11/28/09

Beatles Covers #5: Lucy in the Sky with Shatner




By now, I'm sure everybody's heard tracks from Shatner's notorious The Transformed Man album released in 1968. Today, we're going to focus on the song "Spleen/Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and search for some much needed answers and closure to this vinyl enigma. Before we take off, take another listen.



William Shatner - Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds .mp3



Found at bee mp3 search engine


Question #1: Is he serious?

The album is so over-the top, that many think Shatner is merely having a good time and goofing around. Sorry. Shat is dead freaking serious. Shatner's liner notes which were originally penned when the album came out, make it clear that he was legitimately proud of his accomplishment. Go here to read the full text. Here's a taste.

The birth of this album grew out of the chance meeting of a handful of people - like different roads winding about for miles and then all coming together at one place - with each of us bringing a wealth of experience and know-how to the converging point...
I mean, c'mon, this Shatner we're talking about.... in his prime! He was incapable of creating anything but an overly indulgent piece of work. He gave new meaning the word "overacting"; this exactly the type of guy who's going to try to turn a Beatles song into a Shakespearean tragedy. Look up "histrionic personality disorder" and you're liable to find a picture of Shat.



Question #2: Spleen?


The song is not just called "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". No, that would be too base and simpleminded for a man of such rich talents as Shatner. He had to have a impressionistic thought poetry before each track. The meaning is explained in the original liner notes:

The idea of grouping the numbers together in pairs is to unfold multiple perspectives of the same subject, like the two sides of a coin, tension and resolution.

In the case of  "Spleen/Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", the two sides of the coin are: "utter dejection - super elation". But why use the word "spleen"? The spleen is an organ once conceived as the seat of emotions or passions. Thus the phrase to denote an ill temper is to "vent one's spleen".


Question #3: What kind of sicko would produce an album like this?

Don Ralke - the same guy who produced the infamous Murray Wilson album, The Many Moods of Murray Wilson. Murray was the alcoholic abusive dad of The Beach Boys. His horrific treatment of Brian and two brothers is legendary. For instance, he reportedly removed his glass eye and made Brian stare into his empty eye socket during the "Help Me Rhonda" sessions. In the early days, he made Brian shit on a paper plate in front of the whole family.  Somehow, these "moods" never got captured on the Many Moods LP.






Question #4: What does Shatner have to say about his checkered musical past? Does he exhibit shame, humiliation, embarrassment?

Hell, no - this is Shatner we're talkin' about!




I'll leave you with a brilliant piece of fan art. This video is a wonderful home-made homage to this '68 Shat classic. Enjoy.





Legal Bit: 'Star Trek' is a registered trademark of Paramount Pictures. The 'Star Trek' logo and all images from the television series are copyright Paramount Pictures unless otherwise stated; music is copyright the original composers and producers; no copyright infringement is intended. Who loves ya, baby?



8 comments:

  1. I love this album, and not just for those kitschy reasons that many mention. I find the album wonderfully... comforting. For me, "The Transformed Man" purifies the soul, it takes me to that special place where Shatner is King, Landlord and Capo di tutti capi of all that is. Magnificent arrangements by Don Ralke. I'm only a casual Star Trek fan, so it's not a case of Shatner Worship on that level, but with The Transformed Man one has the Kirk-era Shatner at the peak of his powers.

    I am also of the few who finds genuine pathos in "Elegy For the Brave." I always got the impression that he was playing it for real on this album, and only in the 1990s when the Priceline commercials started getting attention was Shatner poking fun at his past. Add the classic appearance on SNL back in '86 and you do have a man who knows how to laugh at himself all the way to the bank.

    I used to work in a record store and after closing we always put on this album while we went about closing, cleaning, etc.

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  2. Bill Shatner was, is and always will be THE MAN!

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  3. What about Mr. Shatner's unforgettable cover of "Rocket Man"? Widely available on youtube.

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  4. I love his rendition - especially when I need a good laugh! And yeah, Sam, his Rocket Man is classic.

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  5. Shat definitely only ran with his own ridiculousness in the past decade or two, when he figured out it was a good way to get a big paycheck. Though, frankly, I think in his heart of hearts he still thinks he really is a genius.

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  6. Wow, that track is really, really, something. I hardly know what to say.

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  7. While this album is funny, his Has Been album with Ben Folds is fantastic. The songs are great and he opens himself up about his life, stardom and the death of his wife.

    This is not an ironic enjoyment, this is sincere "he's got it going on" kind of enjoyment. His rendition of Common People stands out as one of my all-time favorite songs.

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  8. I don't buy into the "Has Been" album because that's more like the post-modern/Buffy the Vampire Slayer/wink, wink, nudge nudge/ironic mung-ola pop culture's been subjected to since the 1990s. No thanks, but I'll take the unselfconscious kitsch of Shatner '68 and the true masterpiece that is "The Transformed Man." Thank the Audio Gods that it was re-released on CD in 2004. I remember sweating out the Ebay auction of the first CD release, long since out of print.

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