Quote: Matinee Idyll (129) wrote:
I... kinda... like... that Simon Dupree song. Watching/hearing it for the first time right now. Yes, it's godawful but... it's godawfully catchy. HO HO * mumble * JOLLY ROGER! (though you say they've been on the show before - I can't find any mention of them elsewhere in the thread).
Great entry Jase!
They were on Episode 38 back in December '68, when the pirate guy ripped off his shirt and started hanging from the rafters.
Maybe I just have a thing against pirate-themed novelty songs; I dunno. Every year, the secretary in the office where I work insists upon celebrating 'National Talk Like a Pirate Day,' in which she walks around all day saying "yarrrr" and "matey" and such to everybody. This could potentially be slightly humorous for about thirty seconds, but she literally keeps up the act ALL FUCKING DAY. I think that was the moment I realized I had perhaps less of a tolerance for pirate-based whimsy than I should...
Thanks as always for reading and commenting, Joe. I'MCOMINGI'MCOMINGI'MCOMINGI'MCOMING
Posted January 16th, 2012 05:36 PM IPSly, Marv, Melanie, Hollies, all TOP FLIGHT stuff.
The Cali Girls clip was one of thee most sighted BB clips during the 80's'.
That Proud Mary clip always puzzled me, and it was good to find out it was reused footage from a clip for a moodier song.
Another fine, fine episodeand even finer writeup.
Didn't get a chance to comment here on the one before it, but that is a fabulous episode and killer written accompaniment as well.
Joe, I know you were probably joking in August when you said you were gonna start a rival Beat, Beat, Beat thread, but I think it would be pretty badass if you did. I don't know anything about that show at all. How much of it still exists?I'MCOMINGI'MCOMINGI'MCOMINGI'MCOMING
Quote: halleluwah wrote:
One unlucky girl in the audience receives a surprise kiss from DLT, but fortunately for her, her ensuing onscreen embarrassment is cut short by the next musical performance.
What a cock.
It's like they have captured a schizo gibbon and shaved its face in order to perform a couple of frontal lobos, then post-op they've shoved it in front a German TV crew and poked it to make it talk only to discover they shaved the gibbon's arse by mistake.
Quote: Indian-born singer-songwriter Peter Sarstedt held the #1 single in England, “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely),” at the time of this episode’s filming. Influenced by mid-‘60s Dylan and French pop in equal measure, this is one of those attempted folk opuses that seems to go on forever, piling verses up one after another for minutes on end and practically daring listeners to try and catch all the literary references being made. Seriously; there are entire web pages devoted to cataloguing all the arcane references Sarstedt threw into his songs. The thing is, this song isn’t really worth that much effort; it’s kind of a wet noodle melodically, the lyrics never come close to achieving their “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” aspirations, and the ‘sensitive’ vocal delivery is fey as hell. It just sounds like “Puff the Magic Dragon” given an injection of accordion-drenched pretension and stretched out to five minutes. The neatly mustachioed Sarstedt mimes the track as random images of sports cars, skiers, and kissing couples are projected behind him, but the visuals don’t do much to prevent this song from halting the momentum of the episode dead in its tracks. I have no idea why this record was such a massive pop hit.
Great assassination. This song gave me the creeps at age eight when it came out and it's an annoyance to this day. On hearing it hear I got to the "rolling stones records" line and felt a tad brackish. Fuck Peter Sarstedt and all his lousy fucking Satre collection. At parties when I was younger there were occasionally guys with acoustic guitars and this track along with Ralph McTell's "Streets of London" I heard attempted many many times and it always came over hugely embarrassing for everyone in the room having to endure such tripe.
Nothing wrong with an accordion or two though. Always preferred a party with an accordion player than some acoustic guitar weirdo-beardo as a nipper.
This track using that vibe is way better - an antidote maybe.
This episode was worth it for the Sly footage alone. I like some Searcher's and Foundations but these a by far from being their best tracks.
Proud Mary. I had a play-off between CCR, The King and Tina Turner - to see who has the "power" -
Tina won hands down. Big bow to the King but Tina's Funk (Punk) version does it for me, the twist she turns on the phrasing of the verses drives it wilder than the original. Heard it a thousand times but still insane. The Cramps could have killed with this version.
Thanks for these write ups man, I'd pay for the book. Love you to tackle the existing episodes of Top of The Pops. The anthropological data of UK 70's youth cults is abundant - along with acres of tat.
Posted January 19th, 2012 04:53 PM IPThank you much, Kenny; I always get a kick out of your responses.
I'd actually made it thirty years into this life without having heard that Sarstedt song, until I had to hear it for this episode. It was one of those situations where I get a couple of minutes into a song, figure, "well, this is kind of lame; it was probably just a minor hit in France or something," and then am shocked to find it was a fucking UK #1 as soon as I start in on the research. What the hell was wrong with people...all the incredible music going on at that time, and THAT was the record more people bought than any other that week?
Only five more DLT episodes of Beat Club left. Precious little time left in this thread to call him a tool.I'MCOMINGI'MCOMINGI'MCOMINGI'MCOMING
Quote: halleluwah wrote:
What the hell was wrong with people...all the incredible music going on at that time, and THAT was the record more people bought than any other that week?
It was everywhere as it's imprinted on my brain from those tender years. The UK charts forever throws up strange curve ball tracks like that, curve ball not in a good way. You do get the quality but the melange of shite gets everywhere too. "Where Do You Go To" still crops up on radio every now and then - I've heard it on at least once this winter.
Quote: Only five more DLT episodes of Beat Club left. Precious little time left in this thread to call him a tool.
Beat-Club Episode 42
4/26/1969 All performances mimed, except where noted
1. Opening titles (A Touch of Velvet, A Sting of Brass)*
2. U.K. Jones - Let Me Tell Ya*
3. Film: Interview with Cliff Richard
4. Film: French music scene
5. Les Reed - Don't Linger With Your Finger On The Trigger
6. Film: Boutique burglary/Go-Go Girls
7. Grisby Dyke - The Adventures Of Miss Rosemary LaPage
8. Hit Parader Top 7
9. Paul Williams Set - My Sly Sadie
10. David McWilliams - The Stranger
11. Melanie - Bobo's Party (live)*
12. Beat Club News: Paul Jones / John & Yoko Bed-In / Janis Joplin – Raise Your Hand (on film, with backstage footage)*
13. Trifle - All Together Now
14. Manfred Mann - Ragamuffin Man*
15. Film: Scott Walker interview*
16. Clodagh Rodgers - Come Back and Shake Me
17. Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich - Don Juan
18. The Kinks - Plastic Man*
19. Closing credits
(The Beatles’ promo film for “Get Back” was shown on this episode.)
A tensely wound, twangy guitar lick coils in anticipation like a rattlesnake preparing to strike. The music continues to build until the tension explodes into a climactic barrage of horns, wordless female vocals, and cut-time drums, heralding the arrival of April’s installment of Beat Club. Starting with this episode, Mood Mosaic’s “A Touch of Velvet, A Sting of Brass” would be officially installed at the show’s theme music for the rest of its run. With the exception of the seven-month tenure of Sounds Incorporated’s “Rinky Dink” back in 1966, Beat Club had elected to go without standardized theme music for the most part (they’d even given “A Touch of Velvet” itself an audition the previous summer, before leaving it to lie dormant for nine months), but in the end, they made the perfect choice. Catchy and commercial enough to remain lodged in the public’s memory, but exotic and complex enough to not sound out of place in the show’s ever evolving sense of style, the tune’s dramatic introduction echoed the anticipation felt by the millions of German teenagers who only got this one opportunity per month to see pop music on television. Over the second half of the show’s run (by sheer coincidence, episode 42 happens to represent the halfway point of the entire series…41 shows down, 41 left to go), “A Touch of Velvet” would become one of the most iconic and recognized emblems of Beat Club, right alongside the circular logo and the hosting of Uschi Nerke. For this first episode of the “Velvet” era, the opening titles feature the Go-Go Girls dancing in front of a blown-up representation of a pinball machine. Although only utilized on four episodes, the pinball title sequence would remain one of the show’s most memorable; unfortunately, the first episode it’s attached to is a little shaky by recent standards, featuring only a few truly great performances among a sea of merely decent ones. Both hosts take turns giving multilingual shoutouts at the top of this episode; Uschi is a vision in a futuristic-looking shiny outfit that makes her look like a guest on Star Trek, while DLT as always looks like a van-driving perv in his semi-dark glasses.
British singer and DJ Mike Berry, who had found a bit of success with producer Joe Meek in the early ‘60s, only released one single under the pseudonym U.K. Jones, “Let Me Tell Ya.” A record which somehow looks simultaneously backward to Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound and forward to the ‘70s glam rock of Gary Glitter (dig the handclaps and “hey”s), this chugging slice of bubblegum is the best opening salvo Beat Club had seen in a few months. Berry performs the song standing inside the lighted cube stage, his image multiplied several times across the screen on each of the “Hey” breakdowns. I may be imagining this, but he seems to be wearing a park ranger’s hat in some shots.
As with the previous episode, two consecutive films are shown in the early portion of the show. The first is a German-dubbed interview with British pop star Cliff Richard. At this point, Richard’s original image as a dangerous rock ‘n’ roller was nearly a decade in the past, and he’d settled into a genially dull pop star persona. He plays a bit of his safer-than-safe new single “Don’t Forget To Catch Me,” mostly talks about his career in the driest commercial terms possible (“I’ve released about 45 records, and in England, I believe they’ve all made a top 30 entry”), and the only moment of real interest occurs when he speaks about the complications of reconciling his musical career with his Christian faith. At the end, Richard leaves the room and is confronted by an obviously planted fangirl, who snaps his picture.
The second film appears to focus on the French music scene. A woman speaks about Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsborg, and a bit of their “Je T’aime,…Moi Non Plus” is played. Architects are shown working on the design of a new club that will be part of a vacation resort in Saint-Tropez, and an investor in a three-piece suit comes on to talk about it at length. Then we have an interview with pop singer Nicolette, who is in no way a French stereotype. The pale young woman sits in a café, smoking and wearing a black turtleneck as her French-language version of “Everlasting Love” plays in the background. In a completely non-sequitur ending to the piece, a bush baby lunges at her face as she’s being photographed. The surprise return of the “moreMUSICmoreMUSICmoreMUSIC” bumper (the first of a few visual reminders of the not-so-distant Beat Club past that crop up in this episode) takes us back to the next musical performance.
