Thursday, 28 December 2017

The Wrestling Album (1985) - A Track by Track Review

WWF - The Wrestling Album (1985) - A Track By Track Review

Today, I thought we'd take a detour from the usual reviews of WWF and WCW PPVs to go back -far back- in time to 1985 with the release of the World Wrestling Federation's first foray into the world of rock 'n' roll with 1985's The Wrestling Album. 

Unlike today's WWE Music releases, this wasn't simply a compilation of existing themes, mainly because themes, in the way that we know them today, didn't exist.

Instead, WWF's The Wrestling Album was a compilation of material that would go on to become an integral part of some wrestler's identity.

But more of that in a moment.

Before we get into today's track-by-track review, I need to state that I won't necessarily be reviewing this album the way I would a release from actual musicians.

That used to be what I did for a job before I switched to doing what I do now (including running this blog for fun), but today I'll leave my music snobbery at home and review this in terms of what it was always intended to be - a fun, inoffensive commercial tie-in.

Ready to dive in?

Let's do it.

1: 'The Wrestlers' - Land of a Thousand Dances


Here, 'The Wrestlers,' basically refers to everyone on the World Wrestling Federation roster in 1985, including managers and announcers, and also apparently Meatloaf as the drummer.

Can you imagine Vince McMahon allowing his roster to be called 'The Wrestlers' in this day and age?

Me neither, but that's beside the point.

Kicking things off, this motley crew of sports entertainers grunt, groan, warble and wail there way through a lairy rendition of rhythm & blues classic Land of a Thousand Dances.

If you've never heard this before, do yourself a favour and never EVER track it down.

Look:

I know I said I wasn't going to judge this by the same standards as a normal wrestling album, but honestly, you'd have to be as drunk as hell to find something good to say about 'Land of a Thousand Dances.'

Which is fitting really, since most of the guys on this track actually *sound* drunk as hell.

Sure, things start well enough, with the song's famous 'na-na na na naah,' refrain playing over a jovial bassline, but as soon as various wrestlers start spitting out the lyrics one after the other, it descends into a chaotic, cringe-worthy noise that is actually painful to listen to.

"I'm glad to get away from that," says Mean Gene Okerlund in the 'tween-song commentary that follows each track.

Right, Gene, I couldn't agree with you more.
   

2: Junkyard Dog - Grab Them Cakes


Thankfully, things pick up when Junkyard Dog takes to the microphone to give us the lead single to come from The Wrestling Album.

Yes, seriously, this thing had *singles*.

Grab Them Cakes, which apparently is some kind of dance, is a fun, funky track which puts an upbeat spin on an obscure little number released in 1981 by Captain chameleon.


I mean, just listen to that - it's suave, sexy, and oh-so-seductive.

JYD's version, however, is more Ghostbusters than pottery-scene-from-Ghost.

I mean seriously, there's something about the way Dog croons the first line "well I started this dance / in my neighbourhood," that makes you 100% certain he's going to shout "WHO YOU GONNA CALL?" as the next line.

He doesn't of course, but that would be awesome.


Interesting fact: The backing vocals here were provided by disco queen Vickie Sue Robinson, who had a big hit in the 70s called 'Turn The Beat Around.'

The post-song commentary sees Vince and Mean Gene raving about how good JYD is ('as good as he can wrestle!' according to Okerlund). Jesse Ventura, naturally, isn't impressed.

Nor was The Body particularly impressed with Derringer, who Vince McMahon told us was a new artist who had written a song dedicated to Mike Rotundo and Barry Windham.

That song was next.

3: Rick Derringer - Real American 


There can't be many themes more iconic than this one.

You hear that low, droning synth, you hear the words 'I am a real American, fight for the rights of every man...'

And you know what's about to go down.

Only, it isn't The US Express.

Of course, everybody knows the story by now, Derringer's Real American was intended for Barry Windham and Rotundo, but then Windham left (he was gone before this album even saw the light of day), and some guy called Hulk Hogan ended up using it instead.

