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!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Kevin Hewick

So good to see Kevin Hewick is still writing songs and gigging.

Kevin was the singer-songwriter signed to Factory records, and will probably go down in the footnotes of rock history as the guy who was auditioned by New Order to replace Ian Curtis when the latter's death effectively ended Joy Division. And equally famously, if it was indeed an audition, Kevin wasn't called back.

In the meantime, he moved to Cherry Red records and released some stellar freaked out music that sounded like nothing else of its time or of any other. Anyone who actually got to hear the classic Haystack will surely remember it!

Anyway - two songs here:

- Kevin Hewick - Landscape (from the excellent 1999 CD 'Helpline')

- Kevin Hewick - Haystack (1993 'In an Open Air Surgery' version)


And visit Kev's website to read a fab 2002 interview by Lars Jacobsson which tells the story and more. There's also a myspace place. And if you're in the Leicester area and he's on, go see him play!!

Oh, and buy the CDs, which are fab!!!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Some things recently read

Haven't been finding the time to read all that much, but have been particularly enjoying music biographies and the like.

The Fall by Mick Middles, Mark E. Smith
A Fall biography which takes a lot of input from the master Mark E Smith, and is actually pretty illuminating as a result. It states that it eschews the normal rock hagiography tricks, but fortunately spends enough time on most parts of the career and has a superb discography, and a full list of band members. Of course there are some things missing, but how could that not be the case with a band as complex as the Fall. Enjoyable, and worth reading.

Nick Drake: The Biography by Patrick Humphries

A decent telling of the sad tale of this slight but important addition to the roster of folk/rock guitarist/singer/songwriter tragedies (cf. Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Tim and Jeff Buckley et al). Unrecognised in life, and over-lauded in death, Drake left a beautiful if far too slender legacy, and whilst supremely talented never seemed to really have the desire or the naivety to grab the music dream by the horns. Alas, rather than retire to a terraced house in Cambridge (cf: Syd Barrett) he let life go. This book was slightly over-long and doesn't really get behind what really motivated Drake - in life, or in death. Disappointing, but probably inevitable given its subject matter.

Belle and Sebastian: Just a Modern Rock Story by Paul Whitelaw

This is a beautiful book, and right from the texture of the cover (with a design by Stuart Murdoch) you know this is going to perfectly capture the sensibility of this most impressive of modern indie-pop bands. From the beginnings in a Glasgow night-school through the rehearsals in the church hall where Murdoch worked and lived, into the prize-winning glory and international tours, countless line-up changes, and some classic songs. Beautifully written, with the full involvement of most of the band, and well worth acquiring.

Like A Rolling Stone by Greil Marcus

This is a great book, If you read it as one man's intelligent take on one of the greatest records of all time, then it is a work of inspired genius. If you want the history and the facts, go read one of the hundreds of Bobographies (although there are facts and tales a plenty here). If you want to be drawn into another world, one you half know already through your intimate relationship with this terrific song, then get this.

Experience: A memoir by Martin Amis

This took me for ever to finish, but I don't really know why because I enjoyed it immensely and that in spite of never having read one of Amis's own novels. I was impressed by his writing style and his sharp intelligence. Of course, if you come looking for an autobiography you will fail to find one here - this is what it says on the box; a memoir, largely one about his father Kingsley Amis, and insightful and surprising for all that. I can't wait for the moment when Amis feels able to open up and let rip with his own autobiography - but then again, perhaps not, as such things only ever seem to come in the dieing breaths of their author, and better not to write at all than to write your own tombstone.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

CDs on the out

This Guardian article is a bit scary and somewhat naive. scary/naive because the sad fact is that CD values are going to plummet like those of VHS videos soon, so the idea of selling them seems hopeless, but the prospect of acquiring large libraries of great music on top quality plastic on the other hand is somewhat appealing.

I could do with reclaiming some shelving and space around the house, but then I haven't got rid of all my vinyl yet and would find it hard to part with it all. As the final quoted person in the article says:

"Music sounds much better from a CD played on a decent stereo than on an MP3 player, and I am a sucker for special edition CDs and enjoy the artwork and everything about them.

"And what happens if your computer crashes and you lose everything? I know you can back things up, but at least I know I have all of the music safe and stored on something I can actually touch."

Sunday, April 02, 2006