British songwriter Les Reed, in conjunction with a series of partners, was responsible for a number of enormous hits throughout the ‘60s, including “It’s Not Unusual,” “There’s a Kind of Hush,” and “Delilah.” Every now and then, just as a lark, he put out a record under his own name, but never had a hit at it. Reed’s current writing partner Barry Mason had already taken a turn at performing on Beat Club back in 1967, and now it’s Reed’s chance to shine with “Don’t Linger with Your Finger on the Trigger.” And like Mason before him, the result is only to make the viewer wonder why such a successful songwriter would bother to keep such a mediocre song for himself. “Trigger” is nothing more than a hokey country pastiche, performed with a schmucky grin that allows us to see every one of Reed’s crooked teeth. He mugs the song out in front of the tinfoil wall, enthusiastically strumming non-chords on his Jazzmaster, and nothing about this clip even comes close to working. Easily the low point of this episode.
With most of this episode’s musical content back-loaded towards the end, it's already time for our third film of the day. Honestly, I’m not sure what the hell is supposed to be going on here. As far as I can tell, a group of kids breaks into a clothing boutique in the middle of the night and gallivants around to the accompaniment of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return”) and The United States of America’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights.” Halfway through, the Go-Go Girls interrupt the scene for an extended dance routine based on Moby Grape’s “Truckin’ Man.” Then the boutique kids come back on, dancing some more to “Garden of Earthly Delights” before…I think they’re arrested. I’m not too sure on that last point. One minute they’re dancing; the next, you just see a police car driving down the road, with no shot of the cops actually showing up in between. That was kind of pointless, honestly, but it featured some damn fine musical selections.
It had been a while since Beat Club hosted an act whose entire oeuvre consisted of only one single, but if you count the U.K. Jones pseudonym, we already have two in this episode. Grisby Dkye was a Manchester band that spent their entire career in opening act purgatory, and “The Adventures of Miss Rosemary La Page” would be their only release. A spry Manfred Mann-imitating pop song about a groupie who jumps up on stage when her favorite band starts playing, this comes across like a budget-rate version of The Who’s “Sally Simpson,” but at least features some nice fuzz bass along the way. Note the ‘Radio Bremen’ stencils on the drumheads on the close-ups. Not available on YouTube.
It had been seven months since the Hit Parader Top 7 list had been given more than a cursory read-through on Beat Club, but in a surprise return, the top five songs are all treated to the full song-clips-and-graphics presentation, just like in the old days. It’s a strong list, with The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” (DLT: “Stand by for big guitar sounds!”), Mary Hopkin’s “Goodbye,” and Desmond Dekker’s “Israelites” featuring, all topped by The Beatles’ “Get Back.” This one-off throwback would be the last time the Top 7 list would ever be singled out for special treatment like this; it would return to brief afterthought status for the next episode, and would be gone from the show altogether by the fall.
The Alan Price Set had appeared on Beat Club episode 25 a year and a half earlier, and sometime thereafter, Price himself decided he’d had enough of life on the road, electing to give up his frontman spot in the group. The band appears here as The Paul Williams Set, re-named for its new singer, but Price remained in charge of their musical output, and “My Sly Sadie” was both written and produced by him. It’s a reasonably professional slice of upbeat soul-rock, although Williams’ gruff lounge-blooze vocals lack the charm of Price’s own less trained approach. The group would be short-lived in this incarnation, and by the next year, Williams would be fronting Aynsley Dunbar’s band, before splitting that for Juicy Lucy.
Irish singer-songwriter David McWilliams makes his second Beat Club appearance next, a full year after he had debuted on the show. If his hit “Days of Pearly Spencer” had carried distinct traces of Leonard Cohen’s songwriting influence, “The Stranger” is a bald-faced imitation. From the flat, wordy melodic cadence to the foreboding lyrical imagery to the central use of the word ‘stranger’ in the title, everything about this screams “I just listened to Cohen’s first album eighty times in a row without pausing for food or sleep.” As blatant rip-offs go, it’s honestly not that bad; McWilliams doesn’t possess quite Cohen’s level of eloquence or imagination, but he approximates it well enough that I at least had to look it up to make sure it wasn’t actually a cover. I do like the creepily sustained fuzz guitar in the arrangement. This is the first of two consecutive strikingly spooky visual presentations on the show: hidden behind sunglasses, McWilliams performs the song in front of vertical lines which break up the images projected behind him. This may be too much of a pale ripoff musically to count as an episode highlight, but the overall vibe is enough to make it worth watching anyway.
The next clip can be recommended without qualification, though. Melanie returns for the second episode in a row to perform “Bobo’s Party,” which had recently given her a surprise #1 hit in France. Giving the first live in-studio performance on Beat Club in half a year, she accompanies herself with only acoustic guitar and tapping feet, providing the song with a startling dynamic range using nothing but her own voice. I have no idea what the hell she’s singing about in this song, but given the intensity with which she performs it, I’m not sure it even matters. She sounds fucking possessed here, simmering with hoarse, conspiratorial whispers before erupting into hellish fits that I’d be tempted to classify as screams if she wasn’t able to somehow stay melodic the whole time. This is compelling, virtuoso stuff, ladies and gentlemen, and I’d have no problem at all placing “Bobo’s Party” among the top five greatest (if not THE greatest) live vocal performances ever given on Beat Club. Even without the benefit of any effects, the song and performance alone would be chilling, but the boys in the back room do an incredible job here, starkly lighting Melanie from below and hallucinogenically floating her image among a seedy collection of bottles and smoking ashtrays. Melanie herself is cute as hell (seriously), but they give her the aura of a ‘40s horror movie here; even her mischievous grin at the close of the song seems ominous in this context. You can all go home now; nothing else on this episode is gonna top this.
On second thought, don’t go home, because Beat Club News is next, and there are a couple of interesting things in here this time around. The first part is admittedly laughable—former Manfred Mann vocalist Paul Jones cavorts around pretentiously in a section of the promo film for his recent mediocre version of “Age of Aquarius.” (I think there was some clause in the contract you had to sign with the devil to become a pop star in the late ‘60s that you had to cover either this, “Sunny,” or “Gentle On My Mind.” Satan must have owned the publishing for those songs.) There’s a brief, uninteresting section of an interview with Jones afterwards, in which he reduces his relationship with his audience to “I make records, and they buy them.” Thanks, buddy. This is followed by coverage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Amsterdam Bed-In protest. Most people who have enough of an interest in late ‘60s music and/or culture to be reading this in the first place should already be familiar with this footage, in which John and Yoko lie in bed answering questions about their wedding and the nature of their protest itself. Regardless of possible Beatle-footage overfamiliarity, it’s still greatly interesting to see this event covered less than a month after it happened, in context with the rest of the 1969 pop scene. Most interesting/ironic statement: John asserts that The Beatles are “closer now than we ever were” personally, which in hindsight turned out to be a complete and utter lie. In May, the Lennons would undertake another weeklong Bed-In protest in Montreal, and footage from that event would be shown on Beat Club as well. The third section of Beat Club News catches up with Janis Joplin backstage at a concert in Frankfurt on April 12. Janis appears to be in a foul mood, ordering the cameraman out of the room, then repeatedly yelling, “shut the fucking door!” when he refuses to comply. This cuts to Janis onstage, as the band opens the show with “Raise Your Hand.” Other than the Kozmic Blues Band’s tendency to rush song tempos live, Janis sounds great here, her mood ebulliently transformed. About half of the song is shown, then we cut back to Janis backstage afterwards, furious again “because the sound system was all fucked up, that’s why!” Sadly, this duality in nature seemed to be a large part of Janis’s internal makeup, but I still find this warts-and-all approach to showing pop stars on television far preferable to the calculated careerist manner of Cliff Richard. (A large chunk of Janis’ 4/12/69 Frankfurt show is available in color on YouTube, by the way. Here’s “Raise Your Hand,” albeit from a different camera angle and without the expletive-filled backstage footage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TDw8v1Gi1E)
The aptly named Trifle seemed to have the world laid out before them in 1969: they had somehow managed to get Robert Stigwood to manage them, and they were given first crack at covering one of The Beatles’ new songs from the Yellow Submarine movie. Unfortunately for the band, that song happened to be “All Together Now,” a serious contender for the least substantive ditty The Beatles ever cut, and the band would only last less than a year. Beatles song or not, it can’t have been fun standing up there acting like they’re really happy to be playing this song. Oh sure, they look jolly enough, with the drummer using what appears to be a rubber tomahawk to hit his drums, but I’m sure that’s just to mask the feeling of their souls being carbonized into pure black coal. Still better than that Les Reed song. (Trivial note: drummer Rod Coombes, the only member of Trifle who would amount to anything afterwards, would join Juicy Lucy along with singer Paul Williams, also on this episode, later in the year. That band would play on Beat Club in 1970. Told you it was trivial.)
It seems to be time for our monthly goodbye to another definitive mimed-era Beat Club guest. Manfred Mann had been a constant fixture on the British pop charts since 1964, and had been making frequent stops on Beat Club for nearly two years, but the band had reached its end. “Ragamuffin Man” again reached the U.K. top 10, but it would be their last release; the band broke up while the record was still in the charts, very shortly after this appearance. It’s a reasonably good song, imbued with the same unconventional hooks and clever arranging ideas that characterized most of the band’s singles, but it’s not their best. The band is flanked by a giant projection of the single’s label as their past album covers flash by, and there’s almost a sense that Beat Club is paying retrospective tribute to the band, but I may just be projecting hindsight knowledge here. After the break-up, keyboardist Mann himself would get a little too into synths and lite-prog with his Earth Band, and Klaus Voormann would become the go-to bassist for non-Paul Beatles solo records.
