Rocky Horror, Jeff Beck, Corvettes and Lasers: The Life and Career of Kim Milford
Hello. My name is R.D Francis and I am a rock ’n’ roll horror film addict.
But what are rock ’n’ roll horror films, you ask? Well, they can be traced to the granddaddy of rock ’n’ horror films: Brian De Palma’s 1974 twisted rock opera reboot of Hammer Studios’ 1962 film version of The Phantom of the Opera. Critics of rock ’n’ horror films believe De Palma’s creative queues were inspired by the successful rock musical-stage production of The Rocky Horror Show, itself moving from the stage to the big screen in 1975’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Inspired by Phantom and Rocky Horror, music producer, label owner and late night rock-television impresario Don Kirshner wanted a piece, well “slice,” of the action, so he produced two of his own — groundbreaking — rock ’n’ roll horror films in 1975: Song of the Succubus and Rock-A-Die Baby. You may say, when considering Kirshner was behind the Sixties bubblegum AM radio hits for the Monkees and the Archies, the word “groundbreaking” is an exaggeration.
However, we have to consider that both of Kirshner’s films pre-date the early Eighties slasher-film crazy inspired by John Carpenter’s homage to Italian Giallo horror films: Halloween. It was only a only a matter of time before De Palma’s melding of rock music and horror would find a way to turn Micheal Myers and Jason Voorhees into bloody thristy, six-string slashers and create a slasher-film hybrid: the heavy-metal horror film.
The horror section shelves of video stores in the eighties ran red with psychologically damaged and demon-possessed musicians backed by a chorus of cacophonous, screaming heavy-metal guitars from the likes of the “so-bad-they’re-good” bloody analog tales of Black Roses, Rock ’n’ Roll Nightmare, Hard Rock Zombies, Rocktober Blood, Shock ’em Dead, and Terror on Tour — just to name a few.
And Kirshner is the father of those heavy-metal horror films with Song of the Succubus and Rock-A-Die Baby. And Kim Milford starred in them.
The Brilliance of Don Kirshner
While quite successful in the music business, but not yet a household name, Don Kirshner became an overnight rockstar-by-proxy for his production genius in creating music for an upcoming U.S television series in the late sixties seen all over the world — The Monkees. The well-documented revolt by that show’s “actors” led Kirshner to create his next musical “discovery,” which dispensed with the live action, instead using easier-to-control animators, voice actors, and studio musicians — The Archies.
Kirshner made his next venture into television — increasing his coolness factor to the burgeoning hard-rock marketplace — as a creative consultant and executive producer of ABC-TV’s late-night answer to NBC’s better known The Midnight Special. In Concert began airing with two monthly shows in November and December of 1972. The shows not only double the ratings of The Dick Cavett Show that previously held the time slot, it also beat NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in some markets.
At that point, In Concert became a bi-weekly series beginning in January of 1973.
Ever-evolving and innovating, Kirshner left In Concert to start his own syndicated program, Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, which premiered on U.S television on September 27, 1973. The final In Concert episode aired in 1981, as MTV, a nascent music video network — created by Michael Nesmith, one of Kirshner’s Monkees — was on the rise and Kirshner’s vision was rendered obsolete.
However, even though Kirshner surrendered In Concert to make his own way in the late-night rock television world with Rock Concert, he kept his production deal with ABC. Based on his past success for the network, ABC provided Kirshner with an opportunity to produce a pair of music-oriented movies that aired as part of ABC’s late night The Wild World of Mystery, an anthology movie series. It was a no-brainer for ABC: Kirshner was the perfect mixture of the broadcast television and music mediums.
So, after his work producing hit music for the animated The Archies (“Sugar Sugar,” “Jingle Jangle”) and (my favorite childhood cartoon) Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies, Kirshner offered U.S TV audiences his first telefilm/movie, 1975’s Song of the Succubus, which concerns the ghost of a Victorian-era musician stalking a rock band. The “mystery” of its sequel, Rock-A-Die Baby, concerns a fan’s premonitions as the members of a rock group with a horror-influenced stage show begin to die at the hands of an unseen force.
For the “rock star” and “band” needed for these films, Kirshner looked to the stage success of The Rocky Horror Show and the rave reviews bestowed to the actor/vocalist “created” by Dr. Frank N. Furter.
A Rock ’n’ Roll Frankenstein
A revered stage actor in the musical and dramatic realms, Kim Milford, like most stage actors, cut his TV acting teeth on hour-long, early Seventies cop dramas. Another stage actor making the rounds on U.S television with Milford was a close friend that the world came to know as “Luke Skywalker”: Mark Hamill. The two worked together on Kim’s second-starring film and Hamill’s first post-Star Wars movie: 1978’s Corvette Summer.
As with most actors, Kim’s first love was the stage, where he appeared in the successful late Sixties dramatic productions of Henry, Sweet Henry and Your Own Thing. Milford then moved onto the early Seventies productions of Rockabye Hamlet (a rock musical based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet), the rock musical Hair, and the first concert tour of Jesus Christ Superstar, where he alternated playing “Jesus” and “Judas.” Milford received his greatest stage recognition for his casting in the original production of The Rocky Horror Show as “Rocky” for its London, L.A, and New York appearances.
So, why is it that Kim starred alongside Tim Curry and Meatloaf and appeared on the original Roxy Cast Album for the musical, but British actor Peter Hinwood (who no one remembers for his acting or singing) appeared as the film-version creation of Dr. Frank N. Furter? And why was Australian singer Trevor White instead brought in for Hinwood to lip-sync Rocky’s vocals?
According to Milford family friend Michael Dare (in a 2015 article on Nightflight.com: “Let’s do the ‘Time Warp’ again!”: HBO is showing “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” tonight”; author, Bryan Thomas), who attended the opening night show at L.A’s Roxy, Kim was amazing as “Rocky” singing “The Sword of Damoclese.” Dare is convinced (rightfully so; listen to the cut on the You Tube Kim Milford Playlist below) if Kim had been cast in the film version alongside his fellow Roxy cast members Tim Curry and Meatloaf, it would have made Kim a major star.
