Josie Cotton’s B-Movie Guide: Why, Josie, Why?

Josie Cotton may have stolen the prom scene in a cult-classic film (1983’s Valley Girl, singing new-wave hit “Johnny, Are You Queer?”), but she never committed such cinematic high-camp crimes as found in vintage b-movies. Each day this week, Cotton surveys one of her favorite films and offers a song from her latest album, Invasion Of The B-Girls. Read our Q&A with Cotton and her memoir about “Johnny, Are You Queer?”

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Here lies the unknown-yet-forgettable Black Klansman. It never fit into the theme of Invasion Of The B-Girls, but it was in such questionable taste that I had to include it. Suffice it to say, 1966’s The Black Klansman was a mistake by all concerned. No matter how well-intentioned, civil-rights activist/director Ted V. Mikels has left us with the moral equivalent of a Chia Pet. Even in the worst b-movies, you can always find a way to suspend disbelief. However, it is impossible to forget the fact that a full-on afro-sheened black dude is inducted into the Ku Klux Klan and no one seems to notice! The fact that no one would admit to knowing who wrote its kick-ass theme song, “Black Klansman,” was kind of funny but also a little sad because it deserves to be remembered. When I sang this song, the story of the Black Klansman insanely became my story, proving once again that emotions are not to be trusted.

Hunting down the renegade songwriters responsible for the material on Invasion Of The B-Girls proved to be an unexpected odyssey. A lot of them had died along the way—some, apparently, from embarrassment. We were dealing with now-defunct publishing companies and disbelieving heirs scattered across the country who had no idea what shady shenanigans their kooky artiste cousin twice removed had been up to out there in Hollywood Land.

To my amazement, no one had ever made a record devoted to theme songs from b-movies until Invasion Of The B-Girls. How could that be? There was a geek army of hardcore b-movie fans who knew much more than I would ever know, but fate had thrown me a grenade and I was going to run like hell with it. Did I lose fans doing this? Yes. Will I ever make back the money I spent? No. Was it worth it? Absofuckinglutely. This was my labor of love, harkening back to when I was a weird and socially challenged little girl. Godzilla, Mothra and aliens from Mars were personal friends of mine in this other world where I did fit in.

“Black Klansman” from Josie Cotton’s Invasion Of The B-Girls (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/BlackKlansman.mp3

Continue reading “Josie Cotton’s B-Movie Guide: Why, Josie, Why?”

Josie Cotton’s B-Movie Guide: “Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls” (Part 2)

josiecat359cJosie Cotton may have stolen the prom scene in a cult-classic film (1983’s Valley Girl, singing new-wave hit “Johnny, Are You Queer?”), but she never committed such cinematic high-camp crimes as found in vintage b-movies. Each day this week, Cotton surveys one of her favorite films and offers a song from her latest album, Invasion Of The B-Girls. Read our Q&A with Cotton and her memoir about “Johnny, Are You Queer?”

Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970)
But it will always be the music of Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls that is the be-all and end-all in this epic comic-book musical of punishment and redemption. The soundtrack is at times falling-down drunk with soaring strings and opulent orchestration, sometimes in the guise of spy music, game-show music, Lassie music, even soap-opera organs thrown into the mix, intentionally and perfectly over the top. And Russ Meyer oversaw all of it, with the same fervent and loving attention to detail he carried over into every aspect of the making of this movie. He even insisted the all-girl rock band, renamed the Carrie Nations, who were not musicians (or actors), learn how to play their instruments or at least fake it better than anyone had ever done, (they still hold that cache) rehearsing hours a day so they would look like and, more importantly, feel like real musicians.

What ultimately sets this movie music apart, though, is its untouchable take on the music of the day: a time capsule of psychedelic rock, pop, funk and heavy on the British Invasion, through a kaleidoscope brightly. It not only defined an era without missing a beat, it has become timeless.

Someone very wise once said there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come; this was just such a time, and the ideas were huge. Before disco strutted its bad self under the spinning disco ball reflecting on a sea of white encrusted nostrils, before punk rock ripped out the throat of society (and deservedly so) as it nodded into unconciousness from slamming smack, there was this time: this brief time when music was the religion of choice, when people really believed it would change the world. It was all about Love and tearin’ the mother down. Now I’m as guilty as anyone of making fun of the hippies (for the love of God don’t tell anyone I’m a hippie!), but it reminds me of that Star Trek episode when the Enterprise reaches a distant planet ruled by the great Apollo, the last surviving Greek god in the known universe. With no one left to remember him or bring him offerings, he dies of a broken heart, and at the end, with uncharacteristic humility, Captain Kirk muses, “Would it have hurt us, I wonder, just to have gathered a few laurel leaves?”