Professional Nice Guy Eddie Vickers had been absent from Beat Club for six months at this point, his chief function of presenting the top LP countdown now defunct. He returns now in his new guise as the show’s roving reporter, interviewing the moody doom-lounge singer Scott Walker. Or shall we say, he “interviews” Scott, since it’s pretty clear Eddie is just providing new cut-in questions to a pre-existing Walker interview. They’re never in frame together the entire time, the lighting and sound ambience is different from shot to shot, and Scott answers all the questions in English, despite Vickers asking them in German. Wearing a fur coat, slumping down on a couch, and carefully avoiding making eye contact with whoever was actually interviewing him, Scott speaks in a haughty adopted English accent and does a lot of eye-rolling as he answers. If I didn’t love the guy so much, I’d be howling at the level of pretension radiating off of him here. It’s interesting that even at a time when he was still a mainstream star and still selling a lot of records, Scott was already having to answer questions about being a recluse (he denies it here). He talks about visiting his girlfriend in Copenhagen (ah…that’s what that song’s about), refers to his albums as “jazz LPs,” says he wants to direct films based on scripts he’s written, and enthuses about his preference for the permanence of recording. “When I do a television show, it’s taped. You’re taking a picture now, it’s in the can, it’s there, it’s permanent. I like that.” Fortunately for Scott, Beat Club was one of the few TV shows of the era that valued permanence as much as he did, as a majority of his appearances from this era (including the entirety of his weekly BBC television series) have been lost due to tape erasure. This interview would unfortunately be the closest thing to a solo appearance Scott ever did on Beat Club.
Irish singer Clodagh Rodgers had been making records since she was thirteen, but it wasn’t until 1969 that her career finally took off with the hit single “Come Back and Shake Me.” A decent, mildly suggestive pop record with a big, brassy chorus and some novel vocal effects, “Shake Me” is given an almost naive performance by Rodgers. She stands in front of the caution-striped support beams for the tall stage, and in a fun effect, DLT can be seen dancing behind her at certain points, then repeatedly disappears when the camera zooms back out. Either this performance was spliced together from two separate takes, or DLT can run a lot faster than I would have given him credit for. Rodgers would come back to perform her follow-up single in a few months. There are several different performances of this song available on the internet, but this isn’t one of them.
Well, you knew they had to show up eventually in 1969. Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick, and Tich were now over a year removed from their commercial peak, and were still in the midst of their downward commercial slide. Their newest single, “Don Juan,” had missed out on the English top 20 altogether, something that they hadn’t experienced since the very beginning of their career. Yes, the writing was on the wall for this band, but the German kids still loved them so much, they probably could have appeared on every damn episode of Beat Club without any complaint from the audience. A blatant attempt to recapture the exotic-vista appeal of their biggest hit, “Legend of Xanadu,” “Don Juan” has this goofy Spanish theme with castanets and trumpets, but no drama or memorable hook to speak of. It feels like the band’s handlers are panicking, really, rushing out lame re-writes of songs that were already kind of lame in the first place. As I’m sure you’ve probably already guessed, Dave Dee shows up dressed in a matador outfit. They do the standard back-projection thing as usual, here utilized to show footage of Tich and Beaky’s weddings. Whatever.
Not counting Dave Davies’ two solo performances, The Kinks had been absent from the Beat Club stage for nearly two years. When we last saw them, they were riding high on “Waterloo Sunset,” one of the peaks of their career, but at this point they were coming off of two consecutive brilliant but unsuccessful albums, Something Else By The Kinks and Village Green Preservation Society, and they desperately needed a hit. “Plastic Man” was Ray Davies’ attempt to rectify this, a raucous, smartassed character sketch reminiscent of his work three years previous. Although not absolutely top-shelf Kinks material, it was a strong enough record with an infectiously wry guitar lick (for my money, the real hook in the song comes with the two rhythmic hits right before the punch line of each verse), and it deserved better than the #31 chart placement it achieved. Ray sings the whole thing with a smirk, and John Dalton is now installed as the band’s bassist in place of Pete Quaife. They come off great, but they’d have to wait another year before “Lola” would finally bring them the major hit they desired. It’s always good to see The Kinks crop up on Beat Club; unfortunately, they liked to take their time between appearances. After “Plastic Man,” it would be another three years before the group would return to Bremen.
At this point in the show, the rooftop concert-shot promo film for The Beatles’ “Get Back” was shown, but of course, you won’t see it here. After the edit, the hosts come on to say their goodbyes; Uschi launches into a long bit of copy she has to read, after which DLT simply responds with, “don’t women talk a lot?” I’d pay good hard American currency to see Uschi plant her foot right into his nuts at a moment like this. At any rate, the show takes its new theme song around the block one more time as the credits roll (still has that new theme music smell), and the episode comes to an end. This one may have been a bit weaker than the few that had preceded it, but there was a lot of entertainment value to be found, and the good stuff was really damn good. The next episode would be broadcast a month and a half after this and would regain a bit more consistency.
(Edited by halleluwah)I'MCOMINGI'MCOMINGI'MCOMINGI'MCOMING
Posted January 23rd, 2012 02:51 PM IPHello. I registered just to let you know there are more than two people reading. Thanks for the episode reviews - always entertaining and informative. I've heard it said The Kinks "Plastic Man" wasn't played by BBC radio at the time because it contained the word "bum", which probably harmed its hit potential in Britain.
Beat-Club Episode 43
6/7/1969 All performances mimed, except where noted
1. Opening titles (pinball)
2. Steppenwolf - Rock Me*
3. Film: Amsterdam
4. Film: British Production of Hair
5. Paul Revere & The Raiders - Let Me*
6. Status Quo - Are You Growing Tired Of My Love
7. Film: Eddie Vickers on Carnaby Street
8. Jimmy James & The Vagabonds - Close The Door (live vocal to backing track)*
9. Film: Eddie Vickers on King’s Road
10. Colosseum - Walking In The Park (live)*
11. Fleetwood Mac - Man Of The World*
12. Spooky Tooth - That Was Only Yesterday
13. Film: German Underground
14. Beat Club News: Top 7 / Jackie Lomax / Star Club / Air Peace protests
15. Steppenwolf - Born To Be Wild*
16. The Beach Boys – Break Away*
17. Joe South - Games People Play*
18. Chris Andrews - Pretty Belinda
19. Mary Hopkin - Goodbye (on film)*
20. The Dave Clark Five - Mulberry Tree
21. Closing credits
After taking May off, Beat Club returned with a vengeance with an excellent 64-minute marathon episode. The pinball-themed “Touch of Velvet” opening sequence makes its second appearance, then minimizes to a small screen next to Uschi as she says gutentag to the home viewers. DLT does likewise, holding the bushy foxtail we last saw worn under his neck as a tie the previous year. The tail will be a constant prop for him throughout the episode. Presently, the small screen changes from the Go-Go Girls to the introduction of the first musical act of the show, and it grows to take up the full screen.
Steppenwolf was one of those transitional bands that didn’t seem to fit snugly into any particular box. Too slick and commercial to be a garage band, not sonically extreme enough to be proto-metal, but still hard enough to scare Midwestern parents, they appealed to bikers and wannabe bikers all across America. But their singer, John Kay, also happened to have been born in Germany, which helped them attain a European following as well. “Rock Me,” the first of two songs they’d perform on this episode, is a fine opener for the show, a sleazy barroom groove stretched into an unexpected percussion breakdown. Kay appears to have more interest in looking like a tough rocker than most of the singers appearing on Beat Club in this era, sporting leather pants and sunglasses, and the band comes off like a semi-dangerous group of Rickenbacker guitar salesmen here. The effects guys pull out every trick in their arsenal here, including back projection, contrast effects, rapid-fire zooms, and creepy low-angle lighting, and this is one of the most visually dazzling moments of the episode. Steppenwolf would return later in the show to perform their best-known song.
As has become customary for these mid-’69 episodes, two consecutive films follow the introductory musical number. In the first, the show goes to Amsterdam to see how many “these guys HAVE to be fucking high” moments they can pack into three minutes. The Beat Club reporter, who to my knowledge has never appeared on the show before this, uses a giant tulip for a microphone. A woman wearing mirrors on her head stands sobbing in the street. A young man who is said to resemble Rembrandt adopts a bad Bob Dylan impression and repeats a phrase that sounds like “I’m sitting in a cosmos” over and over again before erupting into a Damo Suzuki-esque fit of gibberish. The reporter returns in oversized sunglasses and wooden shoes, and flips us the bird with a bandaged middle finger as he breaks into song. So everything you’ve heard about the availability of good hash in Amsterdam is completely true.
The second film takes us to a London production of the musical Hair. A couple of hippies from the show’s cast stand on the street in front of their smashed-up apartment building, explaining that they had just been raided by the cops. The police apparently found no drugs, but kicked them out of their tenement anyway. Most of the windows are busted out, and the place barely looks habitable in any event, but at least somebody has helpfully spray-painted “the homless (sic) need your help” out front.
Paul Revere and the Raiders make their Beat Club debut next with the tough rocker “Let Me.” Although widely seen at the time as something of a gimmicky teenybopper group, in hindsight the band was more of a classic Northwestern garage band that just happened to score a lot of hit singles. Driven by a fuzzy ascending guitar attack and Mark Lindsay’s seething vocals, “Let Me” sports a cowbell-heavy funk bridge and a fake-out false ending, and does a fine job of kicking the dust off of your speakers. The camera mostly focuses on the ponytailed heartthrob Lindsay, but captures a bit of goofing around as organist Revere runs over to ham it up with the drummer during the funky bit. In contrast to the Steppenwolf clip, the only effect here is a simple flashing light, but the song’s intensity works well with the straight performance footage.
It’s funny how every time Status Quo appears on Beat Club, they appear less and less happy to be there. Despite DLT’s introduction of “Are You Growing Tired of My Love” as being “magnificent,” all of the band members look like they’d rather be someplace else. Even Francis Rossi, who usually put up a game attempt at looking like he was getting into the songs he was singing, here just blankly stands and strums while Alan Parfitt takes the lead. All these guys really wanted to do was rock, and here they were stuck with an imitation Bee Gees ballad with a singalong chorus. Their frustration is understandable, but as a pure composition, this is clearly the best of the three songs they’ve played so far on Beat Club to my ears, melodic and memorable in a way their previous records weren’t. And the rotating pattern of concentric squares that plays around the screen throughout is a nice touch. By the time Status Quo would make their next appearance on Beat Club a year later, they’d transformed themselves into something more to their own liking, a denim-clad gang of boogie rockers.
Beat Club had already done a brief filmed excursion to Carnaby Street in London the previous November, but they now send Eddie Vickers there for a slightly more in-depth report. By the end of the ‘60s, the epicenter of the British fashion district seems to have been overrun by tourists, a bit like Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. Of the people caught by the camera here, very few look like British mod types. Eddie first interviews a trio of German kids, then moves on to an old lady from America, who hilariously asserts that Carnaby Street may be far out, but it’s nowhere near as far out as her hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts. We finally settle into the Take Six boutique, where the foppish owner boasts of all the pop stars who have bought clothing from him. After speaking with a few more European tourists, the piece concludes with footage of The Earl of Mustard, an old guy who tap-dances on the sidewalk wearing a Napoleon hat and shoes that appear to be miniature skis.
