BROOM So I’m getting the impression that in the ADAM and MARK household, this was a contentious selection.
ADAM Why don’t we let MARK have the opening word?
MARK It wasn’t really a movie. I was imagining more of a story-driven movie, not a compilation of music videos loosely brought together by a theme unrelated to the songs.
BROOM That was your comment when we paused at the 40 minute mark. Do you stand by it, now that we’ve seen to the end?
MARK I mean, I don’t think the end makes the middle make sense, but the beginning and the end are a complete story, yes.
BROOM My feeling about this movie when I was a kid — and I think still — is that the music video stuff is the coolest part, and I get bored when they’re just telling the story, which seems like it’s an afternoon cartoon story.
ADAM Which part do you think is the afternoon cartoon story? Like, the parts when they’re talking to each other?
BETH The Blue Meanies!
BROOM The war with the Blue Meanies. Why do we have to watch a whole war with the Blue Meanies? I get bored of that.
ADAM Really? Oh. See, I think that the Blue Meanies themselves are… maybe the scariest thing that I’ve ever seen in my whole life.
BROOM [breaks out in laughter]
ADAM I’m serious! Like, they don’t just fill with you dread?
BROOM They’re creepy, but they make them deliberately absurd, so “the scariest thing you’ve ever seen in your whole life” is… strong! Tell me more.
BETH I can see that, though. I didn’t see this when I was a kid. But I can imagine —
ADAM This is, like, the scariest and most realistic depiction of Nazis I’ve ever seen. The inexorable men who come and drop apples on you? That’s so scary! Jesus Christ! Or the shoes that open up and they have, like, stormtroopers in them? The blue dogs howling… aaaah! I don’t know, it’s just really upsetting.
MARK You find apples upsetting?
ADAM They walk up and you can’t escape them, and they just cover you in apples!
BROOM Paralyzing, petrifying apples. I remember as a kid finding the glove creepy. The amount of face the glove has and doesn’t have.
BETH The glove is creepy.
ADAM The glove is really scary. I mean, I don’t know if I thought of them as Nazis when I was a kid. When one is like “Where can we go?” and the other is like “Argentina!” I thought that was just a funny non sequitur. But when you think about it now, from the perspective of Britain in 1968, that’s what they are. And they’re really scary!
MARK Do Nazis really lend anything else to the movie that explicitly?
ADAM I mean, how far apart was 1945 to 1968? It was the same difference as we are to 1997. It would be very much on your mind, I think!
BROOM I mean, certainly as a kid I thought almost everything was non sequitur, I didn’t understand any of the references. And yeah, now I understand “Argentina” and “tomorrow the world” and all of that, as references, but still… I don’t know. This is one of the movies that’s hardest for me to see through adult eyes. Because of the way it’s made: it wants you to watch it like you’re in a psychedelic regression. But I still take the Blue Meanies to be “Blue Meanies” because they represent all greedy hostile bad-guy military forces ever. The Nazi references are just asides, because they were the most recent iteration of that.
ADAM I’m not saying that they’re literally Nazis. But they’re as scary as Nazis are, you know.
BROOM You don’t think that we should read this as a specific allegory where Pepperland is Europe, or England, and the Blue Meanies are Nazis, do you?
ADAM No, I’m not saying that.
MARK All we needed was song! That’s how we won World War II: song!
ADAM I’m not saying that, but it feels horrible and high-stakes, in the way that The Diary of Anne Frank does. It’s not, like, Ursula the sea-witch. It’s not possible for me to see this apart from the way it struck me as a child.
BROOM How did it strike you as a child?
ADAM It was intensely frightening! I was amazed that they let me watch this!
BETH How many times did you see it as a kid?
ADAM Like, thirty?
BROOM Did you enjoy something about it that kept you coming back to it?
ADAM Obviously I enjoyed it! I mean, it just makes the stakes higher, I don’t necessarily think I had nightmares about the movie.
MARK How does “thirty” rank compared to other childhood movies?
ADAM It’s a lot.
BROOM So this was one of your basic movies. I don’t think I knew that about you.
ADAM There’s parts of it I don’t remember at all.
BROOM The “Hey Bulldog” number at the end was not in the version we grew up with. I find it somewhat annoying, because I’m already done with the movie at that point, and I don’t need another song.
BETH It’s a great song.
BROOM Yeah, it is a good song.
ADAM You’re talking about the song between “All You Need Is Love” and the concluding song?
BROOM Yeah, the one with the player piano and the four-headed dog.
ADAM Yeah, that I didn’t remember. That explains it. But MARK said the same thing: why didn’t this end with “All You Need Is Love”?
