Holy Diver: Pat Boone goes metal, Christians go berserk

Pat Boone and Alice Cooper on stage at the American Music Awards on January 27th, 1997.

“I describe myself as the midwife at the birth of rock & roll.”

—Pat Boone on his decision to record an album full of heavy metal covers in 1997

On January 27th, 1997, ABC aired the 24th Annual American Music Awards—an early 70s creation of the Dick Clark which determines its winners by tabulating votes from the public and album sales. Contrary to the less-than-riveting nominee list the ‘97 AMAs had a few cool moments such as Tupac Shakur’s posthumous win for Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist and D’Angelo scoring an award for Favorite Soul/R&B Artist. The most memorable moment of the show, and perhaps the year, depending on how riveting your own life was in 1997, was the appearance of conservative Christian crusader, actor, writer, and musician Pat Boone. Boone was about to release his latest record In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy. The album was full of swing/big band-style covers featuring the vintage crooner’s adaptations of Dio’s “Holy Diver,” Judas Priest’s “You Got Another Thing Comin’,” “It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll)” by AC/DC among other metal classics. Boone also procured musical contributions from Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple, Rainbow), Dweezil Zappa, and drummer Sheila E. Ronnie James Dio even provided backing vocals on Boone’s cover of “Holy Diver” calling Boone “a really cool guy who really loves metal music.”

To help promote the album set for release the following day, Boone walked the red carpet of the AMAs looking super buff in a leather vest and pants, no shirt, covered in fake tattoos which he accessorized with a studded leather dog collar around his neck, and a dangling silver earring. Later on the show, Boone would show up on stage with Alice Cooper to present the award for Favorite Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Artist. People in the audience went fucking NUTS at the sight of Boone looking like he would now be worshiping exclusively at the altar of Satan. At least that’s what Boone’s rather devout followers thought when they saw photos of their squeaky-clean idol looking like he had run away with Mötley Crüe or worse (if there is something worse than that). Perhaps the best part of the very un-Christian caper is that it sprang from the imagination of Dick Clark himself who proposed that Boone and Alice Cooper “switch images” for their award presentation moment. Initially, Cooper was all for it but shortly before the show decided that it was too corny and showed up looking exactly like Alice Cooper. To his credit, Boone kept his side of the Clark-brokered bargain and his seeming transformation into a heavy metal heathen would become a huge media story.  Unless you didn’t have a television in 1997, you most likely saw the then 63-year-old shirtless Boone and probably wondered “WTF” yourself. Which is precisely what Boone’s employers over at the Trinity Broadcasting Network thought—minus the F-bomb naturally.

Feel the BOONE!
As it turns out, Trinity Broadcasting Network—the massive Christian faith-based television company, considered Boone’s appearance on the AMAs a pretty serious misstep, and after fielding thousands of complaints from their viewers, they pulled the plug on Boone’s popular weekly show, Gospel America. Did this send Boone off to work on his hysterical crying game to ensure his apology to his fans would be as dramatic as hooker-loving Jimmy Swaggart’s 1988 “I have sinned!” sob-fest? Nope. Sure, Boone apologized but was also quick to say that Christians needed to “lighten up.” Here are a few more words from Boone on the death-rock debacle that cost him his show:

“Little did I dream that the media and a lot of Christians would take it seriously. I was really stunned that Christians, evidently by the thousands, having known me for 35 to 40 years, would think that overnight I just radically changed my orientation and all my priorities. Just because I wore some leather pants and fake tattoos and non-piercing earrings doesn’t mean that I’m a fundamentally different person.”

Now that you know all you ever wanted to know about Pat Boone (or read this to sum up his last few decades), let’s take a listen to a few sweet jams from In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy.
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb
11:04 am
Richard Pryor, Timothy Leary, Beach Boys and more talk psychedelia on Canadian TV, 1968

Canadian DJs Fred Latremouille and Red Robinson on the ‘Let’s Go’ set, 1964 (via Tom Hawthorn)

The CBC television series Let’s Go, which grew out of a segment on Alex Trebek’s Music Hop, brought the music of the Sixties into Canadian houses. Along with US and UK imports—Jimi Hendrix, the Yardbirds, Country Joe & the Fish, Eric Burdon and the Animals, et al.—Let’s Go promoted Canadian acts such as the Poppy Family and the Guess Who.

