6 Celebrities You Didn't Know Had Ridiculous Music Careers
It's not uncommon for non-singing celebrities to get confused and think that they're singing celebrities, but usually, their music is somewhat connected to their public image. Billy Bob Thornton plays moody country music, Bruce Willis plays brash blues, Russell Crowe plays irredeemable shit, and so on. But sometimes, an entertainer's musical side job reveals a whole other side of their personality.
L. Ron Hubbard Made Jazz Albums and a Soundtrack to Battlefield Earth
The fact that the Church of Scientology, a billion-dollar organization, was founded by a hack sci-fi writer who was probably crazy and definitely full of shit is weird enough. That this guy went on to record a bunch of truly awful jazz albums and the whole church didn't immediately crumble is infinitely weirder. Behold what you always wondered about: L. Ron Hubbard's singing voice.
That's from Hubbard's third album, The Road to Freedom, which was done in collaboration with some of the biggest stars in the world, such as John Travolta, Chick Korea and, yep, Frank Stallone. It's basically a Scientologist version of U.S.A. for Africa if "We Are the World" was about getting rich off of scamming people. And yes, when we said "third album," we meant that there's lots more of this shit. Hubbard's bizarre musical career started with his true masterpiece Space Jazz, an album which was intended to be the soundtrack to his even truer masterpiece: the novel Battlefield Earth.
It's sort of like Pandora's Box, except Xenu pops out and takes your money.
Most people associate Battlefield Earth with Travolta dressed as a Rastafarian mime. But if it was up to Hubbard, that title would make you think of horses dancing, prancing, and mating, judging by this ridiculous track (be warned that we might unwittingly be exposing you to advanced Scientologist brainwashing techniques with these songs). Other tracks have evocative names such as "Alien Visitors Attack," "March of the Psychlos," and our favorite, "Terl, the Security Director." We're pretty sure that last one is a Def Leppard cover.
After Space Jazz, Hubbard teamed up with fellow thetan-lover Edgar Winter to create Mission Earth, a soundtrack to the book of the same name, which is ... pretty much what we imagine a regular Edgar Winter album to be, actually.
This is what you look like after being mugged by a group of David Bowie impersonators.
Hubbard's final album was released a few years after his death, and offers more of his soothing voice and words of wisdom, but mostly it consisted of other people playing music in his honor. Clearly, they never heard his other albums, or they'd know that Hubbard apparently hated music more than he hated going to the psychiatrist.
Muhammad Ali Made a Concept Album About Dental Hygiene
When you think of Muhammad Ali's greatest fights, you probably think of his Rumble in the Jungle with George Foreman, his 1964 bout with Sonny Liston, and, of course, his musical battle against anthropomorphic tooth decay. Or you would, if you knew anything about fine music. Fortunately, we're here to educate you.
Next up on Ali's shit list: rainbows, upper body clothing.
In 1976, Ali hung up his boxing gloves and picked up a microphone, starring in a charity concept album for promoting dental hygiene: The Adventures of Ali and His Gang vs. Mr. Tooth Decay. The results are basically what would happen if your dentist gave you LSD and forced you to watch ESPN classic. In the album, Ali is joined by a bunch of (disturbingly orgasmic) singing kids and sportscaster Howard Cosell, the favorite TV personality of children everywhere.
"Always remember to brush after your daily pack of Marlboros, kids."
The adventure begins with a disco track about how Ali was responsible for certain historical events, such as putting the crack in the Liberty Bell and the Boston Tea Party. What the fuck does this have to do with tooth decay, you ask? About as much as tooth decay has to do with Ali in the first place, we guess. Or Ali with singing. Here's that song, presented without visuals, because otherwise the sensory overload might kill you:
We then meet the Russian-sounding Mr. Tooth Decay and his sidekick, a beatnik called Sugar Cuba -- reminding us that 1976 America's biggest enemies after poor oral hygiene were communism and hippies. Later on, the kids are tempted by a sinister ice cream salesman played by Frank Sinatra, who we're guessing appears on this record because the studio it was recorded in had an open bar. Oddly, the vendor makes references to "Sammy" and "Dino," meaning that in this reality, the real Frank Sinatra opened an ice cream shop and hated kids.
He only wanted to fly to the Moon because children can't be astronauts.