Sure, after the ’60s were all over, there were those who scurried back to the suburbs to hide in front of their televisions, those who retreated to their teepees, communes and cults, those who pimped their souls out on Wall Street and in ad agencies and still feast on the entrails of their own betrayed ideals. However you want to spin it—and maybe despite itself—the last gasp of the ’60s lives on in Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls through its music. This is the legacy they leave us. It is there in Lynn Carrie’s voice, in the songs of mega songwriter Stu Philips and in the musicians who played behind them. But there is an underlying poignancy as well. It might have been drugs that opened the doors of perception, but it was Charles Manson who shot Bambi in the head, mid-filming, and Meyers/Ebert didn’t skip an opportunist bong hit to rewrite the ending into basically a musical snuff film. But that the ’60s live on in this movie, with this director (who had not an iota of a clue about the times they were living through), could it be any more perfect?  Could it? You’ll just have to take my word for it: It is perfection. Oh irony, I am your whore.

Rest assured Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls is irreverent and self mocking, dripping with nymphomaniac hippies, betrayal, fashion and dismemberment. Behold montage after montage foreshadowing a virtual cafeteria of other bleeding, syrupy musical montages to come, more types of creepy staring than I knew existed, and an abortion that turns into pancakes which I had thought impossible. It was my own exquisite agony having to choose which song to include on Invasion Of The B-Girls, but “Days Of Now And Then” prevailed; it’s one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful and absurd songs ever written, climaxing during a gauzy love scene between two man-hating lingerie lesbians about to be slaughtered by a drug-crazed transvestite.

I will always consider it a great honor when Russ Meyer told me personally that I would be sued “till the end of time” if I ever recorded any of the songs from his movies. I didn’t listen, of course. But my deluxe bouffant wig is off to you, sir. I just hope that wherever you are now, they have giant knockers to your exact specifications.

“Faster Pussycat” from Josie Cotton’s Invasion Of The B-Girls (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/FasterPussycat.mp3

Josie Cotton’s B-Movie Guide: “Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls” (Part 1)

Josie Cotton may have stolen the prom scene in a cult-classic film (1983’s Valley Girl, singing new-wave hit “Johnny, Are You Queer?”), but she never committed such cinematic high-camp crimes as found in vintage b-movies. Each day this week, Cotton surveys one of her favorite films and offers a song from her latest album, Invasion Of The B-Girls. Read our Q&A with Cotton and her memoir about “Johnny, Are You Queer?”

josie-dolls375Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970)
In the world of b-movies, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls stands alone. It’s hard to even call it a b-movie (or b-movie musical). It is simply the apex and zenith, and there will never be another movie like it. The film’s premise is deceptively simplistic: part Partridge family, part Manson family, an all-bombshell trio called the Kelly Affair follows its rainbow unicorn dreams to the charred ruins of a cultural and sexual revolution the likes of which the world had never seen. It was the end of the ‘60s, it was Los Angeles, and director/producer Russ Meyer was the high priest ordained to carry out the last rites.

The fact this movie was ever made is nothing short of miraculous. Dolls slipped under the radar of a major movie studio (20th Century Fox), which gave Meyer, sole creator of the sexploitation genre, carte blanche with no supervision. It was described by Roger Ebert (who co-wrote the script) as “when the lunatics took over the asylum.” The ‘60s had passed Fox by, and maybe the studio equated free love with pornography but without big money problems. Still there was no denying that Meyer was a seriously talented young filmmaker, making hard cash with soft porn on low budgets. For whatever reason, Fox decided to throw him a bone and baby, he ran with it. Lucky for us.

Having been called both the worst and best movie ever made, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls is simultaneously a melodrama, a skin flick, a violent exploitation movie, a satire of a satire, an exposé on real people, a rock musical unparalleled and a comedy often accused of being a movie that didn’t know it was a comedy. Mercilessly panned by film critics, Meyer was going into such uncharted post-modernist territory that he had to make it up as he went along. Quentin Tarantino, Russ Meyer was doing this 40 years ago without a map and doing it without the artifice of affectation.

