?Nerd actors have it all. Their own signing booth at Comic-Con, their own fan-made action figures, and all the sweet nerd ass they can handle on a regular basis. But sometimes they get itchy. Sometimes they try to branch out into other avenues of entertainment like literature, or painting, or even… music. Oh, the music. Too many actors have assumed that dramatic skill translates to golden pipes, and, with a few notable exceptions, they’ve all been proven horribly, horribly wrong.
The problem is, these guys don’t learn from one another. Just because a beloved nerdy TV star in the ’60s made an inappropriate and terrible album, they never assume total singing failure will happen to them as well. Indeed, the whole Golden Throats CD collection from Rhino spotlights these misguided warblers The lesson? If you’re on a popular nerdy TV series or movie franchise, don’t suddenly assume that makes you some kind of a vocalist, people. It doesn’t, and here’s 10 chilling examples as proof.
10) Frank Gorshin
Frank’s not a singer, he’s an impressionist who got lucky playing an awesome Batman villain in the ’60s TV show. And while quite a few of the Bat-cast laid down vocal tracks for a series of novelty records (except actual cast members who were known for singing, like Eartha Kitt and Liberace), Frank’s “The Riddler” stands out from the pack. Playing his signature character, he asks stupid riddles through song which are immediately repeated verbatim by a group of ’60s chorus girls. Then, after he tells the answer, he proceeds to giggle for about 30 seconds straight while the girls sing the chorus, “Hey diddle diddle, the whole world’s a riddle to the Riddler!” Basically, it sounds like he’s orgasming every verse while a bunch of women identify that, yes, he gets off on this shit.
9) Bruce Willis
John McClane himself managed to carve out a pretty good career for himself in the ’80s, playing a fictional character who looked and sounded like Bruce Willis, if Bruce Willis was asked to do some very rousing karaoke over some generic horn and guitar studio tracks. He took on the stage name of “Bruno Radolini” and released two albums, The Return of Bruno and If It Don’t Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger. Like most actors-turned-musicians, all of the tracks are covers, including the stinker “Barnyard Boogie” that finds the Emmy-winning actor clucking like a chicken and mooing like a cow, all while sounding like an ass. Some of the tracks are decent for the time period, but now it just sounds like Hall and Oates on a day when they were phoning it in. Incidentally, Bruno returned in 1996 as a Bruce Willis-produced/voiced cartoon, Bruno the Kid, where he played a spy child.
8) Lorne Greene
Just the phrase “Lorne Greene sings!” should send most people running to the hills. Imagine his deep baritone from Battlestar Galactica crawling out of your iPod headphones like a demon coming from hell. Lorne recorded several country albums during the Bonanza boom, records that can easily be used to put the fear of God into small children. He recognizes that his singing is only so-so (it seriously sounds like someone is singing from inside a deep cave), which is why he does a decent amount of talk-singing on his records, mostly songs about cowboys and ranching and other things that befit the star of Bonanza. He never gets into Battlestar songs, although deep, gravelly-voiced songs about Cylons would have been massive hits.
7) Adam West
While Adam followed Frank Gorshin with the Batman tie-in albums (Burgess Meredith also did a spoken word piece as the Penguin), his solo single “Miranda” was a nightmare unto itself. It tells a story of a generic hero trying to tease a girl with his secret identity. He’s never labeled as Batman, however, although the cowl is featured prominently on the album cover. Instead of “Boy Wonder,” the youthful character who keeps interrupting the hero and Miranda is called “Boy Genius.” And if you liked Adam as the mayor of Quahog, imagine him trying to earnestly hit a note using the same voice. It’s not pretty, as are lyrics like “Would you like to see me make my muscles dance, Miranda?” Remember kids: Grown Men Made This.
6) Sean Connery
Sir Sean can surprise you. A young version of him sang in Disney’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People, one of the forgotten gems of cinema. It was great, despite him playing an Irishman. Later, an older version of him added a track to the George Martin tribute album, “In My Life,” an album well-known for paying homage to the aging Beatles’ producer with a parade of untalented celebrities chomping through tunes best left to professionals. Connery’s spoken-word take on the title track, with Martin playing piano, is fucking hilarious. Any dozen Connery impersonators could have done a better job than the real thing, as it sounds like he’s just been handed the lyrics to a song he’s unfamiliar with, but going to record it anyway for sport.
5) Carrie Fisher
Remember a little thing called the Star Wars Holiday Special? It was a little film from the ’70s that George Lucas wants destroyed. At the end, Princess Leia, played by Carrie Fisher, breaks out into “A Day to Celebrate.” It’s a very generic inspirational song sung to the tune of the Star Wars theme by a woman who is obviously very, very full of drugs. Multiple viewings hint that the audio and video were probably recorded separately, and the off-key take that made the final cut was the best one.
4) The Simpsons
A lot of people will rush to defend The Simpsons‘ first album, The Simpsons Sing the Blues. After all, if you grew up in the early ’90s, you probably owned it and were quite happy playing “Do the Bartman” again and again for your friends. But listen to it again. Yes, it is produced by DJ Jazzy Jeff. Yes, that is New York Dolls frontman David Johansen. And yes, that’s Joe Walsh, BB King, and Dr. John. No, it’s not very good. It’s those great early ’90s production values that more or less died in the early ’90s, with the Simpsons cast singing. Still, they do get points for making the song “Deep Deep Trouble” about how Bart can’t go to a boat show.
3) Leonard Nimoy
Golden Throats LOVES Leonard Nimoy. While Captain Kirk sort of knew that he wasn’t a musician, Mr. Spock didn’t. He recorded way too many cover ditties that should be buried under a rock, including soul-less versions of such soul tunes as “Proud Mary” and “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” They’re awful, and the sheer number of them proves that Nimoy thought his talent was something special that needed to be shared with the world. The man seriously cannot find his notes, and goes to prove this on every song he records. This includes the cute artifact “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” that finally merges the Star Trek universe with Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings into one song that is too cruel to even be played for war prisoners. CURSE THIS THING THAT SHOULD NOT BE!
2) William Shatner
For the longest time, Bill Shatner’s The Transformed Man was the album that people held up as the biggest pop culture joke of them all. His odd pauses and strange phrasing tore apart standards like “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and his live rendition of “Rocket Man” is certifiable YouTube gold. While other Trek alums like Nichelle Nichols and Brent Spiner have released more than decent records, The Shat was really just shit. All of that changed with his 2004 album Has Been, produced by pop star Ben Folds. The songs were original, the broken cadence now suited for the music. It’s actually not that bad of a spoken-word album. But God, Bill, no one’s ever going to forgive you for butchering “Rocket Man” on television.
1) Burt Ward
Thought Shatner would end up at #1, did you? Nope, that spot goes to Boy Wonder Burt Ward for the single “Boy Wonder, I Love You.” A vanity record and nothing more, Burt shines with an absolutely creepy reading of made up “fan mail” over a nice rock score by the Mothers of Invention (Frank Zappa conducted, but did not play on the tracks). Zappa wrote the song and Burt, seemingly oblivious, happily sings about how his young fans want to have him over for a sleepover. The B-side takes things in a worse direction, with a cover of the psychedelic turd “Orange Colored Sky,” chosen primarily for the lyrics “FLASH! BAM! ALAKAZAM!” that harken back to the Batman show. Zappa must have been fucking with Burt, since the track is agonizingly slow and the Boy Wonder sounds like it’s his first day talking and he’s never tried it before. It’s painful to listen to, and painful to know that Burt made money off this.