Sunday, July 18, 2010

The End of the Sixties

I recently watched three movies that really encapsulated the long and noisy turn from the 1960s into the 1970s, although that wasn't why I was watching them; I wanted to see a certain performer who appeared in all three films. The movies were Head (1968), Easy Rider (1969) and Five Easy Pieces (1970) - yes, Jack Nicholson was in all three, but that's not who I was watching for.

Head is basically the death knell for the frivolous side of the Sixties, while Easy Rider takes the counterculture to its logical end, with the New Mexico commune that can't even feed itself. Easy Rider's cross-country jaunt to the insane fun of Mardi Gras is echoed by Five Easy Pieces' cross-country trip - where there's a suffocating family waiting on the other end. At least nobody gets hacked to death in a sleeping bag.

They were all three produced by Raybert Productions and executive-produced by Bert Schneider - and apparently produced by Bob Rafelson (who is listed as an uncredited producer of Easy Rider by IMDB), who of course directed Head and Five Easy Pieces. So of course a lot of the same people show up, like Dennis Hopper (who has a wordless cameo in Head) and Karen Black, who is in both Easys.

One nice thing to see was the presence of Carole King and Gerry Goffin, who wrote the precious theme to Head, "The Porpoise Song," and also wrote "I Wasn't Born to Follow," which the Byrds sing in Easy Rider. (I used to think this song was called "The Ballad of Easy Rider," but that's actually the dirge-y thing heard over the end credits.) I tend to think of Goffin and King dominating early-1960s pop, then disappearing until Carole emerged in her caftan for Tapestry, but there they are, guiding 1960s rebellion to a soft landing.

Anyway, the performer I was watching for who was in all three movies was Toni Basil. She danced a lovely duet with Davy Jones in Head, was the prostitute who stripped in the New Orleans cemetery with Peter Fonda in Easy Rider, and got taken for a ride with her girlfriend by Jack Nicholson and was in the famous "Hold it between your knees!" scene in Five Easy Pieces. Miss Basil is now trying to write a book on the history of street dancing, but her memoirs would be lots more interesting.

1 comment:

  1. I love that Monkee movie; I remember putting down a 50 dollar deposit on a VCR rental just so we could watch it in college (1986).

    Another cool part of Easy Rider is that Goffin and King's "Let's Turkey Trot" (Little Eva-1963) is playing on the jukebox when the rednecks and the bikers are about to have it out in the cafe.