Search for collections on Wintec Research Archive

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


This is the latest version of this item.

[thumbnail of CiaspmBannister.pdf] PDF

Download (12kB)


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: Book Chapter
Additional Information: Conference held 23-25 November, 2011, in Wellington, New Zealand.
Uncontrolled Keywords: The Beatles, entertainment, camp, 1960s, British popular culture, variety
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music
Divisions: Schools > School of Media Arts
Depositing User: Matthew Bannister
Date Deposited: 18 Jun 2013 01:56
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2023 03:15

Available Versions of this Item

Actions (login required)

View Item
View Item