I’m usually not too fired up when actors try to become Rock Stars.  I’m sure many of you out there can cite three or four that crossed over successfully, but there seems like a lot more failures than successes to me.  I’ll even give you Rick Springfield, he of General Hospital and “Jessie’s Girl” fame.  No offense to Rick intended whatsoever, but I wasn’t that fired up about either venture in his case.   I got excoriated by hardcore Tom Waits fan The Giant Panther when I said I enjoyed Scarlett Johanson’s take on Wait’s “Falling Down” when she did a CD of Waits covers a couple of years back called Anywhere I Lay My Head.  It’s just not cool apparently.   I actually liked her spin on “Falling Down.”  Maybe I’m completely blinded by her enormous sex appeal, but frankly, my eyes had little to do with it.   I heard it for the first time one lazy summer afternoon on the jukebox in a classic Boston waterfront hole in the wall called The Sail Loft.   It was in 2008, well before I was cognizant of the mobile application Shazam.   In case you don’t use that app, it’s one of those identify the song pieces of software that I would have loved decades ago.   Even though I almost never need it, I subscribed to the $5 application recently in San Francisco a couple of months back.   My buddy and I were doing late night cocktails in some motel bar and the DJ played Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock’s  1988 hit “It Takes Two.”  I’m not much for Disco.  I thought the song was older, but I also thought it was Michael Jackson.  My normally clueless friend knew it wasn’t.  Shazam!  Problem solved.  For a mini musicologist like me it’s a cool thing to have at my fingertips.  I couldn’t get the next song because I had used up my five free songs for the month with the software.   That wasn’t going to happen again even though I haven’t used it ten times since.   If there is a point here, I guess it’s that my Disco memory is very shaky, I like Shazam, and that actors rarely hold my attention whatsoever when they try to make the leap to Rock Star…which brings me to the reason for today’s post…

My first exposure to the phenomenon that (mostly) was The Rocky Horror Picture Show came in 1978 when folks used to line up, in costume, for a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show every Friday at a place called The Exeter Street Theatre in Boston.  It happened to be near a T.G.I. Fridays where I would end up working not three years later for a spell.  It had this greenhouse window all along the side of the restaurant.  Great for people watching.  These folks that loved Rocky Horror were there every week.   I’m not talking during The Halloween season; I’m talking EVERY Friday night!  It was highly entertaining to be honest.   Men don’t seem to have a handle on women as a general rule, lord knows I don’t, but when they have the opportunity to get into costume sometimes their exhibitionist tendencies surface.   If they were attractive prior to getting into costume, there is something about a costume that adds to the normal sexual tension between men and women.   There were more than a few Janets (Susan Sarandons we used to call them) in line each week.  There were too many Tim Curry’s for my taste though.  I guess, in fairness, I should say I was new in town back then and I came from a provincial backwater NJ town nobody recognizes when you answer the question “what exit?”   We had no overtly gay or cross dressing crowd, to my knowledge, and when I got to Emerson College I got an instant education.   There was this guy, we’ll call him Jonathan, in one of my first classes and he came to class each day completely and totally quaffed as a woman.  I hated myself for thinking to myself that the guy was not half bad looking.  I’m reading a book these days by Marianne Faithfull called Faithfull: An Autobiography.  In it she goes into some fairly graphic detail about Mick Jagger’s androgynous tastes.  Mick remains one of my musical heroes so this stuff is sometimes a bit of downer for me to absorb, but who am I to judge?  I wouldn’t even be reading this book if it wasn’t tied to The Stones’ legacy, but it’s actually quite fascinating.  I knew a lot of folks took acid trips back in 60′s believe me, we don’t get to Revolver and Sgt Pepper’s without them I suppose, but Keith Richards basically glossed over the amount of acid ingested in those days in his recent book.  Marianne is writing like they did it three times a week for years.  They didn’t even consider it to be a hard drug.  Oh, and by the way, everybody was banging everybody and nobody took it personally for the most part.  I had no idea Keith and Marianne got it on for instance.   Anyway, I’m way off track again…I’m so very good at that, but I was trying to put into context my exposure to the alternative lifestyle crowd.  Ah, zero would be accurate when my ship docked in Beantown for school in 1978.   Then my friend Jefferson took me to actually see The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Fun times…