Thanks to the bevy of busty babes who could act only seconds at a time, Meyer had to develop a kung-fu-fast editing style. The writing ranges from cheeky Shakespearean prose to drug-addled street slang, which always seems slightly out of synch, as if it were written by squares trying to be “hep.” Nevertheless, the dialogue in the film has become archetypal: “This is my happening and it freaks me out!” was shamelessly lifted by Austin Powers in 1997. “You’re a groovy boy. I’d like to strap you on sometime” was uttered by the incomparable Edie Williams, Russ Meyer’s real-life wife. It remains the best pick-up line ever purred by a bottomless man-eating sex hyena on the make.

Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls required a protracted prologue, an epilogue to harelip all epilogues and ongoing narration that, at times, includes the actors describing their own characters in the third person while they are trying to act like they’re acting in the first person to an actor also referring to them in the third person! Crazy shit. To say that Meyer had a demented sense of humor would be the understatement of the century.

“Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls” from Josie Cotton’s Invasion Of The B-Girls (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/BeyondTheValleyOfTheDolls.mp3

Josie Cotton’s B-Movie Guide “Girl In Gold Boots”

Josie Cotton may have stolen the prom scene in a cult-classic film (1983’s Valley Girl, singing new-wave hit “Johnny, Are You Queer?”), but she never committed such cinematic high-camp crimes as found in vintage b-movies. Each day this week, Cotton surveys one of her favorite films and offers a song from her latest album, Invasion Of The B-Girls. Read our Q&A with Cotton and her memoir about “Johnny, Are You Queer?”

goldbootsjosie356Girl In Gold Boots (1968)
This is undoubtedly one of the worst movies I have ever seen, in which insanely bad dancing hits an all-new low. Girl In Gold Boots is a kind of go-go morality play, a tribute to never letting a lack of talent get in the way of pursuing your dreams. Drink it in!

Michelle, a witless waitress/”dancer” escapes her drunken father/boss/short-order cook by peeling off to California with Buzz, her hoodlum manager. They are headed for his sister’s “groovy Hollywood nightclub.” What dreams await them on their road trip from hell? You guessed it: drugs, sleazy, greasy club managers, gangs, guns, an escape into prison and go-go dancing the likes of which you have never seen, where best-forgotten careers rise and fall in one bad bugaloo leap off the stage.

“I’m gonna be a dancer, Critter, and a good one!” Michelle tearfully tells her hitchhiking future love interest, as if she had considered being a bad dancer but had somehow decided to be a good one instead. Whew! Let’s not forget the famous scene in which the always packin’ Buzz seems to have been teleported, mid-conversation, into a diner booth with Michelle and Critter. “Where did that dude come from?” you might ask. Apparently, director Ted Mikels didn’t notice Buzz wasn’t previously in the scene, and that alone makes this movie worth seeing.

And yet … and yet … the theme song for Girl In Gold Boots, cheesy harmonica and all, lives in infamy. With memorable lines such as “Don’t you standin’ still, baby” [sic] and “Keep your gold boots movin’,” you can’t help but be drawn into the glittering world that John Waters so brilliantly described as “the hideous sorrow of low-rent go-go dancers.” People, it doesnt get skankier than this. We thank you, Nina Footwear, for footing the bill on this pony-prancing meltdown.

“Girl In Gold Boots” from Josie Cotton’s Invasion Of The B-Girls (download):

Josie Cotton’s B-Movie Guide: “She Devils On Wheels”

Josie Cotton may have stolen the prom scene in a cult-classic film (1983’s Valley Girl, singing new-wave hit “Johnny, Are You Queer?”), but she never committed such cinematic high-camp crimes as found in vintage b-movies. Each day this week, Cotton surveys one of her favorite films and offers a song from her latest album, Invasion Of The B-Girls. Read our Q&A with Cotton and her memoir about “Johnny, Are You Queer?”

josiedevil550She Devils On Wheels (1968)
If you’ve ever wondered about the origins of chlamydia, look no further. She Devils On Wheels is where the beaver hits the road, with an all-girl biker gang called the Maneaters who pummel and bang their skanky asses across an entire neighborhood. With not much in the way of a plot line, this movie was director Herschel Gordon Lewis’ self-confessed attempt to even the score for all us babes in boyland. Instead, it ends up making you want to take a shower.

