Spinal Tap – The Majesty of Rock

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The legend that is ‘This is Spinal Tap‘ marks it’s 30th anniversary this year, and without doubt there won’t be a heavy metal fan in the land who won’t have come across that film, or the music that soundtracked it. It inspired a generation of rockers, be it in stadiums or in bedrooms, to defy the limits of their Marshall stacks or their tiny amps to turn it up to 11 every time they played. Nobody lampooned the excess and the controversy courted by the likes of Aerosmith, Def Leppard and the other big rock bands of the day quite like Messrs Shearer, Guest and McKean.

But as my brother pointed out recently, more people needed to hear this song. And see its video. I am no stranger to the ‘Tap, but I can never recall anyone mentioning ‘The Majesty of Rock’ in the same breath as ‘Big Bottom’, ‘Stonehenge’ or even ‘Lick My Love Pump’. Released in 1992, as thrash metal and heavy metal almost drowned under the wave of grunge that surged into public consciousness, ‘Break Like the Wind‘ would certainly be lapped up by fond fans of the film and of the band that superseded fiction. But it would never reach the heights of its successful predecessor, the soundtrack to the original movie. Not that chart success mattered – it’s creators, reprising their roles as David St Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel and Derek Smalls, had birthed a legend that would go on to outlast many of the acts it ridiculed, a joke that would seemingly never get old, being that classic rock and heavy metal has hardly changed since ‘Black Sabbath‘ was released, albeit with far fewer wildmen to emerge in recent years to play the stereotype.

Back on topic though, ‘The Majesty of Rock’ is such a supreme track that really feels at its best when combined with its accompanying video. Ridiculous outfits (Tufnel’s spiderweb spandex in particular is just incredible), digitally imposed images of the Queen bopping her head and legends of pop and rock likes Janis Joplin and Roy Orbison ‘jamming’ with the band, massive speaker stacks atop a cliff, a red hot solo, huge gurning mugshots and lines such as ‘The more it stays the same/the less it changes!‘, you’d have to be devoid of wit and humour to at least not raise a smile to this, and indeed you’ll only need to watch/listen to it once for it to dig a wormhole into your brain. It’s daft, over the top, and a glorious paean to rock’s very character, and its excessive quirks. So turn it up (to 11 of course), and do nothing for the next four minutes but rock out, dance like Tufnel and worship the true glory of this song.

Peter Clegg

Previous posts in our Underrated series can be found here

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Queens of the Stone Age – Tension Head

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Nowadays, mention Queens of the Stone Age, and Josh Homme will probably be the first things that springs to mind. It is his band, after all, formed post-Kyuss, progressing them from the deserts to cult status to mainstream acclaim/disdain(?) and starring roles at festivals the world over. For my money though, its been a while since their glory days, and by glory days, I’m talking about the Nick Oliveri-era. The era that spawned two fantastic albums, ‘R’ and ‘Songs for the Deaf’. The former the springboard to greater acclaim from the band, the latter the all-conquering, Grohlery, Lanegany, body-grooving, name-taking drive down the devil’s highway that gobbled up awards left right and centre. Then Homme fired Oliveri and all of a sudden…I wasn’t as enthused by what QOTSA were putting out.

Don’t get me wrong. I love songs like ‘3’s and 7’s’, and ‘In My Head’. And ‘Make It Wit Chu’. But they lack an element so common on ‘R’ and ‘Songs for the Deaf’, an element that makes those albums so good.

DANGER

That six-letter word is what makes every rock ‘n’ roll band who’s ever been a) worth a damn and/or b) successful,?actually something. The Rolling Stones have it. The Stooges have it. Alice Cooper has it. Motley Crue have it. Nirvana had it. Motorhead have it. The Wildhearts have it. Queens of the Stone Age had it, til Oliveri got the boot. And now they don’t seem so dangerous.

