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.


~ by Craig R. Smith on 15 September 2007.

11 Responses to “Wicked, Wicked Game”

  1. Just arrived in Portland, and oddly, I almost grabbed my Chris Isaak CDs for the trip. Something stopped me—maybe the fact that I almost always grab one. But oddly, I’d been wanting to hear “Wicked Game.” So I’ll play some of these vids soon.

    You might like his Baja Sessions, very surfy.

    I did grab a Lyle Lovett CD after reading Adam’s comment yesterday (and loving Lyle as I do)…but then ended up listening to a bunch of NPR shows…

    So. Here I am. Will try to play a few of these now.

  2. BTW, that mixtape lineup makes perfect, lovely sense.

  3. I want to star in the remake of the first video in this particular blog. I don’t care if I get credit for it or not.

  4. Adamus: I suppose you want the same supermodel as your co-star?

  5. Chris Isaac made himself instantly popular over here way back in the wicked game days when he turned up on various talk shows and was witty and self deprecating ( and we love that down here, at least we used to) just as he is now. . . . The guy at the video shop gave me a free dvd of his recently, and however w. and s.-d. he is, the entirely un-ironic ‘look at me with the celebrity crumpet’ footage on display was, well, a bit sus.

    I can see how he follows on from K.D. though: I’d say their tunes prescribe a similar arc, if you think of them quickly, in a flash card sort of way. . . .

  6. or even describe.

  7. I have no idea who that was. I just seems like an awful lot of fun. It certainly did not seem like torment.

    But then again, having done some small amount of film (about thirty-seven feet worth), I know that few minutes of not seeming like torment was purchased at many hours of “What? Hold her exactly the same way again? Aw, come on, do I HAVTA hold her up against me again? Take six? What? How many times do I have to run after her on the same spot?”

    Yea, I’d do it.

    Of course, two minutes into filming I’d want her replaced with my sweetie. It would certainly make the film more real and I’d still enjoy the living daylights out of filming it. More, even, I imagine. I guess I’m weird that way.

    OK . . . back to topic. Was the co-star in that bit of film someone known and popular? Perhaps still is?

  8. Well, as I noted in my piece, I had never heard of her, but yes, apparently Helena Christensen is pretty famous. She is, and this is probably why I’ve never heard of her, a supermodel. Her father is Danish and her mother is Peruvian. Won the title of Miss Denmark at age eighteen, and represented her country at the Miss Universe pageant.

    I Googled her and learned that a neighbor is currently suing her over her NYC apartment deck; that she lived with the late INXS frontman Michael Hutchence, was romantically (and rather briefly) linked to Leonardo DiCaprio, and had an affair with Chris Isaak (I’m guessing during the filming of the video, but I couldn’t pin that down); and that she likes cheese:

    There’ve been times when I’ve bought a whole pound of cheese and walked down the street and eaten it in one go. . . . I think it’s incredibly sensual.

    Whenever my head is like a maze, I turn to the easy things in life, the things that mean the most to me: Sex and cheese. These things are connected. Truth be told, I love all cheese: French cheese, Italian cheese, even British cheese, but Danish cheese is the greatest. I get my best nightmares after I eat Danish cheese. Actually I’ve seriously thought about getting a cheese tattoo. A nice Edam on my shoulder, maybe.

  9. OK. . . . I do NOT want to be in a film with her.

    Sex and cheese are connected.


  10. Chris is cool. However, the quotes from the blog are actually from his drummer Kenney Dale Johnson. Kenney is the one who writes the blog for the band.

  11. Thanks for the correction, Elizabeth!

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