Two Great Rock’n’Roll Movies: The World’s Greatest Sinner/Wild Guitar

Timothy Carey invents a new religion, and rocks his way to hell.

¬†You wouldn’t particularly think of 1962 as a great year for movies, but oddly enough it was the year the two greatest rock’n’roll flicks ever made were released. First came The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962), written, directed and starring Timothy Carey (1929-1994) who began his career in Billy Wilder’s incredible Ace In The Hole (which also inspired on of the best Simpsons episodes ever the one were all the rock stars gather to record the “we’re sending our love down the well” song), and can be seen in Kubrick’s Path’s Of Glory and The Killing (written by Jim Thompson), Brando’s One Eyed Jacks, many Beach Party flicks (always as the character South Dakota Slim), even in the Wild One, as well as dozens of TV shows. He was one of the greatest and most memorable character actors of all time. The theme song, done by Frank Zappa & the Mothers’ under the name Baby Ray & the Ferns was issued on Donna (a subsidiary of Del-Fi, the label that gave us Ritchie Valens, Chan Romero, The Bobby Fuller Four, and lots of great surf 45’s) in a different version than the one heard in the flick (with the great How’s Your Bird on the flip, it remains Zappa’s finest moment and best Johnny “Guitar” Watson impersonation). Although it’s never been officially released on DVD, The World’s Greatest Sinner is easy to find, several companies have been selling bootleg copies taken off the TCM broadcast last year (a beautiful print I might add, much better than the old VHS copies that were making the rounds). A Pirate Bay bit torrent rip can be found here. There’s not much point in me describing the plot, as it really is a work of art beyond my powers of description, but do try and see it, it can change your life.
Trailer for Wild Guitar (1962).
Arch Hall Jr. – Actor, rocker, heart-throb.
The second greatest rock’n’roll flick ever made is Ray Dennis Steckler‘s directorial debut Wild Guitar (1962). Steckler aka Cash Flagg would go on to direct such mind blowing low budget films as Rat Fink and Boo Boo (1966, co-written by Chicago rocker and paperback author extraordinaire Ron Haydock) and The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed Up Zombies (1964), Steckler’s story deserves a book of it’s own. Oddly enough he was the cinematographer on The World’s Greatest Sinner. Both films look great, especially considering their minuscule budgets. Wild Guitar stars the always cool in that “aw shucks” way– Arch Hall Jr. as Bud Eagle, a naive kid who just wants to rock and ends up getting run through the music industry meat grinder by a sleazy small label owner played by his real life father (who also produced the film), Arch Hall Sr. It’s got a great soundtrack (all the tunes in the flick can be found on the Norton Records Arch Hall Jr. CD– Wild Guitar, they also have the film on DVD for a mere $10, not to mention a must have complete Ron Haydock & the Boppers collection). I think I can safely say that Wild Guitar is the sort of masterpiece we shall not see in this century. Here’s the theme song by Arch if you need any further prompting to buy the CD and DVD.
Arch Hall Jr. is still around and plays the occasional gig. Ray Dennis Steckler sadly passed away in January of 2009, no mention of his passing was made during the Academy Awards yearly “remember those who died this year” segment. Fuck them, Wild Guitar is better than almost any movie that ever won an Academy Award, which, in fact, if you ever want to see a list of some of the worst movies ever made, look at the ones that won Oscars–Dances With Wolves, The Titanic, My Fair Lady, Chicago, Rocky, The Sound Of Music, cripes!, I’ll take an episode of The Abbott & Costello Show (oddly enough, their TV show was way better than their movies) any day. Rock’n’roll is very hard to translate to celluloid and most attempts over the years have been laughable, but The World’s Greatest Sinner and Wild Guitar remain two gems,
and they deserve to be seen by anyone who cares about rock’n’roll.
ADDENDUM: Interesting post on Robert Quine (the sixth anniversary of his death was last week) by his cousin Tim can be found here.

5 45’s (from the sixties section)….

This week’s five pack are all from the sixties which isn’t my usual area of interest. I started collecting garage records around the time of the original Nuggets (’72) and the Sonics’ Explosive (Buck Shot) re-issue, but over the years as I listened to the garage stuff less and less, and the fifties rockabilly and R&B 45’s got harder and harder to find, I traded away quite a few great garage originals. A few I truly regret trading away (Ritual by the Mods comes to mind first and foremost). In the post-Pebbles world however the music is all readily available, if not the original discs, in fact these days some of the coolest early comps– Off The Wall, Hipsville B.C., Scum Of The Earth, et al are rarities themselves. Here’s some of the records I’ve never considered trading and still play all the time.
Baby Ray & the Ferns is of course Frank Zappa and the Mothers circa 1964. I think this is his/their best record, you can really here the Johnny Guitar Watson influence on the guitar solos. This is what they must’ve sounded like playing greaser bars in Cucamonga. The A-side– World’s Greatest Sinner is of course the theme song for the incredible Tim Carey movie, the flip– How’s Your Bird comes from a line that Frank Sinatra and his pals used as a sort of an in joke. Both sides are classic greaseball rock’n’roll, the kind they don’t make no more.
The Devils’ Devil Dance on the Devlet label seems to come from Western Pennsylvania judging by the towns mentioned in the shout outs during the spoken part. It’s a frat garage rocker that many know from the A-Bones version. My favorite thing about the label is that is says “7 ” disc” , as if somebody was going to measure it to check up, but there’s no address or label info. I bet these guys played a lot of frat parties.
Speaking of Frat party bands, how the Trashmen ended up on Chess subsidiary Argo is anybody’s guess but they were not kidding when the put the words “Audio Odessey” on the label. A-side is the third version of their ’63 monster hit Surfin’ Bird– this time titled Bird’ 65 while the flip is a pretty straight forward run through of the Warren Smith Sun classic Ubangi Stomp. The Trashmen never made a bad record, but I’d put this one as their third best (second best: New Generation which gets extra points for the sound of a a-bomb exploding).
Mark Markam & the Jesters’ were from Florida and this frat rocker takes the Louie Louie riff
and adds some truly bizarre lyrics. Goin’ Back To Marlboro Country was a bit of a local hit in the Miami area around ’66, I remember hearing it on the radio at least once. Markam was a cousin of South Florida rocker Charlie Pickett who would cut a version of this in the 80’s. I’m not sure if he cut any other discs but this will do as a claim to immortality.
Last up is the original Fleetwood Mac line-up– Peter Green, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood and writer/singer and star of this b-side Jermey Spencer. This teddy boy send up– Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight was issued as the b-side of Mac’s Man Of The World under the nome’du disc Earl Vince & the Valiants. Within a year, Spencer, who had previously been obsessed with Elmore James and fifties rock’n’roll would disappear into the Children Of God cult, one of the creepiest ‘Jesus meets kiddie porn’ cults around, only emerging recently. He did a whole LP in this style for Immediate (U.K. only), his second LP– Jeremy Spencer and the Children (Warner Bros) wasn’t even him but fellow cult members using his name to spread their ugly message. Doesn’t it seem that everyone who ever played guitar in Fleetwood Mac would go crazy at some point in their career (ever see the video of Linsay Buckingham kicking Stevie Nicks in the ass onstage)? I used to have a great tape of Spencer doing a BBC radio show (backed mostly by F.M. members) doing all rockabilly type stuff including a great version of Cliff Richards’ Move It (but I can’t find it), and there’s plenty of fifties style rockers on the Fleetwood Mac BBC double CD, if he’d of stuck with the Teddy Boys and Elmore James he’d be in better shape today no doubt. There’s great book in the Jeremy Spencer story, I’m sure will see one some day.

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