Of course, ‘Tension Head’ was ‘13 th Floor’ by Mondo Generator in a previous life, but its on ‘R’ where it really feels unhinged. ‘13th Floor’ wasn’t bad, but it feels like its missing the spark which ignites this rerecording. The riff that signals the song’s beginning and its subsequent unsteady descent into chaos is the invite into Oliveri’s world of trouble. ‘Every day I wake up feeling this way’. Get in the car. ‘I take it downtown, with all the action goin’ down’. The screw is loose. Before you know it, its rolling around somewhere in the footwell. Then you understand what this is all about: ‘(high life) I feel so sick/(low life) I feel so fucking sick…on the bathroom floor’. The central theme has now been established, with the tension head in question burning the candle at both ends, living life to both extremes – the euphoric high of letting hell loose across the town, high on drugs, with reckless disregard for health and dignity, the lack of which brings said character down to earth as he wretches in the restroom, barely able to raise his head up to view himself in the mirror in the ultimate downer.

Queens of the Stone Age – Tension Head (Rock Am Ring 2003)

It’s violent intensity is for me what sets this apart from ‘13th Floor’. Its all around heavier, more off-the-rails, with one hell of a vocal performance from Oliveri, who really sounds like he’s losing his rag in the second verse with his roars of ‘no more/no mooooooorrrrrre!/no mooooooooooooooooooooooooooooorrrrre! (I’m done having fun!)’ Not on any other Queens song does Oliveri sound more intense – the only time he sounds arguably more maniacal is ‘Six Shooter’ from ‘Songs from the Deaf’, but its not foot to the floor, edge of the seat stuff like ‘Tension Head’ is.

It’s obvious what this songs about. Having an addiction and trying to kick it. Oliveri’s character in this song is deranged and somewhat paranoid, an effect of whatever concotion he’s on. Given some of his misdemeandours (both real and alleged), one or two might call it semi-autobiographical, in light of the recent plea bargain he struck after being arrested over domestic violence in July 2011.

Now you may be wondering why I chose to feature a song from ‘R’, one of the most critically-acclaimed albums of the previous decade, in an Underrated feature. Simples. The same reason ‘Ain’t No Fun (Waiting ‘Round to be a Millionaire)’ by AC/DC was featured. Everybody loves AC/DC, and a hell of a lot of people love ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’. But look throughout their live releases, and when exactly was the last time they played that song live? Rarely is it ever talked about either. It’s all about ‘Back in Black’, or ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’, or ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’. In years to come, no one is going to be talking about ‘Tension Head’. They’ll remember ‘Feel Good Hit of the Summer’, ‘The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret’, ‘No One Knows’, ‘Go With The Flow’, ‘Little Sister’, ‘Burn the Witch’, and so on, and so forth. But ‘Tension Head’, and most of the Oliveri lead tracks? I feel they’ll mostly get short shrift.

For all my lament about the way QOTSA have gone, the news of Oliveri’s appearance on their forthcoming album, along with Dave Grohl’s return has drummer, has renewed hope that this might just be the best QOTSA album we’ve seen for years. And even if my hopes are dashed in that regard, would it kill them just to let loose the hounds of hell one more time, dragging us down to the fiery subterranea in Lucifer’s sidecart, laughing maniacally without a care in the world as we do? For danger is the key element of any rock ‘n’ roll band that wants to truly kick and take names. The feeling you’re about to plunge over that cliff. That feeling of excess. That unstoppable feeling. From the screech of the tyres to the final collision with the lamppost. Waking up on the cold bathroom floor, fresh from the previous night’s excursions. It wakes up the demon in all of us. Without that demon, rock is absolutely nothing. And Oliveri is that demon personified.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘R’ here

View all previous Underrated features here, including articles on AC/DC, The Wildhearts, The Cult and more.

Children of Technology – It’s Time to Face the Doomsday

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It’s entirely possible you’ve never heard of the crust-filled speed thrash troupe known as Children of Technology. The quartet from Padua, Italy are staunchly underground and exist perhaps as a throwback to the gritty, muddy sounding bands of the late 80’s. Yet all this talk of driving ourselves to extinction, it feels like we’re one idiot from sealing our own demise most of the time. And that’s where Children of Technology come in.

