Hey, kids. It’s your BOTCHING one, Botch Reed, presenting the first in a series of WWE music-themed articles. For the first one, we’re going back to WWE’s very beginning…back when the WWF (as it was called) first really dove into music.
Remember the “Rock N’ Wrestling Connection”? When both Hulkamania and electric guitars ran wild together? When Nikolai Volkoff and Cyndi Lauper could croon along on the same album and it made total sense?
Captain Lou Albano had acted as NRBQ’s manager two years before this record came out. They were fans of a team Lou was managing and they wanted to meet him. After meeting, they asked him to become their manager and he consented. There’s a hilarious ad of him promoting their newest album, “Tiddly Winks”. Have a look:
This gave the Captain an idea but it would take a little longer for it to germinate into something bigger…much bigger.
Let’s now go to the video for “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” – released in September of 1983:
See Cyndi’s dad? That’s Lou. After the video was filmed and the song became a huge hit, Vince McMahon and Cyndi’s manager/boyfriend at the time, Dave Wolff expounded on the NRBQ/Albano idea and had major label backing to do it. The result? This very album. Together, they struck a deal with Epic Records (Portrait Records, Cyndi’s label and Epic were subsidiaries of CBS Records at the time – now Sony Music Entertainment so they were closely linked) and they were off to the races.
To make this album happen, they needed a producer who could wrangle all of this madness into a cohesive album. Rick Derringer had been around for years as a guitarist/singer on The McCoy’s hit, “Hang on Sloopy”, he worked as a guitarist on prominent Steely Dan tunes, and he wrote “Rock N’ Roll Hoochie Koo” for Johnny Winter which he then had a hit with himself in 1973. Better yet, he also produced for “Weird Al” Yankovic on his first few albums. Other producers like former Atlantic Records staff producer Joel Dorn, Meatloaf producer Jim Steinman, and Cyndi herself (as “Mona Flambé”) joined in the fun too.
Some of the wrestlers involved include the Junkyard Dog, manager Jimmy Hart, the aforementioned “Captain” Lou Albano, Roddy Piper, commentator “Mean” Gene Okerlund, “Hillbilly” Jim, and Nikolai Volkoff. Along with them, many prominent studio musicians help to create music including Cyndi Lauper herself, working as “Mona Flambé”. The musicians include Jimmy Bralower, Jeff Bova, Bernard Kenny, Larry Fast, Sid McGinnis (from the David Letterman Band), the Borneo Horns, Margaret Dorn, and Roy Bittan (from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band)
The fun begins with “Land of a Thousand Dances”. Of course, it’s a cover of an old Chris Kenner tune that Wilson Pickett had a hit with. It’s a complete and total free-for-all. You can even see Meatloaf on drums, though he’s not playing on the record. Here’s the video. It speaks far louder than words could:
Total and complete madness! LOL!!! Everyone gets a turn here. Even one of my favs, SD Jones, gets a piece. This is just pure and simple fun.
Next up is “Grab Them Cakes” by the Junkyard Dog and Ms. “Turn the Beat Around” Vicki Sue Robinson. This is a cover too – this time by the band Captain Chameleon. Here’s the original version, along with JYD’s and an “American Bandstand” interview:
All the synth licks are exactly the same but Rick Derringer and Dave Wolff take this a bit faster for JYD. Of course, JYD was so full of charisma that he puts this across perfectly – actually far better than the original Captain Chameleon version. He’s having fun and the rhythm section clearly had fun with this too. Vicki was game too and delivers very credibly. Well played, Dog…well played. They actually released this as a single for the album. You can still find them on eBay too if you’re interest. Here’s mine:
The third tune on the record is “Real American” by Rick Derringer (here named Derringer). This was original supposed to be the theme for Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda – working as the U.S. Express. Instead, the tune was given to Hulk Hogan, it fit him like a glove, and the rest, as they say, is history. This is another credible tune. He actually wrote it before he knew it’d be used as a wrestling them and it sounds like it. The production is very “of it’s time” but the whole things works. Derringer, always a good vocalist, sings well too. You can even hear Cyndi Lauper (again, as Mona Flambé) wailing away throughout.
