Wed. May 22nd, 2024

Review: Girl Groups, the Story of a Sound

Today I happened to be working near a shop that does multi-media transfers, including camcorder, cine film, audio reels and good old VHS to DVD. It’s the sort of thing I would like to do as a job, and in fact I did apply there for a job once. So anyway, I took in a VHS I have to be transferred to DVD. It’s a thing I do sometimes. I find old VHS tapes that interest me, and that as far as I know don’t have a dvd release, and I buy them (usually very cheap), and I have them transferred (usually not very cheap). The last time I was here I got my copy of Justin Hayward Live at Capistrano transferred, and the time before that it was an old Beach Boys doco. This time it was a documentary about Girl Groups, the Story of a Sound. I love Sixties girl groups, especially the Shangri Las. Can’t wait to have a look at this.


Since I was working in the same library as yesterday, I was able to pick up my VHS to DVD transfer from the shop nearby during lunch. The man there, called Steve, handed over a little showbag of goodies that included my original VHS, the DVD transfer in its own DVD case, some business cards and flyers, and a pack of microwave popcorn. Cute. I took it home and scanned and printed up a copy of the original video cover and slipped it in the DVD case. The program is a documentary about Girl Groups of the Sixties, based on a book of the same title by Alan Betrock. The track list is a who’s who of great girl groups and songs, but there’s one glaring omission I noticed. No Crystals. The closest we get to them is Darlene Love doing He’s a Rebel. I guess there were some copyright problems with getting some Crystals clips. Never mind. I’m looking forward to watching it, which at this stage will be tomorrow.


I finally got to settle down at home and watch that Girl Groups dvd I had transferred yesterday. For what it was, the picture and sound quality weren’t bad (which is not always the case with these transfers), so I was happy about that. The documentary itself was made up of the usual series of talking heads interspersed with clips of the groups performing their songs. One of the great things about the 60s girl groups is they had some of the best songwriters working for them. Leiber and Stoller, Goffin and King, Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector were all featured, with Greenwich and Leiber and Stoller talking at length. Some of the clips were amazing. The Shangri-Las exuding cool doing Give Him a Great Big KissMartha and the Vandellas doing Dancing In the Street, with Martha delivering a fantastic live vocal. Mari Wilson outing herself as the ‘sexy one’ in the Supremes (yes, you were, Mari!). Some mention was made, particularly by Darlene Love, of how Phil Spector owned the names of all his groups and was cavalier about who sang on their records. Thus, Darlene sang He’s a Rebel with her group the Blossoms, though it was credited to the CrystalsRonnie Spector gave a good precis of her caged life with Phil, who everyone seemed to regard with suspicion – though most agreed he was also a ‘genius’. It’s a fascinating story, and all too briefly told. I was a bit annoyed that The Shangri-Las’ Leader of the Pack was only played over the end credits and we didn’t get to see them performing it. But, all in all, it was a good little doco, and a worthwhile project. Now I think I’ll cut up all the music clips and put them in my music video collection…