I first discovered the psychedelic acid jazz sounds of The Vampires’ Sound Incorporated in the early 2000’s when Sara, who was working the front counter at a local boutique video store I rented from, slipped me a burnt CD copy of their 1969 album, “Psychedelic Dance Party.” A week earlier I had rented a copy of Spanish exploitation director Jess Franco’s masterpiece “Vampyros Lesbos” after falling in love with actress Solidad Miranda, when I noticed her staring seductivley at me with her haunting dark eyes from the DVD box on the shelf. When Sara scanned the DVD, she said to me “Hey, have you ever heard the soundtrack to this movie? It’s really good. You should check it out.” I told her I hadn’t, and I’ll admit I didn’t think too much about it afterwards, so a week later it was a bonus when Sara gave me a copy. She obviously really wanted to share this album with me, and I was so glad she did. The Vampires’ Sound Incorporated is one of the best bands that wasn’t really a band, and “Psychedelic Dance Party” is one of my all-time favorite albums. Its one of those ten albums I’d take to an island albums which still ignites my mind each time I listen to it. Putting it simply, if there was a soundtrack to my life, I’d want it to sound like the cool and groovy sounds created by The Vampires’ Sound Incorporated.
The story of what this album is and why it exists is a lengthy one, but when it comes to information on or stories about the album or music itself, very little exists. But the first thing that should be understood is there wasn’t a real band called The Vampires’ Sound Incorporated. The music on the album came from a collaboration by two German musicians who specialized in creating scores and soundtracks for film and television, Manfred Hubler and Siegfried Schwab, who went into the recording studio in 1969 to compose music for three upcoming films by Jess Franco. One of Europe’s most prolific directors of the 1960’s, Franco had become notorious for pushing the boundaries of the European censors with his dark erotic thrillers which combined sex and violence with horror and intrigue. Considered trash by classic critics, but a genius by the Eurotrash elite, Franco was a stylish and imaginative director who could artistically bring his dark fantasies to the screen. A musician himself, Franco had also worked on film scores, and music had played a huge part of his previous films, including “Venus in Furs,” “The Diabolical Dr. Z” and “The Awful Doctor Orlock.” But for his previous films, the soundtracks had been composed by jazz musicians, and while cool for those films, Franco was looking for a new sound for his next tfilm rilogy that he was creating to spotlight his brand new muse, actress Soledad Miranda.
Discovering her when she played the role of Lucy in a 1970 Spanish version of “Count Dracula” starring arguably the greatest Dracula of them all, Chrisopher Lee, Franco fell madly in love with the beautiful mysterious girl. From Roma decent, Soledad Miranda had been appearing in films since she was a child, and was a notable actress in Spain and Italy. Although the majority of her films never made it to North America, she did have feature roles in imports like “Sound of Horror,” “Pyro,” “Sugar Colt” and a small role in the American big budget Western “100 Rifles” where she played the prostitute that gives Burt Reynolds up to Eric Braeden in the opening sequence. Franco, who was famous for working with many of Europe’s most beautiful women, saw an enigmatic beauty in Soledad, and sought to make her the next big international star. Convincing her to change her name to the less exotic and more American friendly Susann Korda, he signed her to do three films with him which he planned to film simultaneously – “Vampyros Lesbos,” “The Devil Came from Akasava” and “She Killed in Ecstasy.” Bringing together his usual group of players to support her, Franco centered the three films around Soledad as a showcase to highlight not only her magnetic beauty, but also her ability to carry a film as a leading actress.
For these new films, Franco sought to leave behind the traditional jazz soundtracks of his past, and hired Hubler and Schwab to compose a more modern and psychedelic film score for the films. Although the pair hadn’t ever worked together as a team, they fit together perfectly and seemed to delight in experimenting with mixing musical genres and untraditional instruments not often used together, which would be used, interchangeably, in all three films. The music would reflect the mod style of the era, but would still essentially be the background of the kitschy grindhouse cinema Franco was creating. Although Franco wanted to move away from jazz, he didn’t completely get his wish. Although the music is infused with funky drum beats and fuzz guitar, the closest genre the music would fall under is acid jazz. Hubler and Schwab also made clever use of electric harpsicord, moog synthesizers and, of course, the then popular sitar. With some tracks pulsating with a heavy horn section, others were stripped down to only a chiming music box. The result of their collaboration was eleven solid instrumental tracks that created the sound that Franco envisioned for his films. While Franco worked on the trilogy, he used the music for all the films, with certain tracks repeating themselves in the other films despite them all being disconnected. Instead of a traditional soundtrack album used to promote the films, for some reason Hubler and Schwab packaged the tracks under the name The Vampires’ Sound Incorporated and released an lp titled “Psychedelic Dance Party” unceremoniously in 1969. No mention of the upcoming Franco films were on the album cover, and instead of a photo from one of Franco’s films, a model dressed up in a cheap vampire costume and laughable fangs surrounded by prop bats was used instead. Its an interesting cover, which is both kitschy and fascinating simultaneously.
