There’s a British TV figure known for his performances of a pirate, a transvestite, a mass of sentient toxic sludge, a roided-up penguin, a horned devil, and an evil clown. But enough about Boris Johnson, let’s talk about Tim Curry.
David Bowie was a musician who dabbled in acting. Curry was the opposite: an actor with aspirations of rock stardom. But where Bowie’s film appearances are (generally) remembered fondly, Curry’s albums are barely remembered at all. He tried hard to break out as a rock and roller in the late 70s, and seems to have taken his failure personally. You see his mounting frustration in interviews through the period – such as this one, where he takes shreds out of a journalist for asking him about Rocky Horror Picture Show (“I think that it is one of the most boring journalistic openings that I have ever heard”).Magazine, Llc All Rights Reserved. “Welcome to JAM Magazine.” Jam Magazine, Oct. 1979, jammagazine.com/landing-main-feature.php?articleid=2385. These albums are sad to experience as a Curry fan: listen to them and unfulfilled dreams float past.
Regrettably, fantastic music usually doesn’t. 1979’s Fearless has one outstanding moment: “I Do The Rock” lives up to its title, it’s long and shameless and vulgar, full of hilarious panto swagger. You’ve never heard “rawwwhhhkk” pronounced the way Tim Curry pronounces “rawwwhhhkk”. Album closer “Charge It” is less memorable but at least has a pulse. These two songs could have made it onto a good Lou Reed album, unlike the others, which could have made it onto a bad Lou Reed album.
The songwriting is a flat line: boneheaded rockers like “Right on the Money” and “Hide This Face” sound like they were written by hacks-for-hire from the bottom tranche of A&M’s songwriting division (dismayingly, they were written by Curry himself). With robotic performances and no hooks to speak of, the songs rely on Curry to salvage them with the force of his personality. But although he has a great voice and charisma to burn, he doesn’t understand the concept of “singing” that well: too often his vocal work devolves into shouty theatrical tirades over repetitive musical motifs. It’s amusing for a few songs, less so for a full album.
“Paradise Garage” is a would-be disco song with a Bee Gees bassline buried beneath a tacky wall of guitars, and Curry sounds like he’s making up lyrics on the spot in the recording booth. It has all the club potential of Little Jimmy Osmond. “Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire” is a cover of Joni Mitchell, a woman who has questionable need to exist let alone be covered.
Curry needed better songs, but even if he’d had them, I don’t know where he’d have belonged in Thatcher’s Britain. The most relevant cultural moment (campy, wig-snatching glam rock) had passed five years earlier – 1979 was year of Blondie, ABBA, and The Police. Soon Bowie and Boy George would almost be issuing public bulletins declaring that they weren’t gay. Fearless is an interesting curio from a straightlaced time, but little more. Not worth getting for one great song.
I almost forgot to tell you about the power ballad “SOS”. I have a suggestion, as it happens. Burn a copy of Fearless, but skip over track 4. Got it? Your new copy should go straight from “I Do The Rock” to “Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire”. Now take the original CD and drive it to an empty field somewhere. A place where no bystanders would be hurt if six megatons of thermobaric ordnance were to strike the ground, if you catch my meaning.
Then, contact the CDC, the FBI, the DHS, the MI6, every alphabet agency your country has. Tell them the CD contains anthrax, national secrets, fascism, child porn, and systemic racism. Yes, all of those things at once. Say that the anthrax spores are arranged in the shape of a naked eight-year-old child-of-color being molested by a government agent who’s sig heiling with one hand and downgrading the child’s future credit score with the other. Then retreat to a safe distance, strap on heavy-duty protective goggles, and watch the world become a better place.
|↑1||Magazine, Llc All Rights Reserved. “Welcome to JAM Magazine.” Jam Magazine, Oct. 1979, jammagazine.com/landing-main-feature.php?articleid=2385.|