The Maneaters live by one code, and one code alone: Men are the scum beneath their skidmarks. And if you make the the fatal mistake of turning sweet on one, you have to kill him. Period. OK, there are two codes. They live by two codes … except for the other ones. Whatever. This is a multi-tiered organization. If you wanna ride with the Maneaters, you’ve got to have sex immediately after a race. But if you’re gonna need a real “juicy stud,” you have to win, and then you can pick from the “stud line,” a hairy male smorgasbord forever marinating in the girls’ X-rated clubhouse. When the Maneaters aren’t dragging some poor slob behind their bikes, they’re hosting extremely unattractive orgies (thankfully clothed), rolling around on dirty mattresses in their bras and estrogen-soaked capri pants to a soundtrack straight out of The Dating Game. (This is moviemaking!)

“Hey thing, move it to the stud line!” barks horny, trash-talkin’ heifer Whitey to her terrified man prey. As bubbly, underaged mascot Honeypot wistfully watches on, Queen, their sado-ponytailed leader emotes, “No guy deserves what you got, Honey.” Later, in the Maneaters’ sacred initiation, while they chant, “Sex, gas and blood/All men are mothers,” the gleeful virgin strips down, is slathered with black motor oil and then gang-raped by some lowlife dweebs hiding in a ditch. Awwww … she finally made the gang!

“We’re not a bunch of daisy-pullin’ broads,” cackles Queen, decked out in white go-go boots, oozing in understatement plus other unmentionable fluids, right before she decapitates a guy then beats his headless corpse with a tire chain. Make no mistake: She Devils On Wheels is a tender coming-of-age movie in which girls struggle to find themselves in a baffling world through a series of kooky misadventures. While I wouldn’t want to ruin the ending for you, there really is no ending—along with no middle and no beginning.

“She Devils On Wheels” from Josie Cotton’s Invasion Of The B-Girls (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/SheDevils.mp3

Q&A With Josie Cotton

josieqa37513Most people remember Josie Cotton as the adorable new-wave princess in the prom scene of 1983 cult classic teen film Valley Girl, singing “Johnny, Are You Queer?” Cotton wrote all about the celebrity and controversy that followed in the wake of “Johnny, Are You Queer?” for MAGNET in 2006. (Read the piece, which garnered an honorable mention in 2007’s edition of Da Capo’s Best Music Writing Series.) Cotton hasn’t returned to the pop-music charts since the ’80s, but she’s continued to write songs, work with artists (via her Satellite Park studio in Malibu, where Elliott Smith recorded his final album) and partake in pop culture’s more interesting shadows. Her latest album, Invasion Of The B-Girls, consists of covers of songs from the campiest, best/worst b-movies of the ’60s and ’70s. Each day this week, Cotton will write about some of her favorite b-movies for magnetmagazine.com.

“Creeps” from 2006’s Movie Disaster Music (download):

Continue reading “Q&A With Josie Cotton”

From The Desk Of Cursive’s Tim Kasher: “Smother”

timlogocCursive frontman Tim Kasher continues his graphic storytelling on sixth album Mama, I’m Swollen, out this week on Saddle Creek. He keeps it blunt and lyrically entertaining on the Omaha group’s moodiest LP yet, with song themes ranging from masturbation to tales starring Pinocchio. Kasher is guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with him.

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So I had seen a trailer for this awful-looking film called Smother, sadly starring Diane Keaton, whom I still respect and adore despite her not making it easy for us over the last 10 years. I saw the trailer quite a while back, but it never seemed to hit theaters, so naturally I forgot about it. Forgot about it until a month or so ago when it popped up as a Lifetime original—or exclusive or however they billed it—movie. Lifetime? It wound up debuting on Lifetime?! Wow, it must be even worse than the terrible trailer lets on … I couldn’t wait. So, here’s the catch: It’s actually pretty good. Or, at least, a hell of a lot better than a Lifetime premiere, a hell of a lot better than a ton of shitty comedies that hit the big screen. Dax Shepard also stars in it, and now I really like Dax Shepard. And Mike White is in it, who I’ve always liked. And the craziest thing about this small, completely overlooked comedy? It’s the best role Keaton has had in I can’t imagine how many years! Since 1987’s Baby Boom?! I’m probably forgetting something in the ’90s, but I personally wouldn’t include The Godfather Part III or Something’s Gotta Give as inspired roles. Privy to Baby Boom, close to my heart. Moral of the story? Don’t watch the trailer for Smother—it’s terrible! This film must be an example of good filmmakers teamed up with a bad production company, because the trailer advertises all the worst aspects of an otherwise decent film. They also seemed incapable of marketing this film in any way whatsoever. I think this current campaign I’m writing is likely the biggest one Smother has yet to have. To be safe, I might suggest you watch this film hungover with not much else to do that afternoon. I don’t want to blow this pitch with lofty expectations. Thank you for hearing me out.

