"We hope you will enjoy the show": Sgt Pepper as camp entertainment

Bannister, Matthew (2011) "We hope you will enjoy the show": Sgt Pepper as camp entertainment. In: Routes/Roots/Routines: IASPM-ANZ Annual Conference, 23-25 November, 2011, Wellington, New Zealand. (Unpublished)

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This paper discusses The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) album in relation to Richard Dyer’s concept of entertainment in Only Entertainment (1992). Dyer’s perspective (gay, based in film) provides a useful alternative to music-based interpretations (eg rock criticism but also much scholarly comment) which either stress the album’s artistic unity and its counterculture resonances (eg drugs), or dismiss it as a “shallow” parade of special effects, a baroque indulgence. Dyer can be used to critically address such “art” readings by recuperating style and surface as essential to popular culture. Pepper broadly conforms to Dyer’s definition of entertainment: “a string of short items, [characterized] by popular and vulgar reference, implicit sexuality and open sentimentality… [developed] from pubs and clubs patronized by the urban working class. [It has also] been fed by traditions of bourgeois amusement - operetta, musical comedy, parlour songs” (13). This “variety show” format itself gives a kind of unity to the proceedings – not deep, but presentational. Pepper’s significance (if that is the right word) resides in its glittering surfaces, not its hidden depths. Through the notion of non-representational signs, Dyer produces camp and Utopian readings of entertainment. More broadly, the paper recontextualises Elijah Wald’s thesis in How the Beatles Destroyed Rock’n’Roll (2009) to exhume the album from the rock canon and “re-root” it in mass media entertainment popular in 1960s Britain, from TV spectaculars to the kinds of “kitsch” music popular on such shows – MOR crooners, novelty songs etc.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Keywords that describe the item:The Beatles, entertainment, camp, 1960s, British popular culture, variety
Subjects:M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music
Divisions:Schools > School of Media Arts
ID Code:1417
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Deposited On:07 Dec 2011 02:59
Last Modified:07 Dec 2011 02:59

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