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The Ten Strangest Celebrity Records of All Time
Conan's Frankenstein single has nothing on these.
By James Greene, Jr.
Last week, comedy's favorite redheaded outcast, Conan O'Brien, released his first contribution to the music world — a single entitled "And They Call Me Mad?" The title track is an improv spoken-word riff in which O'Brien pretends to be Dr. Frankenstein; the b-side boasts a bluesy jam between Conesy and Jack White. Not the most conventional rock n' roll product, but it's far from cracking the upper echelon of weird-ass celebrity records. Here now, a look at a few of Hollywood's most intense experiments in wax.
1. Phyllis Diller, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"
You're creeping the kids out, Grandma! The ever-flamboyant Diller broke this sucker out on her 1970 outing Born to Sing, warbling the Stones classic in a disturbingly orgasmic voice. The ick factor is, for better or worse, punctuated with corny self-deprecating jokes like, "I bought a new hat and they canceled Easter!" and "I wore a see-through dress and nobody looked!" Where's Henny Youngman when you need him?
2. William Shatner, "Common People"
William Shatner is the patron saint of hilarious actor rock; many historians pinpoint the Star Trek actor's 1968 concept album The Transformed Man as the birth of ironic cool. Yet the Shat managed to top himself decades later with his 2004 cover of Pulp's rockin' social critique "Common People." This one had all the makings of a train wreck; somehow, though, he pulled it off with production help from Ben Folds and a cameo from Billy Bragg on a couple of choruses. (Honorable mention to Shatner's Trek costar Leonard Nimoy for his late-'60s Tolkein-themed single "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.")
3. Todd Bridges, "Diff'rent Strokes"
Can you hear the pain, the pure struggle in Todd Bridges' voice, on this angry punk remake of the "Diff'rent Strokes" theme song? You can't deny that Todd gave his all during his one-song singing career. (The track was recorded as a joke in 1997 with one-shot band the Whatchu Talkin' Bout Willis Experience.) Why, he was like a black Darby Crash, except he lived through infamy and drug addiction and never once called himself "Sophistafuck."
4. Crispin Glover, "Clowny Clown Clown"
This haunting calliope-driven rap is the crown jewel of the actor's confusingly titled 1989 album, The Big Problem ≠ The Solution. The Solution = Let It Be. At least this track qualifies as music; the majority of The Big Problem features Glover reading passages from an old tome about rat-catching. Surprisingly, "Clowny Clown Clown" did not outpace Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" to become '89's "it" track, although we can assume the carnival world pricked up its ears.
5. Butch Patrick, "Whatever Happened To Eddie"
Believe it or not, another former child star once recorded a version of the theme to the TV show that made him famous. Butch "Eddie Munster" Patrick actually beat Todd Bridges to the punch, putting incredibly stupid words and melody to the beloved instrumental "Munsters" theme on a 1983 vinyl disaster entitled "Whatever Happened To Eddie." (Notice the lack of question mark and draw your own psychological conclusions.)
6. Eddie Murphy, "Whatzupwitu"
"Whatzupwitu" harkens back to a time (1993) when Eddie Murphy still had a shred of a career left, and it was really no big deal for him to cobble together a Prince rip-off with his pal Michael Jackson to keep America slightly amused. The eeriest part of this song is the fact that MJ sings the refrain ("Whaaazaaap?") like one of those Budweiser frat boys from a few years down the road. Was Jacko a time traveler, or just naturally relaxed? You be the judge.
7. Art Linkletter, "We Love You, Call Collect"
Here we find the infamous 1970 open letter that Canadian game-show host Linkletter wrote to/with his drug-addled daughter Diane. The younger Linkletter had taken a liking to LSD, and this was Art's way of trying to stop that behavior. "We Love You" was actually a sad postscript to Art and Diane's relationship; the song poem was recorded before (and released just after) Diane fell to her death from a sixth-story window. Art naturally blamed LSD, but toxicology reports after the tragedy showed there were no drugs in Diane's body.
8. Joe Pesci, "What A Wonderful World"
This is a deep cut on Pesci's 1998 romp Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings Just for You. While songs like "Yo Cousin Vinny" and "Wise Guy" played nicely to Joe's fuhgettaboutit persona, this tender moment sounds almost like it's falling from the mouth of a serial killer — especially with the ample amount of improv Pesci throws in to the mix.
9. Rick Moranis, "Ipanema Rap"
Granted, being weird and off-putting was kind of what Rick Moranis built his career on, but "Ipanema Rap" is still unnerving; its humor is muffled by the conventional hip-hop production of the time, and that green jumpsuit does Rick no favors. And whose idea was it to throw Eugene Levy's frightening Floyd the Barber impression into the mix?
10. Christopher Lee w/ Rhapsody, "The Magic Of The Wizard's Dream"
At first America was all like, "Christopher Lee's making an album with a symphonic metal band from Italy? Say whaaaat?" Then we remembered Lee played Dracula six hundred times and it kind of made sense. Lee appears throughout Rhapsody's 2004 release Symphony of Enchanted Lands II - The Dark Secret, but "The Magic of the Wizard's Dream" is the most ridiculously titled song on the album — hence its inclusion here.