If the 1980s were good for nothing else, they brought the world a slew of movies featuring lots of dancing and dancers. Not that other decades are devoid of this particular type of film — it just seemed like there was one coming out every other month during the ’80s. And you know I love all of them.
While most of the dance-related films of the decade took place during “the present day,” there were a few period films that took place in other decades, such as the ’60s, the most popular probably being 1987’s Dirty Dancing. But there was also Shag: The Movie (1989), the less popular, more comedic little cousin of Dirty Dancing.
Shag is about four girlfriends from Spartanburg, South Carolina — Carson (Phoebe Cates), Luanne (Page Hannah), Melaina (Bridget Fonda), and Pudge (Annabeth Gish) — who decide to take one last weekend trip together in the summer of ’63 before Carson gets married to tobacco heir Harley Ralston (Tyrone Power Jr.). Carson thinks they’re going to Fort Sumter to tour colonial homes, but she soon discovers her friends have an entirely different weekend in mind as they whisk her off to Myrtle Beach to “go to the beach and meet boys and go to wild parties and dance.”
Not long after arriving in Myrtle Beach, the girls encounter two local boys, Buzz (Robert Rusler) and Chip (Scott Coffey), who annoy them at first but soon win their favor, especially that of Carson and Pudge. During their first outing at the local pavilion, Carson fights off Buzz’s advances, while Pudge tries to get Chip’s attention. Melaina, the wildest of the four girls, flirts with the wrong redneck and incurs the wrath of his hillbilly girlfriends, Suette and Nadine (Leilani Sarelle and Carrie Hamilton, the late daughter of Carol Burnett).
After being humiliated by the rednecks, Melaina decides she will defeat Suette in the Miss Sun Queen beauty pageant and be discovered by the contest’s celebrity judge, teen dream Jimmy Valentine (Jeff Yagher). Meanwhile, Buzz does his best to get into Carson’s pants, and Chip and Pudge bond over their mutual love for the trendy dance from which the movie gets its title, the shag (which has a whole different meaning in England, of course, along the lines of “getting into one’s pants”). Last but not least, Luanne spends most of the weekend chasing after her friends, trying to keep them from embarrassing her and sullying the reputation of her senator father.
While the dancing in Shag, courtesy of famed choreographer Kenny Ortega, isn’t as sexy as the footwork in Dirty Dancing (also courtesy of Ortega) — and doesn’t feature Patrick Swayze stealing young girls’ hearts — it is a pretty terrific film about a certain segment of early-’60s teen culture, with a great cast and a really fun soundtrack.
In fact, as I was doing research for this post, I discovered that compiling the songs for it would be a little more challenging than usual. Why? Well, the VHS version and the DVD version of the movie have slightly different soundtracks. So, not only did I have to watch both versions of the film multiple times (so glad I didn’t get rid of my old VHS copy), I also had to spend a lot of time figuring out which songs were — and weren’t — in each version, then track down the songs I didn’t already have. And I did it all out of love — for you (but of course!) and for the Shag soundtrack.
Now, all of my hard work has mostly paid off, but there were a few songs I couldn’t get my hands on. I did find a YouTube clip of one of k.d. lang & the Reclines’ tracks, so I provided that at the end, and to help you figure out which songs are in which version of the film, I’ve created a little key:
*Á‚ appears in VHS version
#Á‚ appears in DVD version
+Á‚ appears in both
Also, I should mention that the ten songs that appeared on the official soundtrack album are all featured in the DVD version of the film, though some appear in the VHS version as well. After having watched both versions again (and again), I have to say that I think the soundtrack used in the DVD version is much more effective and more fun.
The Shirelles – Mama Said *
Tommy Page – The Shag #
Bob & Earl – Harlem Shuffle +
LaVern Baker – Saved #
The Sensations – Let Me In +
The Essex – Easier Said Than Done +
The Tams – What Kind of Fool #
Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs – Stay + (performed in the film by “Big Dan & the Sand Dollars,” played by the Voltage Brothers)
The Skyliners – Since I Don’t Have You +
Chris Isaak – Diddley Daddy #
Sam Cooke – Another Saturday Night *
The Showmen – 39-21-40 Shape +
The Charmettes – Ready to Go Steady +
Hank Ballard – Shaggin’ on the Grandstand +
The Chiffons – He’s So Fine *
Major Lance – Monkey Time +
Royal Doulton Band – Dixie +
The Drifters – Up on the Roof +
The Drifters – Under the Boardwalk +
Jakki O – Ooo Aaah +
Bent Fabric – Alley Cat +
The Moonliters – Oh What a Night +
Elvis Presley – Blue Hawaii +
Randy Newman – I’m in Love Again #
The Hollywood Argyles – Alley Oop +
Jackie Wilson – Baby Workout +
LaVern Baker and Ben E. King – I’m Leaving It All Up to You #
The Duprees – You Belong to Me *
The Dominoes – Sixty Minute Man + (performed in the film by “Big Dan & the Sand Dollars,” played by the Voltage Brothers)
The Showmen – It Will Stand +
Lloyd Price – Stagger Lee +
k.d. lang & the Reclines with Take 6 – Our Day Will Come #
Louise Goffin – Surrender #
k.d. lang & the Reclines – Seven Lonely Days #
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