People usually look at me skeptically when I put a copy of Fred Schneider’s second Reprise album in their hands and command them to buy it. The reaction used to puzzle me, but now I think I understand: the retail price of a used CD of Just…Fred hovers around $1. While this price point makes us old folks of slender means rise from our Rascal electric scooters and dance in the Kmart aisles, fanning the air with fistfuls of coupons, today’s jaded shoppers read such a heavily discounted sticker as a guarantee of worthlessness. So I am taking a different tack. I hereby command you to purchase the rare white vinyl pressing of Just…Fred, which starts at $49.99 and goes for up to $199.98, so you can truly appreciate its quality.
I’m not kidding. Those who know, know. In a sane world, the Steve Albini-produced masterpiece would have a place on every American mantel, and there would be compulsory shining of its cover once a week. Backing Fred on the momentous solo joint were Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet, Six Finger Satellite, and an ad hoc supergroup called Deadly Cupcake, comprising the Didjits’ Rick Sims on guitar, Tar’s Tom Zaluckyj on bass, and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s Russell Simins on drums. This last band propelled the album’s four-minute cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Coconut,” which reimagined the laid-back novelty hit as a punk complaint.
Schneider had already recorded “Coconut” for the previous year’s Nilsson tribute album with a completely different supergroup, this one featuring Ivan Julian from Richard Hell & the Voidoids and Tracy Wormworth of the Waitresses. Owing, perhaps, to its relative familiarity in 1995 as the song from the end credits of Reservoir Dogs, “Coconut” was chosen as the tribute album’s single, and Schneider went on Late Night with Conan O’Brien to sing it.
Richard Barone, producer of this “Coconut” and co-writer of “Helicopter” and “Bad Dream” on Just…Fred, says the all-bellyache approach to the song was inspired by Iggy:
Being a Nilsson fan, I offered to produce another track, by Fred Schneider, for the tribute album—a madcap, psycho-psychedelic-grunge reworking of Harry’s classic “Coconut,” which was to become the single and land us both on Late Night with Conan O’Brien to perform live, in a glorious and messy explosion of energy. The unlikely hard-core approach to the familiar little neo-reggae tune came about when Fred came over to my apartment to discuss the arrangement, and I happened to be listening to Iggy Pop’s Raw Power album.
“That’s what I want!” said Fred.
“What?” I replied. “That sound. That’s what I want for ‘Coconut.’”
“O . . . kay,” I smiled.
If the Late Night with Conan O’Brien appearance was ever on YouTube, the copyright police seem to have scrubbed it, but you can hear both Stooges-inspired takes on “Coconut” below. Fred Schneider’s latest album is The Vertical Mind, his second LP with the Superions.
The tribute album version of “Coconut,” featuring Ivan Julian and Tracy Wormworth:
The ‘Just Fred’ version of “Coconut,” featuring Rick Sims and Russell Simins: