Hot patootie, bless my soul, I really love that rock and roll! The legendary songs from The Rocky Horror Show, including the legendary Time Warp, are a crucial part of its joy and appeal, as they’re catchy, funny and occasionally moving. Richard O’Brien actually wrote some of the songs before he came up with the idea of Rocky Horror, and found that he was able to slot some of them in.
So as the second part of my Halloween trilogy – after discussing the film and related productions, and before I talk about my recent experience at the live show – I thought I’d do some brief reviews of the relevant albums and songs I have in my music collection, and a few of the other recordings I’m aware of, as it’s always interesting to hear different interpretations. I certainly haven’t mentioned all of the music that has ever been released in relation to Rocky Horror, but I have covered most of the commercially available releases. So I hope you enjoy!
First and foremost, I do of course own the movie soundtrack – specifically the remastered 40th anniversary Absolute Treasures edition, which includes the song Once In A While that was sadly cut from the movie. But I’ve also kept the extended and karaoke remixes of The Time Warp from the 1989 release that I owned previously.
I also have the Sing It! album with all the backing tracks, as the instrumental arrangements are fun to hear in isolation, and to sing along with if you feel so inclined.
Plus I have the 1983 Audience Par-Tic-I-Pation album, where an audience joins in with callbacks throughout the film. On the film’s Blu-ray these callbacks are provided by subtitles in the Midnight Experience bonus feature (mentioned in my previous post). It’s a bit hard to understand what’s being said sometimes with so many voices at once, but it certainly gives a good sense of how fully involved an audience can potentially get during a screening and it is quite amusing sometimes.
There is also a Shock Treatment soundtrack from the 1981 follow-up movie. But, as explained in my previous post, I wasn’t a fan of it. Some of the songs are ok, but they just don’t grab me in the same way that those from Rocky Horror do, so I’m not bothered about owning this album.
I’ve also checked out several recordings by casts from different stage productions, mostly through downloads but I have a couple on CD:
- 1973 London Cast, 1974 Roxy Cast & 1974 Australian Cast – These albums capture the early evolution of the show, with the London & Roxy recordings featuring many actors who later starred in the 1975 film. Overall they’re not quite as good as the film soundtrack in my view, as I don’t think the performances are as powerful as they later became. But they still contain some enjoyable renditions, such as Tim Curry in the Roxy version with songs like Sweet Transvestite, and it’s interesting to hear how the musical arrangements differ to the movie. So they are fun to listen to, as well as having important historical significance.
- 1990 London Cast (The Whole Gory Story) – This is the only album that includes all of the dialogue as well as all of the songs, so it’s worth getting for that reason alone. The acting and singing aren’t generally on a par with the film, but it’s still good. And there are some great names in the cast including Brad played by Adrian Edmondson, Frank N. Furter played by Tim McInnerny, the Narrator played by Jonathan Adams (who played the same role in the original London stage cast, but played Dr. Everett Scott in the movie), and Riff Raff played by Edward Tudor-Pole (who not only took on the part that Richard O’Brien played in the movie, but also took over from Richard as host of TV game show The Crystal Maze).
- 1996 London Studio Cast – This album, recorded in Dolby Surround Sound, is based on the arrangements from the original 1973 London tour. Some of the performers have been part of live Rocky Horror productions before, including Howard Samuels as Frank N. Furter and Aiden Bell as Riff Raff. And they are joined by stars including horror film legend Christopher Lee as a menacing-sounding Narrator, while Anita Dobson performs Science Fiction, Double Feature as the Usherette and a verse in The Time Warp as Magenta. Ultimately, though, it’s not very good compared to other soundtracks, with some performances that are irritating, and most of the others being ok at best. The one exception by miles is a fabulous version of Hot Patootie by Brian May from Queen, and his involvement naturally came about because he was in a relationship with Anita (whom he later married in 2000). He recorded his own arrangement of the song with his own backing band, and considered releasing it as a single or including it on a solo album. But when those ideas fell through, it was added to the third release of this cast recording instead. (April 2022 Update: Brian has now included the song on the reissue of his solo album Another World.)
- 1998 Norwich Cast (The New Rocky Horror Show – 25 Years Young) – This is a great live album recorded over 3 nights at the Norwich Theatre Royal. It includes singer Jason Donovan as Frank N. Furter, and the late great TV & radio host Nicholas Parsons as the Narrator. The musical performances are excellent, and there are nice little moments of audience participation, especially when Nicholas is introducing Over At The Frankenstein Place. The two bonus Time Warp remixes (Wand & Face Off radio edits) can be ignored though, they’re not very good.
