The Last Action Hero: best soundtrack ever

These days it’s common – nay, expected – for a big blockbuster movie to have a kickass soundtrack packed with original new tracks by the big heavy-hitters of the day. But it wasn’t always like that. Once upon a time the ‘movie soundtrack’ section of a record store was populated largely by recordings of the actual orchestral music scores of films. If a soundtrack featured pop songs, they were often classic tracks that everybody knew. Even in the case of big blockbuster soundtracks which featured a healthy amount of original new songs – like the album which accompanied the release of Dirty Dancing in 1987 – the tracks were very much mainstream radio-friendly pop. So the 1993 release of the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Last Action Hero and its soundtrack sent shockwaves through the hard rock and heavy metal scene of the day because it was fricken loaded with crushing tracks by metal, thrash, grunge and alternative icons.

This was an album which featured new, never-before-heard tracks by some of the biggest names in heavy music at the time, including two of thrash’s Big Four. Check out this track listing:

“Big Gun” – AC/DC
“What the Hell Have I” – Alice in Chains
“Angry Again” – Megadeth
“Real World” – Michael Kamen and Queensrÿche
“Two Steps Behind” – Def Leppard
“Poison My Eyes” – Anthrax
“Dream On” [Live] – Aerosmith
“A Little Bitter” – Alice in Chains – 3:53
“Cock the Hammer” – Cypress Hill – 4:11
“Swim” – Fishbone – 4:13
“Last Action Hero” – Tesla – 5:44
“Jack and the Ripper” – Michael Kamen & Buckethead – 3:43

AC/DC’s “Big Gun” kicks off the album, and although they’ve never played the track at a concert, it was heavily visible at the time of its release, particularly due to the pervasive presence of Arnie himself in the video. A classic driving AC/DC twelve-bar-blues-based track with a monster single note riff punctuated by a slinky, bendy melody, the song is classic Acca Dacca. Check out the video, and watch for Arnie doing his own version of Angus Young’s famous duck walk, complete with Gibson SG. While the SG looks huge on Angus’s diminutive frame, it looks like a ukulele in Arnie’s hands.

Alice In Chains’ two contributions, “What The Hell Have I” and “A Little Bitter,” are especially noteworthy entries in the band’s catalog because they represent the first tracks recorded with bass player Mike Inez, who was fresh from Ozzy Osbourne’s band at the time, replacing the departed Mike Starr. (Trivia buffs will know that Inez wrote the bass riff to Ozzy’s “No More Tears”). The two songs were mixed by Andy Wallace, although both were remixed by Toby Wright for the band’s 1999 Music Bank box set.

Three of the soundtrack’s songs continued to be played live regularly by their respective creators for quite a while afterwards. Def Leppard’s “Two Steps Behind” was released in two versions: an electric version from the band’s Retro Active compilation of rare and unreleased tracks (the song was also a B-side to the “Make Love Like A Man” single) and a stripped-back acoustic version. It’s the acoustic rendition that was used for the Last Action Hero soundtrack, and this is the version of the song that the band still plays live to this day.

Another enduring live track is Megadeth’s “Angry Again.” Written specifically for the film and later appearing on Megadeth’s Hidden Treasures rarity EP, the song was nominated for Best Metal Performance at the 1993 Grammy Awards. Apart from Marty Friedman’s brilliant guitar solo and the impressive handlebar moustache sported by Dave Mustaine in the video, the song is particularly interesting for a neat little songwriting trick used in the verses. During the first verse, Mustaine sings over the second half of a two-bar riff, but in the second verse he sings over the first half. It’s a great way of creating a sense of movement from one verse to the next, and probably one of the reasons it’s such a fan favourite.

The album’s other thrash legends, Anthrax, contributed a song leftover from the sessions for their 1993 album Sound of White Noise, their first with Armoured Saint vocalist John Bush and last with lead guitarist Danny Spitz. While the song features the same big riffage as the Sound of White Noise tracks, it has a much more adventurous arrangement, including the use of record scratching.

