Sunday, December 29, 2013

A splendid time is guaranteed for...some, anyway!

Sometime in the middle of the summer of 1980, when Dad was home, this came on one of the cable channels. I had no idea what this was...
I recognized these guys from a couple of albums in the collection, but they were now a group together? And singing Beatles songs? What could this be???

It was the movie version of the Sgt. Pepper album, which had apparently laid a mighty egg in the theaters a couple of years beforehand, but that was not known to me at the moment. I was immediately taken by this, it being similar to Tommy, where there was virtually no talking in it, save for some narration bits by George Burns, whom I equated with being a Mr. Hooper sort of figure in this. No talking, just Beatle songs the whole way through?...I'm in!

Something about the movie just felt right on that bright, sunny afternoon. Just a perfect setting for what I was seeing. I imagined that the town's gazebo would fit just perfectly over at the McCarver schoolyard. As it went on, the more bizarre it got (Mr. Mustard's female robots, Lucy & The Diamonds, etc.), but was still enjoyable. There was that "wild and crazy guy" I recognized from The Muppet Movie, singing "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", and then Alice Cooper serenading a room full of Hitler Youth Scouts with his rendition of "Because".

Of course, I didn't like the part where Strawberry Fields (Sandy Farina) gets killed just after the guys beat up Aerosmith and save the day (and, apparently, the world!), and the ultra-depressing sequence with her funeral. (My God, I was depressed about that part for a couple of days afterwards, even though I knew it was "just a movie", but that was just too sad to see.)

But then, the magical weathervane comes alive and makes everything alright again. Yayyyy! All is well!

The soundtrack album to it turned up at the house, and was being played with regularity around the house (and we didn't even have a copy of Abbey Road !). It even followed us to the next house we lived in, with a few more viewings (including one last viewing for a while on KCPQ-13), and Red Fred won a copy of an exploito "soundalike version" of the soundtrack album (on the Springboard label) in a ring-toss game at the Seattle Fair.

After the last time I saw it in 1981, it pretty much vanished from cable TV, and I got to tape it from the USA Network in late summer of 1989, but it wasn't until 1996 that it started showing up on cable again, perhaps as a tribute to the late George Burns, who'd left us earlier that year. This time, it was being seen uncut and uninterrupted. It felt great watching it again, just like being back at the Red House, and seeing it again for the first time.

Much later on in 2004, I scored a DVD copy of it, and once lent it to a friend who hadn't seen it in some years, and when he told me what he thought of it after a period of years, he summed it up thusly: "The only thing missing were a couple of singing Muppets, or a talking dog!". Indeed, you could easily imagine Scooby-Doo joining the Heartland gang in Mr. Mustard's van!
As the years went on, it was both a guilty-pleasure, and a reminder of happy times back at the old house, as the sun began setting on that magical summer of 1980, and it would be one of the last things we all enjoyed together immensely as a family then. I showed it to Geoffrey in May of 2013; he was familiar with both Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road, and he was intrigued by what he was seeing. He recognized most of the songs, loved Strawberry Fields, and slinks from the room when Alice Cooper comes on to sing "Because". It's now one of his most-requested movies, somewhere between Monsters, Inc. and the Toy Story trilogy.