Thursday, November 24, 2011

“Nothing Better on 42nd Street”: Deceased Artiste Andrea True

There are few things more memorable than a musical hook, and Andrea True delivered a killer with her disco megahit “More, More, More.” True died last week at the age of 68, and thus made those “of a certain age” flash back not only to the disco era, but to the heyday of hardcore, the post-Deep Throat Seventies, when you actually could have an effortless transition from porn stardom to Top 40 celebrity.

True, born Andrea Truden in Nashville, was the product of a Catholic girls school, which explains a lot of her rebellious tendencies. She manifested those by ditching Nashville and journeying to New York in the late Sixties to be an actress and singer. Her obits noted that she was an extra in The Way We Were and Forty Carats, but evidently mainstream roles were hard to come by (inevitable pun), so she turned to porn in 1972 and continued to appear in hardcore flicks until “More, More, More” broke out in 1976.

She made three albums as “the Andrea True Connection” (a studio creation) but never had another major hit. Some obits reported that she returned to porn, but I could find no confirmation that the films released after ’76 weren’t just retreads of older work. The summing-up in The New York Times noted that she worked as an addiction counselor, telemarketer, and realtor in the decades since disco stardom.

It is indeed extremely rare for a porn star to make it to the mainstream, so it is interesting to consider True’s dual career in the Seventies. Let’s first explore the porn side, why don’t we? The only one of her forty-plus features that I’ve seen all the way through is S*M*A*S*H*D (1976), a micro-budgeted spoof of M*A*S*H that interestingly tried to mimic the Altman original rather than the sanitized Alan Alda sitcom. That’s not to say it’s a good movie (it’s awful), but at least it started from a strange place (being an Altman cult follower, I’d be hard-pressed — excuse the pun, again — to come up with another porn spoof of his work).

One helpful YT poster has put up an entire feature starring True, minus the hardcore sex. From what I watched of it, The Seduction of Lyn Carter (1974) is indeed a moody little affair from director Anthony Spinelli, which happens to costar the ubiquitous Jamie Gillis:

Given that there was a vehement response (check the Comments field) to my Deceased Artiste trib to Gillis from someone who knew several actresses who worked with him (and may or may not have been exploited by him), it’s interesting to note that he plays a sadistic creep here (check out the tagline on the poster to the right!). Lyn Carter is generally acknowledged to be True’s greatest performance in the porn world (don’t snicker — Seventies porn occasionally had some ambitions toward quality).

But, since True was also having hardcore sex on screen, I wanted to link to an example of that, and could only find this sole instance “aboveground.” It’s from Dance of Love (1974) and features True “getting it on” with Eric Edwards. Given that True herself was writing music at the time (she wrote her disco songs herself), it’s interesting to note that the film has a psychedelic-sounding theme that gives way to the usual cheesy jazz in this scene (and then back to the psych).

There is also a LOT of dialogue for a porn scene (I have no explanation why the dog story was thought to be sexy), the single best line being the one I've used for the headline of this obit. Watch it here (NFSW, obviously).

Now onto Andrea’s music career. The story goes that “More, More, More” began when she flew to Jamaica to do a porn flick and wasn’t allowed to bring her salary back into the U.S. due to an embargo on Jamaica at the time (their leader was sympathetic to Castro). She wisely figured she’d spend the dough in Jamaica, and hired a studio to record a demo for the song she wrote as an up-tempo reflection on the porn biz (“Get the cameras rollin’/Get the action going…”).

I was too young to really care about disco when the song came out — and thus was never one of the Irish and Italian kids I went to school with who chanted “disco sucks!” with a vehemence that indicated a *lot* more was going on with their supposedly music-based hatred. I always liked the tune, though, and in the late Eighties bought a secondhand copy of True’s first LP (which is really the length of an EP). The song does indeed grow on you, thanks to a hook that sounded even better in headphones (the hollower the knocks get, the more hypnotic the song gets).

In any case, the song was a massive hit in ’76, both in discos and on the music charts. It was covered in later years by Bananarama and Dannii Minogue, and also was cleverly sampled by the brother-sister-led Canadian group Len for their 1999 hit “Steal My Sunshine.” True’s obits wryly noted that the song, which was risqué in its inception, is now so mainstream as to have been used as the musical backing for a Post cereal commercial (with the scary tagline “Have a bowl of happy!!!”).

There are certainly a lot of visual representations of the song on YT, but I would have to point first to a dance version from the Aussie TV show “Bandstand.” Then there’s this video that uses the album version of the song (six minutes!) to accompany the poster’s personal photos of the Seventies (always fun to look into someone else’s closet of weird color schemes).

And then, of course, there is Andrea herself, performing a lip-synch version of the song that was apparently shown on both Top of the Pops in the U.K. and on Musicladen in Germany. Here is the British version:

Here’s True live on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert performing “Party Line.” The clip was uploaded by a KISS fan because Bruce Kulick was her lead guitarist at this point:

The only follow-up to “More, More, More” that got some traction on the charts (at least in NYC) was “New York, You Got Me Dancing” in 1977:

I’ll close out with a track from the More, More, More LP, the wonderfully titled “Fill Me Up.” Yes, it’s long (ten minutes), and is exactly about what you think it’s about:


Javed said...

“You really know your stuff... Keep up the good work!”
ld hardas

gene said...

Sure, her first LP may have been the length of an EP. But the width? Oy!

But in all seriousness, I left New York about 3 years ago, and your show is about the only thing I miss about it. Any chance you could upload entire episodes to YouTube? I enjoyed your hosting as much as the clips/media. Just a thought.

Love your website as well. "More, More, More" [aka. "Mas, Mas, Mas" in Venezuela] is such an evergreen gem of a record.