Jamaican soul singer Jimmy James (amusingly, the extent of his big showbiz name change was just switching his given name Michael out for Jimmy) scored a handful of minor hits in England with his backing group The Vagabonds, including the earliest cover version of Neil Diamond's "Red Red Wine." The song he does here, "Close the Door," is a dramatic orchestrated minor-key soul concoction, passionately sung live by James over a backing track. He’s an excellent singer with a smooth sense of phrasing, and The Vagabonds add a rock touch to the arrangement that takes it away from orthodox soul territory. In an eerie move, none of the band members’ faces are ever seen, although their hands are seen playing their instruments on the high-contrast back projection. James himself, who bears a bit of a resemblance to baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, stands out front in an unflattering all-white sweatshirt/pants combo that accentuates his rotund figure. I can’t find this clip on the internet anywhere, but it’s the first thing at the beginning of part 2 of the full episode in the above links, and it’s well worth checking out.
With that taken care of, we return to Eddie Vickers’ London fashion extravaganza, where he has moved on to King’s Road in the Chelsea district. While Carnaby Street may have already turned into a tourist trap, the (at the time) less notorious King’s Road still seemed to be a hip place to go shopping for pop stars, which is proven when Vickers ‘accidentally’ bumps into Joe Cocker exiting a boutique. Let me tell you, in no way did that come off as staged. Eddie goes into one of the boutiques to speak to the proprietor, and frankly, I don’t know that I’d feel very comfortable buying supposedly hip fashions from anybody who wears a jacket like THAT. Interestingly, although it didn’t sell for shit when it came out, somebody at Beat Club was obviously very keen on The United States of America’s groundbreaking self-titled album at the time; for the second episode in a row, one of the band’s songs soundtracks a film, this time the ominous “What Is Yesterday,” which makes for a hilariously inappropriate accompaniment to Eddie trying on a garish sequined vest.
One of the first British jazz-rock bands to venture into the progressive realm, Colosseum was founded by a collection of standouts from the Graham Bond/John Mayall r&b scene, including drummer Jon Hiseman and saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith. Their first single, a cover of Bond's "Walking In the Park," is a swaggering, brassy one-chord blues song, raucously performed live by the band. (Starting with Melanie’s “Bobo’s Party” in April, nearly every subsequent Beat Club episode would feature at least one live performance, although the show would remain predominantly mimed until late in the year.) Although these guys are clearly jazz players, Hiseman’s explosive drumming and the abandoned wah-wah guitar solo add a level of energy and attitude to the performance that pushes the song into rock territory. Watch Heckstall-Smith at the end, when he pulls out the Roland Kirk trick of blowing two saxophones simultaneously. Soon, saxophonists would be engaging in this gimmick often enough on Beat Club, you could base a drinking game on it. Colosseum themselves would return to the show a few times within the next year or so, becoming progressively more long-winded and pretentious as time went on, and they’d never be quite this much fun again.
Like Colosseum, Fleetwood Mac was originally formed by alumni of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, but the similarities ended there. Peter Green, probably the greatest blues guitarist England ever produced, had initially formed the band with the aim to be the most authentic Chess Records-inspired group in the country (at which they excelled, by the way), but by 1969 was steering the group into more adventurous waters. Green's approach to the blues had always been spookier and darker than most of his contemporaries, but as time went on, his songs became more and more depressive and rock oriented. Strangely, as his songs got darker, the group's records became more commercially successful, and Fleetwood Mac would be England's top-selling singles band of 1969, with three of their records getting up to #1 or 2 in the charts. The second of these singles, "Man of the World," was a heart-rending ballad of disillusionment in the face of fame and fortune, featuring the most involved multi-guitar arrangement the group had yet attempted. The full group plays the song at the bottom of the screen, flanked by large, distorted close-ups captured from studio monitors. Although Fleetwood Mac was hitting its early peak of artistry and popularity at this time, the first in a bizarre ongoing series of misfortunes for the group was right around the corner. Within months, Peter Green’s melancholic tendencies would blossom into full-blown paranoid schizophrenia after getting dosed by some bad acid in a German commune, and he would never be the same again. He’d depart the band in the spring of 1970, and the eventual return of Fleetwood Mac to Beat Club would feature a much different band in the throes of commercial exile.
Spooky Tooth continues the Mac’s air of weary resignation with “That Was Only Yesterday.” A solid track from the band’s best album, Spooky Two, it moves from the weepy feel and lonesome cowboy harmonica of the verses into choruses made of pure Stonesy roots-chunk. Singer Mike Harrison shamelessly sports his perfect rock star frontman mane (which he obviously spent more time coiffing before the show than he did learning when to come in on his harmonica parts), but keyboardist Gary Wright manages to look even sillier in one of those mesh see-through sweaters. After Wright left the following year, the band would putter through one more album before breaking up for the first of many times. They’d never appear on Beat Club again, although former bassist Greg Ridley would return within a few months as a member of Humble Pie.
The extended filmed middle section of the show begins with a feature on the German underground scene, featuring footage shot at an ‘explosion’ in Stuttgart. A bunch of young German art-school types given access to a dark club, a shitload of paint, and a painfully loud sound system? You should all be thinking the same thing right now: this is a recipe for pure, unadulterated nightmare fuel. First we have footage of a band onstage playing a frantic piece that sounds very much like the primordial beginnings of Krautrock. Then there’s a weird, ritualistic-looking piece of performance art in which a group of hippies creeps around the stage, moving in slow motion, before the whole bunch devolves into a disorganized mass of bodies screaming and writhing around on the floor. The musical accompaniment throughout this sequence is a freaky arrhythmic piece made up of dissonant drones, feedback noises, and eerie chanting, not dissimilar to Can’s “Augmn.” Finally, a topless woman who is entirely painted in some dark color stands behind a set of drums and assorted percussion, alternately beating the hell out of them and screaming into a microphone. The entire time, we keep cutting back to a running commentary by a bald guy with a nose so crooked, his face looks like a cubist Picasso painting. He’s speaking in German, of course, but I’m not convinced anything we’re seeing would make any more sense if I understood every word he said perfectly. This underground sequence may be befuddling and a bit disturbing (I’m sure it was at least partially supposed to be, though), but ultimately, there’s something almost compelling about it. This is an offshoot of the same culture that spawned Beat Club itself, and there are clear predictors of the near future of German rock music to be found here. It’s just that you may not be able to sleep tonight after watching it.
The underground feature is immediately followed by the “Reaction in G” intro to Beat Club News, and after what we just saw, the fact that the first thing we see is a Uschi-read Top 7 list with Tommy Roe’s “Dizzy” at #1 is a bucket of cold water to the face. The first News segment catches up with Beatle buddy and Apple recording artist Jackie Lomax preparing for a television appearance. As makeup is smeared across Lomax’s severe features, he’s interviewed about his career; he says he’s essentially trying to strike a balance on his records between the commercial and underground sides of the music scene, in the process unintentionally summarizing the state of Beat Club itself in 1969. Lomax then goes before the cameras, miming “You’ve Got Me Thinking” in an odd set surrounded by clear plastic furniture. In the second bit, two German musicians (I think one of them may be the floppy-sweatered blond guy who sang with The Rattles all the way back on episode 3, but I’m not certain) stand in the middle of a construction area and talk about playing at the famous Star Club in Hamburg. In the last piece of News, that tulip-brandishing reporter from the Amsterdam film is back to provide us with one more bit of stoned bullshit: protesters who don butterfly wings with the words ‘Air Peace’ written on them. Two men are shown engaging in this protest: an old guy in a trench coat and bobby’s hat carrying a record player, and a younger man wearing a gas mask on his forehead holding an old-fashioned bug sprayer. Thank you very much, gentlemen; that oughta stop the war.
After a bit more DLT tomfoolery with that damn foxtail, the show ends on six consecutive musical performances, starting with the return of Steppenwolf. "Born to Be Wild" had already been a sizeable hit upon its initial release the previous year, but would reach truly iconic status the month after this episode aired with the release of the film Easy Rider. If you've ever seen any vintage footage of the band playing this song on television, chances are this is the clip you saw. Although suffering a bit from overexposure these days, the song still comes off well in this setting, with the band doing a fine job of physically embodying the propulsive drive while miming. Giving the crazy effects of the “Rock Me” clip a rest, the band is shot entirely straight here, with special attention being given to their bare-chested, floppy hat-wearing drummer and to John Kay’s Jim Morrison-inspired microphone moves. Steppenwolf would return to the show with one more performance from the same taping session in August. At the end of “Born to Be Wild,” Uschi seems to be confused about what order the show’s clips were to be assembled in, and tells us we just saw Paul Revere and the Raiders.
The Beach Boys had returned for another filming session, six months after their previous taping back in December, and the physical difference is immediately apparent in looking at Mike Love, who has let his beard grow to mountain man lengths (perhaps to compensate for the increasing lack of hair on the top of his head) and donned a full-length white robe. “Break Away,” the band’s newest record, was the best single they’d put out in two years, and was rewarded with another top 10 U.K. chart placement. A classic Brian Wilson production, the song (in a unique move, co-written with his father, Murry) features a dizzyingly complex set of harmonic changes, anchored to a chord progression that bears traces of bossa nova influence. The Americans were crazy for not making this a hit there. The band does a professional-looking job of looking like they’re navigating the tricky arrangement, save for Dennis Wilson, who appears to have no idea where the drum hits were placed on the recording (after one particularly noticeable flub, he gives a funny “whoops, you caught me” look to the camera). The band is joined onscreen throughout by a floating battery of close-ups on superimposed TV monitors. Along with the “California Girls” clip, “Break Away” is the greatest and most memorable Beach Boys appearance on Beat Club; they’d return to the show one last time in a couple of months.
