I really never got The Rocky Horror Picture Show
. I saw it when I was around eight, and I was just confused and wondered why people liked the movie so much. I thought the Time Warp was neat, and I had always had a weird thing for Meat Loaf, but otherwise, I basically thought it was a forgettable movie. That was the opinion of an eight-year-old critic. After being coaxed to watch it by one of those diehard RHPS fans most of us may (and probably should, as you're missing out on...interesting trannie conversation if you don't), I ended up watching maybe half the movie, still finding it to just be...mediocre. However, I was rather intrigued by the music, so I decided to pick up the soundtrack. A rather smart move, if I may say so myself. (Note-I will not discuss any parts of the movie here, as I would rather not spoil the wondrous plot developed).
First things first; the song everyone has heard (and yet likely doesn't know it) is the classic The Time Warp
. It essentially epitomizes the album, being an incredibly fun and infectious song with incredibly varied vocal performances by Richard O'Brian, Little Neil, Patricia Quinn, Charles Gray and "The Transylvanians". It's astounding, to say the least. Little Neil in particular is absolutely brilliant here in the short time she is featured, giving a rather strange southern flavor to a very Broadway-esque song that will certainly get stuck in your head...particularly in the middle of an English test. Something of a parody of the dance genre, the song generally just states the dance moves that have become synonymous with the song. At the risk of being redundant, that song is extremely danceable, and it's impossible to keep your foot from tapping after a listen or two.
While yes, The Time Warp
is easily the most well known song on the album (and justifiably so), it's quite difficult to make the argument itís the strongest track here. Richard O'Brian is generally the most interesting singer on the album (what a surprise, considering his rather "extensive" involvement with RHPS), with a strangely sweet voice that gives nearly everything he performs on an added sense of weirdness, the hallmark of the album. It's exemplified by his only solo number, Science Fiction/Double Feature
, where backed up by an acoustic guitar, light drumming and a small orchestra, he croons about the late night double feature. It's difficult to describe, as is much of the album, but it's a great starting point for anyone looking into the RHPS.
Tim Curry, however, is far more hit or miss. Despite essentially staking his name on this project (and later shunning it in all forms), he is rather bland the majority of the time (luckily, all the songs basic feel, choruses, and structure more than make up for it). The highlight of his performances comes on the bluesy rocker Sweet Transvestite
, where he wails about, essentially, how awesome of a transvestite he is. Yeah. Cool. Anyways, despite the obviously disturbing (to most people at least; much like me, you could find them just darkly hilarious) lyrics, the song still manages to be impossibly catchy, with its bombastic notes from Curry and raging guitars, it also is quite anthemic. You will undoubtedly be singing "I'm just a sweet transvestite from Transsexual Transylvania"
at dinner parties for weeks to come. It's unfortunate that his other songs are much more low key, not taking advantage of his chops to any degree. Both I can Make You A Man
and I'm Going Home
are soft "power ballads" (despite their subject matter), and while yet again containing sing along choruses and the strange and funny lyrics, they generally don't hold very well by themselves. However, thatís not much of a weakness, as in their respective places they work very well; that, however, will be saved for later.
The last group of songs I want to discuss are the rather...campy numbers. Dammit Janet
has quickly become one of my all time favorite Musical songs, and is also a great love song to boot. Barry Bostwick has a, frankly, humorous singing voice that compliments the subject matter fairly well, as how serious can you really sound signing "The road was long but I ran it/There's a fire in my heart and you fan it/If there's a fool for you than I am it/I've one thing to say and thatís Damnit, Janet!"
However much I may think Bostwick is fun to listen too, Susan Sarandon has quite the voice, soaring above any other female singer on the album (Little Neil is the only one who can compete, but considering she sounds closer to a mouse than a human being, Sarandon runs away with it). The song is filled to the brim with campy lines as stated before, but it may be a little difficult to imagine, so at the risk of (or rather want to) being annoying, here are a few select lines not already accounted for:
"The river was deep but I swam it, Janet
The future is ours so let's plan it, Janet"
"Now we're engaged and I'm so glad, oh Brad
That you've met Mum and you know Dad, oh Brad
I've one thing to say and that's
Brad, I'm mad for you too!"
"Dammit Janet; Oh brad, I'm mad
Dammit Janet; I love you!"
Enough of that now, eh" While Dammit Janet
may be complete sugar, Hot Patootie
(possibly the second most well known song on the album) is...well, once again pure sugar. However, it's sugar with Meat Loaf, so it can't be bad right" Correct, sir. The most interesting song musically on the album, it features a jazzy sax solo (is there really any other kind") and some strange guitar progression and stabs. The chorus is once again the highlight of the song, with MEat Loaf declaring in very 60's fashion "Hot Patootie - Bless My Soul!- I really love that rock N Roll!"
While it is yet again another very fun track, it's accompanied by once, again Meat Loaf. I canít stress this enough, people. Meat Loaf is easily one of the greatest artists the world has ever seen, and his work here once again affirms it.
Touching on the music itself for a moment longer, this album is surprisingly accomplished. Most soundtracks/musicals can get away with being very catchy and light in tone with very little substance, and no one would be the wiser. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
is far unlike nearly any other musical, particularly for its time. Resembling more of a rock band than anything else, you'd be hard pressed to find any faults. The guitar playing is excellent, with original progressions abounding and even the occasional flash of a solo here and there. The drum work is also excellent and extremely varied; while at times there will be Bonham-type pounding, songs such as Eddie
go for a far more varied approach, mixing marching drums and Beach Boys-esque work to make for some very interesting listening. The synth and key playing are also at a high standard, with tracks like The Time Warp
relying on them for much of their effect. While you wont find any astounding bass playing, it's still quite noticeable here, being very rhythmic and funk induced. The bass line on Rose Tint My World
is in particular very good, and any bass player would do well to learn it and visit any number of the theaters that still play RHPS for a rather...warm reception. For the relatively close listener, it's also riddled with musical allusions; for example, the reprise to I Can Make You A Man
contains a rather popular wedding composition performed as a guitar solo. Noiwce.
While some songs may be weak on their own, the album as a whole is flawless. Every song, even when taken from the movie and missing dialogue, flows perfectly. It's like one large overarching song, with each song constituting a movement, and while that is generally standard for musicals, it's rarely done so sublimely. When you can fit a dance number such as The Time Warp
in between slow songs such as Over at Frankenstein's Place
and dark rock songs like Sweet Transvestite
, it's tough to deny O'Brians composing skills. Weaker single tracks like the before mentioned I Can Make You A Man
gain a new sense of direction and meaning when taken into context, and become great, if not brilliant like most of the material here, songs. When you have seen the movie, everything takes on yet another dimension, and you won't be able to do anything but imagine the musical scenes from the movie when you take a listen.
This is the only musical's soundtrack I'd ever rate a classic. You can find nearly every popular musical genre of its age here; power pop, blues, rock, metal, and even the occasional flourish in soul. When taken as a whole, there is absolutely no flaw here besides the fact it's far shorter than it's runtime suggests; despite the non-remixed tracks clocking in at around 45 minutes, it feels more like 20 when you listen. Obviously however, that is really no true criticism, and only accounts for how brilliant the soundtrack truly is. While the general Rocky fan is going to be the one who truly appreciates this, take it from someone who really couldn't care less for the movie itself; this is a fantastic production with memorable moment after memorable moment, and a worthy addition to any music fans collection, whether you listen to Led Zeppelin, AFI, The Mars Volta, Norah Jones, Gorguts, Tortoise, Snow Patrol, hell, even your little sister will like this album. And she listens to The Click Five for god's sake.
Reccomended Early Listening:
The Time Warp