Saturday, April 29, 2006

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is one of my favourite movies, capturing everything that was good and ridiculous about the 60s all in one place (although it was actually released in 1970). Directed by Russ Meyer, to a bizarre Roger Ebert story (now well known Chicago Sun-Times film critic), it tells the story of the best all-girl rock band ever, the Carrie Nations and their battle with fame and the fickle music industry.

Dolly Read (below) plays Kelly, the singer: English (Bristol born) and an ex-Playboy Playmate of the Month (May 1966), is wonderful as an innocent abroad in the music industry. Cynthia Myers is Casey, the swinging bassist; Marcia McBroom is Pet, the drummer and soul sister.

John LaZar as the hip party-throwing record mogul Z-man is completely mad. There is sex and drugs a plenty although it's all really very tame by today's standards (apparently there was an X-Rated version made, but when this lighter version got X-Rated by the censorship baord, they shelved the tougher one). The gorgeous Erica Gavin gets to give possibly the first ever lesbian on-screen kiss, at least in a major Hollywood movie (but then gets shot). The film gets a bit tedious by the end, with the surprising yet still somewhat inevitable ending being too drawn out. Nonetheless, a bit of a cult classic.

The most famous quote is from the high priestess of carnality Ashley St Ives:

"You're a groovy boy. I'd like to strap you on sometime. "

The music was by Stu Phillips of the Strawberry Alarm Clock ("Incense and Peppermints") with help from Lyn Carey amongst others. It's classic jangly 60s pop, and the SAC play at one of Z-Man's parties, so you get some classics from them.

But the best songs are those by the Carrie Nations, which fit the upbeat 60s vibe of the film perfectly and deserve to be heard more widely. Lyn Carey is listed as vocal coach but she actually sang lead in the movie and is pretty good. However, for contractual reasons the soundtrack vocals were re-recorded by Amy Rushes. I suspect the band are the Alarm Clock, but I'm not sure. Whoever they are, they are very good.

The Stu Phillips incidental music is OK too, but it's the Lyn Carey vocals that need to be heard, so I've packaged them up in one neat rar file, here, as a taster.

The full CD includes the additional Rushes versions of the songs plus the excellent Stu Phillips instrumentals.

...and if you want some quick satisfaction, come see about The Carrie Nations' Come With The Gentle People !

There was a punk band called the Carrie Nations that played out of Athens, Georgia and who released an LP in 2004. They are not related (duh!).

In her 1966 Playboy spread, Dolly Read listed her favourite listening as being Tony Bennett or Johnny Mathis.

None of the leads went on to do much more acting. Dolly Read married Dick Martin of Rowan & Martin's Laugh In in 1971, divorced him 4 years later, but they then remarried three years after that!


Loki said...

absolutely love this film, everything about it is perfect, right down to the slightly deranged disclaiming nonsense at the end... this is my happening and it freaks me out!

jon manyjars said...

I discovered an interesting fact about Lyn Carey recently: she played Tuesday Weld's high school rival (leader of the Cashmere Sweater Club) in the film "Lord Love a Duck"! Lyn looked a lot like Edy Williams (the actress who played Ashley St. Ives in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls).