Friday, January 28, 2011

THE TOUCHABLES

Sometimes happy happenstance elevates born-to-be mediocre movies out of sync with same and into better categories.

Ofttimes it's a far better script than was commissioned for action unit-shifters. "Timecop" and the original "Stargate" film comprise this type, wherein scripts chock full o' terrific ideas and/or original variations upon generic themes coupled with novel casting (Ron Silver and Gloria Reuben in the former, James Spader and he/she Jaye Davidson in the latter) equaled instant classics. Stallone's "Demolition Man" proffered the absolute cleverest script of all of 'em, probably by accident for an action-grunter, as if "Blade Runner" were rewritten by the Mighty Boosh, Kids In The Hall or SCTV (pick your own era.)

And sometimes it's just one unexpected idea running rampant throughout that wasn't even part of the script but emerged full-blown anyway in production. This can make fabricated mediocrity wondrous to behold and mightily entertaining. Such a film is "The Touchables," a 1968 Mod sex-comedy (with little actual sex shown, which is rather sweet in the old-fashioned sense of the word) that is impossible to find through normal channels but readily available online and the occasional British Mod film festival (rightly billed as the rarest and wildest of them all- one extant print in the universe.) It's worth the search, particularly for those who adore Brit-Mod artifacts and those who want to see the tipping point genesis of girl power and womens' liberation barreling through a what was supposed to have been contrived sexism.

Its plot remains touchstone of Clint Eastwood's "The Beguiled," and "3 In the Attic," and stylistic predecessor of "Performance" (more of that in a mo') with its graft of wispy, girlie 60's hippie flightiness with ultra-butch fightclub/underworld. Four young, stylish, wealthy women friends like to go wilding/adventuring together. Busted for stealing a Michael Caine wax figure with which to dance at home from a party they attended at a wax museum, they plot to graduate to stealing an actual, real in the flesh pop star. They spirit him unconscious to their literal pleasure dome (an inflated geodesic one - plastic furniture and architecture was inexplicably cool in the mid-60's) out in the deserted countryside to have their wicked way. He, as one might imagine, doesn't exactly object to foursomes and much role-playing with terrific-looking young women, so plot complications ensue from the butch pro-wrestling/underworld figures related to the pop singer's management finding him and roughing quite a few souls up.

The film's pretext is visual, firstly, since its director was Robert Freeman, famed album-cover still-photographer of the Beatles premiere iconic works. The lighting is directional, unusual in the era of over-lighting all movie scenes, and his locations and prop choices are strange-- the geodesic inflatable dome with a carousel-bedecked round bed inside, one young woman grabbing her toy reindeer as a matter of course while she's fleeing to get help.

Fortunately his directing style specifically calls for action, varying betwixt aforementioned colorful wispy/hippie/girlie and stark, gritty non-colorful butch fightclubbing. In the '60's, a shared pastime was to take joy in all things visual, so disregard Leonard Maltin's assessment of "bomb": he probably saw a terrible copy of this rare movie (will somebody please restore this already a la "Privilege?") Secondly, that girlie/butch polarity emanates from none other than Donald Cammell, future director of "Performance," a film about same with Mick Jagger and James Fox as fey popstar versus mob hitman who clash then blend. The Cammell brothers, plus Ian La Frenais (future screenwriter in the rock genre of "Still Crazy," and "The Commitments") account for its rock underpinning alongside Freeman and the film's score. You'll love the theme song by (the first) Nirvana: they probably thought they were re-inventing psychedelia, but to our ears today it's a pleasantly unplaceable mash-up of Traffic and Procol Harum.

So what's the magic ingredient that propels this out of PG-rated sexploitation? It's the self-reliance and camaraderie of the young women characters, way out of sync with even the best of 60's popular fare; i.e., "The President's Analyst" may be the primo 60's comedy of all, but it's attitude towards women is cringe-inducing in retrospect today, repellently sexist as were all 60's non-arthouse films. In "The Touchables," these heterosexual women have fun with one another, are indulgently eccentric in their separate ways, determine their own actions, and share their hobbies; they aren't satellites to any male character and don't act like it anyway. One of them's wrestler "boyfriend" actually needs her as a beard to counter his proclivities in the macho world of wrestling: her girlfriends and she just have fun and party with him in his world as would any, to use an antiquated perjorative, fag hag.

That these four model/actresses, quintessential Mod dollybirds of the mid-1960's in real life, can convey such camaraderie is the miracle herein. These four strangers enact a far closer friendship than The Spice Girls in their own movie no matter how loudly Girl Power was trumpeted therein, and convey, within a Mod style palette, all the wildness of Riotgrrls in their lifestyle of adventuring. This, strangely enough for a commissioned sex comedy, inexplicably always comes shining through: these young women are very good friends who are there for each other in fun or hardship, and do what they themselves want to do. That was just as much a desirable fantasy for women as being abducted by four beautiful women for sex would have been for males...