The second you start to listen to ‘It’s Time to Face the Doomsday’ (Hells Headbangers, 2010), you know you’re facing an image of nuclear winter on Earth. By the end of the first listen, you’ll have taken a journey through it. And you’ll have enjoyed that image so much you’ll want to go back to it again. And again. And again.

Children of Technology describe their sound as ‘post-apocalyptic motorcharged speedcrust’ and ‘ITtFtD’ is a none more truer statement of that. Eight tracks of scuzzy thrash punk are beholden, coming across like Darkthrone jamming with Discharge with a Motorhead mentality. Detractors will say it’s the same thing over and over again. I say if you can’t handle it, then you’re in grave danger. Gleefully over the top, ‘ITtFtD’ is Children of Technology simply revelling in their influences, and this is possibly their claim to be Earth’s official nuclear winter house band.

Children of Technology – It’s Time to Face the Doomsday (full album)

‘No Man’s Land’ itself, with it bass-line intro building up into a fast punk riff really has ‘death race’ written all over it. The bass intro is the vehicles taking up their positions. The guitar that comes in over the top is the countdown to race start. The drums signal the lights are green, and the race is on. When the chorus hits, you can actually picture the Tusken Raiders from Star Wars hidden in the dunes, thrusting their maces in the air as the band shout ‘the wasteland!’. That would make for a totally awesome music video.

The only let up in the record comes towards the end. As ‘Screams from the Earth’ begins with a lone guitar, vocalist DeathLord Astwülf uttering ‘the Earth is dying’. When the rest of the band come in, one final assault begins, and its just as over the top as the rest of album, with the sounds of bombs exploding and missiles crashing accompanying the refrain of the title during the chorus.

Championed by Darkthrone drummer and all round legend Fenriz, Children of Technology are a band worth seeking out… wait, what’s that? Oh. The apocalypse is nigh. Balls.

I guess this is where we sign off. Thanks for everything everyone. You’ve been awesome.

Peter Clegg

Various Artists – Dumb and Dumber OST

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I should note before going any further that normally, my underrated feature usually only includes specific songs or albums that I feel warrant further recognition – a full list follows at the bottom of this feature. So this is the first time I’ve actually selected a film’s soundtrack for inclusion in this series. Maybe its because this film was a part of my growing up that I hold it in high regard. The same is becoming of its soundtrack. I know soundtracks don’t get recognition unless they’re absolutely bombastic and nominated for an Oscar. A mishmash of alternative rock and mainstream pop, some of which is tinged with the dreaded ‘N’ word – novelty – ought to disappear into bargain bins and forgotten consciousnesses everywhere. Yet somehow, the soundtrack to the 1994 comedy movie ‘Dumb & Dumber’ is remarkably resilient. Or at least it is in my mind.

Just recently, the Pete Droge song ‘If You Don’t Love Me (I’ll Kill Myself)’ entered my head for no apparent reason other than recall. It floated around for a few days until I finally decided to check it out on YouTube. I began to realise that the Dumb and Dumber OST (RCA, 1994) appeared to be aging remarkably well. Off the back of that, I checked out the Gigolo Aunts’ ‘Where I Find My Heaven’, whose video took various clips from the film, and in which their singer Dave Gibbs looks a lot like Jim Carrey’s character Lloyd Christmas. There’s also a joyous cover of the Smokey Robinson-penned ‘Get Ready’ by The Proclaimers, the bounce of Deadeye Dick’s flash-in-the-pan hit ‘New Age Girl’ and the summery pop-rock of The Primitive’s ‘Crash (’95 mix) – the remix signifying additional guitars that made this particular version of the song, originally recorded in 1988, the standout version.