And Dare is right: Think of all the big studio-mainstream films Tim Curry and Meatloaf appeared in over the years — Meatloaf even received top-of-the-marquee placement on the posters and VHS boxes for several films. That stardom could have easily been Kim’s as well. According to Dare, Kim expressed years later that The Rocky Horror Show was a hit in London and L.A and received rave advance previews in New York.
Then came the official New York opening night attended by uptight, tuxedoed and evening gown-adorned “theatre” folks and critics who stared at the stage in a dead silence — the show bombed and the production’s planned six-month run was cancelled after forty-five performances. It never made it to Broadway. Milford reprised his role for the critically successful U.S tour rebirth in 1980; its production inspired by the cult status generated for the film from its repeated showings on the U.S late-night movie circuit.
Jeff Beck Just Crossed My Path
In addition to his work as an accomplished stage actor in both dramas and musicals, Milford was a hard-rock, rock ’n’ roller. His band, Eclipse, consisted of remnants from Genya Ravan’s jazz-rock fusion outfit Ten Wheel Drive, a band active from 1968 to 1974, which released four albums through Polydor and Capitol Records. (Ten Wheel Drive’s keyboardist, Michael Zager, with his self-named band, had a huge disco hit in 1978 with “Let’s All Chant.”)
So, post-Eclipse and amid his stage work, Kim was hired as Rod Stewart’s replacement in the Jeff Beck Group — the second version of the group. At the time, the Jeff Beck Group was a done deal, with Beck already enamored with the idea of forming a power trio with Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice of the recently splinted Cactus (both also of Vanilla Fudge).
However, the Jeff Beck Group had tour obligations to fill (as did Jimmy Page with the Yardbirds after Beck left and the band split), so the newly christened Beck, Bogert and Appice hit the road with Kim Milford on lead vocals from July to August of 1972 (you can hear several cuts from the Chicago and Pittsburgh gigs in the You Tube Kim Milford Playlist at the end of this article). For whatever reasons, the Kim Milford-version of BBA/JBG imploded.
In an August 5, 1972, spread on Jeff Beck in the New Musical Express, when asked how he felt about going out on tour in the States after a week’s rehearsal with Beck’s band, Milford said, “I’m sort of used to it because I used to have a lot of that when I replaced people in [stage] shows.”
It is unknown if Kim was hired as a permanent frontman and fired at the fate of the prickly Beck (or quit) or Kim was onboard to simply help Beck fulfill his contractual touring obligations. After Kim’s departure, British vocalist Bobby Tench joined Beck. Then Tench left with keyboardist Max Middleton to form blues-rock purists Hummingbird for three albums (then a rebirth of Humble Pie). Then Kim returned for the departing Tench. Then Kim left, again. For all the hoopla surrounding the project, the rock-press heralded supergroup of BBA managed to squeeze out one album before Beck eschewed a band set up all together and issued his influential, instrumental solo album, Blow By Blow, in 1975.
A December 16th postscript — with more details on Milford’s tenure with Jeff Beck — appears at the end of this article.
As for Kim, he went on to record his original composition, “Justice,” for 1972’s Ciao, Manhattan (a feature-length “art film” about Andy Warhol’s “Factory Girl,” Edie Sedgewick), then formed — it’s assumed by Milfordites — his own band proper, Moon. As result of Milford’s name recognition through his successful stints in Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair, and Rocky Horror (his tall and lean body, long blonde trusses and deep-blue eyes paired with his girlishly-fresh face (he’s been joked to be an “Aryan wet dream”) surely playing a part in the booking), he received an extensive spread (complete with nude photos accompanying the interview) in an October 1974 issue of Viva — an adult woman’s magazine published by Penthouse magazine founder, Bob Guccione.
Also in the Viva interview, Milford stated that [after his tenure with Jeff Beck] he released an album, 1974’s Chain Your Lovers to the Bedpost (label unknown), which features a single; “Help is on the Way, Rozea.” It is also Internet-rumored that Milford — with or without Moon — recorded a second, unreleased album (title unknown). It is also Internet-believed that these recordings feature all the songs that appeared in Milford’s two Kirshner-produced movies for ABC-TV — including the cherished “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” and “Come with Me.”
Also appearing on these Milford albums are several songs Kim co-wrote with Ron Dante, which included “Lovin’ Lady,” “Jo Anna,” and “She’s Putting Me Thru Changes.” It is unknown if these songs appeared in either films or if the albums were intended for release on Kirshner Records. Kim’s fans believe Moon toured these albums as an opening act for Kansas in the mid-to-late seventies. (Dante’s version of “Jo Anna” appears on his Kirshner-released 1970 album, Brings You Up, while “She’s Putting Me Thru Changes” appeared as part of The Archies’ repertoire — yes, Kim co-wrote and arranged tunes for The Archies!)
A Kansas/Moon tour seems unlikely. By the time Kansas issued their first albums, Moon broke up (most likely, after recording two unreleased albums, everyone had enough — no copies of Chain or a 45-rpm of “Help” can be located in any online vintage vinyl outlets or auction sites and neither are listed in any online music repositories) and Kim teamed with Jim Steinman and recorded an unreleased version of a 1977 album called Bat of Out Hell, which featured the multi-million selling singles of “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights,” “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth,” and “Bat Out of Hell” — Kim Milford was Steinman’s first choice to vocalize his rock opera. For reasons lost to time, Kim left the project and his castmate from The Rocky Horror Show stepped in his place: Meatloaf. The rest is history.
A tour that Kim embarked on (possibly; at the time of the October 1974 Viva interview Kim stated it was a “planned tour”) was a spring 1975 European tour (which dates it around the March airing of his two Kirshner rock flicks) comprised of a fifteen-piece band accompanied by synthesizers to perform his original material that he says will combine theatre and drama to create a theatrical rather than just a concert event.