BROOM Or at least why doesn’t it end when they let the smoke out of the bubble. I’m willing for that to be the ending. But that final song, “It’s All Too Much” — as a kid I was always like “I don’t care about this song,” and I still feel that way now. That’s not a good song. And it’s embarrassing when they cut to the real Beatles and he says “I can’t get this catchy song out of my head!”
ADAM I didn’t remember the “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” sequence, even though I remembered that there was one.
BETH That’s my favorite part, I think. I loved that. I thought was just delightful to watch.
BROOM With the painted frames? I think it’s Fred Astaire clips that they painted over.
ADAM It’s funny, because through the whole middle I felt like “uhhhhhh… get back to the Meanies.”
BETH Oh, I felt the opposite of that. Like, “do we have to go back to the Blue Meanies?”
BROOM Me too. These are just two opposing schools of this movie. For me, the movie is about the succession of seas that are just psychedelic craziness. And then once they get back to Pepperland, it’s like “ugh, we have to have a story now that no one cares about. Pepperland’s not a real place.” I don’t care about Old Fred. But yeah, I love, like, the “Nowhere Man” number. For some reason I really enjoy that.
BETH Yeah, I like “Nowhere Man” too.
BROOM When they go in reverse — in the middle the song turns around, and they end up abandoning the guy in the center. That feels perfect to me.
ADAM You’re not moved at all by the Mayor’s siege of Rohan moment, where he’s playing the violin as the submarine takes off?
BROOM I am moved by that, at the very beginning. I do think the beginning is a compelling use of the Meanies, but once they get back… I don’t know, what do The Beatles have to do with saving this country? What’s “Pepperland” to me? I don’t really know what I’m supposed to care about this story. As a kid I just wanted visuals. Like, the part where they count to 64 with different numbers going by? That’s awesome! It’s so cool that that’s in a movie.
BETH It’s very Sesame Street.
BROOM Yeah, this is like the Sesame-Street-est movie there is. I was raised on the Sesame Street cartoons, so this movie felt like “This is what should be on a screen in front of me, continuously!”
ADAM I was googling the movie when I was in the bathroom, and I found someone in the New York Times in 2019 writing about how his toddler likes this movie, and comparing it to a Sesame Street that’s more honest about its mind-altering influences.
BROOM I mean, I keep using the word “psychedelic,” but I actually don’t approve of that, because it has nothing to do with drugs for a four-year-old to enjoy this. It’s not “psychedelic,” it’s just part of the actual natural state of the human brain, to be interested in patterns and graphic visuals like this. The “Eleanor Rigby” with the photocopies? That’s so cool.
BETH I thought that was really nice as well. And it’s the origin of the Boomerang feature on Instagram.
ADAM I was always a sucker for the effect where there would suddenly be a bit of photography wedged into animation. Like when the Muppets would open the door and there would be a space invaders movie. Every time, I thought that was the coolest thing. It slayed me every time, as a child.
BROOM In fact don’t you think Muppet Babies was taking that from the hall of doors in this movie? Where they open a door and see King Kong and then slam it? And they see a Magritte with a train coming at them?
BETH Yeah, I have to imagine this inspired so many things.
BROOM I think of that hall, with random crap running from door to door when nobody’s looking, as one of the basic images. That’s a touchstone reference for understanding other things. Or later when that monster is making things, and it makes a gas pump, a pyramid, and a necktie. Somehow that’s fundamental, for me. That concept of craziness.
ADAM I was saying to MARK that it was like Rick and Morty.
BROOM The parallel-universe craziness?
ADAM Yeah, particularly that world where Ringo is lost on the gazelle.
BROOM Yeah, the Sea of Monsters. And if this series is about alternatives to Disney, this is so alternative to Disney. Unlike almost anything else on our list, it doesn’t even feel like it bears any relation to Disney. It’s not even anti-Disney, it’s just in a completely different cultural vein. At least as I see it.
BETH It feels very art school.
ADAM Actually, you know what the thing with photorealistic images in animation also feels like to me? Monty Python. And maybe that feels British to me. Because I didn’t know much about what was British, when I was a kid.
BROOM Oh sure, this movie definitely had a big influence on my sense of what was “British,” as a kid. When they’re in Liverpool and it’s all surreal and photocopies of people crying.
ADAM This actually was the first time in my life that I realized that was supposed to be Liverpool, and that it was sort of a depressing black-and-white place.
BROOM Also, I didn’t know much about the Beatles, as a kid, and the way they characterize them here is so strange! If they made a “band goes on an adventure” movie now, they would never make the characters be like this. Where Ringo’s introduced saying “nothing ever happens to me; maybe I’ll kill myself.” That’s so weird! And they spend the whole movie punning.