Apart from a sitar performance of “Downtown,” there is hardly any music in this special episode from 1968, a report on the effects of the “psychedelic revolution” on the Vancouver scene. The camera crew talks to local hippies and peeks inside a head shop and a coffeehouse, but most of the broadcast consists of celebrities arguing for or against acid rock and its cultural appurtenances. Timothy Leary, sitting in a field, pleads the case for consciousness change; Frank Sinatra Jr., interviewed on the soundstage, rails against the heads for making the Kingston Trio uncool. The Everly Brothers and Ray Charles also weigh in on the LSD question, and Al Jardine, Mike Love and the Maharishi put in a word for TM.

The show’s editor must have been a fan of “Tutti Frutti,” because this episode serves up a cold plate of revenge from its author. At 16:32, a clip of Little Richard is expertly deployed, interrupting Pat Boone’s windy sermon on the destructive power of Beatles and Stones lyrics and flushing the crooner’s sorry ass down one of those single-gender toilets of which he is so fond:

Oh, I think it’s great. I love it. I’m talking about the music. I think it’s fantastic. Because I think a person is expressing what he feels. He’s not going by anything that is written on paper. This man is playing, he’s not playing just for money, he’s playing because his soul within is driving him to push, to let his feelings go out in music, and I believe that it’s one of the greatest things that ever happened to the field of entertainment—which, psychedelic music is rhythm and blues, of course.

Naturally, my favorite philosopher, Richard Pryor, seems to know more than all the rest of the showfolk combined. Let his wisdom unfold your mind like a thousand-petaled lotus.

Watch it, after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall
09:41 am
The quest for the best ‘unexpected’ AC/DC cover
08:12 am

I was recently listening to the excellent 2002 compilation When Pigs Fly: Songs You Thought You’d Never Hear. The album is a collection of “unexpected” cover songs by seemingly mismatched artists. For example, Don Ho doing “Shock the Monkey” and Herman’s Hermits doing “White Wedding.” Great stuff. But the best track is undoubtedly Lesley Gore’s version of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” with its soulful verses and “girl group sound” choruses.

Lesley Gore, one of the top female pop stars of the ‘60s, best known for “It’s My Party” and “You Don’t Own Me,” had a successful musical career from 1963 until her untimely death early this year.
Listening to Gore’s “Dirty Deeds” reminded me that Pat Boone had tackled similar “unexpected” AC/DC cover territory five years prior on 1997’s In a Metal Mood: No More Mr Nice Guy album. Boone, whose career was basically based on being the safe, parent-palatable alternative to Elvis Presley, broke with the conventions of his fundamentalist fanbase on that album—a collection of heavy metal covers done in a Vegas style. Boone does a Rat Pack-inspired version of “It’s a Long Way to the Top.”

Pat Boone had a successful career as a singer dating back to 1954 where he, for the most part, recorded “safe for white people” versions of black artist’s rock and roll songs.
Both of these “rocking but not rocking” covers of AC/DC tunes are great. Which one would win in a face-off? It’s hard to say. Personally, I think “Dirty Deeds” is better source material than “It’s a Long Way to the Top,” but man, Boone’s arrangements on his cover are ace. For my money though, Gore barely edges Boone out—I’m a sucker for ‘60s female pop singers.

Can you make the call? Or perhaps you have a suggestion for a better “unexpected” AC/DC cover? Let us know in the comments.



Posted by Christopher Bickel
08:12 am
We have Pat Boone to thank for the most psychotic and deranged rockabilly record of all time!

Marty Lott aka Jerry Lott aka “The Phantom” was born near Mobile, Alabama in 1938 and moved to Leakesville, Mississippi during infancy. He played country music on stage at school which progressed to playing country and western at Paynas Furniture Store in Lucedale, Mississippi. Jerry started entering and winning local performing contests which led him to start touring. It all changed in 1956 for Marty and so many others, when Elvis Presley came along, opened his eyes and charged his soul with rock and roll.

