Hold On! (1966)

Somebody, somewhere, in 1966, got the idea to make a movie featuring the English rock-n-roll band Herman’s Hermits. That somebody should be interrogated at length. This movie was obviously a crass attempt to cash in on the evolving music phenomena of Merseybeat and its earth-shaking success, “Beatlemania.” The curious thing is that the music of Herman’s Hermits was certainly unique, then, and remains enjoyable now. Imagine hearing rock-n-roll music that actually has melodic structure, played by young men with no residue of anger or ‘angst.’ Imagine that.

The plot is tissue paper thin. In fact, it is as if the script was written with invisible ink. The whole “we’re gonna get a rocket named after us” theme is just plain … screwball. It would be nice if the comedic elements in this movie could be called “screwball.” But that isn’t really what’s going on here ….

In 1966 there were no “infomercials” on television. That was a concept dreamed up later, when independent TV stations and then cable networks found that they had time they could sell for these thirty-minute repeatable information commercials. However, “Hold On” seems to double as an extended commercial for the band.

So there’s the story of this movie: “Hold On” seems to have been cloned from a “beach blanket bingo” template, being as it is set in California and there’s just oodles of opportunities for pretty young things to cavort in the bikini suits of the day. How clever.

Being a fan of the music of the 1960’s, I found this ‘confection’ to be very pleasing, even if overloaded with sugar and syrup.

Merseybeat and the “English invasion” of the 1960s was most assuredly an epochal event in the musical culture of the United States, and what is so strange, is that both the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds and some other amazingly successful bands of that time began by listening to American music, ‘rhythm & blues,’ to be specific, and reinterpreted some of the great popular music of that genre into what later came to be called “Blue-eyed Soul.” It remains one of the great mysteries of sociology as to why Merseybeat and the English invasion was so perfectly right for American pop culture in those years after the assassination of John F. Kennedy and before the turmoil caused by the Viet Nam conflict. But then, there were many mysteries abounding in the 1960s.

The Hermits never really passed the final examination for inclusion in that august group of English rockers who re-made rock-n-roll music, but they had a strange and distinctive sound. This movie is fun for that reason, and for “eye candy,” as in Shelley Fabares.

“Hold On” is cotton candy film making. But the music still rocks … sweetly and gently ….