October 16, 2008

The Minx (soundtrack)

Paraphrased from the soundtrack liner notes, written by Andrew Sandoval (any of the smaller text):

Welcome to the great lost Cyrkle album! Well, almost. Recorded during mid to late 1967, The Minx shows where the Cyrkle might have gone musically, had they remained a group.

Over the years it has gained a reputation for three things. One, as an orgasmic soundtrack to a porno movie - which it really isn't, despite some collectors' hopes. Two, as a home to several fine breakbeats, a few of which are already in use as samples in the rap/dance field. Three, as some of the final and finest moments of the Cyrkle.

According to Cyrkle bassist Tom Dawes, "...it was just going to be a detective movie, so we signed on, eventually appearing in a two minute segment (the only part of this movie I'm really interested in seeing!). As the job took shape, I ended up writing all the music."

"It came somewhere around the end of the group," adds Don Dannemann. It seemed like a good opportunity to capitalize on the name and knowledge we had aquired." In fact, with keys to a small recording studio called Variety, the band were able to craft a surprisingly inspired groupd of sonically diverse nuggets.

The song "Squeeze Play" (the movie's original title) kicked off both the movie and the soundtrack album. "I went for that 'title song' big feel and of course they changed the title," laments Dawes. "I think I wrote and arranged this, though I remember Don and I were working separately but still doing that 'Lennon-McCartney' shared credit thing then." Driven by an ascending acoustic guitar pattern and funky flugelhorn, the song was also the band's first foray into self-production.

For the Cyrkle's big scene in the movie, Dawes composed "Murray the Why," with its quintessential Cyrkle organ riff (à la "Red Rubber Ball;" I also hear The Monkees' "I'm a Believer"). An attack on self-proclaimed 'fifth Beatle' Murray the K, the inspiration recalled their real-life dispute with former manager and disc jockey Gene Kaye. At the height of the Cyrkle's career, opening up for the Beatles' '66 tour, Kaye served the group with a lawsuit while they prepared for a show in a dugout of a baseball stadium.

When the title of the film was switched from "Squeeze Play" to The Minx, another of Dawes incidental pieces was employed as the main title theme. "I was into Jobim and learned a lot of those bossa nova chords on the gut string, and did that almost as a demo, but it got used," recalls Dawes. "I'm singing and I think I'm playing everything.

On 'The Minx (Instrumental)' I put the same theme into a kind of Herb Alpert arrangement with a walking bass."

For the film's fashion sequence, the Don Dannemann song "Something Special" is utilized. First recorded in June 1967, the song acts as almost an alternate theme for the movie with lyrics detailing the plot.

Jan Sterling (a descendant of John Adams and John Quincy Adams)

Perhaps the film's most poignant moment comes when Louise Baxter (Jan Sterling) is forced to sign business papers after a pitiful session of love-making with her contemptible husband. Set to the song "It's a Lovely Game, Louise," the sequence displays a drama far above the quality of The Minx's B-Movie trappings.

Tellingly, it would be another eight years before Sterling's next screen performance. "I wrote this feeling sorry for Jan Sterling's character," says Dawes. "One of the lines of dialogue referred to her 'lovely game' (i.e., ill-fated attempts to be sexy and hold onto her philandering husband), so I built off that. I felt sorry too for Jan herself, whose career had probably bottomed out with this role."

The remainder of the soundtrack is filled with instrumental cues culled from the movie. The all-too-brief composition "The Rigging" sounds almost like an unused backing rack from the Cyrkle's first album. "We were fooling around with double-speed recording," explains Dawes. "Guitar overdubs at 7.5 i.p.s. while the rest of the track was recorded at 15 i.p.s. We put those nutsoid breaks in the last two of every 12 bars."

"The Party" dates back even further, foraging through the group's doo-wop past as the Rhondells. Says Dawes, "We needed a slow dance filler and I just started playing that old rock ballad I VI IV V (C Am F G) chord progression."

Drummer Marty Fried kicks off "Nicole" with a breakbeat that has made this album a sampling favorite. "We just got down with our bad selves on a Coral Electric Sitar in D tuning," laughs Dawes. "I think it's sort of a send up of all the acid-rock drone 'Ravi Shankar attempts' that a lot of freaked out bands were doing - it's far from my fave thing we ever did. Whoever played that wood flute or recorder should be shot (me?). The wild screams are a nice touch."

In the film, "On the Road" plays out as the Minx crew travels to set up the squeeze play at a ranch house resort. Employing some of the horn figures from the other cues, "On the Road" is wrapped up with precision 5/4-time drumming and some cool 12-string guitar.

Elsewhere, "Walter's Riff" is a country & western play on that old double entendre: "ride 'em cowboy."

Lastly, "The Chase" brings the album to a close. "That starts with 16th notes on the bongos à la Lalo Schifrin," says Dawes. "We added stuff in a minor key and tried to make it build to a scary climax."

So, by the time the X-rated version of The Minx finally hit screens in late 1969, the film had been in the can almost as long as the band's chart career. "Needless to say, I was sorry I asked for that credit" (for soundtrack composition), remarks Tom Dawes on the final product. "My mother insisted on going to see it and was real proud for the first two minutes and slinked out of the theater when the female detective popped up getting ready to masturbate with a pistol!"

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gilligan said...

Great post. Now if could only see the movie.

Netflix has The Minx... only problem is it's a crappy film from 2007. (sigh)

Chris said...

Hey gilligan. Que pasa?

Yes, I know. I too checked Netflix. I'd love to see the scene where they play "Murry the Why."