(House bands in this film: The Pyramids (Steve Leonard, Will Glover, Skip Mercier) with another appearance by The Exciters Band)
After some classic slapstick opening scenes that run under the titles (with wonderful, jazzy scoring by Baxter), Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon and the gang kick things off again by driving down to the beach hwhile singing. Here the whole ensemble performs Bikini Beach, a bouncy but so-so title piece, primarily because of the horrendously archaic lyrics (at least by contemporary standards; who knows, “all the chicks are bikini clad” may have even come across as crude, tacky and stupid back in 1964). It still works, however, in setting theme, which is what opening numbers are really all about.
After the “adult villain” is introduced (retirement home owner/newspaper publisher/greedy real estate developer Keenan Wynn and his pet chimp/gorilla/whatever, who want to run the presumably brain-dead, sex-obsessed surfers off the beach) Donna Loren appears out nowhere in a bright yellow and white two piece. To reinforce the storyline gag of the kids appearing to be mindless sybarites, she whips the gang into a dancing frenzy in the sand with her first solo, the upbeat Love’s a Secret Weapon (scene from number, right). While the song itself isn't anything special, Donna does a great job with it, displaying her strong, melodious alto and striking screen presence. That’s fortunate, for it will lead the producers and writers to give her more screen time and better material to work with in subsequent films.
After Frankie Avalon's second character is introduced (mop-topped British Invasion Artist "The Potato Bug," who even has the obligatory Austin Powers-ish bad teeth,) he feels obligated to drive the girls in the gang crazy with Gimme Your Love (left). This probably one of the better upbeat numbers Avalon did in the series; since he’s performing it in comedic character and doesn’t feel constrained, he hams up this silly let’s-make-fun-of-the British-Invasion-number for all it’s worth. Notably, the lyrics contain scores of “yea yeas;” you can tell Avalon -- who was clearly speaking for every other then-fading American male teen idol – is having a blast making fun of the Beatles by singing those words as ridiculously as possible
After a lot of intervening storyline (which includes one of the choicer Eric Von Zipper “Ratz revenge” sequences of the series, as well as some nice, noisy drag racing), we enter an extensive musical sequence
We're back at a club, but it's not Big Daddy's. Instead, welcome to “Big Drags” (since it’s owned by drag racing promoter Don Rickles) and the sight of Candy Johnson doing her thing in a bright red dress, backed by some generic fast number being played by the Pyramids. They are subsequently introduced, and kick off a great song, Midnight Run, as their wigs fly off (the gimmick with this band was that they were all bald, which per legend was intended as a direct insult aimed at a particular group of long-haired foreigners). The piece has a good pulse and nice choral vocals, which makes the viewer wish they could hear it better, since it’s unfortunately somewhat buried under the yacking of various characters. After the song ends and we enjoy another short sequence between Von Zipper and Keenan Wynn (more of Lembeck’s classic “you are my idol” stuff), the girls in the crowd demand that the “visiting celebrity” (Avalon’s Potato Bug character) perform a song.
He obliges them with How About That, a fast, vaguely British Invasion-ish Hymeric-Styner piece which is backed by the Pyramids. Avalon does the song in humorous character again, wanging out on a ridiculous looking dual neck guitar as Dee-Dee dances around him, with the “normal” Frankie eventually joining in. This is the third time we’ve sat through an Avalon club dance piece in these films, and we’ve come a long way since Don’t Stop Now in the first film. Not only is Frankie tolerable here, but we have the added attraction of finally getting to see Annette dance around for the first time in the series. That’s made all the better since in this script she’s playing the “flirt,“ which gives her the excuse to provocatively wink, wiggle and grin throughout her whole section of the number.
The music continues with a second Pyramids piece, the short surfish instrumental Fingertips. This time, the song fortunately isn’t disrupted by script lines (Baxter appreciated good musicianship and lets it show here). As a result, we’re treated to a nice snapshot of the West Coast sound of the era, as well as some great stage gimmicks (including a full back flip by the lead guitarist). This appearance was really the last gasp for this short lived surf combo, which disbanded shortly after the film was released. They'd peaked earlier in the year with their one hit (the instrumental Penetration) and left behind only one album and a few singles.