As for Kim’s work with Ron Dante: It came about as result of Ron’s marriage to Kim’s sister, actress Penelope Milford. In addition, Ron was a long-time producer and session vocalist on Don Kirshner’s projects; two of those 1969 projects — the Cuff Links with “Tracy” and the Archies with “Jingle Jangle,” earned Ron the achievement as one of the few musicians to place two simultaneous hit singles in the U.S Top 10.
Kim also cut a 1969 single for Decca Records, “Muddy River Water b/w Nice City View,” co-written and co-produced by Ron (featured in the You Tube Kim Milford Playlist at the end of this article), along with writing the music and starring in the Oscar Wilde-based play Salome (which ran at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in 1979), and “My Love is a Rebel” for an early Seventies film soundtrack for Limbo, which, ironically, starred Barry Bostwick of Rocky Horror fame. In the early eighties, Kim fronted a band led by noted Brazilian jazz-fusion guitarist Claudio Celso for a 1982 album, Wake Up (a hard-rocking track, “Revenge,” is available at ReverbNation and Spotify). In between his stint with Jeff Beck and his two 1975 Kirshner-telefilms, Kim formed the band 7th Heaven with bassist Trace Harrill (the bands of Terry Reid and the Byrds’ Gene Clark).
Over on the forums of the Steve Hoffman Audiophile Mastering site, users discuss Kim’s tenure with the Jeff Beck Group II, which recorded at Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland Studios in 1972. Those sessions featured Stevie Wonder, who wrote “Superstition” specifically for Beck in exchange for Beck’s session work on Wonder’s Talking Book. Then Stevie and Motown realized the song wasn’t a throwaway track and Wonder cut his smash-hit version. The chance for Jeff Beck to have a progressive FM rock/classic rock radio staple was lost.
As for Beck’s version, in addition to featuring Kim on lead vocals, the track features keyboardist Max Middleton, bassist Clive Chaman, and drummer Cozy Powell. Well, it did: Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice overdubbed their parts; Kim’s vocals were replaced by Bogert’s and “Superstition” became BBA’s (failed) debut single release. (Several Milford-era live Beck tracks recorded in Chicago and Pittsburgh appear in the You Tube Kim Milford Playlist at the end of this article.)
It was after Milford’s acclaimed rock opera gigs and his stint with Jeff Beck that TV rock impresario Don Kirshner came-a-calling.
And that brings us to the reason for this career expose and why Kim Milford’s music career is cherish by rock flick lovers chatting on the Internet forty-three years later.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Succubus in the Dark
The chatter is the result of his fans wanting copies Milford’s two highly coveted and impossible-to-find rock flicks produced by Don Kirshner: 1975’s Song of the Succubus and Rock-a-Die Baby. Both films aired as part of ABC’s The Wild World of Mystery, a 90-minute late night mystery and suspense anthology series that ran on the network from 1973 to 1978, which aired in the overnights at 12:30 AM — after the rock program Kirshner started: In Concert. Both films, as did all of ABC’s films, also replayed as part of their Mystery of the Week and Wild World of Entertainment movie series, which aired in the weekday overnights into the late seventies (as shown in the image at the end of this story from a Wednesday, July 6, 1977, television listing for Song of the Succubus airing at 12:30 AM).
Sadly, even in an Internet-based world overflowing with information where it seems you can find out everything about anything, there is scant information about either film. The IMDB, replete with pages that return a wealth of information and user reviews on most films, is devoid of detailed production trivia or viewer-threaded insights. When considering the glut of productions lining U.S and overseas video store shelves in the eighties, be it major studio theatre-played films reissued to tape or direct-to-video releases (the favored format of most rock-slasher films), it seems neither of the Milford/Kirshner films made for ABC were reissued as VHS titles. The perpetual, years after the fact eBay and online auction site searches by Kim’s fans for these two films as a VHS or DVD title are for naught.
According to the IMDB, the last airing of Song of the Succubus occurred through a 1990 Australian broadcast — and the only known surviving print of the film is held at the U.S Library of Congress; it is unknown if the LOC retains a copy of Rock-A-Die Baby. (There is a Rock-A-Die Baby that returns on web searches, but it’s a low-budget British anthology film from 1989. According to the limited web-based plot synopsis of the film, it either has a rock band as a “framing device” to deliver three short stories within the film, or the rock band’s tale is one of the three short stories in the film.)
As result of the plot similarities for both of the ABC/Kirshner films featuring a rock band besieged by dark forces from the other side — and fading forty-year-plus teenage memories dissipating into the dark — many of Kim’s fans were under the impression there is only one film and Rock-A-Die Baby is the U.S/or foreign theatrical reissue of Song of the Succubus. Well, they’re partially correct: Rock-A-Die Baby was reissued in the U.K and Europe under the title Night of the Full Moon. Song of the Succubus replayed in foreign markets under its original title — as noted by its 1990 Australian broadcast.
Those fan’s forty-year-plus memories (including this writer’s) recall these telefilms, not as “movies” but as a late night television series that aired after In Concert — a sort of a live action version of the animated Saturday morning U.S television cartoon Scooby Doo? Where Are You?, where a horror-influenced rock band (a light-weight, commercial version of Black Sabbath) encounters evil on the road and solves mysteries. Or the band is on the road running away from the evil they conjured. Or the band is on the road chasing the evil they released through a song’s incantation. Or the “series” is an evil version of the late Seventies U.S television series Highway to Heaven — with demons instead of angels. Some say the name of the band in the “series” was Moon. Others believe the band was known as Full Moon (based on the film title Night of the Full Moon). According to the Song of the Succubus teleplay images at the end of this article, the band is noted as “Moon” in the script. Also of note: the script was completed on October 14, 1974.