This concludes “Tim Kasher Week” here at magnetmagazine.com. Thanks to Tim for writing about some really cool things, especially all the movie-related stuff. Be sure to check out Cursive’s new album, Mama, I’m Swollen.

From The Desk Of Cursive’s Tim Kasher: Mike Leigh

timlogocCursive frontman Tim Kasher continues his graphic storytelling on sixth album Mama, I’m Swollen, out this week on Saddle Creek. He keeps it blunt and lyrically entertaining on the Omaha group’s moodiest LP yet, with song themes ranging from masturbation to tales starring Pinocchio. Kasher is guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with him.

happygolucky550One of my favorite directors is, hands down, Mike Leigh. He has a large catalog of films dating back to BBC TV movies in the ’70s. Dialogue-driven, character-driven dramas set primarily in the working-class neighborhoods of the U.K., many of these films could translate to stage plays, while others already are; 1977’s Abigail’s Party being one of the best. His latest, Happy-Go-Lucky, came out last year and is one of the best films of 2008. And if you’re already familiar with Leigh, then yes, I am pissed about the Oscars snubbing Sally Hawkins (pictured above) for a Best Actress nod. I believe Leigh is best known for 1996’s Secrets And Lies, 2004’s Vera Drake an 1993’s Naked. All exceptional films, but I would like to recommend one of my personal favorites that doesn’t seem to receive as much attention, 2002’s All Or Nothing. It kills me.

From The Desk Of Cursive’s Tim Kasher: Films Based On Plays

timlogocCursive frontman Tim Kasher continues his graphic storytelling on sixth album Mama, I’m Swollen, out this week on Saddle Creek. He keeps it blunt and lyrically entertaining on the Omaha group’s moodiest LP yet, with song themes ranging from masturbation to tales starring Pinocchio. Kasher is guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with him

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I’ve become a big fan of films based on plays, mostly because they are completely dialogue driven, which I far prefer to a car crash. Don’t get me wrong, I still like car crashes, UFO invasions and severed heads. But man, I really love the wit of a great playwright. One in particular that I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from is Edward Albee‘s Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? Directed by Mike Nichols, who also did of my favorite movie (The Graduate), the film version of Virginia Woolf is incredibly good. Got me excited about other movies based on plays. Like Tennessee WilliamsA Streetcar Named Desire and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. More than 30 years later, Nichols directed Closer, a play by Patrick Marber. Kind of a controversial, criticized film; I know a lot of people who hated it. Personally, I loved it. But hey, I’m partial to films based on plays.

From The Desk Of Cursive’s Tim Kasher: Dustin Hoffman

timlogocCursive frontman Tim Kasher continues his graphic storytelling on sixth album Mama, I’m Swollen, out this week on Saddle Creek. He keeps it blunt and lyrically entertaining on the Omaha group’s moodiest LP yet, with song themes ranging from masturbation to tales starring Pinocchio. Kasher is guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with him.

dustin5451Dustin Hoffman is my favorite actor. Actually, using the word “favorite” seems unnecessary, as I don’t believe I have a second or third favorite actor, I have no “actor list,” though I suppose I could concoct one. But why? I think being preferential to certain actors is all that’s really necessary. So, amongst these preferences, Hoffman would certainly be my favorite. “Preference” is key, as even one’s favorite actor may be prone to a shitty movie here and there. For instance, I won’t vouch for Hoffman’s career, say, past 1990 or so, not that there aren’t some great movies in there. But there are definitely some shitty ones, too. But what I really wanted to suggest, is to take on Hoffman’s older library. He took on so many great roles, especially in the late ’60s and throughout the ’70s; he seems to have an amazing taste for quality film. A laundry list to check out: 1967’s The Graduate, 1969’s John And Mary, 1976’s Marathon Man, 1978’s Straight Time, 1970’s Little Big Man and 1969’s Midnight Cowboy. And don’t forget 1982’s Tootsie.