NOTE: link directly back to http://fastfilm1.blogspot.com if all elements such as photo layouts or videos aren't here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

RUBY FRIEDMAN ORCHESTRA reaches for the stars

Ruby Friedman Orchestra, replete with full-time trombone and part-time guesting backup singers, rattled the rafters of The Troubadour for a Jan. 16th gig. Again, RFO's salient points: songs you actually can remember on the way home from the gig and beyond, RFO recordings already gracing U.S. network television as theme songs ("Shooting Stars" for "America's Got Talent,") hot band overall, and the full-throated Ruby warbler herself on resplendent, emotional vocals, occasionally to be witnessed punking out for maximum impact as seen here.









Photo ops sector: Ruby and some of her L.A. pals; below, Jimmy Recca (from Ron Asheton/Machine Gun Thompson's The New Order and The Stooges in the '70s,) Dire McCain (Paraphilia Magazine Editor,) Evita Corby (rock&roll couturier,) and Ruby Friedman still towering above it all in her 6" platform stiletto heels.
Below: left, Jimmy and Evita; right, Dire, Jimmy, new L.A. denizen Ed Bucciarelli, Evita, yours truly temporarily sans customary shades, guitarist Andrew Scott (Raw Power Rangers,) photo by David Arnson (Insect Surfers and Raw Power Rangers.)

















Last pic, left to right: Muso Journalist Supreme Chris Morris, Dire dancing some unholy take on the can can, Andrew, David and Jimmy.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

THE FABULOUS THUNDERBIRDS rare cd

Rare cd release Different Tacos by The Fabulous Thunderbirds, produced by Denny Bruce, art direction by Nannette Freeman and me, photo of Mr. Twister's 1967 4-door Thunderbird by me. Twister no longer owns the T-Bird relegating my Honda Element to the sole suicide doors vehicle in our family, the cd remains impossibly rare, and this scan is from a famous car magazine wherein this cover appeared.

Friday, January 14, 2011

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS at the Grammys










"Give it away, give it away now..." the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Grammys.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

STOOGES photo bonanza en Francais

Retrokimmer, bless her heart, trumpeted the assortment of my 1973 photographs of Iggy and The Stooges live at the Whisky A Gogo here at LINK to be found alongside many iconic ones by Mick Rock, Robert Matheu and others in the magazine Rock&Folk, Jan.2011 issue Hors-Serie Stooges, #26, one of a collector series on myriad rock bands via France's premiere music periodical. My photo above therein, for instance, never has seen light of day via publishing before. There's many different articles on all eras of The Stooges and Iggy & The Stooges, photos galore including a dozen or so I've never seen before (generally outtakes of others that one has seen) plus a bonus cd of two live tracks from the Hammersmith, London show in May, 2010. Magazine's overall website is HERE.

TALES TOLD OUT OF SCHOOL, 2.0 in which I book Kaleidoscope for my Senior Prom



(Second in a series of tales told out of school, both literally and figuratively, how my Swiss Cheese brain remembers such events which may or may not be accurate at all. Preface: I attended a girls' private prep school in the 1960s with a student body who often mimicked the creativity of that era with its own high spirits, a pendulum reaction to the heavy course load and voluminous homework from which many of us still haven't caught up on lost sleep some forty-plus years on and from which many of us still retain permanently stooped posture via carrying heavy textbooks. Well, it's not like there existed alternatives to those heavy textbooks. We didn't have personal home computers because no one on this particular planet in this galaxy had them yet. So let's roll back the roiling mists of time to The Pleistocene of my youth.)

I Was A Teenaged Rock Booking Agent! Above, photographic proof of my role in booking 1960s legendary band Kaleidoscope for my Senior Prom. Now, the exact extent of that role is lost to the Paisley Corridors of Time due to aforementioned Swiss Cheese brain. However, I knew bandmember David Lindley's first cousin (pictured above looking miserable despite anonymity protection, next to the 17-year-old yours truly who bears no resemblance whatsoever to the present one) hence I must have provided at minimum the contact info necessary to book this popular major-label-signed band. Both my miserable date (cryptic, but LINK) and the caftan-clad Lindley were nephews of actress/icon Loretta Young whose son was Peter Lewis of the astonishing Moby Grape (see LINK) making for one heckuva talented and good looking second generation of Hollywood players.
 