As for Kim’s fans’ Internet-chatter as to which movie aired first: the IMDB confirms, Song of the Succubus aired on March 7, 1975, while its sequel, Rock-A-Die Baby aired two weeks later, on March 21, 1975. It seems the ghost of the Victorian-era musician haunting the members of Moon in Song continued with the evil festivities in Baby. Each movie’s runtime is one-hour fourteen minutes (74-minutes). In a two-hour television programming block (120-minutes), forty-six minutes (46-minutes) of commercials are aired — a standard telefilm broadcast format. With a VHS release or syndicated television replay unavailable to view either film, it’s hard to exactly know the through-line between the films. And the close, March 1975 back-to-back airing of the two movies is what lead Milfordites to believe the spooky, rock ’n’ roll proceedings were a television series — that got cancelled when another “Moon” episode didn’t appear, ever.
You’ll notice, in the teleplay’s page images below, the page count of the teleplay for Song of the Succubus is 103-pages long. In the world of filmmaking, one page of a script equals one minute of screen time. This means the broadcast version of Song of the Succubus at 74-minutes/74-pages is 29-minutes/pages short when compared the script. So, what happened to those 29-minutes of film, you wonder?
Well, again, Song, as well as Rock-A-Die Baby (as Night of the Full Moon) were distributed overseas as television — and feature films. In the world of filmmaking for the big screen, the average movie runs for about 100 to 110-minutes, which translates to one hour forty to one hour fifty (1:40:00 to 1:50:00) minutes. So the 103-pages of the Song of the Succubus script fits into that production pocket. So are there two versions of the film: the U.S television version and the overseas version? If there are home-video VHS versions of both films, are they longer than the versions aired on television? Does this mean there are even more unheard Kim Milford/Moon songs?
There is another possibility: the teleplay/script for Song of the Succubus was split into two separate telefilms/movies? What leads to this conclusion? We have to consider the musical segments of both films: Everytime Kim/Moon performs a song — that takes away from the characters’ dialogs, which advances the plot. And the song’s lyrics are not written into the script; as you read the page images below, you’ll see the concert/music is described — not shown as lyrics. And those performance segments increase the film’s running time. So it is possible that there is not a second teleplay/script for Rock-A-Die Baby. Because of the music segments, it is possible the 103-page script for Song of the Succubus, while released to U.S television at 74-minutes, expanded into a 100 to 110-minute (one hour forty to one hour fifty) long film. So it is possible what the U.S television teens of the seventies seen are one film — split into two parts in March of 1974.
So, as you look at the images of the Song of the Succubus script, you’re wondering what the pink and blue pages represent. Colored pages are utilized in films/movies to keep track of revisions to a script as it goes into production. Once the script is “locked” for scheduling and budgeting, that is when colored pages are used — and it is permanently bound with brass fasteners or “script screws” as a “shooting script.” These colored pages are used to save on photocopying expenses; they allow the production to release only the pages that have changed, rather than the entire script. So, in the case of the colors: Pinks are earlier revisions than the blues; after the script is reviewed again, those new blue revisions are added; if a pink page was revised to blue, the blue revision is shot. No pages are removed, only added.
This leads to another possibility: what we have here is an actual 74-page script ballooned to 103-pages because of the various rewritings. And only 74-pages of the 103 were shot. If there is a pink page next to an original white page, the pink is shot; if a blue page is next to a white page, the blue is shot. And . . . if a blue page is next to a pink page, the blue page is shot because it supersedes the pink. Phew!
What this all means: Song of the Succubus was not “split” into two films and there was, in fact, another, wholly independent script written for Rock-A-Die Baby. And, of course, Baby is a sequel to Song — the continuing, horror-filled adventures of Kim Milford and Moon.
In preparing this article, several editions of the Video Hound’s Golden Movie Retriever: The Complete Guide to Movies on VHS and DVD, an exhaustive and definitive cinematic encyclopedia of video releases was consulted, in addition to the two volumes of Video Trash and Treasures by L.A Morse, which serves as definitive guides to offbeat horror and science fictions films released on video. Neither Song of the Succubus or Rock-A-Die Baby (or Night of the Full Moon) appears in these guides, which seems to indicate each of these Kirshner films — unlike his The Savage Bees and Terror out of the Sky — were issued on video.
Milfordites on the Moon
Outside of Brooke Adams (Dead Zone, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Shock Waves) making her leading lady debut as two characters in Song of the Succubus, as “Olive Deems” and, it seems, the image of “lost love” “Gloria Chambers” for the Victorian musician antagonist, both films star the same cast. Along with Richard Schaal as “Vic” (the band’s manager?), Kim Milford (Chief Druid and Warlock) and his band “Moon” appear using their real names as character names in the film: Gaille Heideman (Bewitching Witch; vocals), Stash Wagner (Mystic Magician; bass), Mike Baird (Demon Drummer), and David Foster (Cadaver of the Keyboard). (Oh, you know the U.S television series The King of Queens? Well, Doug’s mom, “Janet Heffernan,” played by actress Jenny O’Hara, appears in Rock-A-Die Baby as “Shelley.” According to her IMDB page, it is her first movie or television appearance. You can see her at the :17-second mark in the You Tube song-upload of “Come with Me.”)
The members of Moon came to the production with music industry pedigree: Gaille Heideman was an established voice actress in Hollywood and performed the uncredited dubbing of Patti Duke’s singing voice in the film Valley of the Dolls. Stash Wagner previously appeared on the soundtrack of Easy Rider as the writer of the counterculture radio hit “Don’t Bogart Me” (aka “Don’t Bogart That Joint”) for Fraternity of Man and worked on albums with Chicago for the remainder of the seventies. Mike Baird, a noted L.A session drummer, joined Hall & Oates for their 1975 debut, then the Denver-based AOR-band Airborne fronted by Beau Hill, who became well-known as the producer of early Eighties hair-metal albums by Ratt and Warrant. Baird also backed Rick Springfield and Michael Bolton for several albums and tours. Session keyboardist David Foster toured with Kim on The Rocky Horror Show and later recorded and toured with the band of Kim’s Rocky castmate, Tim Curry.
