, Robin Gibb and Barry Gibb.

Paul Nicholas takes time for a visit
off-camera with comedian George Burns.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Director

Schultz, the director

During the weeks of filming, Michael Schultz often appeared as the calm at the center of the storm. With the large numbers of extras, multi-camera setups, complex machinery and the pressure of production deadlines, Michael was always in control of each and every element.

Michael, who has two other recent his with "Car Wash" and "Which Way Is Up?," is the kind of director who looks for challenges in his material and with "Sgt. Pepper," there were many. For those who supposed that the movie would be a straightaway illustration of a collection of Beatles tunes, Schultz often explained that much of it was indeed the opposite. There are many points in the movie when what is shown on the screen is actually quite the opposite of what the lyric suggests. The music was the inspiration, but with a movie, it is ultimately the images that tell the story.

There were other problems as well for Michael Schultz, a veteran of theatre and television as well ("To Be Young, Gifted and Black") and not a small problem was directing those who, although entertainers, had not previously handled screen work. In this new camp: Peter Frampton, the Bee Gees, Dianne Steinberg, Sandy Farina and Steve Martin. There was a transition period during which these performers took some time to get into the structure of filmmaking. Like getting used to not moving around so much so the camera, and ultimately the eyes of the audience, have a chance to lock in. And getting used to the necessary retakes of scenes. And the endless waiting periods as the camera crew moved to a new scene or setup.

Michael proved to be a man of infinite patience and in the end even the most hesitant of newcomers seemed like old pros. They began to flow naturally just like the music, and that shows in the final result -- the movie.

Schultz goes over a scene with George Burns.


Pat Birch at work.

Dance and movement were such an important part of the action of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" that we decided to bring in another true professional, someone who could work with Schultz as all the many pieces would come together.

Pat Birch received a Tony Award nomination for her musical staging of the original Broadway production of "Grease," the hit '50s musical, and reprised these duties on the motion picture version of the show. Starting with her early days as a lead dancer with the Martha Graham Company, Pat's experience in theatre and film is extensive. She received Tony Award nominations for her work on "Pacific Overtures" and "A Little Night Music" (a show she also choreographed in the movie version with Elizabeth Taylor).

Pat proved to be an invaluable addition to our team in the making of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Her original choreography stands out as one of the major exciting elements of the film.

The Music and George Martin

George Martin, the movie's Musical Director

Often dubbed "the fifth Beatle," there is no one who better understands the Beatles' music than George Martin, and there was never any doubt that he would be the musical director for the movie. From the moment George had first heard their demo record, he knew that the Beatles' unique blend of humor, vision, poetic lyrics and musical invention spelled success. In 1962, Martin signed the Beatles to EMI, a decision that launched them into their remarkable career. Their "Liverpool sound" was carried around the world and, in many ways, revolutionized the music industry. Martin then produced almost every Beatles record and album until the group disbanded. George went on to produce many more million-selling albums by artists such as America, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Webb.

George's participation in the film assured John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison that the material would be treated with all the respect and significance it commands. He worked for more than a year, building poignancy into the vocals, arranging the keyboards, selecting percussion, adding the synthesizers and laying down the guitar tracks. Recording technology had advanced by leaps and bounds in the ten years since George had produced the original "Sgt. Pepper" album, and he was able to utilize the many new recording techniques in producing the soundtrack for the film.

The Bee Gees and Peter Frampton spent endless hours in the recording
studio laying down all the tracks necessary for the movie.

Peter Frampton, The Bee Gees and the many other stars of the movie worked long hours with George in Los Angeles at Cherokee Studios and in New York at The Record Plant. Out of these sessions, long hours of recording and mixing, came the finished soundtrack. Working with a man of George's stature and experience was a rare and valued opportunity for all of us and his genius is clearly reflected in the "Sgt. Pepper" soundtrack.