Toronto
3 min

Grrrlz, girls, curls

CD reviews: Calling all Carrie Nations

BEYONDS' CAMP. The Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls soundtrack finally reinstates the voice of Lynn Carey (who played the lead singer of The Carrie Nations in the movie). Credit: Xtra files

We all know the giddy, camp wonder that is the 1967 film version of Jacqueline Susann’s frothy bestseller Valley Of The Dolls. But for me it doesn’t come close to the sheer tacky delight of its similarly named camp-fest cousin, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls. This 1970 X-rated masterpiece was the first and only big budget major studio film to be directed by the late great “King Of The Nudies” Russ Meyer (Mondo Topless, Lorna, Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!).

Beyond follows the free-spirited all-girl rock trio, Carrie Nation (think Josie And The Pussycats, emphasis on pussy) as they pursue their dreams of success in Hollywood. They meet up with a gigolo, a lesbian designer and most importantly the strange mysterious promoter “Z-Man” Barzell. A variety of couplings, excessive use of pills, pot, liquor, multiple murders and a surprise reveal are all here to savour. The mindless sexiness was written with great comic flair by a very young and inexperienced screenwriter Roger Ebert (yes, the thumbs-up guy). The film is a hoot.

The groovy psychedelic music from the film has never been released in its entirety, until now. Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls: The Original Soundtrack is a 25-track special limited edition album featuring the instrumental loveliness (lots of cocktail goodness) of composer Stu Phillips (Six Million Dollar Man, The Monkees) and party rockers from 1960s trippy dudes, The Strawberry Alarm Clock. But most importantly it finally features the original vocal tracks that rocker chick Lynn Carey did for Dolly Read’s (Kelly, lead singer of Carrie Nations) character in the film. It’s awesome grrrl rock.

The extensive liner notes reveals that Carey’s contract did not allow for her renditions (for the film) to be used on the soundtrack album. So the soundtrack has always featured Carey’s short notice substitute, the appropriately named Ami Rushes. Carey’s voice is a mix of Janis Joplin angst and Ann-Margret zaniness. She’s fun to sing along to.

“Find It” is pure dynamite as go-go drumming and steadfast guitars play Red Rover, Red Rover and Carey’s hot mama histrionics break through the instrumental barricade with energetic zeal. “I’ve got to find a direction to follow/ Something that’s mine/ Not something I borrowed,” she bellows.

On “Come With The Gentle People,” The Carrie Nations do their best Mamas And The Papas love folk schmaltz as they “spread love across the land” with an accompanying Percy-Faith-cool horn section and celluloid pop rock essential, the tambourine.

“Sweet Talkin’ Candy Man” is a woman-done-wrong song with Carey singing at her raspy best. You can hear her pain from miles away. The last track “Look On Up At The Bottom” is the crowning achievement. It spills its camp poetic juices over the smart funky chunky beats and achieves – surprise – a gracious sincere piece of pop madness.

If you have yet to see the film this soundtrack may still win you over. But I have to say the joy for me is visualizing The Carrie Nations (Kelly, Petronella and Casey) as I play the album. Wow, just picturing their big hair, boobs, fake playing, lip-synching and groovy dancing… it’s all so Clairol Herbal Essence. Or is that Love’s Fresh Lemon? Anyway, it’s surely as pure and spiritual as church on Sunday.

Girls With Guitars: All-Girl Bands, Axe-Backed Babes And The Like, is a non-bootleg collection of 1960s garage girl bands (they’re real Carrie Nations). With names like The Tomboys, Goldie And The Gingerbreads, The Hairem and She. What’s not to love? It’s an album of covers and original tunes by girls that just had to rock out. Most every song is a winner. Whether you like it raw and savage or sweet and kind, it’s all here.

The Girls’ “My Baby” starts the album off with jangling guitars and simplistic drumming as the girls sing about their man. “Diamond bracelets/ Spurs galore/ My baby.” Denise Kaufman of Denise And Company sounds like a devilish Joan Jett as she rasps her way through the sleazy harmonica and grungy beats of “Boy, What’ll You Do Then.” She sings, “Boy you know you never had it so good/ I wouldn’t hurt you/ But you know I could.” The song was written about her ex-boyfriend Jann Wenner (Rolling Stone Magazine founder and in the last 15 years or so, a gay man).

The Hairems’ rambling and silly “Come On Along” is Shagg-awful but great fun.

The Two Of Clubs’ “Heart” (cowritten by Petula Clark) is my favourite song. It’s aggressive yet the vocals are soft and sugary. In a minute it builds and swings up to the heavens. Sixties punk, gospel love. Extraordinary.