Gigolo Aunts – Where I Find My Heaven

There are songs I struggle to remember actually hearing in the movie – its been a long time since I watched it – so the soundtrack also features stuff such as a cover of ‘The Hurdy Gurdy Man’ at the B Surfers, who’s messed-up take on the song produced an even more out-there video, and contributions from comedy metallers Green Jelly, one-time Britpop darlings Echobelly, and alt-rockers The Lupins and The Sons (feat. Bret Reilly), among others. There are one or two omissions from the official soundtrack I find slightly regrettable, most notably Nick Cave’s brilliant ‘Red Right Hand’, and the timeless/annoying (depending on your perspective) Crash Test Dummies hit ‘Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm’, which appeared to be dropped in favour of their cover of XTC’s ‘The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead’.

Its true to say as well that the vast number of cover versions and the numerous one-hit wonders it spawned might well make this soundtrack disposable, but it captures an essence about this part of the 90s and indeed the happy-go-lucky nature of the film. Indeed, I’m pleased and thankful enough for a childhood that allowed me absorb films and songs like this before I could fully appreciate their nuances and quirks. Summer might well be over – some may argue it didn’t even happen this year – but this collection is certainly sunshine throughout the year, whichever way you look at it.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘Dumb and Dumber: Official Motion Picture Soundtrack’ here

Also in this series:

The Cult – Nico
Trouble – Manic Frustration
Type O Negative – Red Water (Christmas Mourning)
Aerosmith – Shut Up and Dance
The Wildhearts – Rooting For The Bad Guy
AC/DC – Ain’t No Fun (Waitin’ Round to Be a Millionaire)

The Cult – Nico

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The Cult have just released their new studio album ‘Choice of Weapon‘, and while they no longer possess chart-busting popularity, it would be wildly wrong to suggest they’re far from being done as a musical force, still being able to pull in huge crowds the world over and their standing as a quality rock unit far from diminished. Their 2001 album, ‘Beyond Good and Evil‘, was a quality album, lacking in label backing and packing real understated stadium rock anthems, including the track ‘Nico’, which really is deserving of wider acclaim.
‘Nico’ celebrates the life of the German singer, musician, fashion model and actress Christa ‘Nico’ Päffgen, famous for her role with The Velvet Underground on their debut album ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico‘ before becoming an accomplished solo artist and forging an acting career in French cinema through her relationship with director Phillipe Garrel. She died in 1988 of a severe cerebral haemorrhage while on holiday in Ibiza. Credited as a huge influence on the likes of Morrissey, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bjork and many others, she still commands reverence today. The Cult, through the song ‘Nico’, count as one of the many to have celebrated her in song.
Opening with the riff that gently guides the verses through their course, it sounds every bit the stadium anthem you’d expect from a band of such status. Most lines of each verse begin ‘Hey Nico‘, initially softly spoken but then almost joyously sung by Astbury. The most poignant line in the song comes during the chorus, when Astbury sings ‘I watched your spirit fly/across the velvet sky/the secrets that you hide‘; a sure reference the aforementioned collaboration between The Velvet Underground and Nico.
The Cult – Nico
 
The mid-section takes a slightly darker turn, with Astbury repeating the line ‘And then you fell/straight to hell‘. What this may refer to is something I’m not too sure about, given that if there is a heaven and a hell, judging from the sheer praise Nico received in death, she’d be practically a saint. In an online chat transcript available on the Cult’s website, conducted with Astbury and drummer Matt Sorum in 2001, they answered one fan’s question about the influence two songs on ‘Beyond Good and Evil‘ drew from Nico and another star of the Andy Warhol camp, Edie Sedgwick. The Cult responded regarding ‘Nico’, describing it as ‘…more complex. Nico is one part Nico, one part my girlfriend Rachel, one part an assassin‘. I don’t know jack about Astbury’s personal life, so will not even attempt to analyse that lyric in this way – although I can perhaps see how falling to hell might represent the assassin in Astbury’s view of the song – particularly through the line ‘the secrets that you hide’. The mood soon lifts back up and there’s one more triumphant verse and chorus before the song plays into fadeout.
However, despite charting solidly in America, Spain and Canada, ‘Beyond Good and Evil‘ only sold around half a million copies as sales began to drop. The album and indeed ‘Nico’ are destined to remain one of those overlooked classics thanks to the atrocious handling of the album and the band by then label Atlantic Records. Astbury has claimed in the past that Atlantic attempted to choose singles from the record, the record cover, and even apparently tried to tamper with the lyrics.
 
