The Rocky Horror Show had its humble beginnings in the early 1970’s when unemployed actor Richard O’Brien (below) channeled his love of science fiction, B-horror movies and Steve Reeves sword and sandal epics into the creation of a musical show with the working title They Came From Denton High. O’Brien wanted to combine the elements of the unintentional humor of B science fiction movies, with the portentous dialogue of schlock-horror, the naïve enthusiasm of fifties rock and roll and the garishness of the then contemporary glam rock.In early 1973 O’Brien showed an unfinished script to Australian director Jim Sharman (below) who had just directed Jesus Christ Superstar for Andrew Lloyd Weber, Sharman decided to stage the show at a small experimental space in the 60-seat Royal Court Theatre (London). A full production team was brought on board, Sharman changed the name to The Rocky Horror Show, and by November ’73 popular demand had pushed the show into the 500-seat King’s Road Theatre, where it ran continuously for the next six years. The Sydney and Los Angeles productions commenced in 1974 and by then Lou Adler had purchased the US theatrical rights and the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show went into production and was released in 1975. Jim Sharman directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Richard O’Brien, Sydney girl “Little” Nell Campbell was cast in the role of Columbia the groupie, other performers included Tim Curry (Frank – N – Furter) Susan Sarandon (Janet), Meatloaf (Eddie) and Charles Gray (The Narrator, who had recently appeared as the villain Blofeld in the James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever).The Time Warp” was part of the original score for the 1973 rock musical The Rock Horrow Show and in its 1975 film adaptation The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as well as a 2016 TV production of the show. The song is both an example and a parody of the dance song genre in which much of the content of the song is given over to dance step instructions. The dance is one of the major audience-participation activities during screenings of the film and performances of the show. It has become a popular song beyond the reaches of the film and show, and is often played at dances, weddings, fan conventions, and participation screenings of the movie (below) where patrons are encouraged to bring along water pistols, toilet paper, toast, confetti and other items to simulate special effects throughout the screening.It was the fifth song in the original show after Science Fiction/Double Feature, Dammit Janet, Over at Frankenstein’s Place, and Sweet Transvestite. The song consists of verses sung by alternating characters, serving as the introduction to two of them, and choruses sung by the chorus of “Transylvanians” (Movie) or “Phantoms” (Musical), and the Criminologist/Narrator (played by Charles Gray in the movie). The characters that sing the verses are, in order, Riff-Raff (Richard O’Brien in the movie), Magenta (Patricia Quinn in the movie), and Columbia (Little Nell Campbell in the film). After the second full chorus, Columbia launches into her tap dance routine which really anchors the whole performance. The song is a riotous, campy, kitschy, rollicking number and generates audience participation – “It’s just a jump to the left/And a step to the right/ With your hands on your hips/You bring your knees in tight/ But it’s the pelvic thrust/ That really drives you insane/ Let’s do the time-warp again/ Let’s do the time-warp again.”
Columbia’s costume for this scene is best described as Busby Berkely meets the Zeigfield Follies, and comprised a gold -sequinned top hat, gold-sequinned swallow-tail coat with pink-sequinned double bow tie, a sequinned bustier, black satin shorts with metallic striping, light blue bobbysoxer socks, and silver-sequinned Mary Jane – style tap shoes.The song’s chart fortunes tended to reflect those periods when the stage show was having a successful run locally, consequently Time Warp charted #12 in South Africa in 1976, #3 in Australia in 1980 and #7 in the UK in 1989.
Laura Elizabeth Campbell (born 24 May 1953), known professionally as Nell Campbell or Little Nell, is an Australian actress, singer and club owner, and is best known for her role as Columbia in the original stage show and movie versions of the Rocky Horror Show. She arrived in Britain in the early 70’s with her family and earned a living busking, running a clothes stall at the Kensington Market, and working as a soda jerk at an American-themed 50’s restaurant, where she performed impromptu tap dance routines, which helped her to be cast as Columbia in the original productions of the show and the movie. After The Rocky Horror Picture Show, she signed a recording contract with A&M Records, her debut single was Stilettos and Lipstick backed with Do the Swim, released in 1975.
She also created a disco version of the song Fever in 1976 which was again backed with Do the Swim, the B-side of both of these releases became better known, perhaps helped by a performance on British television in which she accidentally (and repeatedly) exposed her breasts. While edited out of the original broadcast in 1975, the unedited version was shown worldwide on bloopers shows (beginning with the British show It’ll be Alright on the Night in 1977).
Following this notoriety, another effort was made to promote the recordings made in 1975 and 1976. In 1978, a “triple B-side” titled The Musical World of Little Nell (Aquatic Teenage Sex & Squalor) was released which featured both Do the Swim and Stillettos and Lipstick along with the track Dance That Cocktail Latin Way (also known as Tropical Isle) which originally appeared as the B-side of her second single from 1976. Following some success with the EP, the other two tracks, singles Fever and See You Round Like a Record, were released as a single but that was to be her last release on A&M. A final single, Beauty Queen from the film The Alternative Miss World, was released on PRE Records in 1980, but did not chart.
In 1986 she opened Nell’s night club in New York and extended her interests there with the restaurants The Kiosk and E&O in 1995, in 1998 she sold Nell’s night club and in 2005 returned to Australia where she now lives with her daughter Matilda.