All the chicken you can eat!
Forget ALMOST FAMOUS. There are a select few films that actually ‘get it’ when it comes to the experience of being in a rock band, and meeting Lester Bangs doesn’t immediately qualify you as a rock muse (though divorcing Nancy Wilson might). Low-budget schlock-slinger H.G. Lewis’ exploitation cheapie BLAST-OFF GIRLS joins this elite group, along with the untouchable THIS IS SPINAL TAP (natch), that tell it like it is -- summarizing the rise and fall of an ‘everyman’ American garage band in the 1960s as they are chewed up and spit out by ‘the biz.’ And yes, the ACTUAL COLONEL SANDERS makes a cameo!
The film follows real-life Chicago garage schlubs The Faded Blue as they are ‘discovered’ by the slimy ‘Boojie’ Baker (Dan Conway), a sandy-haired Svengali with a cane who’s always on the lookout for the ‘next big thing’ to rip off. In Brian Epstein-fashion, Boojie remolds the band’s image, dressing them in matching suits and rechristening them ‘The Big Blast.’ Boojie’s go-to promotional strategy is (of course) blackmail. In order to secure the recording of The Big Blast’s first single, he snaps photos of a recording engineer being seduced by one of his ‘Blast-Off Girls’ -- loose ladies in his employ. The record sails up the charts with a bullet, but the group becomes disgruntled at Boojie for not sharing the wealth. After giving the band his blessing to leave, he invites them to a hotel party, where he and his main flunky (Ray Sager) set the boys up to be busted for pot and liquor, complete with fake ‘police’ paid off by Boojie. The band must sign on with Boojie again to stay out of the clink.
Along their path to fame, we get some amazingly inept (but groovy) pop ‘60s montages, and the infamous promo performance outside a certain chicken chain restaurant, where the Colonel himself (!) pays them and the audience with fried chicken from a bucket and frugs with the crowd. (Cue bitchin’ organ solo!)
In addition to being an amazing coup, this scene captures the shallow rewards of a band on the road, not seeing any fruits of their talent as their rich manager gets richer. It all becomes too much for the boys -- this shit isn’t fun anymore! -- as a second recording session breaks down. They decide to get back at Boojie 'just for the hell of it,' and (spoiler alert) show up soused to a TV promo appearance where they play a goof song and flip him the bird repeatedly. They walk out on Boojie and rip up their contracts, willing to take their chances on their own, and leaving him to seek out the next bunch of saps in the circle of life.
Sometimes it takes a cheap drive-in flick to summarize the cheap truth, in this case the music business and its rigged roller-coaster of pop success. But I’m sure it’s much different now, with the Internet and everything.