American singer-guitarist Joe South had been writing and playing on other people's records for a decade, but it wasn't until recently that he'd attempted to start a singing career of his own in earnest. South's "Games People Play" immediately became one of those songs that everybody and their brothers had to cover (Boots Randolph's version was shown during his interview feature on Beat Club only a couple of episodes back), but it was his original that became the first big hit, subsequently winning the Grammy award for record of the year. Based on a simple melody stated on an electric sitar, the song is a four-chord piece of anthemic country-soul cataloguing the injustices people heap upon one another. The song is given a pretty standard effects-heavy Beat Club treatment, with South shot from multiple angles and flanked by a variety of back-projections. This was to be Joe South’s only Beat Club appearance.
For the first time in the episode, we’re given a chance to see the full extent of Uschi’s navel-baring short striped dress as she introduces Chris Andrews, and all I can say is…wow. Back in January of 1966, Andrews had given the first ever mimed performance on Beat Club with his hit "Yesterday Man." Three and a half years later, his hits had long since dried up back home in England, but he still had a decent career in Europe and South America. "Pretty Belinda" shows that his style hadn’t changed much in that time; it’s another forgettably upbeat pop song with a bit of a whitey ska bounce. He’s shot in profile for much of it, with the repeating monitor images behind him conjuring up an approximation of the Lady From Shanghai multiple mirror effect. Following this surprise return, Chris Andrews would slide back into obscurity, and would never appear on Beat Club again.
Before it became shorthand for in-over-our-heads rock ‘n’ roll financial debacles, The Beatles’ Apple Records label started off firing on all cylinders commercially for its first year of existence. Aside from The Beatles themselves, the most successful artist on the label was initially Mary Hopkin, a blond Welsh teenager whose “Those Were the Days” had hit #1 in England the previous year. Hopkin’s second single, the Paul McCartney written and produced “Goodbye,” was nearly as successful. Given one of Paul’s sweetest melodies of the period, the track was somewhat reminiscent of a bouncier version of “Mother Nature’s Son,” and the promo film shown here plays up the connection to Hopkin’s superstar svengali for all it’s worth. She’s shown playing the song in a studio, intercut with footage of Paul enthusiastically singing along with the playback in the control room. It’s like a ‘60s British folk-pop version of Eddie Murphy’s “Party All the Time” video. Hopkin would continue her star trajectory in England for the next year or so before going into temporary semi-retirement upon marrying famed producer Tony Visconti in 1971.
Continuing Beat Club’s annoying occasional tendency to end otherwise strong episodes with lame musical performances, we end things today with The Dave Clark Five’s “Mulberry Tree.” Now, don’t get me wrong; I like this group just fine in general, but this is far from their finest musical moment. Many of their earlier singles were classic British Invasion-era pop, but here, they only up the white-ska ante already introduced to the episode by Chris Andrews two songs back, and this single deservedly went nowhere on the charts. Like The Beach Boys and Steppenwolf, The Dave Clark Five would return for the August episode, this time with a song a bit more agreeable to my digestive system.
The hosts’ send-off to the audience becomes yet another exercise in DLT komedy, as he teases Uschi with the foxtail, puts his nose right against her face while she’s talking, and concludes by bizarrely reminding viewers to “tune in and turn on, baby!” as if he had any idea what that actually meant. Within three weeks, Beat Club would return for its first episode of the summer of ’69.
Posted January 28th, 2012 12:04 PM IPThanks for another great episode review. My two favourite Steppenwolf tracks and they look extremely cool here. The Dennis Wilson performance is hilarious - it's a tricky drum part to mime and he doesn't even get close.
The Dave Clark Five track is dire - like a Chris Andrews song only worse, which Mike Smith delivers in a horrible faux-caribbean accent.
Beat-Club Episode 44
6/28/1969 All performances mimed, except where noted
1. Opening titles
2. Film: Club 59
3. Film: Melody Maker feature with The Gun and The Tremeloes
4. Caravan - Place Of My Own*
5. Brian Poole & The Seychelles - Send Her To Me
6. The Flirtations - What's Good About Goodbye My Love? *
7. Film: Feature on singer Claudette in London*
8. Keef Hartley Band - Waiting Around
9. Marsha Hunt - Walk On Gilded Splinters*
10. Procol Harum - A Salty Dog*
11. Richie Havens - Lady Madonna (live)*
12. Beat Club News: Top 7 / Blind Faith / Clodagh Rogers / Amsterdam / Rolling Stones*
13. The Searchers - Shoot 'Em Up Baby
14. The Family Dogg - A Way Of Life
15. Three Dog Night – One
16. The Amen Corner - Hello Susie
17. Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich - Snake In The Grass
18. The Ohio Express – Mercy*
19. Closing credits
The second Beat Club episode of June 1969 is a small step down from its predecessor, chiefly due to several lackluster clips smashed together towards the show’s end, but it’s very nearly as entertaining overall. In fact, the unusually schizophrenic nature of the episode does something to add a bit to the entertainment value. This is an odd construction, even by Beat Club standards, and by the end of the show, a couple more of the era’s regular guests will have seen their last moments on the program.
After the opening pinball titles and the hosts’ introductions (after what she was wearing last time, Uschi’s conservative white dress can’t help but disappoint somewhat), the show starts off with over eight minutes of films before the first proper musical performance begins. The first film focuses on Club 59, a gathering place for London motorcycle enthusiasts. There’s plenty of extended footage of bikes zooming around on streets and racetracks to the tune of “Rock Around the Clock” and “Jenny Jenny,” if you’re into that type of thing. I think we all like motorcycles to some degree. One person who certainly does is a priest in the Church of England, who goes into a monologue about his love of raising hell on two wheels while removing his leather jacket to display his clerical collar.
Beat Club had already done a couple of features with the NME early in the year, and the second film here gives some time to its chief competitor among British music papers, Melody Maker. Two bands, both of them veterans of Beat Club, sit for brief interviews in turn. The members of The Gun sit at the table first, discussing the recording of their second album, which they seem to feel will be an improvement over the first. Unfortunately, the public disagreed, and after the disappointing performance of the album, Gunsight, the trio would disband the following year. Next, it’s The Tremeloes’ turn, and a few short excerpts from “Hello World,” an otherwise unused performance from the band’s Beat Club taping session from earlier in the year, are shown. The band talks about their recent flop cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released,” and says they’d much rather play their own songs in the future. Given the quality of their own material in comparison to Dylan’s, I wouldn’t be so sure of that if I were them. And in a display of just how much more socially acceptable on-camera racism was in this era, when they talk about touring Japan, one of the members pulls his eyes into slits with his thumbs, declaring, “see, I’m Japanese!” This is the last we’ll see of both of these bands on Beat Club.
Finally, a full ten and a half minutes in, the first musical performance of the episode commences with the debut of proto-prog group Caravan. A product of the same Canterbury music scene that had also spawned The Soft Machine, the band was more concerned with spacey, jazz-flecked mood pieces than they were with concise pop songs, but for a prog band, they were refreshingly low on pretension. Exhibit A: one might expect “Place of My Own,” which they perform here, to be concerned with finding some deep spiritual place within your mind, or some other Moody Blues-esque bullshit, but it’s instead just a literal song about moving into a new flat. Froggy-voiced guitarist Pye Hastings is frankly not a good singer at all, but other than that, the song’s darkly evocative, semi-psychedelic musical accompaniment does a great job of conveying the promise progressive rock initially held before many of its practitioners allowed the genre to get ridiculous. The visuals are subtle by Beat Club standards, consisting mainly of long dissolve shots, but appropriate to the mood. I haven’t decided which is more amusing: bassist Richard Sinclair’s ridiculous hat, or the fact that there is a Vanilla Fudge sticker affixed to Hastings’ guitar. Caravan would return to Beat Club twice more over the next couple years; in the meantime, “Place of My Own” is the first of several clips in this episode’s first half to feel like a clear transition into a progressive mindset for the show.
That progressive vibe is gone in an instant with the arrival of Brian Poole and the Seychelles. Poole, the original lead vocalist for The Tremeloes, had left the band in 1966, but success as a solo artist would never be in the cards for him. Listening to “Send Her to Me,” you get a clear picture of why this was the case. It’s a forgettable ditty whose jaunty bounce seems completely at odds with the lost-love lyrics, as do the shit-eating facial expressions of the band members playing it. The balding Poole, dressed in a puffy silk Prince Valliant tunic, makes a game attempt at selling the song, but it’s a losing battle. The only thing of particular interest here is that much of the zoom-heavy clip is shot from a unique camera angle, giving viewers a chance to see what Beat Club performances looked like from the vantage point of the studio audience. This would be Brian Poole’s only performance on the show, but two years later, his career had deteriorated to the point that he would be shown working as a butcher in a filmed segment. Before the next song starts, there’s a unique transitional bumper showing ghosts from Beat Club’s past, including Sandie Sarjeant, Julie Driscoll, and P.P. Arnold.
The Flirtations had closed out 1968 on Beat Club with the volcanic “Nothing But a Heartache;” six months later, they return to the show with “What’s Good About Goodbye, My Love?” A bit closer in sound to The Supremes than “Heartache” was, the song boasts another immense chorus, sung with gutsy class by the group. For whatever reason, only two of the three Flirtations showed up for this taping, but the clip manages to be one of the most memorable moments of the whole episode nonetheless. The performance shown here is an amalgamation of two separate studio run-throughs of the song; they’re cut together via unique diamond-shaped wipes. Much of the clip makes the two Flirtations look as if they’re performing inside an animated version of the album cover for The Who’s Tommy. Despite having been responsible for two of the best R&B clips in Beat Club’s history, The Flirtations would not return to the show after this, which is a drag. I could do with about ten more clips like this.
Next up is one of the most unexpectedly moving films ever shown on Beat Club, a profile of Claudette, a French-Canadian singer trying to make it in London. We follow her around throughout the course of a day; she spends a long time applying makeup before venturing out into a cold, pissy-looking day wearing a fringe jacket that doesn’t appear to be warm enough. She stops by a café before heading down to Ronnie Scott’s club and the Apple Records offices (where we’re treated to some brief stock footage of Derek Taylor, trying to fool us into thinking he was there); it doesn’t look like she has any success getting an audition at either place. At the end, she retires back to the couch she’s staying on, blows out a candle, and tries to get some sleep. With the monthly parade of pop-star glamour shown on Beat Club, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of how rare it was even back then for somebody to even be given a chance to make a single record. Assuming that the singing that underpins this film is Claudette herself (much of it is unaccompanied, and it sounds fairly close to her speaking voice), she’s a competent, if unspectacular, blues singer; without pop-star looks or charisma, she never stood much of a chance of making it in a city like London. There’s no happy ending here; you can spend half an hour Googling Claudette and everything else you can possibly imagine in relation to this film and never come up with anything to suggest she ever got anywhere with her music. There’s a certain affecting irony about Beat Club airing a film like this. After all, this was a show that didn’t just make being a pop star look glamorous to its viewers; it made it seem positively otherworldly. To be confronted with the grim reality behind that larger-than-life veneer is a rude about-face for the show to take. At least Claudette was captured for posterity in this brief moment on Beat Club; most people aren’t even given that. I wonder what ended up happening to her.