- 2000 Broadway Cast – This is an enjoyably energetic recording, with catchy and strong performances throughout. Rock star Joan Jett was part of the cast at this stage, but as she had contractual issues with her record label she was replaced by her understudy Kristen Lee Kelly on the album.
There are various albums by other artists out there, none of which I personally own because they’re not of interest to me, having heard bits of them online. But they include:
- The Rocky Horror Glee Show – To accompany Glee’s Rocky Horror episode.
- Let’s Do The Time Warp Again – To accompany the awful 2016 Fox TV remake, though Adam Lambert does a reasonable job with Hot Patootie.
- The Gothy Horror Picture Show – Goth rock versions by various artists.
- The Rocky Horror Punk Rock Show – Punk versions by modern punk artists.
- Songs From The Rocky Horror Show – A live album by The Polyphonic Spree.
However, I do own multiple versions of The Time Warp by Damian. Sure, it’s cheesy, but it’s an enjoyably catchy disco version of the song that came out during my youth, and was most likely my first exposure to anything Rocky Horror related. There were a few different versions and remixes that had mixed fortunes in the charts, but the most significant ones are:
- The original version from 1987, which failed to chart and is thus not very well known. It’s not too bad though.
- The reworked Time Warp II from 1988, including the Extended Remix that’s notable for using the full lyrics in the verses.
- The PWL Remix & Extended Remix from 1989. This is the version that most people are familiar with, as it was in the Top 10 for 3 weeks (peaking at number 7 for a fortnight), earned Damian an appearance on Top Of The Pops. and was often played in discos. It’s clearly a remix of Time Warp II, but drops the Roman numerals from the name, hence some people assume it’s the original version.
His follow-up single was a cover of Wig Wam Bam, originally by The Sweet, and it also had an extended remix. However, it sounded very similar to The Time Warp, perhaps too much so, and only got to number 49 in the UK chart.
Damian Davey (born as Damian Baker) sadly passed away from cancer in 2017 at the age of just 52. His Time Warping legacy still lives on though.
A few other notable covers and parodies of Rocky Horror songs, not included on the albums above, include:
- Science Fiction / Double Feature:
- Dammit Janet:
- Ska Tune Network – Ska covers of this song and Time Warp by one guy singing all the parts.
- Sweet Transvestite:
- Time Warp:
- Black Lace – The novelty pop group best known for Agadoo.
- Doctor & The Medics – The glam rock group best known for covering Spirit In The Sky.
- Gelsey Laurie – An impressive recreation of the film version, by a father and daughter playing all the parts, posted during lockdown in 2020.
- The Hillywood Show – A brilliant Doctor Who parody, for which there is also a behind the scenes video.
- Kodak Express Australia – An amusing commercial parodying the song.
- The Rocky Horror Tribute Show – From the 2006 concert, with Kraig Thornber, Toyah Wilcox & Amy Field (more on this in my previous post).
- The Simpsons – A parody from Season 27 about Halloween.
- Tenacious D – A cover to get people voting in the 2020 US election.
- The Toons – A great version posted on their Youtube channel.
Some of the stars from the film and stage show have had their own music careers as well. Again, I don’t own everything that’s out there, but I do have a few albums by a couple of people in particular:
- Richard O’Brien – Absolute O’Brien. This album contains songs from a theatre show he wrote and starred in called Disgracefully Yours, and some other tracks he felt inspired to write. It’s a nice jazz style album, with some songs that are quite laid back and a few that are a bit catchy, so it’s worth a listen.
- Tim Curry – Read My Lips, Fearless, Simplicity, From The Vaults & the two previously unreleased live tracks on The Best Of Tim Curry. There are some fun tracks on these albums, especially I Do The Rock and Paradise Garage from Fearless (his best album), which were often played before midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He does some nice covers too, such as Anyone Who Had A Heart on Read My Lips and Dancing In The Street on Simplicity. You can see lots of Tim’s songs, interviews and more on the Tim Curry Youtube channel.
And that’s it, I hope you enjoyed that little musical journey. Next up I’ll conclude the trilogy with my main Halloween post, about losing my Rocky Horror virginity by seeing a live show for the first time last weekend. So join me tomorrow to find out how it went!