VIDEO ISN’T ALL-ROOTI FOR LITTLE RICHARD
In the 1950s, when young rock fans first discovered “Tutti-Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally,” odds are they heard “sanitized” cover versions by saddle-shoed crooners like Pat Boone, not the wild original R&B; hits by Little Richard, who was considered too--ahem--unruly for white pop audiences.
But times have changed--this is 1985, right?
Not at first glance, especially when MTV addicts got a look this week at the video from Paramount’s much-ballyhooed summer movie, “Explorers.” The clever new clip displays pop star Robert Palmer teaming up with one of the film’s kooky aliens to lip-sync a letter-perfect remake of Little Richard’s 1959 hit, “All Around the World (Rock & Roll Is Here to Stay).”
The big question: If the film makers wanted to stay as close to the original as possible (and they do use the original record in the film itself), why not just hire Little Richard to perform it for the video? Surely MTV, even with its notoriously gun-shy attitude toward black music, wouldn’t turn down a chance at showing Little Richard in the flesh?
Well, you can breathe a big sigh of relief. As it turns out, Richard was the film makers’ first choice all along. In fact, according to a letter Richard’s acting manager, Ramon Hervey, received from Ted Eccles, a Paramount Marketing Group exec, the studio had planned to use Richard as part of what the studio termed “the first top-secret music video ever produced.”
According to the original proposal, the clip would have been filmed at a NASA space-shuttle hangar in Houston and publicized by a “media blitz” that would include a “heavily promoted motorcade with Little Richard in a long black limousine with the alien guarded in a Brink’s armored truck.”
Unfortunately, this delightfully old-fashioned publicity stunt went down the tubes when Richard refused to perform in the video unless he could change the lyrics. What was the problem? Little Richard, who went back to the ministry several years ago, refused to sing any lyrics about rock ‘n’ roll.
“Richard felt that by performing rock ‘n’ roll, it would have jeopardized his position as a minister, that he would have broken his commitment to God,” Hervey explained. “He just didn’t feel that he could go back on his word that once he’d become ‘born again,’ that he’d never perform rock ‘n’ roll again.”
According to Hervey, Richard had several meetings with the “Explorers” team, screened the film footage and even began preparations for updating the song with tunesmith Billy Preston. But when it became evident that Richard’s “update” would significantly alter the song, which was already in place in the complicated, special-effects-laden film, the deal fell apart. Instead, studio wizard Bernard Edwards, who was to have produced the new Richard track, got together with Palmer and quickly cut a remake with the silky British crooner handling the vocals.
“It was really an 11th-hour situation,” Hervey said. “The producers were even willing to just let Richard lip-sync to the video and not actually re-do the song, but it just didn’t work out. It was a very amicable situation--everyone treated Richard great. It was just a matter of mis-communications.”
BACK TO THE FUTURE, PART II: If Michael J. Fox had set the dial of his DeLorean time-machine for 1967 instead of 1955, he probably would’ve ended up at the Cavern Club, a new teen-age psychedelic salon that looks like a mad-hatter version of an old “Hullabaloo” set. Run by Greg Shaw of Bomp Records, the all-ages club has become a haven for the latest generation of local psychedelic-garage bands, who perform in a crowded circular room that was part of the old KFWB Radio studios in Hollywood. Last weekend’s headliners were the Vipers, a raucous New York garage group with a special fondness for “12x5"-era Stones songs, and Ten Tons of Lies, a local quartet in matching zebra-striped vests and skirts. (And on hand to cheer everyone on were Paula Pierce and Melanie Vammen from local fave-raves the Pandoras.)
But the real draw is the teen crowd, who looked like they’d picked up most of their fashion cues from studying old Chocolate Watch Band album covers. It was turtlenecks, stove-pipe jeans and porridge-bowl cuts (and even a couple of dickeys) for the guys; mini-skirts, wide belts, midriff-tops and Beatle boots for the girls, who looked like they’d been watching old Jean Shrimpton Yardley cosmetic commercials. Watching the oddball fashion parade pass by--which included kids dressed as dead-ringers for “I Spy"-era Robert Culp, “Magic Bus"-era Roger Daltry and “I Love You Alice B. Toklas"-era Peter Sellers--one visitor exclaimed, “Geez, it’s so authentic you can almost smell the incense.” Located at 6419 Hollywood Blvd. (though you have to go around to the alley to enter), the club is open weekend nights, beginning around 11 p.m. The Vipers will be back this Friday, with another New York-based group, the Cheepskates and the Fad, a local Mersey Beat-surf band, headlining Saturday’s show.
AND WHILE WE’RE OUT ON THE TOWN: If you’d like to own a little piece of pop history, you’ll want to be at the Record Plant (8456 West 3rd St.) Tuesday. The venerable recording studio is relocating this fall and is auctioning off a host of expensive rock artifacts, including the Plant’s entire Studio B (home for sessions by such artists as the Eagles and Stevie Wonder), Mobile Recording Truck No. 1 as well as mixing consoles, tape recorders, monitor systems, the original Record Plant sign and, who knows, maybe even an ashtray once used by Rod Stewart. The proceedings begin at 10:30 a.m., with an inspection day scheduled for Monday from 10 to 4 p.m. . . . And local Spaghetti Western rockers the Unforgiven (who were recently signed by Elektra) won a new fan when they were playing at Willie Nelson’s rain-drenched Fourth of July Picnic last week--that’s right, Senor Willie himself. When the band played a local Austin club last weekend, Nelson brought his family to the show and even came up on stage and sang a pair of songs, including “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” with the band.
AND HERE’S THE NEWS: Boy George has signed a book deal to pen a quasi-autobiographical tome for Crown. Its working title: “A Parade of Assumptions.” . . . Hanoi Rocks, whose drummer, Razzle Dingley, died in a car wreck last year (the car was driven by Motley Crue’s Vince Neil), is calling it quits. Band members Andy McCoy and Nasty Suicide are currently putting together a new group. . . . Chicago lead singer Peter Cetera, who had been with the group for 18 years, is also leaving for a solo career. He’s already at work on an album with producer David Foster and is penning a song for the “Rocky IV” sound track. . . . Meanwhile, Debbie Allen, best-known as the actress-choreographer of the “Fame” TV series, has signed a record contract with MCA, where she’ll be produced by mix-wizard Jellybean Benitez. . . . Who’s that debonair playboy who fends off the advances of the Weather Girls in the group’s new video, “Well-A-Wiggy”? It’s none other than “Fame’s” Gene Anthony Ray, who plays the song’s title character, Wiggy. . . . And one of NRBQ’s classic late-'70s albums, “Live at Yankee Stadium,” is being re-released by Mercury Records this month.
AND WAIT, THERE’S MORE: The musicians are still coming and going in Asia, the rock supergroup who’s had so many abrupt personnel shifts that it may someday change its name to Grand Central Station. The latest move finds guitarist Steve Howe leaving to start a band with ex-Genesis member Steve Hackett (the group will be called GTR). Howe’s replacement will be Swiss guitarist Mandy Meir, formerly of Krokus. . . . Oingo Boingo returns with the title song from John Hughes’ upcoming “Weird Science,” whose video, starring “Science” co-star Kelly Le Brock, surfaced last week. The Boingo’s front man, Danny Elfman, is also at work on the score to “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” starring Pee-wee Herman, which is due out next month. . . . Our favorite album title of the week--from Jimmy Cliff’s upcoming record--"The Cliffhanger.” . . . A close second in the album-title sweeps--"Scarecrow,” the title for the upcoming John Cougar Mellencamp album, and “Half Nelson,” the new from (you guessed it) Willie Nelson.