“Love Me” was written in ten minutes and recorded in Mobile at Gulf Coast Studio in the summer of 1958. It is one of those rare, lust-filled, psychotic explosions that, in one minute and twenty nine seconds, packs more punch than most punk records did and is considered by many to be the wildest rock and roll song ever recorded. It had to wait until the new decade to see a release.

Lott told Derek Glenister:

“I’d worked three months on the other side of the record. Somebody said, ‘what you gonna put on the flip-side’ I hadn’t even thought about it. Someone suggested I wrote something like Elvis ‘cause he was just a little on the wane and everybody was beginning to turn against rock ‘n’ roll. They said, ‘See if you spark rock ‘n’ roll a little bit’... so that’s when I put all the fire and fury I could utter into it. I was satisfied with the first take, but everybody said, ‘let’s try it one more time’. I didn’t yell on the first take, but I yelled on the second, and blew one of the controls off the wall.”

“I’m telling ya, “it was wild. The drummer lost one of his sticks, the piano player screamed and knocked his stool over, the guitar player’s glasses were hanging sideways over his eyes.

Lott, known at this time as The Gulf Coast Fireball left Mobile for Los Angeles to shop his master tape around. On a truly bizarre impulse he followed Pat Boone to church one Sunday morning and convinced him to give the tape a listen. It was Boone’s idea to rename Lott The Phantom, even agreeing to issue the record on his own Cooga Mooga label. Eventually Lott signed a contract with Boone’s management but the single of “Love Me” b/w “Whisper Your Love” was released on the label Boone recorded for—Dot Records in 1960, packaged in a nifty picture sleeve, normally reserved only for the really big stars here in the States.


“Aahh, uhh, let’s go! Uhh
Press your lips to mine
And whisper I love you
Gotta have chance that lasts
To do the things we wanna do
Don’t hesitate, I can’t wait,
Love me
You set my soul on fire
Every muscle in my body’s burning with desire
Baby kiss me do
Make me know you’re mine
Love me with desire
Oh honey, this is fine
Don’t hesitate, I can’t wait,
Love me
I want you to be my bride
My heart’s a runnin’ wild
Got to make you mine
If just for a little while
Don’t hesitate, I can’t wait,
Love me, love me, love me, love me…”

Sadly in 1965, Jerry’s wife took her own life, and shortly thereafter, in 1966, while still attempting to tour, The Phantom was involved in a near fatal auto accident in York, South Carolina. After his car tumbled 600 feet down a mountainside he was left paralyzed below the neck. Lott continued to write songs, but never recorded again. He passed away on September 4th,1983 at the age of 45.
Ever the rock ‘n’ roll purists The Cramps chose the song to be one of the first ones they learned, going so far as to make a flyer that they put up around New York City before they ever even played their first gig proclaiming “LOVE ME” featuring the baleful gaze of Cramps guitarist Bryan Gregory.

The Cramps play “Love Me” at the Napa State Mental Hospital in 1978

A new generation was introduced to the likes of The Phantom in the late 70’s/early 80’s through this and many European (i.e. bootleg) rockabilly compilation LPs. Fanzines like Kicks, which later morphed into Norton Records and Kicks Books were the first in America to dig deep and write about The Phantom.

As usual, rock ‘n’ roll in its purest form is always discovered 50 years too late by those who wish to use the music to sell stuff. I got an email requesting the cover of the “Love Me” single last week from a music supervisor working for an advertising agency. He couldn’t tell me who, but “Love Me” by The Phantom was going to be used in a huge ad campaign and they needed the artwork for the iTunes download that they will be making available in conjunction with the ad. It was just announced that the song would be used in the latest Southern Comfort campaign. More money will be earned, hopefully by a family member of Lott’s (though I highly doubt it), by the use of this song in this ad than Jerry Lott probably made in his entire music career. It just seems odd the way they used it, like I’m watching TV with the sound down and listening to a record.

I think I need a drink.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Who was that masked man? ORION: The Man Who Would Be King

Posted by Howie Pyro
10:19 am