Song Of The Day 9/14/2016: Tim Curry – “I Do the Rock”

The Hidden '70s, Part 3 – Nobody has ever really known what to do with Tim Curry since his appearance as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Regardless of how you feel about the midnight movie sensation that helped us hash through our gender dilemmas in the form of ritualized heckling, Curry’s anti-heroic transvestite was something of a breakthrough, much imitated and much loved. Sure, he was a homicidal transvestite, but he was our homicidal transvestite. But instead of breaking out from his starring role and moving seamlessly into the mainstream, like Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick did, Curry seemed locked in an oddball rut. I read somewhere that he never even acknowledged his second most-beloved role, Pennywise in Stephen King’s It, until two years ago. Even when he finally got to play King Arthur, it was for Monty Python’s Spamalot. Which, granted, was based on the greatest and most accurate representation of King Arthur up to that point, but still.

“I Do the Rock” (#91, 1979), much as I truly love it, is a kind of recorded simulation of mainstream entertainment’s clumsy handling of Curry’s peculiarities. Curry co-wrote the song with, believe it or not, the late gargantuan orchestrator Michael Kamen of “how can we possibly mess up Metallica’s legacy any further?” fame. (Kamen also co-produced Fearless.) I’m guessing Curry wrote the cock-a-hoop lyrics, which depict the singer’s detached affection for specific artists, athletes, Hollywood stars, politicians and philosophers, ultimately explaining that he stands outside their spheres, perhaps sadly, because the only thing that he knows how to do with any authority is “the rock.”

Like I said I love this song, partially because I’m pretty sure the character Curry performs has no knowledge whatsoever about how to “do the rock.” He sings in a European accent that’s nigh-impossible to nail down — I’m guessing Dutch — and makes up ill-fitting lines like “Rockne was quite Knute, you know” and “Carter, Begin and Sadat/Breznhev, Teng and Castro/Every day negotiate us closer to disas-tro.” It’s like something I would have written when I was in the gifted program in junior high school. Note also the uneasy instrumental straddling between cock-rock and new-wave, something that David Johansen was eventually able to perfect with his largely forgotten solo albums. Such was the netherland (hey, he is Dutch!) Curry found himself post-Furter. To his credit I’ve never heard him complain about it.

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