The other day I’m sitting at a red light and my iPod, with its infinite wisdom and devilishly clever sense of humor, spits Bill Shatner’s Rocket Man at me. I’m sitting there, remembering his appearance at the Sci-Fi awards so long ago when he did a trio with himself and himself, rendering a version of this song so incredibly ironic that it still circulates the internets. The brilliance of it was that, as a viewer, you weren’t sure if T.J. Hooker was in on the joke. On the one hand, he had to know it was funny. On the other, though, you could see in this eyes, through the wisp of cigarette smoke, that he was in on the joke. But when the third Captain Kirk emerged, it seemed he was in on the joke but only so far. Or was he?
SIDEBAR: Here is a bonus mp3 of Bill Shatner humiliating a corporate sponsor. Hysterically funny!
Bill’s performance has to go down in history as the best celebrity musical performance ever. (Second only to Bill Murray’s karaoke version of More Than This, from the soundtrack to Sofia Coppolla’s dirty-old-man fantasy film, which Bill delivers in is his usual flatly ironic deadpan, mocking any hipster who still puts this on every time he bangs his flat-chested, frilly bangled girlfriend.) As the last few notes of the Elton John cover trailed off, my mind turned to other celebs. Actually, to number one on this list—because he’s my “go to” guy for bad actor records. And then I thought of making this list.
There are lots of runner-ups, and feel free to throw them into the comments, but for me the criteria had to be that the person was a well-established actor before trying to cross-over, I have to have actually heard the album/song, and the music had to be bad. I mean, really bad. Steven Segall’s album, for example, wasn’t awful enough. Leonard Nimoy’s was too funny to be bad (and he didn’t even try to make it musical). Lindsay Lohan was too much of an all-around star to really be considered a career actress. And her stuff just isn’t quite bad enough. And then there was “Time for Tina,” by the Gilligan’s Island hottie, and “Laverne and Shirley Sing,” which is really just a novelty record. This list is for real albums, intended to move records and launch careers . . .
10. The Entire Cast Of Every Star Trek Franchise (except for Bill and Leonard). Ever since the runaway success (?) of Bill Shatner’s, Transformer Man, Trek producers have tried to market music with tacky titles sung by castmembers. These projects included:
Nichelle (Lt. Uhura) Nichols’ (“”) featuring “The Lady Is A Tramp” or its follow up, “Out of This World” ; Tim (Mr. Tuvok) Russ singing “Love The One You’re With;” and Brent (Lt. Data) Spiner’s classic record, “Ol’ Yellow Eyes Is Back ,” with a version of “Embraceable You” that could only have been worse if it had actually been sung by Data. The best part about Russ’ album is that it’s actually eponymously titled. No funny jokes about space or whatever. It’s almost like he was really making a go of a post-Star Trek career without convention appearances. Ha!
9. Tie: Alyssa Milano and Tony Danza.
Both made albums in the midst of the “Who’s The Boss?” success (the worst successful sit-com of the 80s), and both really, really sucked. Tony clearly had been hit in the head too many times back when he was an amateur boxer, but the edge has to go to Alyssa whose version of “Da Doo Run Run” is just doo doo.
8. Brian Austin Green, One Stop Carnival.
I can’t crush this incredible misstep any better than Passion of the Weis already did, except to say that it’s clear why his career went nowhere since 90210.
7. Rodney Dangerfield, Romeo Rodney . One of the greatest comics of all time, Rodney recorded most of these cuts between 2000 and 2004. Not coincidentally, this was also when he first appeared as an entry in my Death Pool. Not only does it include a remix(!) of his version of, “Strangers In The Night,” but you’ll also find religious music (“I Believe” and “He”). Plus, the music is basically a karaoke machine. If you’re curious enough to want to buy this, or if you have money you don’t otherwise need, at least get the reissued version. It adds his 1993 “classic” single, Rappin’ Rodney, which has jokes in it so at least it’s tolerable.
6. Eddie Murphy, “Party All The Time.” While we’re on the subject of comics-turned-singers, Chris Rock tells stories about how Eddie used to make all his friends listen to this unlistenable album when ever they came over to this house. This song was a hit, but fortunately Eddie wasn’t dumb enough to think that it sold on its merits. Produced by Rick “I like to kidnapped girls and burn them” James, this record marked the beginning of a long, sad “unfunny” period for Eddie. As a follow up, he made some records with Michael Jackson. How bad are they? Well, they sold worse than “Party All The Time.” There’s your answer.
