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Friday, July 22, 2016

My CD Collection: The Celebrity Wing

I have to show you something. Look:



Do you see that? That is an actual photo from within my living quarters. Some might say it represents a wall of obsolescence, a shrine to the preferred audio format of a bygone era, when physical copies of your music were a thing and mp3s took a full afternoon to download and were probably just virus traps. Others might say, "Wait...THREE different Kris Kross albums?"
Yes, I have a lot of CD's. And, like proctologists, there are some great ones, and there are some bad ones. But then there are the ones that defy such simple categorization, and are not so much good or bad as they are baffling and inexplicable. You will find few greater examples of this phenomenon than those contained within what I have dubbed the Celebrity Wing of Joey Marsilio's EXXtreme CD Collection. Gaze upon these works, ye Mighty, and despair! Or at least like scratch your head or something.

Hulk Hogan-Hulk Rules & "Macho Man" Randy Savage-Be A Man



These CD's are a package deal of sorts, given that they are both the work of famous professional wrestlers and the fact that Macho explicitly calls out Hogan on the scathing diss track "Be A Man." I mean explicitly in the sense that he does so without any level of obfuscation, not in the sense that the language is explicit/offensive, as the biggest potty mouth moment is probably Savage's threat to "kick [Hogan] in the butt and wash [his] mouth out with soap." Probably a good idea given some of the things that came out of his mouth on that sex tape he sued Gawker over, really. These albums are fairly internet famous, as it were, so I won't dwell on them too much. The Hulkster's album is a melange of bottom of the barrel beer commercial party rock and the kind of "rap music" that came to being in the 90's when corporate entities decided that having their mascots enthusiastically recite lazily written rhyming couplets over synths and bass was a revolutionary way to appeal to the youth of America. Savage, on the other hand, growls his way through a album of aggressively generic rap, keeping things PG while naming his songs after simple demands, such as "Get Back," "Tear It Up," "Let's Get It On" (not a Marvin Gaye cover), etc. There are two things I would like to note about these, though:

1. Both albums contain a memorial song for a fallen comrade. Savage's "Perfect Friend," in honor of Curt Hennig, is actually fairly sweet as these things go. Hogan's "Hulkster in Heaven," on the other hand, is an absurd masterpiece. Here Hulk sings about a fan of his who passed away too soon ("The world just lost another...Hulkamaniac," Hogan coos on the chorus, a lilt in his voice), managing to make the song all about himself as a gospel choir passionately invokes Heaven in the background. "I used to tear my shirt," he informs us, "but now you've torn my heart." Hogan also seems very confident that his status beyond the pearly gates is absolutely assured, though Bret Hart might disagree.
2. Speaking of absurd, the intro to Macho Man's album sets the tone for the album brilliantly. Over a Dr. Dre-esque piano and synthesizer sound bed, we hear clips of people doing just what everyone else in the world was doing at the time: talking about the Macho Man! Favorite quotes include: "Girl, he look good to be an old man. I would date him," and "He look so good! Just, um...his tight black pants, his muscles all bulgin'..." Is it just me, or is it freakin' hot in here?

Joe Pesci-Vincent Laguardia Gambini Sings Just for You



Another example of a peculiar celebrity album that has been relatively extensively covered on the internet, I actually discovered this one when my mom purchased it for my grandfather. An odd blend of Sinatra-esque crooning and the gangsta-est of gangsta rap (produced by late 90's-early 00's power producers Poke & Tone, a.k.a. Trackmasters!), Pesci's album is bizarre, crude and kind of delightful. It's a bit one note (the character Pesci inhabits on the album, the titular Gambini, likes to fornicate and whack people, but also has a soft spot for sentimental pap), and it quickly runs out of ideas (did there need to be THREE versions of "Yo Cousin Vinny" on the album, all in different languages?), but the highlights are so wacky and unique that I can't help but love it.

Deion Sanders-Prime Time



Neon Deion was a super athlete, a jock of all trades if you will, and he proved his talents extended beyond fields of sports into fields of melody with this collection of ditties. The album is exactly what it appears to be: dope mid-90s R&B jams about how awesome Sanders's life is. And you know what? I can't fault him for that. "Y U NY ME?", he asks in a song title. Why indeed. He provides us many potential root causes of this NV, be it his financial success or his impressive prowess with attractive ladies. But, lest we think that Deion was born with a silver football in his mouth, he reminds us that he came from humble beginnings and worked hard to get to where he is. "Traded library cards for credit cards..." he muses in "Must Be the Money." Although I suppose that can be taken to mean that reading is for broke losers. Anyway, D.S. was nice enough to make sure the CD insert folds out into a poster, and once I can find a suitably glorious place to pin it up, up it shall be pinned.

