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Disk-O-Tek Holiday
(1966)
 

Directors: Vince Scarza & Douglas Hickox


Shed a tear now for our poor parents, who never had a childhood full of the joy of MTV and toe-tapping musical artists such as Britney Spears and The Backstreet Boys. Okay, there are plenty of good modern day musicians out there - this was just a reminder to those who may laugh and sneer at the musical taste our poor old parents several decades ago, and wonder what they were thinking when they bopped to music that sounds quaint now. You better start planning how years from now you'll have to answer to your children as to why you liked Vanilla Ice and Milli Vanilli.

Of course, anyone with taste will find a lot of good music from any decade, and there certainly were some songs in the mid 60s that are entertaining to listen to today. Yes, some in a campy sense, but a lot of genuinely good songs as well. A good song never goes out of style. And though our parents were deprived of MTV, they were at least around during the very interesting part of musical history when the concept of a music video was starting to evolve. Disk-O-Tek Holiday has the flimsiest of plots used in order to have the excuse to not just play over 20 songs of the period, but to show the bands performing the songs in segments that could be considered early music videos. Because of that, it's a very important historical document, and it's kind of puzzling as to why this movie is today fairly obscure. Perhaps it's because people today will not have heard of most of the songs and the groups, possibly because a number of the songs aren't "great". But it's a real time capsule that captures just what the music scene was like in 1966, which by itself makes it worth seeing. And there are some numbers that are really entertaining either for the great songs, or because of some campiness.

The first song in the movie is performed by the group A Band Of Angels. You can see how deeply Beatlemania had affected musical groups with this number, because all the band members are dressed in grey suits that look the same as the Fab Four wore early on in their career. Perhaps to prevent accusations they were trying to imitate the Beatles, the band members also wear Buster Keaton-like pork pie hats. Maybe they were trying to make us laugh, for the number has some unintended laughs, such as a woman working under the hood of a car who has her ass practically sticking into the camera, and that she and the rest of the women in the number come across as being quite stuck up around these Brit boys. The song the group sings is Hot Seat. Or is it? Certainly sounds like it, until the DJ seen after the number says they were singing Hide And Seek. Those dumb Brits - don't they know how to speak their own language?!?

Next we hear Carolyn, Roy, and Judy singing Teenage Valentino. The two girls in the group, dressed in tarter Sherlock Holmes getups sing to the very bemused Roy some extremely goofy lyrics, which include "Big man, loverboy, teenage Valentino / You don't know how funny you have been / With your six button suit / and your patent leather booties / and your sideburns right down to here." The highlight of the number is when Roy gets down, and starts doing a screamingly funny seizure that I think was supposed to be a dance. (Sharp eyed viewers will notice the cigarette disappear from his mouth during the dance.) What makes it even more funny is that Roy face clearly shows that he's convinced he's so cool doing this dance. I would pay good money to see the expression on Roy's face watching this footage today.

The third number, The Fox, is performed by The Bachelors, and it's a nice tribute to the skiffle songs that were a big hit in England a decade earlier. Despite the subject of the song, and the opening shot being that of a stuffed fox's head, the band sings the song while....shooting pool. Yes, pool. Must be some English slang that my parents never taught me.

A little later in the movie, we are treated to Peter & Gordon, a British duo who had several hits in the States with songs written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon (such as Woman and Nobody I Know). They sing in this segment Leave Me Alone, and later, Soft As The Dawn. Though I don't believe these two songs were written by McCartney and Lennon, they do sound very Beatlesque, and they are quite pleasant to listen to. The biggest impression both numbers make is that Peter (or is it Gordon) is one of the ugliest rock stars to be found anywhere, with his red hair, thick glasses, and buck teeth. Still, his success could be a source of comfort to those teased on the playground.

The Chiffons then sing Nobody Knows What's Going On In My Mind But Me. If you haven't heard the song, here are the lyrics: "Nobody knows what's going on in my mind but me" x 20, more or less.