If you have never been it’s quite riveting.  Folks in the crowd were normally regulars along the lines of the folks who keep going back to see Star Wars or Star Trek.  They knew every word as they actors were saying them.  It was like a comedy open mike night as everybody was yelling things in the dark trying to get a laugh.  People threw toilet paper and it was general mayhem all around.  I’m not much for horror flicks (Rocky Horror is hardly a real horror flick by the way…it’s a musical in horror costumes) or alternative living for that matter, but I did have a blast at my one and only showing.  I just listened to the soundtrack and there isn’t much there.  It’s not exactly The Singles Soundtrack or even Jesus Christ Superstar, but what it does have is Tim Curry.  Remember him?  I think I wanted to say a few words about him when I started blathering here.   Timothy James Curry was born on April 19, 1946.  I know 1960, the year of my birth, sounds ancient to most folks now, but most of my heroes were born in the 40′s.  Now that seems like a long time ago.   Probably because it was.   Tim just turned 65 a couple of days ago (as I backdate this post).   Tim’s illustrious career on Broadway began as a cast member in the musical Hair.  Hair was a gargantuan groundbreaking 60′s musical that just captivated audiences and radio stations on both sides of the Atlantic.   Monster songs came as a result of that play;  The Fifth Dimension’s “The Age of Aquarius,” Oliver’s “Good Morning Starshine,” Three Dog Night’s “Easy To Be Hard” and The Cowsill’s rocking (hard to think of “Cowsills” and “rocking” in the same sentence, but Whoomp, There It Is) version of the title track.   Tim Curry had a bit part in Hair, but a chance meeting with eventual Rock Horror Picture Show author Richard O’Brien moved Curry’s career forward big time.

Curry’s role as Dr Frank N Furter was perfect for him.  He had some flamboyance in his acting style to begin with and he obviously not too concerned about dressing up like a woman or a transvestite.  His performance of “Sweet Transvestite” in Rocky Horror was the best thing about that show as far as I’m concerned.  Yeah, people were doing the Time Warp and prancing around in costume, but I think Curry discovered he could sing a bit.   It took several years, but in 1979 he began to get some notoriety for his music.  His second LP, Fearless, contained a very catchy track called “I Do The Rock.”  It was a name dropping smorgasbord of several genres, but it was a smash hit single.  I loved it myself.  You see it on a lot of 80′s compilations, but they probably are using some technicality as to when the single actually hit the radio.   I just found out it was actually recorded here in Massachusetts so maybe that is why it received such heavy airplay here.  I really don’t remember making the connection between Rocky Horror and “I Do The Rock,” but I’m sure I did eventually.   Still, it would have been easy to dismiss the actor’s foray into the world ofRock music as a one off.  He had another song on Fearless called “Paradise Garage” that some folks thought a lot of, but it didn’t get much airplay.  Still, Tim Curry, the man of several big time plays and countless voice overs (listen closely to The Clash’s Sound of Sinners from Sandinista! and you might hear a Tim Curry snippet or two) had made a small name for himself in Rock.

Tim put out one final LP in 1981 called Simplicity that included a fantastic track called “Working On My Tan.”  I remember hitting tar beach (anybody’s roof) in downtown Boston with my buddies and hearing WBCN’s Captain Ken Shelton play the song on his Mighty Mighty Lunch Hour program.   We’d be sipping beer and baking in the hot sun on any given summer day that year.   Tim Curry was right there with us.  It’s such a summer song I find it hard to believe it is all but forgotten.  If it was up to me, and it never is, this song would be an annual summer staple on the radio.   I’d rather hear this track than any Jimmy Buffet track I can tell you that much.   He also does a decent cover of Bob Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate” on his greatest hits CD.  Today Mr Curry lives in Los Angeles, probably fenced off from the masses and enjoying the weather, while tending to his real estate holdings.   I know he had a fantastic career as an actor, a voice-over guru and a businessman, but I for one am happy he gave us some music on the side.  Happy belated Birthday Tim from The Giant Panther.

Tim Curry – Sweet Transvestite.mp3

Tim Curry – I Do The Rock.mp3

Tim Curry – Working On My Tan.mp3

Tim Curry – Simple Twist of Fate (Live).mp3

Buy or Download The Best of Tim Curry From Amazon Here.