Agony Shorthand

Thursday, March 13, 2003
PLEASE DON’T TALK TO THE LIFEGUARD….Anyone else out there a fan of girl groups? Not the girl-band geek/Long Gone John groups of today (though I guess I enjoy some of those), but the classic early-mid 1960s girl singers and bands. The popular examples would of course be the SHANGRI-LAs and the RONETTES, but as my recent forays into the field have proven, this was quite a fertile genre 25-30 years ago, full of obscure 45s now trickling their way onto CD comps. And if it’s not punk rock enough for you, think RAMONES. These ladies and their producers were easily as big an influence on the so-called Brudders as The Stooges or MC5 ever were. Maybe that still doesn’t mean anything to you, but I think I have a song that will, tough guy.

When I purchased a CD last year entitled Boyd Rice Presents: Music For Pussycats, I’d never heard of it nor seen it before, and I was a bit nervous that the soft, girly exterior art would be a front for some horrible industrial racket within, with fake song titles and all that. All I know about Rice is that he’s quite the prankster (can someone please confirm for me if he’s truly the other – more funny – caller on John Trubee’s “Calls To Idiots” prank call cassette series?), that he’s been involved in something noisy and uninteresting-sounding called NON, that he’s been falsely accused of being a Nazi, and that he’s fathered a child with Lisa Carver/Suckdog. That’s about it. Turns out Mr. Rice is quite the girl group aficionado, all outward signs to the contrary. His CD Music For Pussycats introduced me to what is now my favorite girl group/singer song of all time, the centerpiece and crème de la crème of the genre, DIANE RAY’s “Please Don’t Talk To The Lifeguard”. This is the most bouncy, fun, infectious, outright charming song you’ve (n)ever heard. How could this not have been a massive, massive hit in 1963? Think Sandra Dee pining after the hunky, unavailable lifeguard and singing an up-tempo, perfectly-paced song about it. “Dark and handsome, golden tan / six feet tall / Man oh man! / Going to make him mine all mine / Wish they’d take away that sign!”. A classic! Unfortunately the Rice compilation sounds like it was transferred via frayed, ungrounded cables from his walkman to a CD burner; in other words, it sounds like crap (though the CD is still worth seeking out, as his quality control procedures were still excellent). One of my recent finds in the Tokyo record shopping spree was what looks to be a Belgian bootleg comp called “Girls Girls Girls, Volume 7” which contains a near-perfect transfer of this classic 45 (looks like it’s also on this Early Girls comp as well). Now I’ve got it in as pristine a form as it deserves. Hey, maybe it’s on Kazaa or something – why not give it a whirl? I’ll stake any remaining reputation I’ve got on it.