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Beyond Good and Evil‘ was released roughly around the time I was getting into rock. Someone had lent the CD to my brother and I remember he seemed to like it at the time, and by fledgling interest led to me to give it a listen. Those days don’t half bring back some personal memories. Days when downloading hadn’t truly taken off yet, streaming wasn’t quite possible as broadband had yet to take off. I was still in college, spending my free time wandering around the streets of West Yorkshire, often wandering invariably towards record shops that existed at the time. Yes, record shops! Halifax had Bradley’s Records, Revo Records and Wall of Sound (still around today, now the brilliantly named Vinyl Tap in Huddersfield); Huddersfield had an MVC, a Virgin store (not quite a Megastore) and possibly a HMV, all pre-Kingsgate, and maybe one or two others as well. Summer days were often drifting around these town centre, complete with personal CD player or even Walkman (this was the advent of MP3, after all). Amidst the popular nu-metal of the time, coupled with the odd Slayer or Foo Fighters track, ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ often found a place on my mixtapes, and usually in the form of ‘Nico’ or ‘War (The Process)’.
Those two remain among my favourite songs off the record, and ‘Nico’ almost invariably ends up getting shuffled to my MP3 player of choice more often than not these days, as if it has some strange sort of allure to my ears. I’ve never tired of the song at all and remains one of my favourite songs to date. For me, ‘Beyond Good and Evil‘ is a period from the Cult’s history worth exploring further, even if its not considered their classic material. When you can write songs as good as ‘Nico’, who cares if it was a hit or not, deserving as it should have been?
Peter Clegg

Type O Negative – Red Water (Christmas Mourning)

Life in Peter Steele and Type O Negative’s world was certainly not the happiest. Throughout their illustrious career, their songs of love, lust, death, rejection and more, mostly along other depressive lines made for some dark, uneasy but ultimately incredible listening that made Type O one of metal’s most unique and interesting bands. Years of alcohol and drug abuse eventually caught up with Steele and despite getting clean, a heart attack took him in April 2010 and robbed the world of any future gloom from the enigmatic frontman.

A good proportion of Type O Negative’s songs dealt with personal themes, and ‘Red Water (Christmas Mourning)’ was no different. It was written about Steele’s dead father at the time, but as we will explore, goes far beyond his personal loss. Songs such as ‘Black No.1’, ‘Christian Woman’ and ‘Everything Dies’ are unquestionably among their greatest anthems but ‘Red Water’ ought to be considered as great as any of those and despite its title, isn’t just a song for Christmas. The album it came from, ‘October Rust‘, yielded ‘Love You to Death’ and ‘My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend’ as its main singles, as well as a cracking cover of Neil Young’s ‘Cinnamon Girl’, so it isn’t really a surprise that ‘Red Water’ is often overlooked as one of Type O’s greatest. Type O apparently insisted they would never play it live, likely due to the subject matter of the song, But in my book, ‘Red Water’ is simply one of their most incredible to listen to and an absolute must-listen, whether the lyrics resonate powerful with you or not.