By the time Keef Hartley started his own recording career in 1969, the majority of his most interesting contributions to rock ‘n’ roll trivia books were already behind him. He was the drummer chosen to replace Ringo Starr in Rory Storm and the Hurricanes back in 1962, when Ringo was wooed away by a slightly more important band. Eventually, Hartley immersed himself in the British blues circuit, playing with John Mayall for a while. When the non-singing drummer finally got his own band together, he steered it into a sort of jazzy blues direction, but “Waiting Around,” the single featured on his only Beat Club appearance, is more of a rootsy rock ballad. It’s a reasonable enough song, probably given a little bit more emotional power in this context by the fact that its yearning air seems to comment upon the film we just saw. Despite his British origin, Hartley always had an affinity for Native American imagery (check out any one of his album covers), and performs adorned with buckskins and beads here. He would go on to play at Woodstock two months after this, but never became a household name, and his recording career would be all but over by the mid-70s.
Although she never became a big star, Marsha Hunt is a fascinating figure. Originally from Philadelphia, she took part in the Berkeley free speech movement before moving to London, where she entered into an open marriage of convenience to Soft Machine keyboardist Mike Ratlidge. She would go on to have relationships with Marc Bolan and Mick Jagger (giving birth to the latter’s first daughter), before eventually quitting music a decade later to become a respected novelist. The first of Hunt’s three Beat Club appearances comes via her only modest hit, a cover of Dr. John’s “Walk on Gilded Splinters.” The song’s menacing voodoo groove, matched with Hunt’s bride-of-Frankenstein afro, contribute greatly to the late-night horror movie feel of this clip. Dressed in the closest approximation of Roger Daltrey’s open-chested fringe suit a woman can wear on television without attracting the ire of censors (of course, as it turns out, she needn’t have worried, as her clip is immediately followed by a bumper consisting of a topless lady dancing to “Hang on Sloopy”), the alluring Hunt slithers around the stage and keeps her eyes spookily wide-open. The background mostly stays pitch-black, except for patterns of animal prints or words that flash up behind her periodically. As the first half of a duo of consecutive clips that cast an eerie pallor over the midsection of this episode, “Splinters” packs a considerable wallop.
I’ve got to be honest; I’m not tremendously comfortable being this close to Dave Lee Travis’s face. Especially grinning and talking about dogs. In any event, the clip he leads us into is a classic Beat Club moment, and a continuation of the spooky mood established by the previous song. We have the overdue return of Procol Harum to thank, as the band mimes their most recent single, “A Salty Dog.” A strong contender for the greatest track the band ever recorded (even including “Whiter Shade of Pale”), “A Salty Dog” is one of the most effective evocations of nautical dread ever laid down by a rock group. The clip shown here is a perfect match, encapsulating Beat Club’s uncanny knack for finding the dark underbelly of even the most mundane imagery. In essence, all there is to it is the basic performance footage and some handheld Super-8 film of the band members messing around during soundcheck. The thing is, the soundcheck footage is played back at such a slow rate you can see every frame advancing, and the contrast with the more naturalistic performance shots gives the clip a surreal, dreamlike quality unlike any other in Beat Club’s history. This is undoubtedly Procol Harum’s personal high-watermark on the show, but fortunately, they’d return to Beat Club a couple more times before they were finished.
Greenwich Village-based folk singer Richie Havens gives the only live performance on this episode. Although he had remained staunchly acoustic, Havens had still managed to break with tradition via his unusually energetic renditions of contemporary material, such as the cover of The Beatles’ “Lady Madonna” he plays here. Backed by a conga player and an additional guitarist (both of whom look unusually fly to be typecast as folk musicians), Havens power-strums his way through the song with a level of loose juice that would be a boon to most rock bands. If you’ve ever seen footage of him before, you know he has one of the oddest guitar techniques in popular music, using his gigantic left thumb to do the majority of his fretting, and although straight-up folk musicians often leave me a bit cold, I always enjoy watching him perform. Like Keef Hartley, Richie Havens would perform at the Woodstock festival later in the summer; unlike Hartley, Richie’s opening set would win enthusiastic praise, pushing his career to greater heights. It would be two years before he would return to Beat Club.
Beat Club News arrives with Uschi’s reading of the Top 7 list, topped by The Beatles’ newest single, “Ballad of John and Yoko.” The first feature of News covers supergroup Blind Faith’s recent free concert in London’s Hyde Park. For a band comprised of brilliant musicians from Cream, Traffic, and Family, Blind Faith was a mediocre and under-rehearsed live band, and although the version of Buddy Holly’s “Well All Right” they’re shown playing here is decent, it’s not nearly as good as the one they recorded for their album. The group would exist for only a few more months, quickly imploding as any band featuring Ginger Baker and his titanic ego is wont to do. By the end of the year, Eric Clapton would already be playing on the Beat Club stage in a different band. Next we have an interview with Clodagh Rogers (as we learn here, her first name is pronounced “Claud-ya”), who we last saw performing her hit “Come Back and Shake Me” two episodes back. She comes across as being extremely level-headed about her sudden fame in England, noting that the biggest difference in her life now is just that she doesn’t have time to stay at home and be a housewife anymore, and that promoting a record is too hard of work to be considered particularly glamorous. The next segment returns us to Amsterdam yet again to visit a clothing boutique where hippies sew all the clothes. Incredibly, for the third episode in a row, a United States of America song is used for background music, this time “Coming Down.” The final portion of Beat Club News introduces the public to the newest member of The Rolling Stones, guitarist Mick Taylor. The group is swarmed by reporters at an outdoor photo shoot, at which Taylor looks bemused by his sudden emergence into the limelight. There’s a short interview with Mick Jagger, who comes across on this occasion as heavily coached; Brian Jones had left the band “to pursue his own musical policy,” he says, although the uncertain snicker he adds tells a different story. He adds that there will be a new single out in three weeks, but when asked if he knows what it’ll be called, he bizarrely answers, “not until next Monday.” Taylor himself then goes before the microphone, stating that he was told he’d be joining the band a week before, and had only met them a week before that, at a recording session for their newest single (the one they’ll be titling next Monday, apparently). (It was “Honky Tonk Women,” in case you hadn’t guessed.) Beat Club’s next episode would again feature a Rolling Stones-related news story, albeit commemorating a decidedly less happy circumstance.
If the first half of this episode featured several performances that nudged the show closer to its inevitable progressive destination, the last fifteen minutes packs in six songs that return it to the status quo, with mostly unimpressive results. First off, we have The Searchers, who return with their new single, a cover of Mac Davis’s “Shoot ‘Em Up, Baby.” Filmed at the same time as their first appearance three episodes back, it’s a decent enough song that passes by without much of particular interest happening. The most notable feature of this clip is the Go-Go Girls, who re-appear for one final dance routine superimposed over the band. Karen and Gita are missing their normal puffball wigs, and are treated with a variety of contrast effects, but they’re recognizable anyway.
Appearing on Beat Club for the last time is The Family Dogg, and I’m not particularly sad to see them go. After starting out on the show as an acceptable sub-Association vocal group, they’d used the remainder of their five appearances to gradually wear out their welcome, and I’m afraid their parting shot, “A Way of Life,” doesn’t grant them much of a reprieve. A tiresome attempt at social relevance from the pen of the David and Jonathan songwriting team, the song’s folk-pop arrangement is weighed down by clunky, overwrought imagery and a twee performance. Other than the anonymous presence of a pre-fame Elton John playing piano on the backing track, there’s nothing notable about this record. Nonetheless, it became The Family Dogg’s biggest ever hit in England, and in its wake, the group would become little more than a solo vehicle for singer Steve Rowland until its final demise in 1972. After “A Way of Life” is over, there’s a unique moment in which DLT takes time out to plug The Family Dogg’s appearance later that same night on a Dutch music show called Jam.
While much of the last quarter of this episode finds Beat Club rapidly clearing the decks of some of the less welcome return guests, they did find the time to add one new group as a replacement. With the release of their third single, a cover of Harry Nilsson’s “One,” the vocal trio/rock band hybrid Three Dog Night began their five-year assault on the American pop charts (and on good taste everywhere). Although the group was far less successful in Europe, they’d make a game attempt at cultivating an audience there with three Beat Club appearances. Although I know perfectly well this is an overdone version of a song that was far more effective in Nilsson’s haunted original reading, Three Dog Night’s “One” has always been a sort of minor guilty pleasure for me. I think I mainly like the insistent morse-code guitar parts, but that is really no excuse. At any rate, the clip is at least presented well, with some effective back-projections and fades.
Rushing forward to try to pack in as many songs as possible, the show proceeds to toss in a half-assed goodbye to another recurring irritant, The Amen Corner. Their fourth and final consecutive U.K. Top 10 hit, a cover of Roy Wood’s “Hello Susie,” is given a truncated airing here, lasting barely a minute and a half before getting prematurely faded out. This is a great song, but the strained vocals and show-band arrangement in this version hurt it a bit, particularly in comparison to Wood’s own superior recording of the song with The Move, which would be released the following year. This looks nearly exactly like every other Amen Corner performance on Beat Club: without the benefit of any effects, the cameras focus mostly on the dance steps of the sax section and the light-in-the-loafers lipsynching style of that greasy-haired schmuck Andy Fairweather Low. The group’s hitmaking days would come to an abrupt end when their next single, a cover of “Get Back,” completely stiffed on the charts, and they would break up at the end of the year. Both Fairweather Low and keyboardist Blue Weaver would go on to careers as sidemen for much better artists.
