Friday, April 02, 2010

"Chains" & "Whipped Cream..."

No, I'm not referring to the popular fetish that oh, so many of my friends indulge in...

I finally found a digital copy of The Wad's "Chains" today on the Internet, actually purchasing it from their label Twin/Tone. This may not mean dick to you, but it was one of those flea market moments, where you finally lay your hands on that elusive thing that you've been looking for forever. And all for $0.99! Except I can't actually lay my hands on it, but you know what I mean.

The Wad were one of those many early Minneapolis bands that Twin/Tone scooped up and put out on compilations hoping that one of them would break big. None of them did. Sure, local enthusiasts knew of the short-lived Suicide Commandos and the Suburbs, but not many folks outside of the Twin Cities areas even had a clue. In fact, the only way you could get a copy of "Chains" by The Wad was if you purchased the double LP, "Big Hits Of Mid-America Volume Three" released in 1979. Which I acquired about six years ago at the WFMU Record Fair. As far as I know, this is the only song that The Wad ever released.

I first became aware of "Chains" when Soul Asylum, another Twin/Tone band that actually went somewhere (along with my beloved The Replacements). On their EP, "Clam Dip & Other Delights" they covered "Chains," "Jukebox Hero" by Foreigner (!) and "Movin' On" made famous by Janis Joplin. Fantastic record, but "Chains" was always the standout track for me. And thus the quest to hear the original began.

Now after hearing both versions many, many times today, although Soul Asylum could not have covered it had The Wad not written it, I still prefer Soul Asylum's version. It's louder, faster and it rules (that's a music aficionado in-joke). But it is and it does. You know those cover versions of songs that people take and make their own - James' version of Robert's "All Along The Watchtower" being the classic example - well, this is certainly one of those. And it's also funny how 30 years later a "punky" song (The Wad's) sounds like Barbara Streisand, not that there's anything wrong with Babs, mind you! Remind me to tell you about hearing The Clash's "Lost In The Supermarket" in an ACTUAL supermarket...

Now, let's talk about the album cover to "Clam Dip..." Look familiar? Of course it does. It's a parody of Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass' "Whipped Cream & Other Delights, which sold more than 6 million copies when it was released in April 1965 and was only bumped out of the Billboard #1 spot by a little-known album called "Revolver." Go to any Goodwill - I'll bet you money - and look through the albums. You'll see AT LEAST ONE copy of this record.

Herb's album cover features a very popular model of the era, Dolores Erickson, who was signed with Ford Modeling Agency. She was covered in shaving cream with a dollop of actual whipped cream on her head, and apparently three months pregnant. Soul Asylum's album cover features bassist Karl Mueller, who is actually covered in cream cheese and seafood, doubtfully carrying child. Soul Asylum had just been signed to A&M records, the "A" standing for Alpert, so parody nuts they went regarding one of their new bosses.

Ms. Erickson, currently 73 years old, resides in Kelso, Washington and did a Playboy interview about the album cover in November of 2005 entitled "The Whipped-Cream Girl Speaks." Mr. Mueller, a fantastic bassist that I got to witness live many times before Soul Asylum sold their souls to Sony and recorded that "Runaway Train" piece of shit and faded into radio-friendly obscurity, sadly developed throat cancer and passed away the very same year that Dolores did the Playboy interview. He was 41 years old. At least he made some money...and at his benefit, it was the first time Grant Hart and Bob Mould appeared together since the demise of you-know-who.

The Wad - "Chains"
Soul Asylum - "Chains"

Hell, for all I know, ya'll will probably hate both versions and be allergic to Herb Alpert, shaving cream and scallops. If so, the hell with you. I'll post a more gossip-worthy tidbit tomorrow, you vultures...

Cover Stars: Karl Mueller and Dolores Erickson, respectively.

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