Entering with some sorrowful horns, the slow, descending slide guitar so prominent in Type O’s music brings in the whole band, a four-bar arrangement for the main riff, which consists of just nine notes, six of those coming at the very end of the arrangement with the three preceding notes all being long, heavy ploughs. The same riff continues but takes a back seat to Steele’s vocals in the verse. The lyrics set out the stall instantly. Take the first verse:

Wake up, it’s Christmas mourn
Those loved have long since gone
The stockings are hung but who cares
Preserved for those no longer there
Six feet beneath me sleep

Steele’s dark wit prevails here, playing on the term ‘Christmas morning’ with a sorrowful interplay. The themes of loss are all too evident – the loved ones you spent last Christmas are no longer present. A harsh but all true reality that everyone will surely face in their lifetime. The nail is hit firmly on the head there, and is equally reflected in the song’s second verse:

My tables been set for but seven
Just last year I dined with eleven

As previously mentioned, the song is about Pete’s father, but that line alone implies death and loss on a wider scale, and one can only imagine sitting down to the Christmas dinner to an emptier scene. While the verses discuss grief, the chorus deals with how to cope with the loss through Steele’s eyes. Steele’s life left behind a litany of alcohol abuse that was well documented, and indeed influenced later Type O recordings, in particular 1999’s ‘World Coming Down’. It seems the best way for Steele to dispel the spirits of the ghosts of Christmas past was to drown his sorrows, and this is where the song’s title comes into its own. The ‘Red Water’, is of course, red wine, which Steele commands to ‘chase them away

Type O Negative – Red Water (Christmas Mourning)
 
Those with a keen ear for Christmas carols may be able to spot two of them present in the song. The first, following the first chorus, is a slowed keyboard rendition of ‘Carol of the Bells’ which underpins the first bridge of the strong, captured excellently by Josh Silver. Undoubtedly the bleakness of this song is captured within a midsection where the band stops and the sound of a second carol, ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’, sounds as the backdrop to a howling blizzard, what sounds like an ornament falling off the Christmas tree and the sound of a young girl crying. Type O were never the cheeriest band and although ‘October Rust’ was overall more positive, there’s no doubt that at times its veneer was much darker and engorged with sadness; yet the weaving in of those two carols serves to highlight their mastery at being able to twist popular and traditional music into their sound.

This is not exactly a Christmas song, least not in the truest sense, and was probably never intended as one. For many of us, Christmas brings a lot of positive cheer, joy and sense of community and family. A proper Christmas song can be found in the likes of ‘Fairytale of New York’ by the Pogues and Kirsty Maccoll. Or ‘Merry Christmas’ by Slade, or more recently, ‘Don’t Let The Bells End’ by the Darkness. ‘Red Water’ is none of those in that it’s the complete antithesis of a Christmas song. It’s depressing by lyrical nature. It’s not at all cheerful, or celebratory and it’ll never get played on the radio before Christmas.

 
Good. This song will certainly have meaning to those who have felt the pain of loss at this time of year, but even for those that haven’t its perfect for those of us who in the run up to Christmas just can’t get into the festive spirit. Or even if you are, it takes you out of that comfort zone for seven minutes. If you’re on the receiving end of the Christmas rush, as I and certainly millions of others are year in, year out, it’s hardly gleeful. It’s a pressure situation, and doesn’t half bring out clueless idiots with no sense of understanding that situation.

For a personal catharsis musically, ‘Red Water’ does the trick. Although I won’t go too far into personal details, thankfully lyrically it doesn’t match up in the same scale at all. When I leave the office and I make the hour-long journey home via foot and train, I need to get out of that environment and just immerse myself into a musical world which is pretty much what I do every day. In December, anything that isn’t ‘Last Christmas’, ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’, or even that abominable cover of ‘Many of Horror’ is perfect. It runs far, far deeper than any Christmas song you can imagine.

If you’re lucky enough not to have felt the full force of missing someone at Christmas, ‘Red Water’, whether it was intended or not, should still be on every miser’s playlist this advent. But ultimately, this song of deep personal meaning to the singer will no doubt resound most with two groups; those who have lost loved ones and are missing them at this time of year; and those fans of Type O Negative, such as myself, who continue to recognise Peter Steele’s undying genius.

Peter Clegg

Previously in this series:

The Wildhearts – Rooting for the Bad Guy


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!
Peter Clegg