Ali ends up literally fighting Mr. Tooth Decay in a boxing match, hammering home the important message that the only way to keep your teeth healthy is to eat well and physically beat the living shit out of someone. The inner sleeve of the album promised a sequel in which Ali would face off against "Fat Cat the Dope King and His Sidekick Peter Pusher," but shockingly, it never came out.
The fact that Ali used up all the dope on this cover might have something to do with it.
Batman's Burt Ward Teamed With Frank Zappa to Croon About How Badly Girls Wanted to Fuck Him
As the actor who played Robin in the campy 1960's Batman show, Burt Ward is the owner of some of the most famous male thighs in the world. And with famous thighs come lots of opportunities, which is why in 1966, MGM offered Ward a recording contract. Despite the fact that he couldn't really sing, Ward decided to sign it, because what's the worst that could happen?
Listen for yourself:
Ward joked that while practicing that song in a hotel shower, a maintenance man broke into the bathroom, thinking there was a cat trapped in there. After listening to it, we believe him. However, those hellish vocals aren't even the weirdest part of Ward's brief musical career. For some reason, MGM had decided to pair the peppy Boy Wonder with the distinctly un-peppy counterculture rock gods Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. The squeaky-clean Burt described the group as "maniacs" who "made the Hell's Angels look like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir."
Both photos are in color -- grime turns gray after a few weeks.
The Mothers were supposed to be Ward's backing band for a full album, but after listening to the first single, it became clear that MGM couldn't sell 40 minutes of this guy's singing without being fined for extreme animal cruelty. So, Zappa came up with the idea of just having Burt read real fan letters aloud while the band played some smooth sixties jams behind him. The resulting song, "Boy Wonder I Love You," is basically what the Velvet Underground would have sounded like if Lou Reed was Wally from Leave it to Beaver.
It says "Not for Sale" by direct order of the United Nations.
As the song progresses, the letter gets progressively sexier, culminating in its author exclaiming that she wants to make Burt breakfast in bed, which is followed by the sounds of a bunch of women screaming in delight. The song fades out, because no one needs to hear what happens next. The last line, likely added at the studio's insistence, is "I hope you know this is a girl writing."
"Hope to hear from you soon, chum. I mean, lover boy."
Due to its overly sexual nature, the record was abruptly pulled before it could be launched nationally, but some lucky teenagers did get to hear it. It can't be a coincidence that the next summer was the most depraved in American history.
Bill Paxton Was a New Wave Wannabe
Bill Paxton is perhaps most famous for playing adventurous science dudes in '90s hits like Twister, Titanic, and Apollo 13, but in his younger days, he was the go-to character actor for boneheaded tough guys. He played Chet in Weird Science, Private William "Game Over, Man!" Hudson in Aliens, and his greatest role, "punk with inexplicable tire marks on his face" in The Terminator.
Knowing what we know about James Cameron, we're assuming he drove an actual truck over Paxton.
If you had to guess what sort of music Paxton was into at the time, what would it be? Punk? Death metal? If you said "pseudo-intellectual dance pop" you're crazy, and also right. At the same time that he was frying xenomorphs on the big screen, Paxton had a new wave band called Martini Ranch, which gave us such popular hits as "How Can the Laboring Man Find Time for Self-Culture?" The MTV video includes sepia tones, references to German silent cinema, and "doing the robot."
But you guessed all that as soon as we said the title.
Going from that song, we'd call Martini Ranch a cheap Devo ripoff -- if it wasn't for the fact that three members of the real Devo were involved in it. It looks like Paxton's band was more about showing off his connections than making music, since the video also features cameos from his former co-stars Anthony Michael Hall, Michael Biehn, and Judge Reinhold. We wouldn't go as far as to call them his "friends," though, since none of them told him how he looked in that getup.
Which is, "like the amalgamation of every class photo taken in the '80s."
After only one album, the band reached peak Martini Ranchness with the insane techno-western-themed video for their song "Reach," which was directed by another one of Paxton's acquaintances -- some guy called James Cameron. Also present are Kathryn Bigelow, the respected director of films like Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker, as a cowgirl who brands Paxton on the butt, as well as the other squad members from Aliens. Apparently, their last job before getting sent into space involved hunting down some dancing mariachis.
