THE FRIDGE, DAD!’
With David Farrar, Noëlle Adam, Christopher Lee,
Gillian Hills, Adam Faith (1960)
‘WILD PARTIES IN BACK-STREET ‘SIN CELLARS’:
THE DYNAMIC & EXCITING STORY OF YOUTH AS
THEY SEARCH FOR THE ANSWERS – AND FIND THEM!’
Between the career-demise of Marty Wilde, and the chart-escalation of Billy Fury, Adam Faith dominated the enclosed world of UK Pop, second only to Cliff Richard. He was a slight presence with a thin voice lacking range – no problem now in the age of autotune, but which he disguised and compensated for with distinctively exaggerated pronunciation that unmistakably personalised his records. That, and his warm easy-going likeability. He’d already been around awhile, on the outer fringes of Pop. But after his third failed single ‘Disc’ magazine (June 1959) carried an interview in which he declared his intention to quit singing and become an actor. Not yet, not yet.
Instead, that same summer of 1959, Adam fortuitously bumped into John Barry when he was guesting on BBC-TV’s ‘Drumbeat’ show where Barry’s ‘Seven’ happened to be working as resident house-band. The meeting proved mutually beneficial. Backed-up by Barry’s distinctive plinky-plonk pizzicato string-arrangements, Adam got his first no.1 record with “What Do You Want?”. And after a couple more hits, when Adam was signed to give this modest little exploitation flick some teen-appeal, Barry got to score the soundtrack for their first movie together. The teamwork continued through their next joint movie project, ‘Never Let Go’ (1960) with Peter Sellers, and ‘Mix Me A Person’ (1962) from a Jack Trevor Story screenplay. By the time Adam’s Pop career veered off in other directions John Barry’s potential genius had snagged the attention of the producers of ‘Dr No’, and the rest, as they say…
Meanwhile, cuts were necessary before ‘Beat Girl’ qualified for its adults-only ‘X’-certificate, although, watching this restored DVD edition, it’s very difficult to search out what exactly the censor found objectionable. The titillating ‘striptease’ sequences are tame and very polite. Possibly, they objected to the bit where Jennifer sneaks into the Soho ‘Les Girls’ revue and sees Exotic Dancer Pascaline doing a vaguely phallic routine, drawing her robe up between her legs in a suggestive manner, and kissing it. Then the bra comes off to reveal… another smaller bra!
In an evocative sequence tracking images of a long-lost London she follows her down through a Soho street-market, past ‘The Havana Club’ and Duncan’s dirty ‘Magazines: Books’ shop-neon, to a coffee-bar called ‘The Off-Beat’, where the beatnik crowd hang out. Inside, there are posters and wall-mounted album sleeves for Oscar Peterson, the Modern Jazz Quartet, the ‘Music Pictorial: Fabulous Top Ten Contest’ and, interestingly, the famous ‘Two I’s’ Coffee Bar too, where real-life Pop stars like Cliff Richard where first discovered. In the basement the John Barry Seven perform live jive sessions, and Pinky Ross fails to break the World Drumming Record.
Back in Kensington, claws are drawn. As an architect, Daddy’s life’s work is his ‘City 2000’ project, he has a boxed-in model of the city in his lounge and intends selling the plans to South American clients. This ‘toy’ is worth more to him than anything else in the world. Jennifer bitterly agrees. It’s more important to him than she is. ‘Don’t kid yourself he’s in love with you’ she warns Nicole, ‘he’s in love with City 2000’. There’s an angry confrontation. Jennifer teases Nicole by alluding to her secret stripping past. Nicole slaps her. Jennifer storms out. In a strop, she winds up at a candle-lit proto-Rave at ‘Rock Les Caves’, filmed in the Chislehurst Caves in Kent (also used for location shots in Jon Pertwee’s ‘Dr Who’ tale ‘The Mutants’ (1972), and still later for Norman J Warren’s SF clunker ‘Inseminoid’ 1981).
In his insurrectionist tome ‘Bomb Culture’ (1968) poet Jeff Nuttall describes what he calls ‘the excitement game’, something he explains that – to ‘squares’, is ‘unrelated to ‘constructive’ living. Theft is understandable. Revenge is understandable. But the principle of excitement is not. It only makes sense in terms of the moment, to the people trapped within it’. Trapped within the moment, that is. In its inept way, that’s exactly what the subtext of ‘Beat Girl’ is striving to say. There’s even a contrived, but amusingly observed exchange at the core of the film. ‘I am me, Jennifer Linden, a complete whole independent living person’ she asserts. ‘This language’ Daddy protests, ‘these words, what does it mean?’ ‘It means us. Something of ours. We didn’t get it from our parents. We can express ourselves. It makes us different.’ He still doesn’t understand, ‘why do you need to feel so different?’ ‘It’s all we’ve got. Next week VOOM, up goes the world in smoke. And what’s the score? – Zero. So now, while it’s now, we live it up. Do everything. Feel everything. Strictly for kicks.’ It’s a highly-scripted exchange designed to define the generational gap between them. Elsewhere Adam Faith’s character Dave offers further motivational evidence, as a child of the Blitz, ‘when it was over I played on the bombsite, down in the cellars among the rats’. It’s all highly-stylised shorthand for Cold War cultural angst, but that’s what gives this quaint curio of a movie its kick.
He was a rare example of a Pop singer who could actually act, and although Adam remained modest about his days in music he logged no less than 255 weeks on the British charts. His subsequent career in films and television (especially as ‘Budgie’) won him even more recognition than his long string of hit records. But it began with ‘Beat Girl’, this fascinating slice of lost sub-cultural history located somewhere between the ‘Angry Young Men’ and ‘Desolation Angels’. As a London response to the existential threat to morals and society presented by the Beat Generation, living for kicks in the shadow of nuclear annihilation, for dope, free sex, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Wow-Mad Be-Bop, it’s a pretty lame tame affair, carrying the parentally reassuring message that – really, all these crazy mixed-up kids need is the loving guidance their confused lives lack.
‘THIS COULD BE YOUR
DYNAMIC DRAMA OF YOUTH
MAD ABOUT ‘BEAT’ LIVING FOR KICKS’
Originally featured on website:
‘VIDEOVISTA (Sept)’ (UK – September 2011) http://www.videovista.net/reviews/sept11/beatgirl.html