Meanwhile, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich’s downward spiral continues with “Snake in the Grass,” a fluffy piece of nothing that fails to register as anything other than a hokey Vaudeville pastiche. Even Beat Club, this band’s reason for waking up in the morning, seems to have stopped giving them any kind of special treatment. For the first time since the advent of back-projection technology on the show, a DDDBM&T clip is shown without any effects whatsoever. The band just stands around playing, with Dave Dee himself dressed in an uncharacteristically modest leather jacket. With this mediocre single once again failing to reach the British Top 20, the writing was on the wall for the group, and this was to be their last record with Dave Dee as a member; he’d quit within a couple of months. Incredibly, despite all of this, “Snake in the Grass” is still not the last we’ll see of any of these guys. The band would return for another performance without their former frontman later in the year, while Dee would find himself in a position of even greater prominence on Beat Club within a couple of months. Given the ineffectual nature of this single, nobody has seen fit to upload this clip to the internet anywhere as far as I can tell.
The Ohio Express had appeared six months earlier in a filmed segment; presently, the touring version of the group makes its only trip to Bremen to close the show out with “Mercy.” The band appearing here had precious little to do with the people who made the singles bearing their name; their job was simply to show up for concerts and TV shows, knowing none of their prepubescent fanbase would know the difference. Given that miming was such a large part of these guys’ job description, they do a pretty shaky job of it here, waiting several seconds to start mock-playing after the track starts. For a teenybopper group like this, it’s funny that the lead guy who mimes Joey Levine’s vocals looks more like a scruffy, T-Bird-driving dirtbag than a teen idol, but that’s all part of the beauty of it. This is easily the highlight of the last run of performances on today’s show. “Mercy” is another effortlessly memorable hook-injection device from the Ohio Express, driven by a tight, powerful rhythm section, but it would be their last Top 40 hit. Levine would leave the Super K production team over a money dispute, and Buddah Records’ short-lived era of dominance over bubblegum pop would soon be over.
Given how much musical material the show crammed into that last 15-minute run, the hosts have to rush through their sign-offs a bit more than usual, and the credits quickly roll us out. Episode 44 is one of the most oddly-paced episodes of Beat Club’s entire mimed era: it starts with ten minutes of film, looks like it’s shaping up to be one of the most progressive installments yet in its middle section, then takes us on a mad dash through a barrage of flat pop performances before sending us out on a singular moment of bubblegum power. I’m not sure what it adds up to, but it’s certainly difficult to imagine any other music show of the era opening with Caravan and ending with The Ohio Express.
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Posted February 7th, 2012 08:17 AM IPEnjoyed this episode - the odd mix of stuff is spot on for 1969. Caravan's "Place Of My Own" is a favourite of mine and Beat Club is the only clip I've seen of the band back then.
Procol Harum's "A Salty Dog" is a great song - nice to see BJ Wilson authentically mime a difficult drum part and Robin Trower auhentically mime an inaudible guitar.
Didn't know The Flirtations song - a surprising highlight of the show. Amen Corner clips are always fascinating because Andy Fairweather-low's top lip never moves.
And seeing this version of the Ohio Express is very unsettling. I had "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy" when it was #1 - I didn't know what they looked like but it sure wasn't like this.
Posted February 7th, 2012 05:36 PM IPRight on. Glad you enjoyed, Varitone!
Edit: I just realized that I had prematurely reported the demise of the Go-Go Girls on that last episode. Forget I said that; they're on the next one too, it turns out.
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Beat-Club Episode 45
8/2/1969 All performances mimed
1. Opening titles
2. The Dave Clark Five - Live In The Sky
3. Film: Hippie vacation
4. Steppenwolf - Sookie Sookie*
5. Film: More hippie vacation
6. Paul Revere & The Raiders - Out On That Road*
7. Film: Pop Proms at Royal Albert Hall*
8. The Marmalade - Baby Make It Soon
9. Rainbow People - Living In A Dream World
10. Robin Gibb - Saved By The Bell (with interview)*
11. Beat Club News: Top 7 / Brian Jones memorial / Rolling Stones at Hyde Park*
12. Zager & Evans - In The Year 2525
13. Clodagh Rodgers - Goodnight Midnight
14. The Beach Boys – Surfin’ USA*
15. Thunderclap Newman - Something In The Air*
16. John Lennon – Give Peace a Chance (on film)*
17. Closing credits
(The promo film for The Beatles’ “Ballad of John and Yoko” was originally shown on this episode.)
In some ways, Beat Club episode 45 feels like the end of an era. The transition away from the mimed pop format was a gradual one that was already well underway at this point; there’s not one single episode you can point to and say, “THAT’S the beginning of the progressive era.” That said, this is the last episode that feels like a ‘regular’ show of the ’67-’69 period. It’s the last completely mimed show of the entire series. It’s the last show to feature the Go-Go Girls as regulars. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s the last show where the majority of the performers could more accurately be described as ‘pop,’ rather than ‘rock.’ Starting with the next episode, Beat Club would make an overt (if awkward) push toward self-conscious hipness, but for one last hour, it was still content to remain fully oriented towards the top 40. Qualitatively, it’s about the equal of the show that preceded it, aided heavily by some of the most musically interesting filmed segments the show had yet aired.
For the last time, the show opens with the Go-Go Girls’ “Touch of Velvet” pinball routine; Uschi delivers her intro from her usual spot on top of the high caution-striped platform, while DLT sits in front of the tinfoil wall (I had no idea where that was located on the set until just now). Rather than being held at a distance in theater seating as they had for over two years at this point, the audience has been moved in much closer to the action, seated all throughout the set. With the previous episode having opened with a small eternity of film before the music began, we’re instead taken quickly to the first performance here.
I’m not sure what we’re given is preferable to just watching a film, though. The Dave Clark Five returns for a second appearance, and while “Live In the Sky” might be better than their first song on the show was, it’s not by a wide margin. Your mileage may vary, depending on whether you prefer novelty-pop-with-gratuitous-Beatle-references to borderline-offensive-whiteboy-ska-with-fake-accents. This is a drag; the Dave Clark Five in their day were a great, unabashedly fun pop group, but by the time they finally got around to appearing on Beat Club, they were so far past their prime that you feel a little embarrassed for them watching their performances on the show. The band would somehow manage to pull themselves together for a pair of top 10 British hits the following year before finally breaking up.
The two-part film segment that dominates most of the next nine minutes of the episode manages to be one of the most pointless ever on the show. Basically, we’re just taken along on a Mediterranean vacation with a shaggy-haired hippie. He roams the streets of some Spanish city and takes a ride on a cable car, before piloting a sailboat out to sea. Once he gets on the water, he dozes off, and the bizarre ensuing dream sequence is the only thing of much entertainment value that occurs the entire time. The guy dreams he’s taking part in what appears to be a battle between Vikings and pirates, illustrated via stock footage from old movies, including some animated bits in which two skeletons take turns chopping each other up with sabers. What puts this into truly what-the-fuck territory is the musical selection: I’m not sure who the hell thought that Booker T. and the MGs’ “Time is Tight” would make appropriate accompaniment to swashbucklers setting each other on fire, but the end result is either completely retarded or a stroke of genius. At any rate, the hippie guy wakes up just in time to be suddenly interrupted by the next musical performance.
Steppenwolf’s cover of Don Covay’s “Sookie Sookie” was not among their biggest hits, but it’s a damn cool groove record, punctuated by vicious razor-toned guitar stabs. The group’s hippie-biker image still stands out just as much here as it did two episodes back, and they come off as far more of a dirty, smelly rock band than anybody else on the show. Obviously having a difficult time figuring out how to shoehorn the Go-Go Girls into shows once a standardized set of opening titles was put in place, the director decides once more to just superimpose them over a musical performance. Karen and Gita are dressed only in what appears to be lingerie covered in little square mirrors, and this turns out to be their final original dance routine as regulars on Beat Club. Lest you get sentimental about saying goodbye to Steppenwolf and the Girls, the show abruptly cuts us off to return to our hippie friend’s fascinating vacation.
So now the shaggy haired guy’s friends are coming out to meet him in a rowboat, dressed as pirates. After a little jam session consisting of guitar, harp, and cardboard piano, they spend a lot of really interesting time sitting around on the deck doing absolutely nothing. Then they decide to go scuba diving, and if you’ve ever seen the movie Thunderball, you know how exciting extended footage of that activity can be. Especially in black and white. Then somebody drives off in a speedboat. The end. I have no idea whatsoever why so much of a prime-era Beat Club episode was turned over to some guy’s vacation film, but at least all the other films on this show are good enough to make up for it.
Paul Revere and the Raiders return next; so far, all three of the musical guests are appearing via outtake footage from episode 43 (as are The Beach Boys, later in the show). “Out On That Road,” a track from their recent album Hard ‘n’ Heavy, doesn’t possess quite the bruising energy of “Let Me,” but it’s still a fantastic barroom rocker. Mark Lindsay acts as a sort of master of ceremonies during this performance, running over to call out solos for the guitarist, then for Revere himself, who responds with some barrelhouse piano, clenching an unlit cigar between his teeth. This unpretentious burst of all-out fun rock and roll is just what the doctor ordered after the overlong vacation sequences.
Another film follows, but this one is far more interesting from a musical perspective, chronicling the Royal Albert Hall Pop Proms, a series of concerts that ran from June 29th to July 5th, 1969. Performers throughout the week included Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, Fairport Convention, and a slew of other bands you and I would kill to go back to 1969 to see, but the filmed feature at hand focuses on the last night, where the event concluded with Chuck Berry and The Who. Eddie Vickers, in the first of his two reporting spots on today’s show, talks to members of the crowd gathered outside, and nearly every one of them seems way more enthused about seeing Chuck Berry than The Who (except for one early prog fanboy stereotype, who amusingly claims he’s just there to see opening band Tomorrow, because Steve Howe is the most original guitar player, like, ever). This makes sense; greatest live rock band ever or not, if you lived in London in 1969, you could see The Who whenever you damn well wanted. Even given his reputation as a notoriously unreliable live performer who played with a different unrehearsed backing band every night, Chuck Berry was the one who was the real legend on the bill, and everybody knew it. Keith Richards and Paul and Linda McCartney are shown arriving for the concert, and Vickers goes backstage to talk to the promoter who put the show together. At the end, there is some great onstage footage of The Who and Berry performing, synched to studio recordings. True to expectations, Chuck is the one who is shown really whipping the audience into a frenzy. This is one of those segments that makes me feel like I was born about thirty years too late.