Then we get one of the best segments, with the entrance of Freddie & The Dreamers. After all these years, You Were Made For Me is still a fun, goofy, and joyful song to listen to. And Freddie Garrity treats us to his famous goofy dancing, which contributed much to the group's success. Most of the song is filmed in one long take, and it's quite amazing to see Freddie doing all of this jumping and dancing around without missing a beat or a step. Later in the movie, the group returns with Just For You, another pleasing number. In that number, the band shows a willingness to poke fun at itself, and shows comic talent that could have been put to good use in movies or television had the group managed to continue making hits.

There are some other hit songs that viewers will recognize and enjoy. We see Johnny B. Great pounding away at his piano and bellowing If I Had A Hammer, Jackie And The Raindrops doing The Locomotion, and Freddie Cannon ("...on Warner Brothers records!" the announcer reminds us) squeezing Tallahassee Lassie and three other songs of his in less than two minutes, yet still having enough time to inject his famous "Wooo!" several times. All great songs to listen to one more time, and their sometimes campy presentation is fun as well. For example, as Jackie sings her song (set at a train station), some very British businessmen, complete with umbrellas and bowler hats, paste wide smiles on their faces and do a rather silly dance in the background.

Between all of these musical segments plays the flimsy plot, concerning a youth named Casey Paxton going to several radio and TV stations with his girlfriend, trying to convince them to play his fabulous song. Obviously, this was a ploy by the producers to try and introduce a new singing sensation to the world, though some quick research on my part reveals that Casey Paxton doesn't seem to have ever accomplished anything. Tough luck, Casey. Though also tough luck for us, because not only is his song East Is East (one of those I'm - poor - your - family's - rich - and - they - don't - want - us - together songs) pretty bad, but we have to sit through his singing of it three times. At least there is some amusement during the second time, because he seems like he needs to go to the bathroom badly during the number.

A few other songs fall flat by well, songs that are by groups I've never heard of before, and I wonder if they were even famous in England (where most of the performers in the movie come from.) Who the heck were The Applejacks? Or The Rocking Ramrods? The Orchids? All I could determine about Millie Small is that she must live in a place with a lot of helium in the air. Other weak moments in the movie include endless sequences of the young couple walking around the cities they visit, feeding the pigeons, going swimming, and on and on....

Fortunately, there are not that many moments in the movie where there's padding like this, or more than one lame song in a row. A boring moment is usually followed by a great song and/or a campy presentation. The segments between the songs also have some amusing moments. One person actually says at one point, "That cat sounds kinda groovy! I dig him, he's all right!" The last segment (in Boston) is hosted by a DJ named Arnie Ginsburg, who comes across as Ben Stein trying desperately to be energetic and hip, and it's hard not to chuckle when he's on the screen. There is a lot of different kind of entertainment to be found in Disk-O-Tek Holiday, so even people not nostalgic about the mid 1960s will find a lot on display to entertain them here.
 


UPDATE: Thanks to Robert P. Flynn for sending this in:

"The Rocking Ramrods were a band from Boston somewhat popular locally around 1965-66? I saw them play at a clothing department store call Cronins in Waltham, MA. Weird place to do a gig. They had a song called 'Bright Lit Blue Skies', sounded like most of the poppy music at the time."
 


UPDATE 2: Kim Tellert sent this in:

"Just a little more info on The Rockin' Ramrods who appeared in the US version of the Disk-O-Tek Holiday movie.

"The "Surf" which appears at the beginning of their performance is actually a short piece of film of the sign outside the dance club that stood on Nantasket Beach in Hull, Massachusetts back in the 60's. The Surf was the home base for the Ramrods, and a fabulous place to dance Saturday nights away. "


UPDATE 3: Danny de San Francisco wrote in with this:

"Thanks for your entertaining review of the film Disk-O-Tek Holiday (1966). Though I'm not sure when you initially published your review -and am aware content online has expanded exponentially- please be advised that, according to Discogs.com, the once-unknown Casey Paxton went on to become legendary (imho) disco-era artist D.C. La Rue"

Check for availability on Amazon.
Check Amazon for The Bachelors (CD)
Check Amazon for "The Ultimate Peter & Gordon" (CD)
Check Amazon for "Best of Chiffons" (CD)
Check Amazon for "Very Best of Freddie & The Dreamers" (CD)

See also: The Apple, Shock Treatment, That's Black Entertainment

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