Thursday, 25 January 2018

Album Review: WWF - Piledriver: The Wrestling Album 2 (1987) - A Track-by-Track Review

Album REVIEW: WWF: Piledriver - The Wrestling Album II

Not to be confused with the Status Quo album of the same name, WWF Piledriver: The Wrestling Album II was the 1987 follow-up to the World Wrestling Federation's first foray into the popular music market, The Wrestling Album.

Unlike its predecessor, Piledriver lacked the 'tween-song banter between commentators Vince McMahon, Jesse 'The Body' Ventura, and Mean Gene Okerlund, but made up for it in spades with a collection of some of the 1980s most popular WWF theme tunes, two of which just happen to be among this writer's all-time favourites.

But hey, I'm getting ahead of myself, but first, it's time to go track-by-track through the good, the bad, and the ugly of Piledriver: The Wrestling Album II.

When I say track-by-track, I mean through the actual music album, not the accompanying video album that was so well covered by Wrestlecrap.

I'm obviously not going to try and compete with the mastery of Wrestlecrap, but what I am going to do, is give you my own take on all ten songs that make up this little gem of an album.

And it is a gem, too. Here's why.

1: Robbie Dupree & Strike Force - Girls in Cars 


To this day, I still haven't worked out if Tito Santana and Rick Martel had some kind of sexual fetish for females in automobiles, or if they just liked the reassurance that they could always get a lift home.

Whatever the case may be, here they 'teamed up' with one-time Grammy Award-nominated performer Robbie Dupree to profess their love of girls in cars.

I say 'teamed up' like that because this song was 100% Dupree, who had a top ten Billboard hit in 1980 called Steal Away.



That song is pretty much the most awful thing I've ever heard, but Girls in Cars...

Well...Girls in Cars is probably one of the catchiest songs ever committed to record.

And I hate saying that, because the first time I heard this song I hated it...

It was so..80s! So outdated and cheesy and blah, yet the more I listen to it, the more I find myself going about my day merrily singing its irresistible chorus.

I wonder if Santana & Martel had the same problem when they used the track as their theme music during their run together?

If they didn't, I bet Jimmy Hart certainly did.

In an oft-forgotten classic, Jimmy performed the song live at the 1987 Slammy Awards and the results were..well..take a look:



It's up to you:

Shall we talk about the wildly out-of-time dancing first? or the fact that a performance of a song called Girls in cars featured girls on bicycles and roller skates?

What's that?

You'd rather just move on to the next song?

You and me both.


2: Koko B. Ware - Piledriver



Still on the subject of Jimmy Hart for a moment - it was only this week that I actually learned that he didn't sing this song, but that WWE Hall of Famer Koko B. Ware did.

I mean sure, it's obvious *now* that there's no way those could be The Mouth of the South's distinctive vocals, but for the longest time I listened to this without paying any attention to the track listing, so there you go.

As most long-time fans (or at least most fans who read that Wrestlecrap piece) know, the song sees Koko crooning over some upbeat jazz-pop in an effort to inform us that love, that most complex and overwhelming of emotions, isn't always a good thing.

Sometimes, Koko tell us, it feels fake, like a great big mistake, and sometimes, apparently, love even feels like getting dropped on your head by a pro wrestler like a piledriver.

We can mock the lyrical content of this one all we want, but let's be honest, much like Girls in Cars, Piledriver is a pretty catchy jam in its own right.

I don't know about you, but I can't help but bust a little move or two whenever Koko starts telling me that love 'sounds like an ah-goo-ment.'


3: The Honky Tonk Man  - Honky Tonk Man 


He's cool, he's cocky, he's b-b-b-bad, and here he sings the iconic theme tune that would follow him to arenas across the country for the remainder of his WWF run.

I can't say I was ever a huge fan of the Honky Tonk Man, but I do have to admit that his entrance was always one of the best parts of his performance, and this swaggering rock 'n' roll number is a huge part of the reason why.

I'm only disappointed that, in the video for the song, Peggy Sue was played by an actual cute blonde, and not Sensational Sherri in a blonde wig as was the case when HTM defended the WWF Intercontinental Championship against Brutus Beefcake at Wrestlemania IV.

That aside, this is a fun song, though -like most wrestling themes from this era- not the sort of thing you're going to pop on your iPod and take everywhere with you.  What you absolutely should do, however, is watch this video of Honky performing his theme tune at the 1987 Slammy Awards, with Jesse Ventura on piano and a hilarious cameo from The Hart Foundation.


I swear, that might be one of the greatest things I've ever seen.

4: Derringer - Demolition 


Having played such a vital role in the success of The Wrestling Album, Derringer returned to his rightful place as King of the 80s Wrestling Themes with one of the most memorable riffs in sports entertainment.

Not content to give us the iconic Real American, Derringer turned up his guitar to go full-on metal to make sure that two of his themes from that time period would still be regarded as among wrestling's best-ever themes even several decades later.

And this is -no doubt about it- one of the best wrestling themes ever recorded.

Of course, as a metalhead at heart, I'm likely to say that, but even if you're not, there's no denying that the crushing riff, menacing beat and threatening vocals were just perfect for Ax & Smash (and later Crush, too, I suppose).

