Wicked, Wicked Game
I was interested to read about Chris Isaak in Wikipedia. It says his music can be described as a blend of country, blues, rock and roll, pop, and surf rock.
I would never have picked up the “surf rock” angle. That’s probably what I’m hearing in the electric guitar lines. Of course, electric guitars are prominent in those other genres, but it’s that itchy, twitchy, twangy coolness that I love.
I mentioned that “Calling You” has been on every mix tape I’ve made for road trips. It’s always followed by k.d. lang’s “Trail of Broken Hearts,” which in turn is always followed by Isaak’s “Wicked Game”:
The video was directed by renowned photographer Herb Ritts, and that was top model Helena Christensen rolling on the beach with Isaak. (Needless to say I’ve never heard of Helena Christensen.) Despite the fact that clever camera angles concealed any actual nudity, viewers reacted strongly to Christensen’s sexually suggestive performance, and the video was later featured on MTV’s Sexiest Video of All-Time countdown.
Isaak’s other mega-hit was his “Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing.” It was released in 1995, and featured in the 1999 Stanley Kubrick film Eyes Wide Shut, which starred Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman before Cruise started condemning antidepressants and jumping on sofas proclaiming his love for his current . . . wife. (I was going to use words like beard, contractual arrangement, or poor captive, but that might be unkind.) Another supermodel I’ve never heard of, Laetitia Casta, is prominently featured in the music video, which was again directed by Herb Ritts.
But since supermodels give me headaches, I really prefer this live version, which you’ll need to double-click and watch it on YouTube:
Anyway, I’ve been researching this surf rock stuff. It has some wild offshoots: spy rock (complex melodies, minor keys, evocative of film noir); surfabilly (traditional surf melodies played over rockabilly chord structures); hot rod rock or drag rock; space rock; surf punk, and a Japanese flavor, Eleki. I know nothing about these. I just find the words interesting.
I’ve always liked him as an actor. He was cool in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992) as FBI Special Agent Chester Diamond. But he was wonderful in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Little Buddha, which remains an important film in my life (sorry, another one you’ll need to double-click):
After reading his blog, I’ve decided he’s even cooler than I suspected. Here’s his entry from September 5, posted as he was finishing up a nationwide tour:
Last we spoke, the Isaak aggravation was headed toward Florida. I am telling ya Florida was a lot of fun, but man-oh-man, was it hot. The three venues that we play down there are a lot of fun. The Hardrock Live in Orlando is a very nice-sounding venue, as is the Ruth Eckerd Hall. Last year when we played at the “Ruth,” Sheryl, our manager, had her dog Rodney out for a pee. and the people that work there said, “Don’t go out behind the parking lot because there is a gator in the water back there.” Well, of course I ran out there fast as I could to see the gator, and there he was, his beady eyes looking out of the water. Pretty cool.
Now as for Boca Raton . . . Holy sh#t . . . I mean to tell you. gentle readers. that it was HOT. We stay in this really cool old Floridian hotel that is like from the ’20s. I really love palm trees, as you know, and I have several in my back yard. I have a king palm in my back yard, which is very rare for Northern California. Matter of fact, I have not seen another one in Norcal. I also have two pygmy date palms, a kentia palm, a Guadalupe palm in the corner, a sega palm, and two queen palms out front. Now you know. Anywho, the king palm in my back yard is like about 18 feet tall, but the ones at this hotel in Boca are SEVEN STORIES TALL!!!!!!
Very beautiful. Now on to the show. I don’t know what sadist thought that having an outdoor show in Boca Raton in August was a great idea! Of course, it rained right before showtime so it was like 150% humidity. During the show I asked Omar, my drum tech, if the fans were on (I have two Vornado fans on me on the drumset). Omar said that they were but I couldn’t feel them because it was so humid. And I looked out at the poor crowd and they were wilted! But they were real troopers and stayed to the very end.
Here’s Isaak at his twangiest — 1987’s “Blue Hotel,” his very first single:
In absolute top form, doing Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely” (double click again, sorry):
And just for good measure, here’s a vid of “Wicked Game” that was directed by the amazing David Lynch. It was a tie-in for the movie release of Wild at Heart (so you’ll see clips of Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern throughout):
Gives me chills every time I hear it.