The use of the band’s real names in the film (see the teleplay images at the end of this article) also raise a series of questions: Did Kirshner simply produce a rock ’n’ roll horror film and searched for a band to insert into the film — and cast Kim’s band and turn them into “Moon” for the film? Was Moon a real band that Kim formed post-Jeff Beck? Did Don Kirshner see Moon and sign them to Kirshner Records (alongside Kirshner’s bread-and-butter, U.S prog-rockers Kansas) and tailor-made both films as a way to promote the band? Is it possible that Moon was never a real band at all — prefabricated through casting musicians that Kirshner knew or worked with on studio projects?
This writer’s money is on the bet that Moon was Kim’s real band — post 7th Heaven from 1974 — and Heideman, Wagner, Baird, and Foster were official members. Remember, prior to his tenure with Jeff Beck in mid-1972, Kim’s band was Eclipse . . . which ties it back into Moon . . . and the “moon” is in . . . the “heavens.” Kim was friends with Ron Dante — in fact, Dante was Kim’s brother-in-law — and Dante was part of the Kirshner recording family. Therefore, Kirshner hired Moon and specifically crafted the films around the band.
While both of the Milford/Kirshner films replayed several times in the U.S between their initial airings in 1975 and up through 1978, both films dropped off the map at the turn of the eighties, as result of ABC (and NBC and CBS) cancelling their productions of original films for television, killing off the film’s replay chances. While ABC marketed both films as theatrical features and television films in overseas markets, the network never licensed the films for off-network syndication in the U.S. They’ve never appeared in syndication on local UHF television channels in the U.S.
Will Kim’s two rock films ever appear on the newly christened U.S television cable stations Me-TV and Antenna, or their science fiction/horror variant — Comet? All three channels specialize exclusively in retro programming of television series and theatrical and television movies from years gone by — and sometimes obscure ones that haven’t been on television in years. Not likely. According to the IMDB, it’s been twenty-eight years since either made a television appearance overseas. In the U.S, it’s been forty years since their last airings.
Also exacerbating the film’s archival problem is that the VCR and the VHS home-video market boom of the eighties was five years away in penetrating the mainstream, consumer marketplace — so no one home-taped the movies during their 1975 to 1978 airings. Did someone in Australia or another overseas market record the films during any post-1980 airings?
Over on You Tube, it seems a Kim Milford fan taped the movies or somehow acquired copies; in tribute to Kim, they uploaded movie vignettes of the songs “Come With Me,” “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” and a third unidentified song from the films. Needless to say, Kim fans freaked out. Many were overjoyed to have found the songs. Others remembered (as does this writer), holding a microphone from our GE, Emerson, York, or Realistic portable cassette recorders to record Kim’s music (and the songs of other movies or concert programs). And as with this writer, cassettes never last and we lost our limited Kim Milford catalog of songs. Will this You Tube-based fan of Kim’s ever upload the movies? Probably not. It’s been a few years since a commenter asked and the movies still haven’t appeared.
Those Kim Milford fans, as is this writer, were not born in the Internet age. Once teenagers with no financial responsibilities and too much time on our hands and music as our main — and sometimes only form of entertainment — we became analog parents, uncles and aunts, and grandparents to children rose in a spoiled, digital world.
Cassette recorders and holding up microphones to TV speakers? Recording songs off the radio? Yep, we did it. Yes, we Kim Milford fans born in the early-to-mid-Sixties worked for our rock ’n’ roll. The world wasn’t a touchscreen away as is today’s world. We actually had to leave the house to buy a record album (or 8-Track or cassette) or rent a movie. We carried transistor radios — our “iPods,” if you will. There were no video sharing sites. There was no Netflix. There were no Internet-accessible phones (handheld computers) with apps. Everything wasn’t a Google search or a You Tube-surf away.
Yes. We Kim Milford fans are from a time when dinosaurs pooped on the Earth. You youngins’ may not love the aroma, but for us children of the analog sixties, it is the sweet smell of wine and roses. Our memories take us over the moon. . . .
Don’t Be Afraid to Reissue
Will we Kim Milford fans ever see a DVD release of the movies Song of the Succubus and Rock-A-Die Baby, along with their related music recordings on CD? It’s possible.
A company by the name of SOFA Entertainment & Historical Films recently acquired the rights to ABC-TV’s Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert from the late Kirshner’s estate for a box-set release on DVD. Hopefully, SOFA purchased not only Rock Concert, but Kirshner’s entire TV program catalog, which included non-rock fare telefilms: 1976’s The Savage Bees, 1977’s The Night They Took Miss Beautiful, 1978’s Terror Out of the Sky, and 1979’s The Triangle Factory Fire Scandal — each which appeared as theatrical features in overseas markets, and appeared in the U.S VHS home-video market and replayed on low-powered UHF television stations.
Also part of Kirshner’s credits are the animated 1970 to 1971 series Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies (which concerns a rock band comprised of Dracula, the Wolfman, and Frankenstein), and the failed seven-episode run of 1977’s A Year at the Top, which starred Greg “B.J and the Bear” Evigan as a musician who makes a deal with rock promoter — who is the Devil’s son. The series plays with shades of the plots of Kim Milford’s two films; so, why did Kirshner cast Evigan instead of Milford? Kim certainly deserved a crack as a lead in his own television series.
So it is fingers crossed that SOFA also acquired Song of the Succubus and Rock-A-Die Baby for a reissue. Although they’re a film company, considering the music basis of both films, perhaps they could release the “soundtracks” (Kim’s two recorded and never issued albums), provided the master tapes are part of the Kirshner estate.
Corvettes and Lazers
As Kim’s fan searched for information, with the hopes they could locate copies of Song of the Succubus and Rock-A-Die Baby, along with its related music, they were shocked to learn that, Kim, born Richard Kim Milford in 1951 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, died in 1988 in Chicago, Illinois. While some Internet speculators claim Kim’s life was taken by the AIDS epidemic, the reality is Kim had lifelong issues with a weak heart muscle and died of heart failure during surgery to correct the problem at the age of 37.