Traci Lords-1000 Fires



Ms. Lords achieved some infamy back in the 80's as America's most popular star of pornographic films. She then achieved even MORE infamy when it was discovered that, yikes, she had been underage in pretty much all of those films. Aside from the ripple effect of turning a not-insignificant number of people into felons instantly, this lurid bit of info obviously had an effect on Traci's career. But rather than fade into obscurity to become naught but a question on the most debauched possible version of Jeopardy!, Ms. Lords instead transitioned into becoming an actual, non-adult (well, she herself was an adult, but the films weren't) actress, with roles in films such as Cry-Baby with pre-pirate Johnny Depp, and television programs like Roseanne and Melrose Place. As if Traci hadn't already had an interesting enough career, she also released this here album, 1000 Fires. If you want to know exactly what mid-90's electronic dance music sounded like, well, here you go. That's neither praise nor condemnation; it's simply a fact. For evidence of this, consider the following: the song "Control" from 1000 Fires was featured on the soundtrack of the film Mortal Kombat, the zenith of 90's electronica-martial arts fusion. And that perfectly exemplifies exactly what the album sounds like. You practically expect it to punch you in the balls while doing the splits, then rip your spine out. Toasty! In the proud tradition of Deion Sanders, Traci also gives us a poster in her album insert. Maybe I should put them together. In fact, I think I'll do that right now. Drink it in!



Chuy Gomez-Latin Party



OK, now I realize this one is a pretty massive reach in terms of celebrity. Garrett Steel and I saw this guy perform in Vegas over a decade ago, and he sat and chatted with us for a while after his show, so I bought his CD. Chuy Gomez's fiery Latin rhythms and world-weary demeanor made us forget, if only for a moment, that he shares the same name as a Bay Area hip-hop DJ. Listening to this album conjures up memories that are as vivid as possible considering they concern a vacation I only recall in muddy bits and pieces. I do distinctly recall Garrett getting kicked in the head by a performer during Bite: The Erotic Vampire Musical, though.

Andy Dick & the bitches of the century-Andy Dick & the bitches of the century



Now look, I know we like to have fun around here, alright? Have a few laughs, crack a few jokes, eat a few 2 for $1 tacos. But you need to understand that what I am about to tell you is no joke: this album is AMAZING. I know, I know, it seems impossible. Andy Dick is fairly infamous for his substance abuse issues and erratic behavior, not his musical prowess. But when you think about it, what genius doesn't have his or her fair share of peccadilloes? I mean, is doing some lines and banging your son's girlfriend really that bad on the Chuck Berry scale of musical sins?
All that aside, the self-titled debut album from Andy and his Dicksciples is, in a word, surprising. It accomplishes the rare feat of being musical comedy album with staying power. These songs are not only funny (and odd...very, very odd), but possess a striking honesty, as the main overarching theme is Dick's struggle with addiction. Let me give you a quick rundown of the track list, with some brief commentary:

