Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Titch - Hold Tight
n my mind, there are two types of oldies…
The first are the sappy, teenage amour lollipop fantasies. Songs like Cyrkle’s “Red Rubber Ball,” the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer,” and the entire recorded output of the Turtles—you know, all about your “baby” and “sunshine” and the like. Now, as a kid, I loved this stuff; loved it when my mom would play it on the speakers on the way to school or football practice. I never fell in love with it, but many of those songs have stayed in my head over the years, and though I find it difficult to spot the titles, or the artists who sung them, I still can sing most every word. Though I often change the station whenever they come on, it doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten them. They’ve simply become too familiar, and I’ve already worn out their kitschy kicks.
The second is the trashy, bluesy garage rock that oldies disc jockeys sometimes spin, albeit far less frequently than the Dick-and-Jane variety that gets more airplay. When I was younger, most of these songs never really stuck with me. But over the years, “96 Tears,” “Wild Thing,” the Remains, the Creation, the Count Five…that jones sounds like honey to these ears—and the irony is that now that loud herky-jerk has become the mellifluous melody that those corn-fed charmers tried so hard to transmit to girls in beehive hairdos and cat-eyed shades.
Sure, there are other types of oldies, such as Byrds-style jingle-jangle, Spector cathedrals, hula-hoop surf, Motown, and the Beatles. But these have, by this point, become their own categories—an artist or production style that transcends the tag of “oldies.”
I first heard Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Titch’s “Hold Tight” in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, or the second half of Grindhouse, a month-and-a-half ago. It’s important to mention the context in which I heard the song because it made its impact that much more memorable, and I’m almost certain it would do the same to anyone else who hasn’t yet seen the film. The reason is because it’s the centerpiece of a non-stop nerve-wracker. QT deliberately begins with a slow-tempo burner and makes each song faster and faster until this moment, the thriller’s climactic scene. When it finally does arrive, it’s more than you could expect to happen.
Beginning with pounding, repetitive, metronomic drumming, the brief, hypnotic beating of the kit is sideswiped by a blaring, dusty, single-note guitar. That little lick bleeds, gushing like a cut wrist all over the track, and suddenly, conversely, it opens up into groves of acoustic guitars and deep bass which muffle that once-loud drum.
Dave Dee enters the picture, bouncingly dividing each word as he sings a phrase beginning with “Hold tight…” in each verse. The lyrics, might I add, are moronic jibber-jabber. Take the first verse, in which each line is sung one note higher than the preceding one:
Hold tight, count to three, gotta stay close by me,
and hold tight, sing and shout, just ride my round-about,
and hold tight, shut your eyes, girl, you suit me for si…
Stupid, yeah, I know. But who cares?! Most pop songs are preposterous. That’s part of “Hold Tight’s” appeal, because after that “si…,” which is supposed to be “size,” comes a deranged, exaggerated shout of “AYE-YAY-YAY-YAY-YAY-YAY-YAAAAY,” and then “FORGET THE OTHER GUYYYYYS!” It doesn’t matter that the words are slap-happy nonsense because Dave Dee and his boy-o’s are having a blast singing them.
They take it down a notch for the line, “You’ll never fall / Each time you call.” But you KNOW they can’t restrain themselves, so they bust out with the title, “Hold Tiii-eee-ight, Hold Tiii-eee-ight,” and then the third time it’s a last-words scream that would make any square turn into a greaser in two shakes:
A massive drum fill, then they go back to the beginning and do the whole thing over again. It’s awesome.
Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich’s “Hold Tight” sounds like the ‘60s like few other songs do. I wasn’t the only person who hadn’t heard it before, a ton of people I spoke to hadn’t either. Even Justin Cober-Lake, a die-hard Who fan, had never heard the story that Tarantino randomly interjects into the script about Pete Townshend being asked to join as a sixth member, thus making it Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick, Tich & Pete. But that’s the thing: it doesn’t really matter. Like other ‘60s nuggets, the story is utterly ridiculous, but it could be true. In a film where the cheap gags of ‘60s slasher flicks are romanticized, caricatured, and inflated, it’s a surprisingly deft song selection.
Yet what hit me the hardest about it wasn’t the way it was used in the film, although I’ve seldom seen a movie in which a song was used so well. It was that I’d never heard it on oldies radio before, and I should have, a million times. It’s THE oldies song. It has a sassy swagger like go-go boots on a rotunda, filthy garage-punk guitars, soupy acoustics, and somehow has both cheery schoolboy and righteously bad ass vocals—that scream at the end of the chorus puts “Twist & Shout” to shame. Which is why it’s remarkable: it’s able to unite and encompass both the most sycophantic and the most vulgar aspects of ‘60s rock by realizing that they’re each absurd, and reveling in that fact is all of the fun.