Hogan would go on to become the biggest name in the industry, and this theme, all swaggering guitars, impassioned vocals and spirited synths, would go on to be synonymous with him, the Power of Hulkamania, and in some respects, pro wrestling itself.


Yet there's another reason beyond Hogan's popularity that Real American has stood the test of time - it's a damn good song.

OK, so it's certainly a product of time and would sound out of place if it was written today, but I dare anyone not to listen to it and feel good.

Interesting Fact: Backing vocals here come courtesy of a certain Mona Flambe who was, of course, the alter-ego of Queen of the Rock 'n' Wrestling connection, Cyndi Lauper.

Post-match commentary:

Jesse: "I can't believe that's for Windham and Rotundo. Derringer should have buried himself and stayed buried!"

Vince: "Aw, eat your heart out, Jess!"

Mean Gene: "Oh, speaking of 'eat your heart out,' that just so happens to be the title of our next cut, Jesse Ventura!" (what a remarkable coincidence!")


Jesse: "That's right, Eat Your Heart Out Rick Springfield by The Mouth of The South Jimmy Hart, now there is true talent!"

4: Jimmy Hart - Eat Your Heart Out, Rick Springfield 


So, here we have Jimmy Hart feeling pretty pissed off that his girlfriend had decided to go see a Rick Springfield concert rather than spend time with The Mouth of the South.

The best part?

Jimmy gives us a complete impression of how the conversation went down, which includes saying the words 'Ring ring," to pretend he's the actual telephone.

I'm not making this up. It goes like this:

Jimmy Hart: "Ring ring,"
Jimmy Hart Doing a Woman's voice: "Hello?"
Jimmy Hart: "Hello, hey! Is Cyndi in? (nervous laugh) ha!"
Jimmy Hart Doing a Woman's voice: "No, who is this?"
Jimmy Hart (irate): "What do you mean, who is this? This is Jimmy Hart, The Mouth of the South. Where is she?"
Jimmy Hart Doing a Woman's voice: "She's gone to the Rick Springfield concert!"
Jimmy Hart: "RICK SPRINGFIELD!?!?!"
Jimmy Hart: *makes a sound that I think is supposed to be the line going dead but sounds more like he's mimicking an earthquake or a thunderstorm.

OK, I get it. That could come across as cheesy, but there's something about the way Hart delivers the whole thing that not only works but works in a way that is absolutely hysterical.

Not once have I ever heard this song and not laughed my ass off when he yells "RICK SPRINGFIELD! crunchhhhhhmufflecrunchmufflechhhhh"

It's not all played for laughs though.

Once the song starts proper, The Mouth of the South delivers one of the best songs on the album, a lively pop-rock number that wouldn't sound out of place if it were covered by one of today's guitar pop bands.

The post-song commentary reveals that Jesse Ventura is a big fan of Eat Your Heart Out, Rick Springfield, even going so far as to call it the best song on the album up to this point.

Vince was -unsurprisingly- a little more reserved in his praise of Jimmy Hart, but did admit to looking forward to our next track from Captain Lou Albano.

"Captain Lou!" cries Jesse. "What's he gonna do? Strum the rubber bands on his face!?!"

Don't ask me why, but the first time I heard that, it was spit-your-drink-out funny.

5: Captain Lou Albano (ft. George 'The Animal' Steele) - Captain Lou's History of Music/Captain Lou


So, what we have here is...well, it's a disaster is what it is, but let's break this one down, shall we?

We start with George 'The Animal' Steele looking for Captain Lou as a piece of classical music that I recognise but can't identify plays int he background.

Lou responds, not by saying "Here I am, George," or anything like that, but by launching into a story that begins 'before the beginning of time.'

That's right, BEFORE the beginning of time itself.

Apparently, 'windy wind blew against the rocks,' and made a beat, which led to one of Albano's ancestors being inspired to invent the drums.

