|Pop Culture Gadabout|
Sunday, April 08, 2007 |
( 4/08/2007 06:52:00 AM ) Bill S.
"WHY YOU CAN ALMOST HEAR THE MUSIC THROUGH THE SCREAMS!" – Spent part of last night groovin' (with my wife) to the music of 1964, via a British compilation film entitled Pop Gear (a.k.a. Go Go Mania). Hosted by the desperately long-haired deejay Jimmy Savile (who only appears for two-thirds of the movie than inexplicably disappears), the flick is a collection of Britbeat bands and singers from the start of the sixties invasion, lip-synching their way thru hits and misses on a sparsely decorated studio set that looks like every bad variety show you can remember from that era – only without the audience sounds. For that – and to really draw the kids in – the flick opens and closes with too-quick live concert footage of the Beatles, which I'm betting pissed off more than one Fab Four fanatic back in the movie theatres.
Still, much of the lip-synched studio material is choice: steady 60's hitmakers like the Animals, Herman's Hermits (well, wife Becky still likes 'em!) and Peter & Gordon; one-hit marvels like the Honeycombs; and who-the-hell-are-they's like Billie Davis and the Fourmost, who nonetheless also bring some decent Britpop tracks to the screen. On the downside are two totally kitschy dance numbers done to the kinda disposable faux-rockin' instrumentals you associate with bad sitcoms and too-cheap-to-hire-even-the-local-garage-band drive-in flicks – plus tracks by loungey heartthrob Matt Monro (best known in the U.S., perhaps, for singing the themes to Born Free and From Russia, With Love), who not only gets more face time than any of the other singers, but also is handed the flick's forgettable theme song. (Guess the guy was Mister Theme Song.) Still, for every oozy Matt Monro track, there was a "Don't Let Me Misunderstood" or a surprising song like the Nashville Teens' splendid cover of "Tobacco Road" (best known in the U.S. as done by the Blues Magoos, though Southern Culture on the Skids includes a fine remake on their most recent disc).
But for my money, the most astonishing performance on Gear was by a band called the Pennies, who do a Mersey folk-rock version of Leadbelly's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night." You know, the song Nirvana so spookily used to conclude its MTV "Unplugged" performance. Play the Pennies' rockin' rendition of Leadbelly's grim-&-creepy country death song alongside Kurt Cobain's and you have the transformation of rock-&-roll music into rock in two simple tracks . . .
BONUS: Here's the Honeycombs as they appeared in Gear, doing both their big Joe Meek-produced hit, "Have I The Right?" and a lesser-but-still-fun track which I'd guess is entitled "Eyes." Check out serious drummer Honey Lantree.