The music on “Psychedelic Dance Party” is certifiably cool. “Droge CX 9” combined harpsichord, electric guitar and horns with a funky back beat creating the perfect b-film backdrop. “The Message” is an erotic organ piece fused with a jazz beat, and has lyrics being spoken in English just under the music, which is too loud to actually hear what they are saying, making it eerie yet erotic. One of the stranger tracks on the album is “There’s No Satisfaction” where Hubler and Schwab play shamelessly with the opening guitar riff of The Rolling Stones’ “I Can’t Get no Satisfaction” making something that sounds familiar yet completely different (the title shows that they are not hiding at all what they are doing). But the opus of the collection is “The Lion and the Cucumber” which is a funk-jazz masterpiece with a strange human growls, groans and whoops sprinkled throughout the track. In regards to exploitation film soundtracks, Hubler and Schwab’s compositions are pure gold, and in my opinion, some of the best music ever composed for film.
But despite the strength of the material on the album, it really went unnoticed and didn’t get distributed out of central Europe. The album floundered, and copies of “Psychedelic Dance Party” could be found at flea markets and junk stores across Europe in the same fashion as we find copies of “Whipped Cream and Other Delights” today. Anyone who picked up a copy at the time and has it in their collection truly found a treasure because not only it is an incredible album to listen to, its value would increase to be one of the most valuable albums released on the European market sought out by collectors.
Fortune smiled on The Vampire Sound Incorporation when Quentin Tarantino, who is one of the greatest connoisseurs of obscure and cool music, brushed off ‘The Lion and the Cucumber” and used it on the soundtrack for his 1997 Oscar nominated film “Jackie Brown.” No record collector or film fan needs any sort of explanation of the beauty and importance of Tarantino soundtracks, which sometimes are even better than the films themselves. Getting put on one of his film soundtracks can completely resurrect the prominence of songs and musicians who had fallen out of the public sphere long ago, if they were ever on it at all. For most music fans, especially in North America where “Psychedelic Dance Party” hadn’t been released, the “Jackie Brown” soundtrack was the first time anybody had ever heard The Vampires’ Sound Incorporated.
With new interest in The Vampire Sound Incorporated by an international audience, a CD rerelease of “Psychedelic Dance Party” was released, now called “Sexadelic Dance Party,” with a new album photo featuring a seductive portrait of Soledad Miranda from the film “She Killed in Ecstasy.” I was thrilled to find this CD in 2008 when I was visiting Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. It was an opportunity to upgrade the original burnt copy that Sara from the video store had given me, which was now chipped and scratched because of constant play. The cover photo of Soledad Miranda was a nice touch, forever connecting her to the films and the music that accompanied them. A fitting tribute to the tragic actress.
Yes, tragic, because Soledad Miranda never lived to see the films that Franco made for her. Having finished “Vampyros Lesbos,” which is her most beautiful film, and the psychotic thriller “She Killed in Ecstasy,” which is her best performance in the three, while completing the spy thriller “The Devil Came from Akasava,” Soledad Miranda was killed in a car crash in Lisbon, Portugal. She was only 27 years old, and had just signed a contract with producer Karl Mannchen which would have had the potential to catapult her into international stardom. Heartbroken and haunted by her death, Franco cobbled together the final scenes of “Akasava,” sadly now disjoined in its narrative due to Soledad’s absence, and released Soledad’s trilogy. However, the films were dismissed by critics at the time of their release and were rarely seen outside of central Europe. But, with the renewed popularity of The Vampire Sound Incorporated in the 2000’s, Franco’s Soledad Miranda trilogy was finally released on DVD and discovered for the first time by American audiences, becoming instant cult classics, praised for their cinematography, beautiful actresses and, of course, the incredible soundtrack created by The Vampires’ Sound Incorporated. Meanwhile, Soledad Miranda would gain cult status of her own as one of film’s most beautiful scream queens.
Just a few more musical note from this Vinyl Story. Hubler and Schwab put out a second collection of music used in Franco’s Soledad Miranda trilogy in 1971 under the name Sexadelic. The tracks from this collection are included in the “Vampyros Sexadelic” CD and fit seamlessly with the music from “Psychedelic Dance Party.” It’s a second brilliant collection but I’ve never seen a copy of that album for sale, and it hasn’t been rereleased as of yet to my knowledge.
Soledad Miranda also recorded some singles for the Spanish market prior to meeting Jess Franco. Two .45’s of Spanish pop songs featuring photo covers featuring her exist but are rare to find. Only once have I ever had a chance to bid on one, but I lost it before it went for far more money than I could have afforded.
If anyone out there has Soledad Miranda’s singles or a copy of Hubler and Schwab’s “Sexadelic” for sale, and they would like them to find a good home, hit me up with a message. I’d love to add them to my collection.