This leads us to a whole bunch of noise. I mean a seriously terrible noise that distracts from anything Lou has to say and, not unlike Land of a Thousand Dances, gives you a headache.

This leads us into Lou's version of a song written about him by a group called NRBQ, who apparently did some cross-promotion with the big guy long before The Wrestling Album ever came to be.

The song was produced by Cyndi Lauper, but it's fair to say she sucked at it because the mix is so poor that you can barely hear what Lou is saying over the deafening sound of dreadfulness.
Honestly, this was horrible.

I'd rather listen to 'Do The Mario' and over again for an hour than spend even another minute listening to this.


Jesse Ventura agrees, and in the next bout of commentary tells us that it sounds that Captain Lou was chewing on rubber bands rather than eating them.

As you might expect, Vince and Mean Gene love the song by the babyface, and are very excited about our next track by an unknown group of mysterious musicians known as the WWF All-Stars

6: WWF All-Stars - Hulk Hogan's Theme


Like something straight out of a Rocky movie, Hulk Hogan's theme is everything you could possibly want from a track intended for a larger-than-life good guy hero like the then-WWF Champion.

Pounding drums, intense synths, and a rousing chorus of "Hulk! Hulk! Hulk!" chants all come together in one fiery ball of awesome that really does have 'Hey! It's the '80s!' written all over it.

That's especially true when the dramatic guitar solos kick in, adding a sense of the epic to a track that already sounds as though it should be the soundtrack to some Hollywood montage of Hogan training, saying his prayers, and eating his vitamins.

A highlight of the album in all its chest-thumping, adrenalin-pumping glory, this was later used for the Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling cartoon - or so I'm told, I can't actually find a video to prove it and can't remember it from my childhood.

Vince McMahon liked it too, telling us afterwards that "everybody has to like that one!"

Jesse responds by barfing into the toilet, but quickly picks up when he realises that our next track is by his good friend, Rowdy Roddy Piper.

"Are you ready for this, Gene?" asks Vince, to which Okerlund can only reply by blowing a long, loud raspberry which is both absolutely ridiculous and ashamedly hysterical.

Interesting fact: Hulk Hogan's theme was written and produced by Jim Steinman, he who wrote hits for Meatloaf, Bonnie Tyler, and a bunch of others.

7: Rowdy Roddy Piper - For Everybody 


So, here's a little story:

In the early 1980s, a little-known group called Mike Angelo & The Idols released a song called 'The World May Not Like Me.'

The song became better known by the title 'Fuck Everybody,' thanks to a chorus which basically repeated those two words over and over again.

Whilst Mike Angelo & The Idols wouldn't make much of a mark in the musical world (some of its members had better success playing with former Lynyrd Skynrd guitarist Allen Collins), their profanity-laden ode to nihilism and anti-socialism was chosen to feature on a family-friendly album of songs by a bunch of pro wrestlers.

Of course, some of the lyrics were changed, and the song now became 'For Everybody,' but the song's F-U, 'I Don't Care What You Think of Me,' attitude was the perfect fit for Rowdy Roddy Piper.

Never one to shy away from controversy, the man whose character seemed to spend every day of his life living on the edge was well suited to tackle this number.


Not that the whole thing makes much sense when you think about it logically.

"The world may not like me, but that's OK," sings Piper. "There's only one thing, I've got to say...

For everybody."

Wait, what?

Of course, the way Hot Rod delivers that first 'For Everybody' makes it obvious he was trying to get as close to the original lyrics as he could without getting booted off the album, but it's still a baffling lyric no matter how you look at it."

Just as baffling is the fact that Piper was forced to substitute the word 'ass' for the word 'trash' (so at one point he invites us to 'kiss my trash,) but could mention suicide in a later verse without anyone blinking an eye.

Anyway, the song itself is pretty good, replacing the punky, Clash-lite guitar sound of the original with flamboyant saxophones and a sense of joviality which lies at odds with the lyrics.

