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Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Deep, Dark, Pop Culture Hole

Now, Nathan Rabin over at The Onion's 'AV Club' (who tends to start his posts with "Hey guys," which I think is just great) has brought up a long-buried memory. That of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"-The Movie! It starred Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees, among many others.

Let's see if we can't just make a You Tube thing work here for the first time ever in this here blog:

So that was it. I remember seeing it the theater, as a kid. I also recall, even then, noting that representing the character of Henry The Horse (from "For The Benefit of Mister Kite") with two unnamed extras in a horse suit on roller skates was wrong. It's about heroin! That's what the bad pop-cult interpretation book I'd just read had told me!
And this movie served as the grave for many an undeserved career. Well: George Burns and Aerosmith made it out, but it took many years for Alice Cooper and Steve Martin to get back their thunder. The damn thing was cursed.

And that brings me to the subject of Paul Nicholas. He played...Um, I want to say 'Billy Shears', but that was Frampton. So...He was in the movie anyway, since he too was a big star by 1978 standards, and needed to be a part of this fantastic project.
Who? Well, he was responsible for the ultimately forgotten disco hit, "Heaven On The Seventh Floor". As far as songs about raping someone in an elevator go, this one is pretty much tops.
Well? I mean, far from being a song about doing a bunch of coke while laying on the cold tile on the seventh floor of an office building (the coke is a given, I suppose), it's another one of those tunes that is a story, told by a fucking idiot.
He asks this girl out, she says no way would she date his coke-addled, towel boy ass, and then makes the mistake of getting in an elevator with him. It gets stuck, natch, and so therefore: we must fuck!

Happy ending, eh? In eastern Oregon, we'd just drive down a very long country road, then suddenly claim engine trouble. Matter o' fact, isn't this exactly the scenario that produces not only redneck children but porn movies as well?
(Heard despite terrible audio): "Wew, since we stuh in dis el'vader, I gess we shoul' hab Sex, 'cuz..." I've seen that movie.

The song itself is document to that moment when the Seventies went from that sort of morose, claustrophobic, joyless, singer-songwritery leftover Sixties stuff to this also joyless but relentlessly peppy, flat production valued, coked-out preview of the Eighties.
The many You Tube results that pop up when you're looking for "Heaven on the Seven" are telling. (Hey 'Armored Panther'; just uploading audio of the song and putting in a static shot of a compilation album intriguingly titled Radio Hits of the Seventies is not making a video.)

But even th' Panther gets cred from the commenters, who are largely glad that anything involving the song ("My first make out song!", one says) is here. It is briefly discussed how awesome all this was. But other people managed to find footage of Paul on some unnamed British show :

Curiously, there was video of "Heaven" up there yesterday, but now it's unavailable. However, the delightful "Dancing With the Captain", as you have just seen, is there, as are his other hits (?) "Grandma's Party" and "Reggae Like It Used to Be" (!).
Am I the only one that's noticed that England in general just collectively became gay in the Seventies? Also, note the hyperactive backup dancers, and how openly stoned the hosts are.

This brings me, for some reason, to Joe Tex. That there is the cover of Soul Country, which I found the other day for two whole dollars, sitting on the floor of some record shop.
Here, Joe is thinking deep thoughts- or not: it's hard to say. Joe Tex was, I believe, the R. Kelley of his day, since both are very talented, completely fucked up, and in both cases, it's almost impossible to tell when they're joking.

Except that in Kelley's "Trapped In the Closet", at least by the time they introduce the midget (which are stupid-person shorthand for 'automatically funny'), it's clear that he's just fucking with us. Joe, I think, never made a joke in his life.

Soul Country opens up with "I'll Never Do You Wrong"; a wonderful song musically speaking, and distracting for the weirdness of its lyrics. It resembles many another soul song in that it describes the many tortures he'd gladly put up with in lieu of doing anything that might distress You.
But he gets too specific, and I think it comes back to that thing I've said before about the Tyranny of Rhyme:
"I hope I slip
(he hope he slip)
and break my hip
(and break his hip)
I hope a fever blister come on my lip.

You know I love my hip
(he love his hip)
And I love my lip, baby,
that's why I'll never do you wrong"

See what I mean? On one hand, it's a no-nonsense approach: here are some practical reasons why I will never do you wrong. But on the other hand, regardless of how one may view one's hip, can any of us be said to love it?

He has this problem, too, with starting a song with what, in other hands, would be a metaphor, then it becomes something else. In the song "What You Lookin' At?", in particular, he goes from seemingly suggesting you've done something wrong in an abstract sense (" What you lookin' at, fool? You DID it!") to noting that you've actually spilled something on the floor ("Don't just stand there: GO GET A WET RAG!").
And the song "Bad Feet". It could be a metaphor for how your character stinks so bad, it's like smelly feet. But no: it's really a song about feet.
And "You Said A Bad Word"; the word could be anything. Maybe you used the word 'love' too early in the relationship, and now Joe is nervous about the extra pressure. I don't know. But far, far worse than this, instead it's a song about how you literally said a bad word, and now Joe is going to coerce you into sex, lest he tell someone what you've done.
(Matter of fact, halfway through the song, he reneges on the original arrangement: "(snickering) But wait; we gotta make a different deal, cuz' that last deal done gone BYE-BYE!")

I don't know where he is these days, nor do I know where Paul Nicholas is. Again, I swear that Paul literally was working at some disco/bath house/coke den and was noticed by some advance man for Robert Stigwood. Hence, brief fame. I imagine that Joe Tex came up in that era when any black man with half a singing voice could get snatched up by Atlantic Records. Only later would they stop and notice what intensely personal demons he was working out.

This is all the stuff that we live with in our memories, and occasionally find ourselves humming while driving. It's where we came from.



Blogger Junk Thief said...

Oh, how could you give such a great overview of "Sgt. Pepper" the movie but not mention that it featured both George Burns AND Carol Channing? I mean, which two people are better suited to bring the Beatles to the big screen?

If "Xanadu" can become a critical success on Broadway, there is a good chance this movie too will find redemption one day. There are always the French.

10:57 PM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

Yeah. I want to see a stage production of "Myra Breckinridge", myself.

I now see that I utterly failed to do any analysis of Joe Tex's second biggest hit; "Ain't Gonna Bump No More with No Big Fat Women". Damn.

11:59 AM  

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