Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Ex Hex

Ex Hex‘s video for “Don’t Wanna Lose” . . .

. . . is an homage to the cult favorite, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains:

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains is not a great film — it could definitely use a much stronger directorial hand — but it is a fun film. Corrine Burns (Diane Lane) will do anything to escape her small town. She finagles herself and her barely formed band, the Stains, onto a fly-by-night tour featuring the Metal Corpses, an over the hill band with one long ago hit, and the Looters, an up and coming UK punk band.* The film quickly becomes the usual story of a celebrity’s rise and fall, incorporating bits of A Star Is Born and All About Eve.

What makes the film distinct is that it captures the moment when raw punk was becoming domesticated as the slicker and more marketable new wave. The Stains begin as a very amateurish band. “Waste of Time” sounds not unlike the early Slits or Raincoats in all of their ramshackle glory.** By the end of the film, though, the Stains have looted a song from their tour mates and become far more polished professionals:

They sound not unlike the Go-Go’s. In fact, Corrine’s transformation is similar to Belinda Carlisle’s own. Before singing in the Go-Go’s, Carlisle briefly drummed in the legendary L.A. punk band the Germs as Dottie Danger and was later a member of Black Randy & the Metro Squad, who appear in this movie as a running joke, though Carlisle was long gone by then.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains became extremely influential on the riot grrl movement. Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna says:

“Well, a really big movie for Bikini Kill was Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, starring Diane Lane and Laura Dern. They’re in a punk band called The Fabulous Stains, and there’s members of The Clash that play kind of the rival boy band, called The Professionals. [Laughs] And their song is [sings] “We’re the pro-fess-ionals! Join the pro-fess-ionals!” It’s actually really good. I don’t know if you’ve seen that movie.”

On a side note, I really hope Ex Hex sells those “Fabulous Ex Hex” t-shirts inspired by the movie on their tour. I’d really like to pick one up when I see them on May 1 at the Black Cat.

ps — for my review of Ex Hex’s album, Rips, check out the new site Sit Down/Listen Up.

Weird trivia. There are unconfirmed reports that the White Stripes took their band name from Ray Winstone’s dismissive remark about Diane Lane’s “skunk” hairstyle: “If you work hard, maybe, in a couple of years’ time. you might be something different.  At the moment, you’re just two white stripes, isn’t you?”

* The film is steeped in U.K. punk. Although fronted by actor Ray Winstone, the Looters are played by Steve Jones and Paul Cook, ex-Sex Pistols and then-Professionals, along with Paul Simonon of the Clash. Caroline Coon was the fashion consultant on the film and anyone who has seen any of the many volumes of photos of London punk, including those taken by Coon herself for Melody Maker, will recognize the debt the Stains’ “skunk” look owes to Soo Catwoman (although the hair colors are reversed).

Apparently Coon and screenwriter Nancy Dowd (credited as Robert Morton, as she was unhappy with the finished product) became good friends. Dowd seems to have appropriated scenes from the Clash’s “White Riot” tour, for which the Slits opened (for more detail, see Viv Albertine’s excellent new autobiography), conflated with the “Pearl Harbor” tour, the Clash’s first trek across the U.S. Coon was along for both rides, managed the latter.

** Although the film’s credits listed an available soundtrack album, it never materialized. Rhino supposedly planned to finally release the soundtrack along with the DVD release of the film, but the album was only available for download, and only for a short time before it was pulled. Maybe you can still find an MP3 floating around online.

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4 thoughts on “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Ex Hex

  1. Pingback: Wham Glam, Thank You Ma’ams! - Sit Down/Listen Up

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