One of the great left-field surprises of the 1980s pop music scene came with the arrival of Big Daddy, a whimsical band that reimagined hits of the day as they might have sounded had they been recorded in the 1950s.
The conceit was that the group’s members had been lost in a southeast Asian jungle for a couple of decades and had just found their way back to civilization, their passion for rock ‘n’ roll, as well as their musical vocabulary, unaltered a generation later.
More than a gimmick, Big Daddy created new takes on pop and rock songs that were consistently inspired, illuminating and often hilarious. Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” arranged like Frankie Avalon’s “Venus”; Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” played out as Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “16 Tons”; Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome To the Jungle” recast as The Tokens’ “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”; Talking Heads’ “Once In a Lifetime” as Harry Belafonte’s “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song),” Paul Simon’s “Graceland” as (who else?) Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel.”
Its pop piece-de-resistance was a complete ‘50s makeover for the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album, in sequence. It was the fourth album Big Daddy made for Rhino Records beginning in 1983. “The result is the novelty album of the year, if not the last 25 years… A splendid time is guaranteed for all – Don’t miss it,” is what Stereo Review magazine had to say about it in 1992.
Now the Culver City-based group is back and angling to enter the era of iTunes, Spotify and Soundcloud with a new album that’ll apply its transformational touch to songs from Broadway and Hollywood. Like other pop acts in the brave new world that is today’s music business, they’ve turned to Kickstarter to get the ball rolling.
Big Daddy has posted a fundraising goal of $35,000 to be met by Oct. 14, and as usual with Kickstarter, supporters are offered a slew of premiums at different contribution levels.
At the low end of $5, donors get an autographed postcard. Jumping up five notches to the $200 level, fans get a DVD documentary on the making of the album, an autographed poster, a couple of previously unreleased tracks and all the swag from the lower donation levels.
Things really get interesting at the $1,200 level, at which the band promises to take a song of the donor’s choice, write parody lyrics and burn five copies of an unplugged version they’ll record, in keeping with the adage, “He who pays Big Daddy gets to call the tune.” A couple of people have already signed up for that one.
And for $5,500 and up, contributors will get to participate in the recording sessions and take part in a variety of other benefits — the way more and more bands are working directly with supporters when they can’t or won’t persuade a record company to back their projects.
“We’re optimistic that we’ll be able to achieve our goal,” founding member Tommy Lee told Pop & Hiss this week. “But it’s going to take a lot of effort and the grace of God along with a little help from our friends.”