By the way, did you know that -prior to Piledriver's release- Ax & Smash had used a different, vocal-less version of their famous theme, apparently recorded by Jimmy Hart?


No? Me neither.

5: Slick - Jive Soul Bro 

Remember earlier? When I said that Piledriver had produced two of my all-time favourite WWF wrestling themes?

Demolition's theme was one, the other was this - Jive Soul Bro. 


For the unfamiliar, Jive Soul Bro is the story of The Doctor of Style trying to convince us that he really is a good guy despite being a liar and a bit of a sex pest.

Though I doubt there's any way that they could get away with putting out a song like this today, it isn't the lyrical content that makes this one so fun - it's Slick's delivery, perfectly encapsulating everything that made his character so wonderfully entertaining back in the 1980s.

Honestly, The Slickster is as hilarious here on this song as he was that time at the 1989 Royal Rumble when he got Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase confused with 'homebody Ted what does my shoeshine.'

6: Jimmy Hart - Crank it Up 



Demolition and Jive Soul Bro may be my personal favourite themes from this album, but there's no disputing the fact that -in terms of pure musical quality- Crank it Up is one of the best things on the album.

Fusing the spirit of The Beastie Boys' Fight For Your Right (To Party) with an insatiable refrain and unbridled enthusiasm, Crank it Up could have been a hit single in its own right, even in a mainstream pop/rock market that rarely wanted much to do with fake wrestling.

So it's strange then, that of all the songs on the album, this is only one of two that didn't get its own video.

Still, at least The Mouth of The South did get some mileage out of one of the best songs he'd ever written: He led The Hart Foundation into a feud with The Young Stallions (Jim Powers & Paul Roma) over who got to use the track as their theme music.

Fortunately, The  Young Stallions won.

I mean seriously, can you imagine how different Bret Hart's career might have been if he'd started his career with an upbeat party track rather than his own famous theme tune?

7: Hillbilly Jim & Gertrude - Waking Up Alone 


Serious question now: 

Does anybody know anything about who Gertrude was? I've spent far too much time trying to find out who Hillbilly Jim debuted with on his second wrestling album appearance, and can't find even a scrap of information. 

You know what though?

It actually doesn't surprise me. If I'd played any part in this horrible, horrible song, I'd make sure nobody could ever find me, either. 

The song sees Jim and his mystery singing partner crooning over an acoustic-led soft-rock ballad about the loneliness that can haunt a working pro wrestler on the road.

"By God, I'm tough. Lord knows I'm big and strong," he croons with 100% sincerity, "but nothing hurts as much as waking up alone." 

Much as I did with The Wrestling Album, I'm trying to approach this one as more of a novelty thing than a serious artistic endeavour, but even keeping that in mind, Waking Up Alone is one novelty this writer can well do without.

8: Vince McMahon - Stand Back



Back in the late 90s, the original D-Generation-X made fun of Vince McMahon for performing this song at the 1987 Slammy Awards.

Truth is, McMahon had nothing to be embarrassed out - he delivered a solid performance on a song which, if it wasn't written specifically for him, was absolutely perfect for him.

Growling in a way that made you think he was going to yell "YOU'RE FIRRRRRRRRRRRRRED!" at any moment, the most powerful man in pro wrestling got on down with his bad self whilst warning all of us (especially his competition) that he had big plans to reach the top, and could not be stopped.


OK, so the song may be a little outdated 30 years later, but it's still an awful lot of fun to listen to, and so perfect for McMahon.

9: Mean Gene Okerlund & Derringer - Rock and Roll, Hoochie



As we've already established, Rick Derringer was an integral part of the original Wrestling Album, whilst Mean Gene's take on Little Richard proved to be a highlight of that very same album.

So it simply made sense here to team the two up for what was once again an album standout.

Keeping up the harder-edged rock/metal sound that had permeated the album so far, Rock 'n' Roll, Hoochie Coo saw the WWF announcer taking lead vocals on one of Derringer's most popular tracks whilst the man himself blasted out a fearsome riff and sang backing.

It's a joy to listen to, and like Crank it Up, the kind of thing you wouldn't be embarrassed to listen to in a non-wrestling environment.

Nice.

10: WWF Superstars - If You Only Knew



Last but by no means least, we end with a big sing-along featuring most of the World Wrestling Federation roster from that time.

A thousand times better than Land of 1,000 Dances, this rap-lite R&B jam saw the likes of Hulk Hogan, Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan, Ted Dibiase and others making vague threats to beat up other people.

Some of the lyrics are questionable sure ("I've got some real bad news," / "And it may involve your body"), but for a novelty pop song performed by a bunch of pro wrestlers, If You Only Knew is a fine way to end the album.

100% a product of its era, Piledriver: The Wrestling Album II has the 1980s written all over it, but the likes of Crank it Up and Rock 'n' Roll, Hoochie Koo still stand out as great tracks in their own right, even as I write this at the end of 2017.

Even if you're not a fan of those tracks, there's no denying that the album was an important landmark in the evolution of Vince McMahon's sports entertainment vision, giving us a number of memorable theme tunes which remain iconic to this day.  




Thanks for reading. Next time I review anything music-related, it will be a track-by-track review of the terrible pop-attrocity that was 1993's Wrestlemania: The Album

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

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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.