ADAM A lot of it is mumbling, and you can’t really follow what they’re saying.
BETH I feel like they were characterized by their own in-jokes. Only they knew what they were talking about. And the personalities: you know, Paul is vain… everyone is making fun of each other in a way that no one else can pick up on.
ADAM I agree, it definitely felt like their in-jokes. Though who knows how involved they really were with this movie.
BETH I wondered that.
BROOM Not very at all. Those voices are apparently the voices of, like, some people the animators met at the bar, who they thought sounded a little like the Beatles. Literally.
BETH That’s funny. That’s a weird thing to know. I didn’t know that. Well then, I wonder what they thought of it. Do you know?
BROOM I think they just felt like “Oh and apparently now there’s a cartoon of us. Typical.” I mean, they were game enough to appear in the movie, but I don’t think they were really on board.
ADAM Ringo Starr is 80.
BETH Yeah, in the time machine part, it only counted up to 2009…
ADAM Yeah, I laughed at that.
BROOM I assume that’s when Paul was 64?
ADAM Paul is 78, so…
BETH So… no.
ADAM Not quite, but.
BROOM I remember when he turned 64, there were some news stories about how he was indeed 64 like in the song. Yeah, I was prepared for that song to make me feel ill, but it didn’t at all! It’s just a cute song. And they count to 64.
BETH Prepared for it to make you feel ill because you’re old?
BROOM You know, “oh my god the Beatles are even older than 64, there’s nothing cute and funny about this, everyone really does age and die.”
BETH Oh, I see.
BROOM But no! I didn’t think any of those things.
BETH They did look super-young, when we saw them at the end.
BROOM I mean, they’re like 26, right? They just weren’t that old, when the Beatles were the Beatles.
ADAM When that scene came on, MARK asked “are they supposed to be attractive?”
BETH [laughs] Well, I thought that too! Not “are they supposed to be,” but just “oh, they’re not as cute as I remember thinking they were.”
MARK My question was: were they publicly understood to be attractive? And it seems like the answer is… unclear?
BETH Paul was thought to be very attractive. And John appealed to arty girls. And I think George and Ringo weren’t talked about much.
ADAM It’s weird though: you don’t actually really associate the Beatles with sex at all, right?
BETH But apparently they were all very… active.
ADAM I’m sure they were!
ADAM But their public image was, like… The Rolling Stones didn’t do a weird kids’ movie, you know.
ADAM Mick Jagger’s public persona was all about, like…
BETH His sex appeal, right.
ADAM And the Beatles’ were not, as far as I was aware. Yes of course they were getting laid constantly.
BROOM Yes, it’s true that despite being sex symbols they were not specifically sexual in their public personas. But they went through a lot in… I mean, how many years were they the Beatles? Like, seven years? And from the beginning to the end, their look changed a lot. So this is toward the end, all things considered.
BETH Yeah, they only have three more years left in them after this. Which is strange to think about.
BROOM This is when they were already getting shaggy and hippie. I think if you went four years before this, they would have been a lot cuter, by any standard, including Mark’s.
ADAM I always think it’s so weird to listen to early Beatles songs. They sound like Chubby Checker. It just sounds like a totally different planet. You know, good for them, but… it’s weird.
BROOM It’s crazy how short a span of time the whole Beatles adventure is. Like, three years ago now, music was exactly the same as it is now. What has changed? Nothing changed.
ADAM Since 2012?
BROOM Since 2018, I’m saying. But even since 2012, sure: how much has musical style really changed?
ADAM There’s that thing where everything has a hip-hop solo track in it, right? I’m way out of my depth, I can’t talk about musical trends.
MARK I was gonna say.
ADAM I mean, Maroon 5’s been around for a while.
MARK More than seven years!
ADAM That’s what I’m saying!
MARK I remember that from elementary school.
ADAM It’s a lot of fun to play “how young are you” with MARK. Everything is like “oh that was my elementary school graduation song.”
BROOM How long-lived was “let’s imagine that the members of this band live a fantasy life in a fantasy world and that they’re characters in a comic-book reality”? This is not the only instance of it, but I feel like it only lasted from the 60s to the 80s. Does that still ever happen anymore?
BETH Can you give another example of it?
ADAM Wait: are the Monkees a real band, or no? I can never remember.
BETH That’s an interesting question. Yes, they were a real band, but they were invented in LA, to be a TV show.
ADAM They were retconned from the TV show, right?
BETH Yeah. But eventually they wrote their own songs. In the beginning they didn’t.
