They Tampered in God’s Domain: Pat Boone

5 02 2010

So far with this blog, I’ve tried to show the virtuous side of  cultural recycling. I think there’s a lot to be said for expanding another person’s artistic endeavors beyond the scope which they had originally intended. I think that our copyright laws go too far in “building a fence” around works of cultural import, when they should really be concerned with protecting our creativity.

But, there is a dark side to the homage, the re-envisioning, and the rip-off.  Often it is little more than the final refuge of the man who has lost all hint of artistic integrity. It’s with this in mind that I introduce my new reoccurring feature “They Tampered in God’s Domain” as a dire warning of what is possible when no-talent jerks get their mitts on  somebody else’s good idea. It also functions as a grim memorial service to works of art that were mangled beyond recognition by unmitigated hacks.

I was eight or nine in 1997, and I think I first learned the term “cover album” in connection with Pat Boone’s 1997 release In a Metal Mood. Today, it is hard for me to use the phrase “cover album” without using the modifier “terrible.”

For those of you young folks who don’t know, Pat Boone was the most whitebread thing to come out of the 50’s. Please take a moment to let that statement sink in. Pat Boone’s job was to re-record popular R&B hits of the day. Usually, the actual authors these songs had committed the unforgivable crimes of “Not being the correct race,” “Just being a little swarthy,” or occasionally “Looking at an A&R rep sideways.” Black musicians couldn’t get on the white record charts. Luckily, Pat Boone was there to swoop in and sprinkle a little of his magical whiteness on these pop classics so that button-down middle-Americans could bop at sock hops to their heart’s content without fear of having their ideologies challenged.

To describe Pat Boone in a series of humorous metaphors:

Pat Boone was to pop music what a veterinary dentist is to a zoo- he made his living defanging dangerous creatures.

Pat Boone was to pop music what liquid paper is to a typewritten document- everything he touched got a little bit whiter.

Pat Boone was to pop music what potatoes were to the Irish- despite being bland and flavorless, they were a staple for a long time.

At the time of In a Metal Mood’s release, Pat Boone had gone 16 years without a release (Note: Thousands died in the great “Pat Boone Famine of 1981-1997”). Come 1997, Pat Boone knew that it was time to start ruining other people’s music again. He’d been gone too long. The result was Boone’s first hit album in 35 years, and the fourth funniest comedy album of all time (Behind George Carlin’s Indecent Exposure, Mitch Hedburg’s Mitch All Together, and Macho Man Randy Savage’s Be a Man.)

Boone released a gimmicky metal cover album in his trademark jazzy swing style. It features mostly oldies “hard rock” acts like AC/DC, Van Halen, and Dio. Boone’s cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” is guaranteed to bring any party to a screeching halt as your guests try to figure out exactly what’s going on here.

I’d try to describe the hilarity and the horror, but it defines explanation. Better to just experience it for yourself, dear
reader.

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