A heartwarming sidebar to this writer’s Kim Milford biography, written by Cynthia Dagnal Myron, an award-winning former reporter for the Chicago Sun Times and Arizona Daily Star, can be read at The Huffington Post.
While we, Kim’s fan’s of the seventies, may never get to see Song of the Succubus and Rock-A-Die Baby ever again, we can still watch his first two, well-known and beloved theatrical feature film roles on DVD: Laserblast from 1978 — considered in some critical circles as being the post-Star Wars equivalent of what many consider to be the worst sci-fi film ever made, Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space (but Milfordites still love it) — and 1978’s Corvette Summer — a comic-car flick where Kim played a villainous car thief.
After his work in Laserblast and Corvette Summer, Kim was cast in his most-high profile, mainstream role in 1978’s Bloodbrothers — alongside the then very box-office hot Richard Gere. Gere and Kim were friends and Kim got the quality-film break as result of Gere dating Kim’s sister, Penelope — herself an Academy Award nominated actress for 1978’s Coming Home starring Jane Fonda.
Kim’s early Seventies television appearances on Mannix and The Mod Squad replay from time to time in U.S syndication on the Me-TV and Antenna retro-channels. As with his two rock ’n’ roll films, Kim’s Mannix episode (“Portrait in Blues,” Season 8: Episode 1, September 22, 1974) is of special interest and highly sought by his fans, as Kim stars as a rock singer who escapes a murder attempt. According to Kim’s October 1974 Viva interview, he performs “Help is on the Way, Rozea” during the episode. At least the Mannix episode, unlike Kim’s coveted Kirshner movies, is easily accessible through its eight-seasons’ reissue as a DVD box-set. And we analog dinosaurs will probably hold — instead of a portable cassette player’s microphone to the television speaker — our sound-recording Androids and i-Phones.
Don’t Be Afraid to Reminisce
As this writer, and you, the reader, reminisces on the career of Kim Milford, it is a moment that reaffirms one’s faith in the new, digital world we dinosaurs of the seventies are forced to live in — forever in conflict with our analog upbringings.
As with many of the lost and forgotten musical and movie phantoms this writer champions, I complete this article with gratitude. Gratitude that the digital realm is able to preserve and reignite careers once vanished and forgotten and that fans can communicate with one another and share the love. Gratitude that digital uploading and online publishing exists and allows this writer to honor the life and career of one of my musical and film heroes from our sometimes turbulent, almost always awkward, teenage years.
Thanks to the digital world, Richard Kim Milford knows we love him and we haven’t forgotten. The sun is shining brighter in your skies because Kim is smiling just a little bit brighter.
For with memories — you don’t have to be afraid of the dark.
Postscript: December 16, 2018: An Internet-based transcription of an issue of The Jeff Beck Bulletin (Fall 1994; #3) offers a more detailed version regarding Milford’s tenure with Beck, Bogert and Appice. The section relative to Milford has been reposted here. You can read the full history of BBA in its entirety at the noted hyperlink, seen above. If you are a Beck fan, the site is a must visit! If you want to learn more about British blues-vocalist Bobby Tench, visit Bobby Tench Explained.
Also discussed in this postscript is Kim’s time with manager Bill Acoin of Kiss fame.
Jeff’s next roster recorded two Epic albums and done a couple of tours — then wound up at Electric Ladyland Studios in the Summer of 1972 to start recording new material for a proposed third album. Stevie Wonder attended the sessions as result of someone at Epic Records telling Stevie that Jeff loved his compositions. The two met and agreements were verbalized to play on each other’s records and, of course, Stevie came up with “Superstition” for Jeff, in addition to two other tracks that Jeff would later use on Blow By Blow.
Jeff called in his group to record “Superstition” and that lineup did at least one take of the song. After a heated argument with bassist Clive Chaman, Jeff felt that he needed a “more powerful band” to record “Superstition” — and have a hit single, finally. Max Middleton was kept on to cover on keyboards. Everyone else — Cozy Powell and Bob Tench (who replaced Rod Stewart) — was let go. Jeff’s people called up Tim and Carmine from Vanilla Fudge.
Jeff had seen, and was initially impressed with, vocalist Kim Milford from the stage/rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. Cactus had disbanded at that point, so Tim and Carmine showed up that first night at the studio — ready to record “Superstition.” What has not been known to many Beck fans: Milford was also present at the sessions. “Kim Milford was there the very first night,” explains Tim Bogert. “He cut ‘Superstition’ and a couple of other things.” One of those other “things” was a BBA rearrangement of “Let Me Love You” (from the Jeff Beck Group’s Truth), retitled “Lose Myself with You.”
Just how many versions of “Superstition” came out of that Electric Ladyland-time frame is still unclear — even to the memories of those involved. Carmine Appice says, “I replaced Cozy Powell’s drums on a version with Stevie Wonder.” Tim Bogert recalls the Kim Milford-vocal version, in addition to “several” versions cut with both Max and Stevie Wonder on keys. Max and Stevie’s funky keyboard work sounded so similar that Jeff Beck and Beckology producer Gregg Geller had a friendly difference of opinion as to which keyboardist was on another particular track (not “Superstition”), thus shelving the idea of putting whatever that “track” was, on Beckology. An early-Seventies issue of Circus Magazine reported the Milford-version of “Superstition” was going to be issued in Sweden on a Milford-solo single release (probably cancelled as result of Milford leaving BBA after six live shows).
