I could well analyse the whole album as far as calling it under-rated goes. Although it was well received and charted at number 55 upon its release, I personally feel this may well have slipped under a few people’s radars, especially when you consider The Wildhearts’ classic record ‘Earth vs. The Wildhearts’, their plethora of classic B-sides, numerous tales of drunken and debaucherous behaviour, and more recently, their resurgence with the album ‘¡Chutzpah!’, as well as Ginger’s ever cracking solo career. Hence, it makes perfect sense to cover this article in my as-yet-unnamed series on the songs and records we consider underrated (the first being the homage to AC/DC’s ‘Ain’t No Fun (Waiting Round to Be a Millionaire)’). That and the obvious reason that ‘The Wildhearts’ was a kick-ass riff fest from start to finish.
It’s the album’s opener I’d like to focus on, ‘Rooting for the Bad Guy’. A paean to some of fiction’s most (in)famous and celebrated villains, it’s a lyrically simple monster that eats through great riffs like the Cookie Monster chowing down on cookies. It bursts straight into life with maining Ginger declaring over a crunchy riff: “Wyle E Coyote, Cybermen/Tony Montana, Yosemite Sam/Sylvester the Cat, The Triffids, The Fly/Put ’em in lights, put ’em in lights”. It’s a riotous romp for villainry. The verse formula repeats again, citing more famous bad guys, before reaching the lifting melodic chorus, with Ginger, fellow Wildhearts mainstay CJ and bassist Scott Sorry all “rooting for the bad guy”.
Following the initial run through of verse 1, chorus, verse 2, chorus, it plunges into a lengthy middle section which extends the song to its monstrous (by rock anthem standards) eight-plus minute length. The riff gets heavier and it’s smashing your face in, before a more melodic section comes in (I’m sorry, I’m no guitarist, so don’t expect me to get into too many technical terms). This gradually builds and builds until the triumphant final chorus, before hastening towards the finishing line.
The Wildhearts – Rooting For The Bad Guy
As far as rock goes, this is the heavy beast that every rock band looking to write kick ass tunes should aspire to. Real rock ‘n’ roll isn’t afraid to getting people to rock out, and doesn’t take prisoners. This song is no different, being uncompromisingly heavy and melodic at the same time, without needing to downtune to sound tougher or anything like that. The Wildhearts always know how to balance the rough and the smooth, and I’ve lost count of how many songs are trapped in my head ‘cos of their inch-perfect choruses.
But to look into this song far deeper, it’s this couplet, tag-teamed vocally by CJ and Sorry, which grabs my attention the most when I’m not rocking out to it:
“Here in the dark when the hero is cheered
I give my heart when the villain appears”
Now who, as a child, didn’t watch cartoons and kids TV programmes without having even a tiny bit of sympathy for the doomed-to-fail nemesis? There’s always an appeal of watching Wile E. Coyote’s unsuccessful attempts to capture Road Runner; a desire to finally see Tom catch Jerry and pound that little bastard to within an inch of his life. Who didn’t admire Tony Montana’s last stand, fighting with literally every last drop of blood as he was riddled with bullets in ‘Scarface’s finale. Things would be much poorer were there no Yosemite Sam, Chupacabra, Bonnie and Clyde, etc.
Bad guys back in the day oozed so much appeal that you could help feel a little sad when they met their eventual demise, such illustrious characters they are. Maybe I’m a little out of touch, but they really don’t make them the same way these days, do they? There’s gotta be a reason why they all want Tweety Pie crucified and the Thunderbirds Kentucky-fried, as mentioned in the chorus and it’s probably what we’re all thinking. All the best programmes have bad guys that defined them, and this song screams out what we all thought in our head, as we sat down, watching them silently with crisps and lemonade, or if you’re a bit older, beer.
On a personal note, with twins on the way, I can’t help but feel starry-eyed for them when I look deeper into those two lines. Right now they resonate stronger than they normally would. I’d love for them to have the same love for action-packed programmes and quality music as I’ve experienced across my years. There’s a rich world to be experienced below the mainstream and I hope they grow up as enriched by it as I and I’m sure many of you are.
Perhaps the song’s length – it hovers around the nine-minute mark on record – is the only thing denying it from being a regular fixture on any rock pub/club’s jukebox. Or maybe indeed that this record is relatively overlooked altogether. But like ’29 x The Pain’s ode to the bands that influenced Ginger’s musical upbringing, ‘Rooting for the Bad Guy’ is a fitting tribute to the bad guys of our yesterdays. Put it in lights, put it in lights!