Reviews

A New Kind of Love (1963)

Kevin Jagernauth

The film offers up a timeless double standard: a man who has many sexual partners is considered masculine, but a woman with multiple partners is a slut.


A New Kind of Love

Director: Melville Shavelson
Cast: Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward
Studio: Paramount
First date: 1963
US DVD Release Date: 2005-01-18

Released in 1963, A New Kind of Love and newly available on a bare-bones DVD, is predictable and borderline offensive. Writer/director Melville Shavelson's film is the sort of studio comedy most often produced at the time, moderately clever and frighteningly conventional. Perhaps the most surprising thing about it is that it stars Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, whose politics certainly improved with age.

The film opens as a mob of crazed women push and shove their way into a Fifth Avenue department store. Their brutish behavior is underlined by the soundtrack of stampeding and mooing cows. Equally odious is Steve (Newman), a sports columnist who claims to bed six different women a week. After making a conquest of his editor's wife, he's banished to Paris, not exactly where the action is for his line of work. The intelligent woman who will overhaul her personality to win his attention is up-and-coming fashion designer Samantha Blake (Joanne Woodward). She's also on her way to Paris, accompanied by her boss Harry (Marvin Kaplan) and his assistant Leena (Thelma Ritter). They all work for a discount clothing store that steals the designs from the major fashion houses, then sells budget versions. The trip to the City of Lights will be a chance to grab the hottest designs before they make their way Stateside.

Steve and Sam meet briefly on the plane; when Miss Goody-Goody witnesses his transparent flirting with the stewardesses, she is instantly repelled. She sees herself as unlike other girls. A tomboy with short-cropped hair and men's button-down shirts, her difference is emphasized when she attends a Parisian gathering for unmarried (and presumably virginal) women. Here she observes a ritual celebration, where unmarried women parade the street, making their way to the statue of St. Catherine and ask her to deliver husbands.

The parade makes Sam suddenly realize that she, indeed, wants to be married. To that end, she decides she needs a makeover. Looking at the Vogue magazine-styled girls who participated in the parade, Sam figures that must be the look men want, replacing her former smart style with a garish getup. Her smart modern locks are replaced with a blonde wig, and her naturally beautiful face is coated with red lipstick and blue eye shadow. How her colleagues see this as an improvement is hard to fathom, but they compliment the distinctly more feminine version of their co-worker.

All this to get her to the point where she can meet Steve at a restaurant and he can mistake her for a prostitute. When he begins to hear about her various (invented) sexual escapades with higher society, he pays her and uses her stories for his column. As in earlier comedies of this sort -- the Rock Hudson-Doris Day films come to mind -- Sam is too embarrassed to let Steve know who she really is, and so must maintain the charade and continue to fabricate sexually adventurous stories. In talking to each other, they fall in love and proceed through the usual plot turns before they acknowledge it, and their true identities are revealed.

It's hard to overlook the fact that Steve hasn't fallen in love with Sam, but with the lady-of-the-night version of her. Outside of their brief interaction on the plane, their relationship as prostitute and journalist serves as the foundation of this supposed love. The film offers up a timeless double standard: a man who has many sexual partners is considered masculine, but a woman with multiple partners is a slut. For her part, Sam has no problem being considered a slut, as long as her actions (however made-up) win her a man in the end. It appears she hasn't found a "new kind of love" after all.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

 
9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.


 
8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

 
7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

 
6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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