1. "Love Ninja (The Stalker Song)"-The album begins with this upbeat-sounding number with incredibly sinister lyrics. Basically, Dick serenades the girl of his dreams ("I'm not stalking you," he insists, "I'm just calling a lot."), growing increasingly unhinged as he recounts the (awful) efforts he has gone to in a futile attempt to earn her love. Darkly hilarious, and Dick's unique vocal stylings really shine on this one, his voice varying wildly in tone as he goes from tender to suspicious to apoplectic.
2. "Hole Burns"-This rockin' jam chronicles Andy's thoughts as his mind unravels over the course of a drug fueled night, starting with good times and cotton mouth and ending with the desperate realization that he'll be lucky to get ten minutes of sleep before he has to go to work, and even then, he'd be showing up as a shaky, shameful wreck. In between verses, the music suddenly turns sweet and serene as drugs seductively call out to Andy, imploring him to indulge further in that which is destroying him. A real slice of life.
3. "Striped Sunlight"-A soaring Britpop-esque number about spending time in jail after crashing his Altima into a streetlight. Andy tries to make the best of his cell-bound existence, musing, "I'm on a paid vacation behind olive walls," and recognizing that, though jail is hardly fun, it at least forces his sobriety. This bittersweet rumination gets downright majestic at points.
4. "Little Brown Ring"-A strange chanty song that would not be out of place in Tolkein's Middle-earth, if not for the fact that it's about Andy Dick's butthole. "Laughing through pursed lips" is certainly one way of putting it. The song is punctuated by bits where Andy sings about heinie holes in the voice of a grizzled old prospector. I swear I'm not making any of this up.
5. "Stephen Hawking"-Andy pretends to be Stephen Hawking, recounting a forlorn tale of disappearing friends, lost loves, and thin shoe soles. Starts off in robot voice before segueing into more traditional singing, at least as far as Dick tunes go. Probably objectively offensive, though I'm not really the best person to ask about that, but also rather pretty. Plus I just have to love the blatant absurdism of lyrics like "Look at Stephen Hawking...in the sky!"
6. "C**k & Balls"-This jaunty piano tune is reminiscent of early Elton John, a gentle ode to Dick's, err, genitalia. Juvenile? Perhaps, but more genuine love comes through on this track than on half the ostensibly heartfelt for-charity singles out there. Shockingly elegant.
7. "Secret Garden"-Possibly the weirdest song here, which is really saying something. It serves as an elegy to Andy's dead pet frog, as Andy mournfully hopes his care of his late slimy friend was adequate. At the end, Mr. Dick ruminates about the friends that have left his life over the years, wondering if they ever think about him. As you may have noticed, many of these songs are really quite devastating, especially for a comedy album.
8. "I'll F**k Anything that Moves"-An uptempo rocker with a self-explanatory title. Andy's not picky in terms of partners, be they toothless grannies or laundry machines.
9. "30 Days 30 Nights"-A lengthy, largely spoken-word account of Andy's numerous trips to rehab, and the awful realization that no amount of clean living can erase the fact that sober living simply bores him, his only entertainment coming in the form of frequent body cavity searches. Not the most exciting track here, but interesting nonetheless.
10. "Little Brown Ring (Remix)"-If you thought Andy Dick's b-hole song needed a techno dance remix, your prayers have been answered. Undeniably catchy. Isn't it weird that an a-hole and a b-hole are the same thing? You'd think they'd at least be ranked differently or something.

The crown atop the jittery, androgynous prince(ss) that is this album is the cover art. Pictured above, it consists of a watercolor painting by none other than Marilyn Manson (!) portraying a shirtless, joint-smoking Dick with oddly pointy nipples. How this painting stacks up to the label art on Mansinthe, Mssr. Manson's personal brand of absinthe, is your call.



Overall, the album is a truly singular work that doesn't get the recognition it deserves. Unlike some of these other albums, Andy Dick & the bitches of the century isn't a cheap cash-in on a celebrity's brand cache. For better or worse, it is a surreal journey through Andy's trials, tribulations and anus, brought to life by superb backing music and Dick's unique, expressive voice. The album simply couldn't and wouldn't ever be produced by anyone else, even a thousand monkeys with typewriters, autotune and synthesizers. Because of these elements, I feel the project as a whole transcends mere "celebrity album" status to become a great ALBUM, full stop. It's certainly better than Bruce Willis's The Return of Bruno (sadly ineligible for this list because I do not own it on CD, but rather simply as one long, single mp3). I dare say that between AD&tboftc and MTV's late "The Andy Dick Show," which incidentally really needs to be up on Netflix or something, Mr. Dick's esoteric and caustic genius really does deserve more recognition than it gets, despite the man's numerous and storied faults...up to and including being kind of a douche to my sister and me one time. That's right, I'm white knighting for Andy Dick. Open your eyes and see what this world has made me become.
That's all for today! I hope you've enjoyed this tour through the wild and woolly world of celebrity albums and the reminder that yes, once again, I am passionate about some very odd things.



Laugh if you will, but Joey Marsilio's collection of t.A.T.u. albums is the toast of the tri-state area. Also he wrote a book, Henry Garrison: St. Dante's Savior.

1 comment:

Garrett Steel said...

I've had the pleasure of enjoying listening to most of these cds with you and it certainly brings back some good memories. Chuy Gomez is a hell of a guy whom I must think has been rather unfaithful to many a lover. I think Andy's cd is actually one of fourteen I physically own and haven't crushed to smithereens on one of my various bedroom floors over the years. One day I hope we visit LA and see one of his undoubtedly off-the-wall comedy shows. I actually watched him Facebook Live a few months ago and he assures me he is no longer living in the shed. He was kind of indignant about it which is sorta funny.