Piper's got a hell of a set of vocals too. OK, so he may not be a classically good singer, but his voice certainly works here, as it probably could if Hot Rod had founded a punk band of his own.

Apparently, jazz-pop covers of obscure, profanity-filled songs aren't to Mean Gene's liking. He fell asleep during the song and has to be woken up at the end by Vince McMahon so that he can run down to the studio and give us our next song.

8: Mean Gene Okerlund - Tutti Frutti 


The one cover song on the album that stayed true to the original, Mean Gene Okerlund's version of the rock 'n' roll classic is a super-charged, sugar-coated romp that is both exciting and wildly entertaining.

Sounding for all the world like Little Richard on amphetamines, the song's rousing tsunami of sparkling keys and jubilant basslines serve as the blistering backdrop to a performance that Mean Gene truly throws his heart and soul into.

Not the longest song on the album by any stretch, but, compared to some of what we've heard so far, Tutti Frutti offers quality on an album where quality was never taken into consideration.


Afterwards, Vince and Jesse argued not only over Mean Gene's performance but over the validity of having Hillbilly Jim perform a country song on what was supposed to be a rock 'n' roll album.

9: Hillbilly Jim - Don't Go Messin' With A Country Boy 

We all know this one - it's the song used by both Jim himself and later by The Godwins when they were under his management.


It's everything you'd expect a song by a character called Hillbilly Jim to be - a good ol' rootin, tootin' stomp around the barn that takes every hillbilly, farmer, country music stereotype you can imagine and throws it all together into a track designed to make you clap your hands and stamp your feet.

For the perennial good guy that Hillbilly Jim was, it's the perfect theme tune, even if it does happen to be one of the cheesiest things on The Wrestling Album.

Naturally, Jesse Ventura hated it too, but was more eager to listen to our last track, one performed by a man that Mean Gene informs us 'is on a first name basis with Mikhail Gorbachev.

10: Nikolai Volkoff - Cara Mia 


If you were looking for The Wrestling Album to end on a high note, you'll be very disappointed with this one.

Sounding like Abba colliding with the annoying opera guy from those UK TV commercials from Go Compare, this terrible disco version of David Whitfield's 1954 hit was very much intentionally horrible.

Nikolai Volkoff was known for annoying audiences by singing the Russian national anthem before his matches, and this whole song simply takes that to the next level.

As a gimmick, it's genius, but it's nothing you'd ever, ever want to listen to.

Afterwards, Volkoff does indeed break out the Russian national anthem whilst Vince McMahon complains to Jesse Ventura about it ('this is an American album, Jess, you know what that means!).

Once Volkoff is done, our time with the WWF Superstars ends with The Body suggesting he, McMahon, and Mean Gene do a 'duet,' together.

The good guys make a hasty retreat, leaving Ventura whine like a baby that it's his turn to sing.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the end of The Wrestling Album.

There's some horrible stuff on here, sure, but there's also a surprising amount of good songs on here too. 

Sure, you'd never want to load this up on your iPod and listen to it at the gym, nor would there be any situation when you would invite non-wrestling fans to listen to it, but as a novelty pop record, The Wrestling Album works.

Not only does it work, but it perfectly encapsulates the wild and wacky brand of entertainment that the World Wrestling Federation did so well back in the mid-1980s. 
   


Thanks for reading. Next time I review anything music-related, it will be a track-by-track review of this album's follow-up, Piledriver: The Wrestling Album II. 

Don't miss this, or any other Retro Pro Wrestling reviews by following @Retropwrestling on Twitter or liking the Facebook page

0 comments:

Post a Comment

Retro Pro Wrestling

New reviews of classic WWF/WWE events recalling every moment from Wrestlemania 1 - 30. You'll also find reviews of WCW, ECW, TNA and the occasional indie event, along with a look at old school magazines, merchandise and more.