BROOM I used to watch that show! ADAM, did you watch that?
ADAM I used to watch all kinds of things uncritically and with no context.
BROOM I know! Did you specifically watch The Monkees?
ADAM Yes, totally. They were on Nick At Nite!
BROOM So the Beatles made a couple of movies — Help! is a crazy silly movie that they made — but I feel like…
ADAM I just read on Wikipedia that there was a sequel planned to this movie called Strawberry Fields Forever that had 10 minutes of pioneering computer-animated footage that has never been seen.
BROOM Wow. I had never heard that. Well, now I want to see that! That sounds cool. Anyway, BETH, I guess I was thinking of… well, I know there were video games in the 80s, like bands would make video games of themselves fighting aliens. I think there’s a Journey game.
BETH Okay, sure.
BROOM I just feel like it was sort of a thing that happened for a while there. Wouldn’t bands appear on “Scooby Doo”?
BETH Oh sure, that was a thing. I guess cartoons were just different then. Everything felt more intertwined in the monoculture than it does now.
ADAM Which was the Disney movie that had the Beatles-like band in it? Was that The Black Cauldron?
BROOM In The Jungle Book there are mop-topped vultures.
ADAM Yes, thank you.
BROOM Which is contemporaneous with this, I guess.
ADAM That’s what I was thinking of. But obviously that wasn’t licensed. As we were watching this, MARK said that he would rather see it with Harry Styles.
MARK No, I suggested that his team could probably produce something better than this.
ADAM All right fine: that Harry Styles’ production team should have done this.
BROOM Well that’s what I’m asking, and I certainly don’t know: is that the kind of thing that in any way would be interesting to his producers or his fans, today? Like, “Harry goes on an adventure! Under the sea!”
ADAM We spent the early part of the pandemic watching music videos every Saturday, and the video for Harry Styles’ “Adore You” involves Harry Styles befriending a fish.
BROOM So yeah, in a video it would happen.
ADAM He befriends a fish that becomes progressively larger and larger, and then he has to return it to the sea, and it’s very emotional. And he’s singing “just let me adore you, whoa.” Are you familiar with the song?
BROOM I’m not, but that sounds like a cool video. And I guess that’s what this movie is a precursor to: music videos. And I feel like these are really good videos for most of these songs.
BETH I agree.
ADAM I wish I liked the visual parts in the middle better, but I just wanted to get back to the Blue Meanies.
BROOM My first music was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, because my parents had two copies of it, so they had an expendable one that I could use on my Fisher Price record player. And I would listen to that album and look at the red cover with all the text on it, and the pictures of the guys in costume. Some of these songs, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Lucy in the Sky” at least, were on that album. And this movie felt like it corresponded pretty closely and well to the kinds of stuff that would go through my head, listening to music as a very young child. This is what songs look like in your head. So it was always satisfying that way. And I guess MTV picked up at least some of that from here.
ADAM Are we gonna read the New York Times review? Probably not.
BROOM We could, but the connection pauses and delays are confusing me here.
BETH Yeah, every time I say something it seems like I’m interrupting someone else.
BROOM Oh well. Sorry guys.
BETH There’s not that much to say anyhow.
ADAM I agree. I don’t have concerted thoughts about… like, there’s no story to talk about.
MARK I was just about to say: hm, I wonder why you have nothing to talk about?
ADAM We have the characterizations to talk about.
MARK I thought you probably resonated with Jeremy, because he was, like, an outcast that was, like, obnoxious.
ADAM Yeah, MARK asked me that during the movie. He was like “did you identify with Jeremy as a kid?” And I was like “because I was a gay know-it-all?”
BROOM Well, what is with that character? It’s so strange. I mean, I don’t think that is the kind of person that the song “Nowhere Man” is written about. Is it?
BETH I don’t think so either.
BROOM It’s such a weird inclusion, and I didn’t ever have a feeling for it. Other than “yup, this is the part where they meet Jeremy Hillary Boob, PhD — I don’t know why.” I still don’t know why.
BETH I think that some —
ADAM I think he’s like—
BETH Sorry. Go ahead.
[12 seconds of silence]
BROOM What’s going on?
ADAM Uh, we’re here.
BROOM This sucks, I’m sorry.
BETH Let’s forget it.
BROOM Like let’s just end the conversation, is that what you’re saying?
BETH Yeah. This is —
BROOM All right. Next time we do this, we will set it up technically better for the conversation part.
ADAM Okay. I’ve said my piece.
BROOM All right. Fair enough.
BETH Thanks, BROOM.
BROOM Thanks for watching the movie, guys.