There’s a long strange history of actors moonlighting in the music biz, from Robert Mitchum’s bizarre shimmy with calypso music to Ryan Gosling’s membership in the indie goth outfit Dead Man’s Bones. Things got especially weird during the nineteen-eighties, the wildest of musical decades. Only on that cultural roller coaster could Eddie Murphy nearly top the charts and Bruce Willis absolutely redefine the scope of vanity project by roping major stars into a fictional rock god history to accompany a record of appalling R&B covers. And only in the nineteen-eighties could character actor Bill Paxton be one-half of a new wave act that was signed to a major label.
Martini Ranch formed in the early eighties, but didn’t release their debut full-length, Holy Cow, until 1988, well past the point that their synth-driven pop could still feel novel. Still, there are benefits that come with having Hollywood pals in one’s corner when it comes time to make and push an album. The band starred in a music video directed by James Cameron, in his usual over-stuffed style. And Holy Cow is stocked with guests, including Bud Cort, Mark Mothersbaugh, and major eighties get Judge Reinhold.
Cindy Wilson of the B-52’s, maybe the most notable visitor on the album, appears on three tracks. One of those is “World Without Walls,” which opens with a clip of Ronald Reagan’s famous call to tear down the Berlin Wall. (When the song was released, the Cold War structure in question was still standing.) It isn’t a great song, by any means. It sounds a little bit like something that might be delivered by the sort of half-spoof new wave band that would be set up for derision in a movie like Tapeheads. But, like just about everything else Paxton did (there are exceptions), the track is informed by an earnest eagerness to please that’s kind of irresistible. As far as movie actor side projects go, that’s a rare and wondrous attribute.
Listen or download –> Martini Ranch, “World Without Walls”
(Disclaimer: To the best of my knowledge, Holy Cow and the other products of Martini Ranch’s relatively brief existence aren’t available as physical objects that can be purchased from your local, independently-owned record store in a manner that properly compensates all involved. This song is offered here with that understanding. Still, I know the rules. I will gladly and promptly remove this file from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)