Of course, there were downsides to living back then, too, chief among which is that bands like The Marmalade kept spinning off top ten hits. The first of two consecutive forgettable pop performances as we enter the episode’s midsection, “Baby, Make It Soon” certainly beats their lame Beatles cover, but at the end of the day, it does nothing that hundreds of other professionally-written radio-ready ballads of the period didn’t do just as well. It’s the type of song that sounds inoffensive and pleasant enough while it’s playing, but which you’ll forget as soon as it’s over. The chief interest here comes from the presentation of the neckerchief-wearing singer in a group of circles that spin around onscreen like an old-fashioned rotary telephone. Still, anonymous as this song is, it could still be far worse.
It could be “Living in a Dream World” by The Rainbow People, for instance, a song that desperately wants to be The Box Tops’ “Neon Rainbow,” but comes across instead like B.J. Thomas sitting in with Up With People. Lesson: if you’re not Alex Chilton, do not attempt this yourself at home. There’s precious little to report about the performance; we’ve basically got a whitey soul-pop singer flanked by two attractive blonde women who just stand there trying to upstage him with hammy dance moves until it’s time for them to harmonize on the choruses. This type of chirpy, anonymous pop would be falling out of favor soon on Beat Club, and as far as I can tell, The Rainbow People never made another record anyway, so this is unsurprisingly the only time we’ll be seeing them on the program. Surprisingly, the group's whitey soul singer turns out to be Pete Budd, later to find notoriety as the heavily accented frontman for "scrumpy and western" band The Wurzels. In the meantime, check the song’s intro here for Dave Lee Travis attempting to cop a feel on a female audience member on-camera one last time.
The show takes a marked upturn with Eddie Vickers’ second report of the show, a revealing and somewhat uncomfortable interview with a skittish, chain-smoking Robin Gibb. Most of the interview focuses on Robin’s recent split with The Bee Gees. When asked why he left the band, he stresses that it was purely because he wanted to do his own thing musically, placing so much nervous emphasis on the claim that there was no personal friction between him and his brothers that it’s obvious he’s not telling the entire truth. The continual insistence that everybody involved is working better than ever before, and that “my brothers have never regretted my leaving,” reveals a bit more about Robin’s wounded pride than I think he intended. So does his sudden shift to boastfulness about having written and produced his hit debut single, “Saved By the Bell,” all by himself; you can tell he feels like he has something to prove. Of course, Eddie doesn’t particularly help to quell Robin’s pique, not letting the matter drop and continually asking whether he’ll get back together with The Bee Gees, and whether he misses his brothers. Robin tersely shows Eddie around his home recording studio, puts on the backing track for “Saved By the Bell,” and sits down at his piano to demonstrate one of the song’s musical figures (amusingly, he only plays two notes before we’re taken back to Bremen).
At this point, the backing track morphs into a full mimed performance of “Saved By the Bell” shot in the Beat Club studio. As was mentioned earlier, this song gave Robin an immediate smash hit to start his solo career, rocketing all the way up to #2 in England. It amply displays many of his usual hallmarks as a songwriter and performer: a dramatic sweep to the melody, ludicrously melodramatic lyrics, and a tear-inducing, heavily vibratoed vocal performance. It’s maybe not quite the equal of his greatest moments in The Bee Gees, but it’s very close. Robin is shot from a heroically low angle, given a visual treatment of vertical halftone lines, and it’s great to see him performing on the show again, even without his brothers. At first, both Robin and The Bee Gees seemed to be fated for equally successful parallel careers, but both parties would run into a sudden commercial downturn within the next year. By the end of 1970, they had reunited for good, destined to become one of the most successful pop groups of all time. Although this would be the final Bee Gees-related musical performance on Beat Club, both of Robin’s brothers would return for interview segments in coming episodes.
Aside from Uschi’s reading of the Top 7 list (topped by the now properly titled “Honky Tonk Women”), the entirety of Beat Club News focuses on only one story: the recent death of ex-Rolling Stones member Brian Jones. Although Jones’ death had occurred on July 3rd, a month before this episode aired, it was still sending shock waves through the musical community. This was the first time any of the icons of the ‘60s rock world had passed on, and the fact that it happened under shady circumstances, less than a month after he had been kicked out of the Stones, only heightened the surreality of it all. The Beat Club News piece opens with a vintage clip of the Stones playing “Get Off My Cloud” onstage a few years before, when Jones still looked engaged and healthy. Then it cuts to images of Jones’ home, and the swimming pool in which he had been found dead. The Rolling Stones’ free concert at Hyde Park on July 5th (coincidentally, the same day as the Pop Proms show chronicled earlier in the episode; one of the interviewees there had even mentioned being present at both events) had already been scheduled, and the band decided to go ahead play it in Jones’ memory. Footage is shown of Mick Jagger opening the show with a reading from Percy Shelley’s poem “Adonais” in tribute, before the band starts playing, synched to the studio recording of “Salt of the Earth.” A couple of surprisingly callous fans are interviewed on the street about Jones’ death, with the first stating that she wasn’t going to mourn for somebody who died by falling drunk into a swimming pool, and the other flippantly summarizing, “if you gotta go, you gotta go!” The closing footage of the funeral, with Jones’ flower-covered casket being lowered into the ground to the accompaniment of “No Expectations,” is more reverential. Between the stories on the Pop Proms, Robin Gibb leaving The Bee Gees, and now Brian Jones’ tragic end, this episode succeeds in capturing the vibe of the current British music scene more effectively than Beat Club ever had before.
An uncharacteristically somber Dave Lee Travis comes on immediately thereafter, and I’ve got to admit, the inappropriateness of following up the Jones death story with Zager and Evans’ “In the Year 2525” has made me laugh out loud every time I’ve watched this episode. One of those pop records that strives for serious social critique and ends up falling on its face in hilarious fashion, “In the Year 2525” is nothing less that an attempt at predicting the advent of a future dystopia, with each verse advancing the story 1010 years. The overall conceit of the song is shaky enough, but the execution is so pathetic (“In the year 4545, ain’t gonna need your teeth, won’t need your eyes/You won’t find a thing to chew, nobody’s gonna look at you!”), it would come across as sheer parody if they weren’t so dead serious about it. Both Zager and Evans sit intensely strumming the dramatic minor-key chord progression on acoustic guitars, and ironically, this song happens to be given the most visually stunning treatment of anything on this episode. Both men are heavily solarized, surrounded by the futuristic lettering from the sleeve of the single. If this song weren’t so impossible to take seriously, this clip might succeed at being the dark heart of this episode.
Following that beautifully presented bullshit, Clodagh Rodgers returns for her second and final Beat Club performance with “Goodnight Midnight.” Another merely decent pop song of a vaguely suggestive nature, I kind of like this one, even if the line in the chorus about turning into a pumpkin annoys me. It at least boasts a reasonably strong melody, and her restrained vocal performance works well. I don’t entirely trust myself that my positive response to this clip doesn’t have something to do with the lovely Rogers’ short velvet dress, though, which shows off her long, award-winning legs (seriously; she literally won a ‘best legs in pop’ award around this time). This is a rare example of the Beat Club effects guys falling asleep on the job; the visuals consist entirely of the names of the performer and song flashing on and off ad nauseum on the screen. Rogers would go on to represent England in the 1971 Eurovision song contest, before settling into a career as a frequent television personality in the ‘70s.
Back in March, The Beach Boys had dipped into their back catalog for a performance of “California Girls” on Beat Club. For their final appearance on the show, the group goes back even farther, to their 1963 smash “Surfin’ U.S.A.” The band doesn’t seem to be taking this performance all that seriously; except for Dennis Wilson on drums, none of them is playing an instrument. They all just hold microphones and engage in unrehearsed dance steps while stock surfing footage is projected behind them. What’s most striking about this clip is how far in the distant past this song sounds in comparison to the more contemporary material on the rest of the show, and yet “Surfin’ U.S.A.” was only six years old at this point. Pop music changed far more rapidly back then than it does now; if somebody performed a hit from 2006 alongside a bunch of new songs today, would anybody notice this kind of extreme stylistic and sonic difference? At any rate, this is still a classic song, even if it’s bizarre to see it performed by Mike Love dressed like some sort of TM guru. And with that, the Beach Boys’ remarkable run of five Beat Club performances in the space of only eight months in 1969 comes to a close.
Thunderclap Newman was initially created by Pete Townshend as a studio project to showcase the singing/songwriting talents of his friend and chauffeur, Speedy Keen. When Keen’s gorgeous flower-power reverie “Something In the Air” turned into a massive hit single, the trio was expanded into a live group for touring purposes, minus Townshend himself, who had produced and played bass on the record. The group, including future Wings guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and pianist/namesake Andy Newman, appears here to give a memorable performance of the single. Surrounded by a spinning circular title graphic from the single’s artwork, Keen does a spirited job of lip-synching, while McCulloch looks every bit like the barely pubescent kid he was at the time, and Newman halts the proceedings halfway through for an unexpected ragtime piano solo. Thunderclap Newman would only last a little more than a year after this, never reaching the heights of “Something In the Air” again, but they succeeded in providing a suitably majestic close to the studio portion of this episode in the meantime.
Originally, a promo film for The Beatles’ most recent single, “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” was shown at this point. It’s been removed from the episode, but another Beatles-related film, the live recording session for John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” from his Montreal Bed-In, remains to close things out. What you see here is the actual performance that was issued on the hit Plastic Ono Band single, with John and Yoko assisted by a large crowd of guests packed into their hotel room, including Tommy Smothers, Timothy Leary, and Derek Taylor. While it’s hard to argue with the sentiment behind it, I’ve got to say that this is really more of a glorified chant than a song, and it’s never been a particular favorite of mine. Still, as a piece of audio/filmic vérité, this is a fascinating document, capturing Lennon’s new fascination with immediate record-making, which would reach its apotheosis with his single “Instant Karma!” the following year.
After the film is complete, the hosts gather together with the audience in front of the shiny wall, and DLT gets in his last-ever piece of idiotic mugging before a live Beat Club audience, putting on an unsubtle fake Asian accent when talking about John and Yoko. Then he informs us he’s off to eat a bratwurst, and the closing credits’ repeat of the Go-Go Girls’ pinball routine allows them one final stand. When the viewing audience would next see Beat Club four weeks later, they’d be confronted with a show that suddenly seemed to take itself far more seriously.
(Edited by halleluwah)I'MCOMINGI'MCOMINGI'MCOMINGI'MCOMING