Sometime between the 1960s and 1990s the so-called “death of vinyl” was supposed to have occurred. With the 8-track, Compact-Cassette, and the CD all being introduced as cheaper and more accessible alternatives to the large and expensive vinyl record, sales were suspected to halt; factories to shut down. But, here we are post-2000s and vinyl sales are still strong (relatively speaking). In fact, new plants specializing in vinyl production are opening and sales are up 900%. Record Store Day, an annual event used to promote the production and sale of vinyl, is stronger than ever. And, now with the introduction of numerous labels focusing on vinyl soundtrack releases (both reissuing classics and releases modern scores), vinyl soundtrack records seem to be as popular as ever. As horror fans, genre fans, film fans we have an affinity for nostalgia, for the “good old days” of analog, and that is what this column is about. This column is a dedication to those days; it’s a celebration of the vinyl soundtrack (both old and new) and the companies that keep putting them out; and, if for nothing else, this column exists because artwork just looks better bigger.
Being sent a record for review can be something of a gamble. Barring prior familiarity or requests, you don’t always know what you are getting. It could be a hidden gem or it could be a fittingly forgotten dud. Over the course of this column we have formed a bond with the Berlin-based Private Records. The label has a fantastically diverse roster. Releasing some of our favorite Italian schlock (City of the Living Dead, Exterminators of the Year 3000) alongside real impressive electronic music like the work of Bernard Fevre or Videoclips.
Anyone who knows me personally, knows that I make no secret my knowledge, or lack thereof, of the sexploitation genre. It isn’t that I’m some prude who has any moral conundrum against it, I just simply have not exposed myself to its whimsies. So when Private sent me their latest package, I really didn’t know what to expect but I was excited. Tearing open the package, the LP’s cover art was revealed. It depicted a photorealistic bust shot of a half naked woman, saddled next to a sort-of crudely painted trio of scantily clad women surrounding an impossibly muscular, handsome blonde man. The light-grey background color stands in for both the white beaches of Greece, as well as the clear skies, with a sparse amount of tropical flare drawn in for flavor. Holding the piece together is the title, strewn across the top in bright pink letters: THE PUSSYCAT SYNDROME.
Directed by Ilias Mylonakos (as Irvin Miles), The Pussycat Syndrome is not what you would call one of the most acclaimed erotic films. In fact, the film is rather hard to come by, short of (what appear to be) a few bootleg DVDs on the market. Pussycat stars Ajita Wilson (who readers probably know/recognize from her collaborations with Jess Franco) alongside a cast of virtual unknowns (many of whom only acted in a handful of films). The plot follows two models who arrive in Greece for a photo shoot, only to have it quickly erupt into a feature-length run of sexual escapades across the country’s islands — par for the course for the genre.
While the film’s plot could be seen as rather ordinary, the soundtrack is surprisingly varied. Composed by the Austrian-based musician Gerhard Heinz, the score isn’t what the uninformed would expect from a softcore score. The ‘bonk chicka wow wow’ or sexy saxaphones are not the defining features here. Rather, the score embodies many different tonalities. From upbeat fun tracks like “Boat Dance,” to more romantic piano compositions like the film’s main track “The Pussycat Syndrome Theme,” it’s a constantly evolving array of choices and styles that really manages to work together well.
The standout tracks on the record are “Top Set” and “C’mon Let’s Do It,” which are both kind of 60s funk-meets-70s Disco throwbacks. “Top Set” has aspects that remind me almost of Fevre’s work, but is more rooted in the disco-era it is clearly trying to evoke. “C’mon Let’s Do It” also works within that 60s girl group aesthetic, so much so that, had they been released only 10 years earlier, these songs could have potentially charted. Sadly, the music was probably a little dated upon its release in 1983.
Matched with the fact that the film was not widely distributed, it’s probably little surprise that this record marks the first time the soundtrack has ever been distributed outside the release of the film, but it’s about time. Heinz’s composition is entirely impressive. For an oft-formulaic genre, the soundtrack has an experiment form, so diverse that it would be next to impossible to peg to any one genre from a cursory listen. In this regard, the work transcends its genre. It’s simply an impressive musical feat
As far as packaging goes, this is one hell of a set, as you come to expect when Private Records’ name is attached to anything. The LP comes with a full size poster, a set of “Vinyl is Sexy” hot pink stickers, and — best of all — a vibrator completes the collection…because if you are going to sexy, do it right. The Pussycat Syndrome is the second in a series of records released by VAGIENNA (or the Vinyl Of Austria Group), a “division of Private Records,” who are also handling the distribution. Heinz also composed the first in the series, Sex Fever, for the 1978 film by the Czech director Hubert Frank. Private Records’ stock tends to go fast and this series, as well as all of their releases, comes highly recommended. Even for those (like myself) who have a limited scope of the genre, The Pussycat Syndrome will come as a refreshing surprise and a fantastic listen. It’s an extremely musical score, one that plays out more like an album than it does an OST.