5. Don Johnson, Heartbeat.
The 1980s produced a slew of “one-hitmakers,” including the afore-mentioned Eddie, the unmentioned Bruce Willis, and the 1986 pop gem, “Heartbeat” (#5 with a bullet!) He outsold his cooler, slimmer, and waaaaay more boring partner, Philip Michael Thomas, based largely on the video in which he looked like George Michael, only less-unshaven, less-cool, and more gay. And did anyone really believe he was singing to sold-out and frenzied stadium audiences? That had to have been superimposed over a Bon Jovi concert, right?
4. Sebastian Cabot, Sebastian Cabot Actor/Bob Dylan, Poet. Just to prove that it wasn’t all better before you were born, here’s one of our few non-80s entries. Sebastian Cabot, who was the butler on the popular 1960s TV show “Family Affair” (as well as narrator of the Disney “Winnie the Pooh”) and a famous drunk, dropped this platter in 1967 consisting of 12 Bob Dylan “songs.” (It’s actually more like spoken word, with a string section.) This album is the epitome of a “straight” recording. There’s nothing jokey, ironic, or even intentionally kitchy. That’s what makes it so damn funny.
3. Paris Hilton, “Stars are Blind.” The second-worst album by a porn star (close behind Traci Lords’ “1000 Fires”). For some god-forsaken reason, Scott Storch produced cuts for this mess. Yet it’s still unlistenable. Consider your ghetto pass revoked, playa. The worst track is hard to pick out here, but the most memorably bad one is her cover of “Do Ya Think of Sexy?” (No, Paris, I don’t. I wouldn’t fuck you with Kevin Federline’s prick.) It actually makes Britney Spears’ cover of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” sound good. In fact, with all the great production here, it’s almost this is the 2000’s version of Eddie Murphy’s album, which also had some great backers in the industry. The only difference is what Eddie was Eddie before he flamed out. Paris was . . . Paris. A borderline retard with a moronic and self-indulgent outlook on life who has managed to become a cult icon to equally idiotic teenage girls whose lives are so bereft of heroes that the need to turn to a spoiled brat with a personality (and I.Q.) somewhere between Koko the Gorilla and a Lampshade.
But let’s try to separate the personality from the music. I mean, if this wasn’t Paris but, say, Cat Power, would I still think it blows?
2. David Hasselhoff, Looking for Freedom. And our list returns to the glorious ‘80s. Actually, we shouldn’t knock this guy. Everything he does is a success. Knight Rider. Baywatch. That horrible talent show running in prime time right now. Even drunk-eating-a-sandwich-on-youtube, Davey scores big audiences. His only failure is his music career, and even that succeeded in Germany. Which proves wrong all of Hitler’s theories about the Master Race.
1. Corey Feldman (lifetime achievement award).
It’s hard to pick my favorite Corey moment. Was it when he performed, “What’s Up With You?” live on Howard Stern’s Channel 9 show and honestly thought he’d be able to make Howard think it was good music? Or was it when he was promoting one of his ear-bleeding, “Truth Movement” album as his, “Dark Side of the Moon” in interviews, trying to convince people that lots of musicians and critics had heard it and found it masterful? It’s also fun to note that his first album, “Love Left,” premiered in 1993. In the late 70s and early 80s, he was hot, appearing on TV in just about every popular show of the time, including The Love Boat, Eight is Enough, Mork & Mindy, Cheers, One Day At A Time, Family Ties, etc. His film career was equally hot, including roles in Gremlins, The Goonies, and Stand by Me, and finally in 1987 with The Lost Boys. After that, we mostly find him in shows that nobody’s ever heard of and films like Rock ‘n’ Roll High School Forever (and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which made a fortune but not because of him). It gets especially sad for the Corester in 1993, when he comes off a career low of four big-screen duds in one year (including Meatballs 4) only to land in a film called “Stepmonster.” Those who can, do. Those who can’t, make a record. So Corey the rock star is born. And the baby is dropped on his head. And it’s gotta sting that his latest, “Former Child Actor,” bombs while Shatner’s, “Has Been,” gets critical acclaim and support from Ben Folds.