If Asher or Baxter had full control here, they would have closed the scene on this good musical note, but then again, this is AIP. After the Pyramids end, Candy Johnson’s Exciters Band suddenly appears, with leader Don Hardgrave blurting out “it’s watusi time.” They jump into the bouncy Gotcha Where I Want You, one of their stock numbers from their nightclub act. As such, the piece is less structured song and more just audio wallpaper as backdrop for Candy’s gyrations. She obliges, dancing with Keenan Wynn’s monkey/chimp/simian whatever (right). Amusingly, this is one of the few musical sequences in the Beach Party series where AIP’s penny-pinching mindset rears its uninvited head, for the song playing on the soundtrack includes Candy’s voice, even though she isn’t singing here. AIP just dubbed in an original Las Vegas album recording – where Candy does sing -- rather than taping the band playing a new version for the film.
We later cut to Dee-Dee and Frankie, who because they are now back on good terms again perform Because You’re You, the first of their several stroll-along-the-beach-at-night duets in the series. The simple but well composed song (which combines folky acoustic guitar with a nicely structured melody) is pleasant and well executed, probably the best Funicello/Avalon love duet of these movies (bettered only by a subsequent one Annette does with a different co-star in the next film). Annette is positively radiant in this sequence, with a close up presence that won’t be exceeded until her love duet in the next film.
Footnote: if one is fortunate enough to have a vinyl copy of Annette’s 1964 “Annette at Bikini Beach” LP (never released on CD), her solo version of Because You’re You on it is one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs she ever recorded, easily among her career top ten (this is discussed in more detail in the Annette at Bikini Beach page in the discography section of this site).
After an amusing special effects sequence where the script Frankie pretends to be the Potato Bug with Dee Dee, only to have the “real” Potato Bug show up (resulting in Dee-Dee getting mad at both of them, which treats us to another classic Funicello script line, where she calls the British artist a “beetle-eyed bug”) we get an Annette solo ballad.
Dee-Dee does this one in a yellow cover up, again strolling along the beach at night as she restates her loyalty to Frankie while singing This Time It’s Love. This is Annette at her restrained, subtle best; the unadorned, soft jazz ballad is a style that really plays to her strengths (Funicello was a not a belter and her soft mezzo soprano was of limited range, so she tended to come across best in quieter, single clef pieces like this). Also, the engineers avoided their prior Muscle Beach Party mistake here and don’t ruin her vocal with doubletracking or echo.
Later, after Zipper sabotages Frankies “rail” (top fuel dragster) and causes it to crash (left), we see the first of many subsequent long, obligatory, silly, cheap B-movie-ish car chase sequences that with this entry start a run as a staple in the series.
The chase leads back to Big Drags, where the Pyramids perform some unnamed upbeat piece during the inevitable fight sequence, so the running joke of Candy Johnson being used as a weapon can be employed again. The noise level here is so high one can’t possibly hear what the band is doing.
After the Ratz and Mice are defeated (and the club is completely trashed), ”Little Stevie Wonder” appears again, this time performing C’mon Everybody as he’s backed by Pyramids. While this is a better piece than what he did in the prior film, Stevie gets little respect as the credits start to roll over him almost immediately after the song starts.
Those credits eventually change into a background that contains Candy Johnson (in bright fringy red, backed by her Exciters Band) performing the wildest dancing ever in seen in any closing credits, as a reprise of Gotcha Where I Want You blasts in the background (with relatively unintelligible lyrics; if one is lucky enough to have the rare LP or single version of this song, the lyrics can be made out and in a few places are rather racy. Candy and the Exciter's stage show was no tame act). She first solos, then duets with an "old lady" character who was a stock gag element in several of these films. The whole thing finally ends with a tacky shot of a bikinied derriere waggling off with “an American International Picture” written on the suit.