Tuesday, January 13, 2009

All Hail the VCR - Girl Groups: The Story of a Sound

Our VCR died for the third time a few months ago and I decided to go to Goodwill and buy a used one for seven dollars, rather than try to fix the old one for $50. I know--disposable electronics are the devil's spawn, but we all have to make tough decisions when faced with the potential death of a media tool. It was time to pack it away in the "e-garbage" box for donation to some electronics geek who could put its innards to good use.

What I hate about throwing out older equipment is the loss of "heft." The old stuff is made of metal, inside and out. It often weighs a few pounds and it's bulky, but it's also solid, like those old typewriters of the 30s--little tanks they were. Typewriters eventually got so light-weight that they seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth. The same thing is happening to stereo components, cameras, and VCRs.

When you go to Goodwill and take a look at all the VHS tapes in a bin, you feel like you're looking at a graveyard of obsolete technology. And they're usually next to the records, 35mm film cameras, and computer components from last year. It's sad and wasteful. We've hung on to some VHS tapes. Some are actually quite winning. Like my "King Kong" commemorative edition with a cover that roars when you press it. I've got VHS tapes of Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger, Harry Smith's Early Abstractions, the amazing puppet animation of Ladislaw Starewicz, and classic grindcore film She Mob. She Mob was the name of my band, which we named after the movie before any of us had seen it. (I just read that Seattle band Mudhoney did the same thing--great minds...)

I can't toss these out. Some of them aren't on DVD. Or are difficult to find on DVD, like Girl Groups: The Story of a Sound, the 1983 documentary about the 60s pop sound of, yes, girl groups. Tons of interviews with the songwriters, producers, and stars of a singular time and place in musical history.

After cleaning out the new/used VCR with my handy "head cleaner," which, judging by the initial picture quality, I don't think had ever been done, I popped in "Girl Groups" and realized that what the interviewees were saying was absolutely true. The songs are great and these girls could really sing. Check out their cool 60s ensembles. The VCR lives! Long live VHS tapes (as if). Here's little selection from "Girl Groups" to celebrate our new/old technology.

The Exciters - Tell Him. Great lead vocal by Brenda Reid. Those crazy early music-video concepts!

Shangri-Las - Give Him a Great Big Kiss. I still listen to the Shangri-Las quite a lot. Look at 'em--so cooool.

The Ronettes - Be My Baby. My other favorite girl group. Amazing (actual clip from the doc with better sound and picture here).

Little Eva - The Locomotion. Swingin'--try not dancing to this.

Martha & The Vandellas - Heat Wave. When I was very tiny and I first heard this song, I couldn't believe Martha Reeves could sing like that. I still can't.

1 comment:

Mildred Davenport said...

I bought that same VHS on Amazon a few months ago. It's fantastic. Always been a huge fan of the Ronettes and the Crystals, but this was the first time i had seen any video of the Shangri-Las and she's really got me going now.