At any rate: the new lineup of BBA — with Milford and Middleton — rehearsed for a bit (a week) and then went out on the road as the “new” Jeff Beck Group, so as to try out the roster (and fulfill JBG contractual tour obligations). The Stanley Theatre in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on August 1, 1972, was their first gig. The set was comprised of tunes from Beck’s Rough and Ready and Orange efforts, plus a reworking of “Plynth,” which segued into a cover of an old Junior Walker tune previously done by Vanilla Fudge, “Shotgun,” along with “Jeff’s Boogie.” “Oleo,” an old Cactus original, was added to the set list as a vehicle for a Tim Bogert bass solo. Another original tune added to the set list, written by Milford, was “Chain Your Lovers to the Bedpost.” (When played a tape of the song from the Stanley show, by the editor of The Jeff Beck Bulletin, Tim Bogert recalled, “That’s a Kim Milford original song.”) The Milford-era also featured “Definitely Maybe,” which appears on The Stanley Theatre tapes.
Other dates for the Milford tour included Chicago, Illinois, Gaelic Park, New York, Tampa, Florida, and Dallas, Texas. It was after the Dallas show that Jeff, as well as the rest of the band, became dissatisfied with Milford; they believed Kim Milford did not “fit” onstage. “Kim Milford wasn’t cutting it with the crowd,” recalled bassist Tim Bogert. “He (Kim) was like a go-go dancer,” Carmine Appice remembered. “The crowd couldn’t take him.”
So, on August 9, 1972, Jeff Beck rehired Bob Tench to finish the tour, which moved onto dates in San Jose and San Bernadino on August 9 and 10.
The Kim Milford-era Jeff Beck Group in Chicago, August 1972.
In addition to working with Jeff Beck, Kim also came under the auspices of manager Bill Acoin — who orchestrated the meteoric rise of Kiss.
For reasons lost to the test of time: Bill Acoin failed to fully support Kim and his band, Moon. Acoin instead centered his attentions on the bands Piper and Generation X — in which he molded highly successful solo careers for their respective lead singers: Billy Squire and Billy Idol. Other bands in the Acoin stable during this period were Starz (fronted by teen-idol Rex Smith’s brother, Michael Lee Smith; a U.S Top 40 hit with “Cherry Baby”), Holly Knight’s Spider (FM airplay with “Change”; became ex-Babys John Waite’s first solo hit), and New England (produced by Paul Stanley of Kiss; members ended up in Yngwie Malmsteen’s Alcatrazz).
— Thanks to Henry Schissler’s personal reflections on his friendship with Kim in contributing to this historical aside regarding Kim’s involvement with Bill Acoin.
NOTE: A complete listing of Kim’s Discography, Film, and Stage Credits appear after the video and photos section, “The Kim Milford Music, Movie, and Photo Library.”
— R.D Francis is the writer of The Ghosts of Jim Morrison, the Phantom of Detroit, and the Fates of Rock ’n’ Roll and Tales from a Wizard: The Oral History of Walpurgis, both books explore the life and times of the musician responsible for the mysterious 1974 Jim Morrison “solo album,” Phantom’s Divine Comedy: Part 1 — and came to replace Jim Morrison in the Doors.
You can learn more about the Phantom with supplement articles by R.D Francis on Medium.com.
R.D Francis has also published two Gothic horror novels: The Devil’s Anatomy and The Small Hours, in addition to a third novel, the upcoming Luminosity, a science-fiction adventure. Each is available in Print-on-Demand softcopies and eBooks at all eRetailers.
You can learn more about the Phantom’s career and book purchasing information by visiting the Facebook Author’s Page for R.D Francis.
Kim Milford Movie, Music, and Photo Library
“I am what I am because I am my own man” — 1974 Viva magazine interview
Richard Kim Milford: February 7, 1951 — June 16, 1988
A 33-song tribute “You Tube Kim Milford Playlist” featuring songs from Song the of Succubus, Rock-A-Die Baby, The Rocky Horror Show, Jeff Beck, and others.
Music from Kim’s lost Mannix episode from the 1974 Season 8: Episode 1 season opener, “Portrait In Blues.” The end credits, seen in this video, state the episode features the songs “I’ve Imagined” and “Give Me a Little More Sunshine,” written by Bruce Scott; “Love Means” by Scott/Milford, and “Help Is on the Way Rozaa” by Kim Milford. All lead vocals by Milford/Scott. Bruce Scott played Riff-Raff alongside Kim in the 1974 L.A Roxy production of The Rocky Horror Show.
SUNSET: Kim’s front and back headshot and Showbill program from 10/17/83. Sunset the musical opened in NYC on 11/07/83 and ran for one performance. The show was previously produced on Broadway as “Platinum” on 11/12/78 and ran for 33 performances. The cast featured Tammy Grimes, Ronee Blakley, Kim Milford, and Walt Hunter. Songs sung by the cast were by written by Gary William Friedman and Will Holt.
For additional black & white promotional shots by Martha Swope of Kim with the cast — Walt Hunter, Tammy Grimes — visit The Museum of the City of New York website.
Notice in Kim’s Playbill biography inside the Rocky Horror Show program that a mention is given to Kim’s two ABC-TV Kirshner “mystery specials” titled, “Night of the Full Moon,” which includes six self-penned songs — and that an album by Moon would be released in the Spring of 1975.
From the play More Than You Deserve by Jim Steinman starring Meatloaf and Kim Milford.
The Secret Storm: Kim starred in a recurring role as “Tommy” in the early seventies as part of this 30-minute daytime drama (soap opera) that ran on U.S television for 20 years from 1954 to 1974. There’s no record as to the year or episodes Kim appeared.
According to a post at https://whatsablog2016.wordpress.com/tag/1975/ ,16 Magazine, in November 1975, asked thirty pop stars the following question: “What do you like to do on a date?”
Kim was obviously over and done with the 16 Magazine teeny-bop marketing.
Kim’s first two theartical films. He starred in 1978’s Laserblast and co-starred in 1978’s Corvette Summer. Thanks to fellow Medium writer Rick Amurrio for locating screenshots of the first four pages of the Corvette Summer screenplay at the Corvette Summer Jedi tribute site, which also features transcribed pages from the opening chapter of the film’s very rare novelization.
