Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Sep 17th 2010 5:30PM by James Sullivan
Asked to name his "desert island discs," Clooney once chose William Shatner's infamous 1968 spoken-word recording, 'The Transformed Man.' Listening to it, he argued, would be all the incentive you'd need to find a way out of your predicament.
"You will hollow out your own leg and make a canoe out of it to get off this island," he said, sounding like the most trenchant rock critic since the guy who reviewed Spinal Tap's fictitious LP 'Shark Sandwich' (a two-word scatological critique also ending with "sandwich").
Shatner has been back in the news for his starring role on the new CBS sitcom '$#*! My Dad Says,' based on the foul-mouthed rantings of the similarly named Twitter feed. He is, of course, best known for his role as Captain Kirk on the original 'Star Trek' TV series.
But Shatner's "singing" career has made him a bona fide legend, though not for the right reasons. 'The Transformed Man,' released at a time when the young actor was still considered a dashing newcomer in the Paul Newman mold, was an instant camp classic.
Trained as a Shakespearean actor in his native Canada, Shatner paired readings from 'Hamlet' and 'Romeo and Juliet' with melodramatic spoken renditions of contemporary pop songs including Bob Dylan's 'Mr. Tambourine Man' and the Beatles' 'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.' (The latter was chosen "worst Beatles cover ever" in a 2003 Music Choice poll.)
Shatner's producer was Don Ralke, who studied with the avant-garde composer Arnold Schoenberg before recording several albums as a bongo player. Ralke's other dubious claim to fame was his production work on 'The Many Moods of Murry Wilson,' featuring the grumpy father of the Beach Boys.
After Shatner's debut LP, his music career idled until the late 1970s, when he cut two live albums. He appeared on Dinah Shore's talk show to perform a spoken version of Harry Chapin's 'Taxi.' While hosting the Science Fiction Film Awards in 1978, he gave Elton John's 'Rocket Man' the full Shatner treatment, with cigarette in hand. The surreal clip has become a YouTube perennial.
Against all odds, Shatner has reclaimed his musical career in recent years. Coming to terms with the absurdity of his performing style, he has embraced it. At the inaugural MTV Movie Awards in 1992, he did readings of lyrics from several Best Song From a Movie nominees, including Color Me Badd's 'I Wanna Sex You Up.' (His version of Eric Clapton's 'Tears in Heaven' didn't air due to the sensitive subject matter.)
After a guest appearance on the Ben Folds experiment Fear of Pop, Shatner recorded an entire album with Folds as producer and arranger in 2004. 'Has Been' featured a cover of Pulp's 'Common People' and guest appearances by Aimee Mann, Joe Jackson, Brad Paisley and Henry Rollins. The surprisingly warm reception the album received has rekindled Shatner's recording career, with a classical oratorio and jazzy takes on 'The Lady Is a Tramp' and 'What Kind of Fool Am I' among his latest releases.
In 2006, the cable channel TV Land presented 'William Shatner in Concert,' which featured footage from the 'Has Been' sessions and ended with a live performance of 'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.' Like Johnny Cash, the profane Mr. Shatner made it clear what he thought of his critics: He flipped them the bird.