Presumably, this was the exact moment when Paxton realized there was way more dignity in movie acting and bailed. The other half of the duo changed the band's name and has kept things rolling to this day, but we don't expect Paxton to be reuniting Martini Ranch anytime soon, because that's the sort of nostalgia one prefers to black out with time and alcohol.
Jimmy Hart and Vince McMahon: The Secret Songbirds of the WWE
Occasionally in pro wrestling, the managers will get as much fame and adulation as the poor saps getting slammed in the ring. Take Jimmy "The Mouth of the South" Hart, best known for yelling orders at his fighters through a megaphone while they were trying to concentrate on not getting beaten up.
As if having to look at that jacket every day wasn't painful enough.
When you listen to Hart shouting Austin Powers-esque phrases in his nasally voice, or laughing like the Joker on helium during WWF promos, it's hard to imagine masses of teenage girls paying money to hear that guy sing. But that's exactly what happened in the '60s, when he was part of a pop/rock band called the Gentrys. Don't believe us? Then watch a bunch of bikini-clad teens dance their butts off as young Jimmy Hart sings about how peanut butter and jam make sex awesome:
Hart and some friends formed the band when they were in high school, and that probably would have been the end of it if the year hadn't been 1963, a.k.a. the only time in history when merely having the same haircut as the Beatles meant you were instantly famous. The Gentrys scored a Top 5 hit called "Keep on Dancing" and became popular enough to tour with the Beach Boys and Chuck Berry. And yes, they had an army of screaming young fans, especially in their hometown of Memphis ... despite looking like a band of all-Ringos.
Hart is the one that's apparently having a big suppository inserted.
But this article isn't about famous people who dabbled in music in their youth -- Hart persisted with his singing even after he joined the "muscular men pretend-punching each other" business. Behind the scenes of the WWF and WCW, he wrote over a hundred intro theme songs for wrestlers, most notably Shawn Michaels's goofily awesome "Sexy Boy" -- an early version of which, incidentally, had WWE chairman Vince McMahon himself singing it.
What's that? You didn't know McMahon could sing? Well, he can't. Or dance, for that matter. None of which stopped him from doing this during the 1987 Slammy Awards:
"Let's get ready to rumba!"
For Whom the Brother Tolls
Jackie Chan: Chinese Pop Star
We hopefully don't need to tell you who Jackie Chan is, but just in case: he's that guy from that meme. Now that that's clear, let's skip to the part where we tell you that one of the most famous martial artists in Hollywood is also the Michael Bolton of China:
That's not some one-time gimmick, like when the Ninja Turtles got into rap. Since 1984, Chan has recorded 20 freaking albums in several languages, with lyrics touching diverse topics such as falling in love, falling out of love, or falling in love and then out of love. Here he is singing his romantic hit "A Vigorous Aspiration in My Mind" in front of thousands of fans. There's a dark corner of YouTube devoted to scores of music videos of Jackie Chan trying to sing melancholically while looking all, well, Jackie Chan-ish.
The original video had him sadly fighting giant tears in a Kleenex factory.
It turns out that Chan had years of singing lessons when he was young, and he wasn't about to let that go to waste just because people liked him better when he was hitting others with random hilarious objects he found around a room. Even while single-handedly lowering the global crime rate with his fists in films like Project A or Police Story, he'd take a break from the ass kicking to record the theme songs. Hell, he can make a Disney song sound badass.
Conversely, this retroactively makes every action movie he's been in slightly lamer.
Thanks to this output, Chan's got pop star status in Asia, to the point where he can get shitfaced and jump on stage with another Asian singer to attempt a duet, and people just go with it. Chan hasn't released new music since the 2008 Olympics, probably because his vocal chords have deteriorated considerably from being around Chris Tucker. Don't worry, though; like an old master passing on his art to his students, Chan has put together the wimpiest motherfucking Korean boy band in the world to continue his musical legacy.
We're assuming each of these pussbaskets could murder us with a single punch.
Sam Jackson is built for speed, but it doesn't get him out of tickets. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter, and also check out his friend's blog. J.M. McNab writes and podcasts for Rewatchability.com. You can also find him on Twitter. Chris Berglund has a Twitter account and a Facebook profile. Choose wisely.
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