Queensrÿche and composer Michael Kamen collaborated on “Real World,” a sweeping epic in the vein of their previous work together, “Silent Lucidity.” In fact, “Real World” represents a step beyond “Silent Lucidity,” with Kamen set free to push the Pink Floyd-esque progressive elements of the band’s sound even further. Like “Angry Again” and “Two Steps Behind,” “Real World” was performed live on many Queensryche tours.

A few of the album’s tracks had been released previously, including Fishbone’s “Swim” (from their album Give A Monkey A Brain And He’ll Swear He’s The Center Of The Universe). Cypress Hill’s “Cock The Hammer” is from their 1993 classic Black Sunday. And of course Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” presented here as a live version with orchestration by Michael Kamen. Tesla’s “Last Action Hero” is a powerful 80s rocker, although it felt a little out of place in the grunge-friendly climate of 1993, even on an album with such 80s megastars as Def Leppard and Queensryche. But it’s a rockin’ song with some very cool Thin Lizzy-esque twin guitar harmony work.

The album is closed out in spectacular fashion with another collaboration between Michael Kamen and unlikely partner: Buckethead, whose alternatingly haunting and rocking guitar weaves through orchestral ambience and electronica. Although Buckethead was already known to hard-core guitar fans, this was probably his first ‘big time’ exposure, and as an introduction to the world at large it’s a very impressive one.

There have been plenty of innovative soundtrack albums since Last Action Hero – the rap/rock collaborations of Judgment Night later in 1993 being a particularly noteworthy example, pairing Dinosaur Jr. and Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Helmet and House of Pain, Teenage Fanclub and De La Soul, Living Colour and Run DMC, Slayer and Ice-T, Sonic Youth and Cypress Hill, Mudhoney and Sir-Mix-A-Lot, Pearl Jam and Cypress Hill, Faith No More and Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. and more. In fact the Judgment Night soundtrack may have been a big factor in the rise of rap-rock and nu metal a few years later. But perhaps that’s a story for another time.

A Heartbreaking Tale Of Childhood Betrayal


Picture it. Wodonga. 1988.

An already-into-rock Peter Hodgson is about to turn 10. All I want for my birthday is Def Leppard’s Hysteria album (on cassette, natch). My cousin Daz was into Def Leppard in a big way and he was a few years older than me and, in my opinion, totally cool. And if he liked Def Leppard, then I liked Def Leppard.

So, my birthday rolls around and in all the excitement I go to open my presend. The first is one of those awesome 80s boom boxes with two tape decks and a graphic EQ!!! I was in heaven! I could play the hell out of my Dire Straits and Beatles tapes on this!

I could make my own mixtapes containing my favourite tracks from the maybe five cassettes I owned at that point! I could tape stuff off the radio! I could graphically equalise it!

Then mum hands me another present, all wrapped up, obviously a cassette. YES, I think. This has got to be my Def Leppard tape! This is going to be so awesome! I was already picturing myself instantly entering adulthood with the mere listen of this landmark album, maybe suddenly and inexplicably finding myself driving around in a Corvette, kitted out in aviator sunglasses and fluro shoelaces – maybe a Hysteria singlet, definitely a mullet – impressing all the ladeez with my mad cool 80s rock style. So I hastily unwrap the present, all trembling hands and chattering teeth. Def Leppard Def Leppard Def Leppard!

You know what the cassette was?

Jason Donovan’s Ten Good Reasons.

Needless to say, I was mortified.

Well, I still listened to it because hey, I now had a new tape. But I begged and pleaded and wailed and whinged until I got my Def Leppard tape too.

The moral of the story, I guess, is that complaining will get you what you want.

I never did get that Def Leppard singlet though.

 

New Satriani Album And Tour!

Wow, 2018 is gonna be a big year for Joe Satriani fans! Joe has announced a new record called What Happens Next, and it’s out on January 12. It features the rhythm section of Glenn Hughes and Chad Smith, so I can’t wait to hear the results. Visit Joe’s website to hear a preview of the track ‘Energy.’ And Joe is also kicking off a new G3 tour on January 11 with John Petrucci and Phil Collen. I’m really excited about this one because that’s three of my favourite guitarists from my teen years (who am I kidding – now too!) on the one bill, and it will be really interesting to see what Phil does in a solo context. 

