One Hit Wonders #10: “Summertime Blues” by Blue Cheer (Philips Records 1968)

Direct from Haight-Ashbury, psychedelic hard rockers Blue Cheer ushered in the Age of Heavy Metal with “Summertime Blues”, reaching #14 on the Billboard charts in 1968 (Crank It Up LOUD!):

Singer/bassist Dickie Peterson, who lived on San Francisco’s Haight Street during the “Summer of Love” days, originally formed the band as a five-piece group, but stripped down to the power trio model popularized by Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, with Leigh Stephens on guitar and Paul Whaley on drums. Blue Cheer’s hair was longer, and their sound more ear-splitting, than anyone around, and the band’s thundering heavy metal noise made both the single and their debut album “Vincebus Eruptum” into classics of early metal then and collector’s items today.

Blue Cheer’s classic lineup: Dickie Peterson, Leigh Stephens, and Paul Whaley

The band went through numerous personnel changes before breaking up in 1970. Peterson reformed the group in the 80’s and toured Europe, bringing their “cranked up to 11” barrage of sound to a new generation of metal maniacs, who worshipped these hard rock pioneers. Peterson died in 2009 from prostate cancer, bringing an end to what many call the Founding Fathers of Heavy Metal. Any act calling themselves Blue Cheer today simply ISN’T – BC without Peterson is like The Stones without Mick Jagger!

50’s rocker Eddie Cochran

As for “Summertime Blues” itself, the song was first written and recorded by 50’s rocker Eddie Cochran, whose original version hit #8 on the charts. The tune became a staple for every bar band in the land, and has been covered by artists as diverse as The Beach Boys, Dick Dale, Alan Jackson (who hit #1 on the Country charts with it in 1994), Joan Jett, The MC5, Olivia Newton-John, Buck Owens, Rush, James Taylor, T. Rex, The Who (on their seminal “Live at Leeds” LP), and The Ventures. But nobody, not even Cochran himself, rocked “Summertime Blues” as hard as Blue Cheer did fifty years ago!

More “One Hit Wonders” to see and hear:

“The Night Chicago Died” by Paper Lace

“One Tin Soldier (Theme from BILLY JACK)” by Coven

“Long Lonesome Highway” by Michael Parks

“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” by Steam

“DOA” by Bloodrock

“Are You a Boy Or Are You a Girl” by The Barbarians

“Why Can’t We Live Together” by Timmy Thomas

“They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Ha” by Napoleon XIV

“In the Year 2525” by Zager & Evans

Rockin’ in the Film World #10: THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT (20th Century Fox 1956)

Frank Tashlin  combines two of 50’s America’s favorite obsessions, sex & rock’n’roll, in THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT, Jayne Mansfield’s first headlight headlining role. When Jayne sashays across the screen, turning heads, melting ice, boiling milk, and cracking eyeglasses a star is born, in CinemaScope and gorgeous DeLuxe color. But the film is stacked with more than just Jayne’s Twin Peaks; it features performances from rock royalty like Little Richard, Fats Domino, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, The Platters, and a host of others.

The plot is very simple (and very familiar): a goony gangster (broadly played by a hilarious Edmond O’Brien ) hires a down-on-his-luck agent (Tom Ewell of THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH) to make a singing star out of his honey (our girl Jayne). Only problem is, Jayne can’t carry a tune in a bucket, shattering lightbulbs whenever she starts to warble. Seems she doesn’t want to be a star anyway, just to settle down and be domestic. Tom and Jayne quietly fall in love, the gangster gets jealous, and you just know that by film’s end everything will turn out for the best.

Interspersed in all this are the cream of classic 50’s rockers belting out their big ti.. er, hits! Little Richard does the title tune, “Ready Teddy”, and “She’s Got It”. The Three Chuckles (whose lead singer Teddy Randazzo costarred with Tuesday Weld in ROCK ROCK ROCK  ) perform “Cinnamon Sinner”. Fats Domino lends his New Orleans-flavored R&B to “Blue Monday”. Gene Vincent blasts his mega-hit “Be-Bop-A-Lula”. Eddie Cochran belts out “Twenty Flight Rock”. Abby Lincoln does a Gospel-tinged “Spread the Word”. The Platters doo-wop to “You’ll Never, Never Know”, and Nino Tempo, Johnny Olenn, Eddie Fontaine, The Treniers, and Freddy Bell & The Bell-Boys also appear.

Tashlin’s trademark cartoony gags bounce playfully throughout the film, beginning right off the bat with the pre-credits introduction by Ewell. It’s packed with double entendres by the truckload, most of them involving Jayne’s ample endowments. There’s a funny fantasy scene where Ewell, still carrying the torch for ex-client Julie London, sees her everywhere singing her own big hit, “Cry Me A River” (and by the way, the future Nurse Dixie McCall of TV’s EMERGENCY was pretty darn hot herself!). Surpassing that is the sight of O’Brien gyrating wildly and croaking out the song “Rock Around the Rock Pile”, a precursor of sorts to Elvis Presley’s showstopping number in JAILHOUSE ROCK .

Despite the classic rockers, Tashlin’s Looney Tunes humor, and a beautiful pastel color scheme, all eyes will be on Jayne Mansfield. She’s really good in this, giving a sweet-natured performance as the girl who just can’t help it. Jayne was red-hot at the time due to her Broadway smash WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER? (later filmed by Tashlin), and 20th Century Fox signed her as a rival to Marilyn Monroe. She was a good actress, though now best remembered for her sexpot image, and it’s a shame her career took such a downward trajectory so fast. With the right material, we’d probably be looking at Jayne Mansfield today for more than her obvious assets.

Legend has it when THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT was released in England, a 16-year-old kid in Liverpool saw his rock idols perform for the first time. The lad’s name was John Lennon, and soon he met 15-year-old Paul McCartney, who auditioned for Lennon’s teenage band by doing an imitation of Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock” from the film. McCartney got the gig, and within a few years The Beatles  were the biggest rock’n’roll band in the world. That’s how influential THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT was in the history of rock’n’roll, and any fan of rock music, Jayne Mansfield, or Frank Tashlin needs to put it on their must-see list.



 

CLEANING OUT THE DVR Pt1: Five Films from Five Decades

I record a LOT of movies. Probably around ten per week, more or less. And since I also have to do little things like work, exercise, cook, clean, breathe,  etc etc, I don’t always have time to watch  them all (never mind write full reviews), so I’ve decided to begin a series of short, capsule reviews for the decades covered here at Cracked Rear Viewer. This will be whenever I find my DVR getting cluttered, which is frequent! I’ll try to make CLEANING OUT THE DVR a bi-weekly series, but there are no guarantees. Monthly is more realistic. Anyway, here are five films from the 1930s to the 1970s for your reading pleasure.

Continue reading “CLEANING OUT THE DVR Pt1: Five Films from Five Decades”