Kim’s 1969 debut single issued on Decca, written and produced by Don Kirshner’s music associate, Ron Dante, who provided vocals for Kirshner’s The Archies.
Mannix: 1974, Season 8: Episode 1 “Portrait in Blues.”
Kim as rockstar “Chris Lockwood” sings his 1974 single, “ Help is on the Way, Rozea,” from his album Chain Your Lovers to the Bedpost.
No, that’s not James Spader.
Kim appeared in the “Celebrity Conga Line” of the hour-long The Muppets Go Hollywood special, which aired on CBS on May 16, 1979.
Kim singing his much loved classic, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” for his highly coveted, much loved . . . and out-of-print 1975 ABC movie, Song of the Succubus.
Kim singing his other much loved song, “Come With Me, “ from the ABC-TV 1975 sequel to Song of the Succubus, Rock-A-Die Baby.
Song of the Succubus: The 103 page teleplay/script was written on October 14, 1974, by Robert Thom for Don Kirshner Productions.
Kim’s bio in The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars: Heroin, Handguns, and Ham Sandwiches by Jeremy Simmonds, Page 235.
In addition to the 33-song You Tube playlist at the beginning of the photos section: The faux-cover for my fan-made tribute anthology-album of Kim’s Music. Listen to it on You Tube.
1969 — “Muddy River Water b/w “Nice City View” — for Decca (with Ron Dante)
1970s — “My Love Is a Rebel” — single for Limbo Film Soundtrack
1970s — Rockabye Hamlet — stage/cast album; if any
1970s — Hair — stage/cast album; if any
1970s — Jesus Christ Superstar — stage/cast album; if any
1970s — Rocky Horror Show — stage/cast album; if any
1970s — “Sword of Damoclese” — single from Rocky Horror Show (Roxy cast album)
1970 to 1972 — Eclipse band — recordings unknown
1972 — Jeff Beck Group/Beck, Bogert and Appice; 1972 — live bootleg recordings only
1972 — “Justice” — Ciao! Manhattan soundtrack
1973 — “More Than You Deserve” — More Than You Deserve with Jim Steinman — stage/cast album; if any (later appeared in new version on Meatloaf’s 2nd, 1981 album, Dead Ringer)
1973 — 7th Heaven band — recordings unknown
1974 — 7th Heaven/Moon/solo — Chain Your Lovers to the Bed Post album — recorded; unknown if released
1974 — “Help Is on the Way, Rozea” — 1974 single — from Chain; unknown if released. Appears in the Season 8: Episode 1 opener of Mannix
1974/1975 — Unknown/untitled/unreleased 2nd album with Moon/solo album
1974 — “Lovin’ Lady,” Jo Anna,” “She’s Putting Me Thru Changes” — either from Chain or 2nd album; unknown if issued as singles; with Ron Dante
1974 — “I’ve Imagined,” “Give Me a Little More Sunshine,” and “Love Means,” written by Bruce Scott or co-written with Kim Milford; Bruce and Kim share co-lead vocals. All featured in the Season 8: Episode 1 opener of Mannix from September 22, 1974. (It is unknown if these songs appeared as part of Chain Your Lovers to the Bed Post and if Bruce Scott assisted on the album. It is also unknown if Milford formed an official Loggins and Messina-cum-Seals and Crofts-styled folk duo with Bruce Scott and the Mannix appearance was meant to promote the duo — or if it was simply a one-off creation for the series.)
1975 — Moon/solo — “Don’t be Afraid of the Dark b/w “Come with Me” — from films Songs of the Succubus and Rock-A-Die Baby; unknown if released
1977 — Bat of Out Hell — a possibly recorded Jim Steinman project; later issued by Meatloaf; demos cut in 1975
1977 — “Who Do You Think You Are” (Single from possible unreleased album with Ike Turner Band (Tina Turner’s husband)
1977 — “If You Search, There Is More” (demo single)
1977 — “You Got to Move (Lose Myself with You)” (demo single)
1979 — Salome — stage/cast album; unknown if released
1982 — Claudio Celso Band — Wake Up album
1982 — “Revenge” (from Wake Up)
Acting — TV and Film
1970s (before 1974) — The Secret Storm (soap opera) — recurred as Tommy
1971 — Mod Squad (TV Series) — guest star; Johnny (as Richard Kim Milford)
1972 — Caio! Manhattan — performer with “Justice”
1974 — Mannix (TV Series) — guest star; Chris Lockwood (as Kim Milford)
1975 — Song of the Succubus (TV Movie) — Kim
1975 — Rock-A-Die Baby (TV Movie) — Kim
1975 — Sunshine (TV Series) — co-star or guest star; Eric (starring ex-Clear Light lead vocalist turned actor Cliff DeYoung; ran 13 episodes)
1976 — Round Trip (for ABC Directors Series) — The Prodigal Son
1978 — Laserblast — Billy Duncan
1978 — Corvette Summer (aka The Hot One) — Wayne Lowry
1978 — Bloodbrothers — Butler
1979 — The Muppets Go Hollywood (TV Special) — Celebrity Conga Line
1986 — Crime Story (TV Series) — guest star; Babe Petro
1986 — Wired to Kill — Rooster
1988 — Death Street USA — Albino’s Henchman
1988 — Sonny Spoon (TV Series) — co-star or guest star; role unknown
1988 — The Highwayman (TV Series) — guest star; role unknown
1989 — Escape — Zoka
1961 — Chicago Summer Stock — at age of 10
1967 — Henry, Sweet Henry
1968 — Hair — as Woof/Claude— at age of 17
1968 — 1776
1969 — Your Own Thing — as Sebastian
1970 — All Bets Off
1971 — Jesus Christ Superstar — as Jesus/Judas
1973 — Rocky Horror Show — as Rocky; L.A 1973; NYC 1975
1974 — More Than You Deserve — as Wiley/Trout
1975 — Rockabye Hamlet — as Laertes
1979 — Salome (adaptation of the Oscar Wilde play)
1983 — Sunset — as Danger Dan