Next up is the most credible tune on the album. “Eat Your Heart Out, Rick Springfield” is delivered by “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart. Most know that as a teenager, he was in a band called “The Gentrys” and had a million seller with “Keep on Dancing” (Jim doesn’t sing lead on this). He wrote theme songs for a lot of the wrestlers too – most notably “Sexy Boy” for Shawn Michaels and “I’m Just A Honky Tonk Man” for Honky Tonk Man. Given that he is “the real thing” musically, that his tune should be the best one is no real surprise. This tells the story of a guy who’s jealous of his girl’s obsession with Rick Springfield and it’s very well done. This is the one vocal that was done live at “The Slammy’s”. I love that he stays in character throughout. Check it out:
The fourth tune is “Captain Lou’s History of Music”. This one was written by Terry Adams and Al Anderson. Lou is credited with playing all the instruments here and only the shadow knows if he really did or not. Either way, it’s great and one of my favorite things from the album. Here’s the original NRBQ version with Captain Lou doing backgrounds and other chatter at the end, along with the version on this album:
The beginning of Side 2 (if you’ve got the LP) gives us “Hulk Hogan’s Theme”. Though it was briefly used, the tune was soon passed over as Hogan’s theme in favor of the aforementioned “Real American”. Jim Steinman (it’s writer and producer) then took it, added lyrics to it, titled it “Ravishing”, and gave it to Bonnie Tyler for her “Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire” album. Here’s the song as presented for Hogan’s Theme and then Bonnie Tyler’s track, “Ravishing”:
Next up is “For Everybody”. It was originally performed by Mike Angelo and the Idols. This one was produced by Rick Derringer solo. Rod sounds like he’s having a whole lot of fun here. It goes perfectly with his “Hot Rod”-ness and the band does well here. Here’s Roddy’s more kid-friendly version of it. The lyric remains intact but the offending word is changed in the chorus:
“Tutti Frutti” has never been as mean as it is in the Mean one, Gene Okerlund’s larynx. This is actually very credible. This album was all about having fun and they all did. The band performs admirably here and Gene is more than up to the task – shockingly enough. You can hear Rick Derringer doing the harmony vocal here. This is them doing it on the 1986 “Slammy Awards”.
The next-to-last tune is “Don’t Go Messin’ with a Country Boy”. It’s the first of two Joel Dorn productions. Again, Jim is up to the task and delivers well. This is another video from the 1986 “Slammy Awards”. Dig how the fiddle player is bowing an electric guitar. LOL!!
This brings us to the last tune, “Cara Mia” as performed by Nikolai Volkoff. This is the other Joel Dorn production and he turned it into a sub-1985 dance tune. We could imagine a drunk Debbie Gibson having a crack at this. Not sure what poor Joel was thinking here. Nikolai, who is a decent singer and does as well as he can, sounds uncomfortable here and the track is truly awful. Have a listen…if you dare:
In between, we get funny commentary on each tune from the three main announcers at the time pictured on the front cover of the album: Vince McMahon himself, “Mean” Gene Okerlund, and Jesse “The Body” Ventura. The final commentary bit is truly riotous. Jesse wants to sing, darn it, and they won’t let him!
Unfortunately, the album isn’t available physically or as a download. It was briefly available from Koch Records as a CD in 1998 and briefly again as a 30th anniversary edition in 2015. It was also pressed up as a “Record Store Day” exclusive back in 2015 in a 2LP set with “Piledriver” – the second wrestling album. It can be found on eBay and other second-hand sellers fairly easily as an LP, though not particularly cheaply. I hope at some point, Sony (the current rights holder) puts this album back in print so others can enjoy it. It really is a lot of fun.