Here’s the press release about the new record and tour.  Read More …

Star Wars Is Def Leppard

Ok, so if you follow me on Twitter you know I’m a huge Star Wars fan. Even the prequels. Yeah. Come at me if you wanna fight about it. Anyway, something just hit me while listening to a (subscriber-only) Steele Wars podcast where fans called in with their ideas about the possible Obi Wan movie or other non-saga Star Wars movies:

STAR WARS IS DEF LEPPARD.

Def Leppard is a huge band, right? There was a time where they were selling tens of millions of albums (Hysteria alone has sold over 25 million copies). They have die-hard fans the world over who know every song from every album. Every B-Side. Every little piece of trivia. They collect pressings from different countries, etc etc etc. These are your real hardcores. 

Now, here’s the thing. Go to a Def Leppard concert (seriously, do it. They’re awesome) and you’ll see 15,000 people in the audience. Among them are probably, like, 500 people who know every single song. Then there are another 14,500 people who only know the big hits. If the band was to drop in some deep cuts to please the hardcores, you have 14,500 people going “Uh… what’s this? Let’s go get a beer.” Throw in enough of those songs to satisfy the super-intense fans – the B-side collectors – and guess what: the reviews will suck. “Oh they played a bunch of stuff I didn’t even know. What a waste of money. Nobody ever heard Lady Strange on the radio at work.” And next time Def Leppard comes to town they’ll be playing to just those 500 people – but they won’t because the machine is too big. They’re a business with employees. They have staff to pay. They have ongoing costs to cover which the touring cycle takes care of, and you can’t just take a business like that and say “Y’know what? Let’s make 95% less money on the road this year!”

What I’m saying is, some of us may really really want a Star Wars movie that fills in some piece of obscure timeline trivia or would just be, like, totally cool, but instead we’re gonna keep getting Pour Some Sugar On Me.

They’re saving Ded Flatbird for the novels and comics.

New Jackson Signature Models

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You may remember Scott Ian of Anthrax discussing his badass Jackson King V in our interview recently. This incredible guitar is now available to the public in two versions, including a USA-built behemoth. Jackson has also announced new signature models for Misha Mansoor, Phil Collen, Mark Morton and Dave Davidson. Read More …

Def Leppard Australian Tour Announced

 

Def Leppard AustraliaPRESS RELEASE: Def Leppard, one of the world’s dominating powerhouses of rock, today announced details of their 2015 Australian tour – the first show kicks off in Sydney on 17th November. With over 100 million albums sold worldwide and two prestigious Diamond Awards (over 10 million albums sales in the USA for two separate albums) to their name, Def Leppard are one of the best loved bands in rock music.  Since 1992, the band has consisted of Joe Elliott (lead vocals), Rick Savage (bass, backing vocals), Rick Allen (drums, backing vocals), Phil Collen (guitar, backing vocals) and Vivian Campbell (guitar, backing vocals). Read More …

Jackson 2014 Summer Releases

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PRESS RELEASE: Jackson is pleased to announce two new Jackson Custom Shop limited edition guitars and a signature bass guitar charged with new features, and designed for speed and killer looks.

Jackson Custom Select (JCS) Series

Jackson Custom Select Series instruments are Jackson’s top-line best, recalling the time-honored traditions of the ’80s-era Jackson Custom Shop. Nowhere else will you find U.S.-built production-model shred machines of such stellar design, peerless performance and superior craftsmanship, brought to life by the best builders in the business. Read More …

Phil Collen’s Jackson X-STROYER

Phil Collen with new signature model Jackson PC XSTROYER (2)Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen’s Ibanez Destroyer from the “Photograph” video is iconic, and but these days Phil is a Jackson dude, so what does one do when one wants to tap into the spirit of that guitar but with much more customised features? Well, one turns to the folks at Jackson to build a custom Kelly with appointments inspired by that Destroyer! Phil is using this new axe on the band’s current co-headlining tour with KISS. Of course, if you want a real Ibanez Destroyer, you’ve gotta check out THIS bad boy (one of my dream guitars) or these guys.

Below the press release with more info about the X-STROYER (plus a cropped version of the above pic so you can see more detail). Read More …