Yes, we danced merrily to "O Death" (see video below) and assorted fifteen minute ragas from Kaleidoscope at the impossibly trendy The Daisy Club in Beverly Hills, normally happy hunting grounds of those trolling for starlets and heiresses in the mid to late 1960s. I later booked Mint Tattoo, a San Francisco band immortalized on assorted classic psychedelic posters, to a private Bel Air party where to my infinite embarrassment the hostess insisted they turn down their volume, ending aforementioned Teenaged Booking Agent career through sheer mortification. 

The cousin David Lindley, a superlative multi-instrumentalist, later went on to fame, fortune and a lauded music career to this day as both solo artist plus go-to studio and tour guitarist for Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Rod Stewart and scores more garnering the respect of the entire industry at large, a rare feat. Representative videos below. I went on to forgive my teenaged self for her idiocies and badly acted upon obsessions. I wonder if my only-there-under-duress-because-it-was-his-cousin's-band miserable date ever did?

Here's David Lindley, with Ry Cooder no less, on amazing slide lap guitar in the rollicking "Mercury Blues"

and vintage Kaleidoscope roughly from our Senior Prom era. Does everyone recognize this classic from the four decades later film "O Brother Where Art Thou?" 


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Sunday, January 2, 2011

PHIL OCHS FILM, my take -WITH THE SPEED OF INSANITY THEN HE DIED

The documentary film "Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune" opens this week in New York. Without having seen same I can recommend it heartily, and not just because Van Dyke Parks and Billy Bragg speak up within (movie trailers via this link as well as info and some great photo stills.) There's a few personal reasons to boot.











My brother had introduced me to his work as it happened, so to me he always was the companion compatriot of Bob Dylan's canon. I'd read Ochs' reviews in the obscuro film magazine "Take One" in the '60s so I knew his intellect and interests spanned beyond political causes.

I once saw Ochs tear up the Troubadour performing live, inspiring wild 1950s dancing in the aisles no less, rather unexpected for a "folkie" artist. I'd had some professional interaction with Phil's brother Michael, no less extrovert, good-humored yet subversive but preferring to be same within the corporate entertainment industry directly.

I'd encountered Phil at a get together at someone's house on Beverly Glen whereupon the host urged Phil to perform for everyone there. I must have betrayed an askance visage at the uncoolness of exploiting a famous guest by exhorting them to sing, so the host privately confessed to me that Phil recently had been mugged in Africa with his throat slit; therefore, people asking him to sing was therapeutic and useful to whatever his vocal recovery would be. Shame on me!

I did the art direction and graphic design for the above book formulated by Michael Ochs. It included many shots by photo greats like David Gahr and others (Phil as icon at the podium playing to hundreds of thousands of people on the streets of Washington D.C. during modern history's most famous '60s protests,) tons of personal family photos, detailed music tablature for some sixty of his songs, and an amazing essay on Ochs by Tom Nolan both bone-chilling in its revelation of tragedy and heart-breaking in its post-mortem insights on the man. This book was published within eighteen months or so of Phil Ochs' suicide.

Lastly, to the world his legacy was political protest set to music but to me his masterpiece remains "Crucifixion," a mash-up delineating all assassinated heroes like John F. Kennedy or Jesus of Nazareth, cult of personality fan worship versus true personal sacrifice, and humanity allowing no great deeds to go unpunished. This was the sole complete transcription of lyrics I used in the book as a statement about Ochs' far-reaching talents as much as a graphic element.

I'm into neither politics nor religion (despite knowing the good both can do in the rare right hands since both wish lives to be better, it's just that 99.99% of the time they get it all wrong on their inevitable downturn to totalitarianism) and am rarely swayed by lyrics alone, but hearing this song, now as then, makes me instantly weepy.

It is that good, that deft in its execution as well as messages. It transcends even his own metier and stated purposes. The original 1967 LP (Pleasures of the Harbor) version with its experimental orchestration courtesy of avant-rocker Joseph Byrd underscores Ochs' finest lyrical sweep of similes, not a pre-used cliche among them, along with engaging pop-chorus catchphrasing. He combined everything he ever wanted to, pop to protest, sacred to profound. Example:

"...So he stands on the sea and shouts to the shore,
But the louder that he screams the longer he's ignored...
...'Till the giant is aware, someone's pulling at his leg, 
And someone is tapping at the door.
So dance dance dance
Teach us to be true
Come dance dance dance
'Cause we love you..."

No Youtube video exists of his original arrangement, but the full lyrics are HERE. Enjoy. And let's catch that movie.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

MY LITTLE SNOW GLOBE

photo (C) 2011 HEATHER HARRIS
(First photograph of 2011.)
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