one of the first things i did when i got my drivers licence was to go on a tour of CD stores in a 50 mile radius. if i recall right, Hennie, a family friend via my brother, had absolutely nothing better to do than come along with me. what was the purpose of this voyage? well, it was around 1993 or 1994, so you may well think it was to look for Suede or something like that. nope. after reading an article in Empire film magazine (which used to be really rather good), i learned of an album i had to own.
that album was The Transformed Man by William Shatner.
the trip proved to be a failure. nowhere had it on CD, or even had any idea if it was on CD at that time. this was all pre-widespread internet, you see. i thus had to go quite some time without owning or even hearing Shatner's finest hour.
when the internet got a bit widespread in the late 90s, i of course heard it, and was thrilled to hear that it was all that was promised. but hearing it on the internet is not the same as owning the album.
skip along to the 2000s and, thanks to internet orders and a bizarre find in a CD sale, i, dear reader, i - your humble narrator - own two copies of The Transformed Man by William Shatner. i have done so for a couple of years at least, but now feels like the time to share this with the world at large. i presume you wish to see them, so here you go.
i would imagine that if you got to this here web thing via google then you are well aware of the ways of The Transformed Man and do not need a history of it as such. for the benefit of those who have absolutely no clue at all what this is, a brief rundown of it is in order, then.
in the late 60s, Star Trek was coming to an end. TV viewing figures were low, and the game was up. William Shatner then looked to other vehicles which might be suitable to carry his message to the world and, possibly with the help of "medication" when you hear the album, decided music would be the channel for his message. somewhat psychedelic music. mixed with poetry and Shakespeare recitals.
if you've not heard the album, then the answer to the question posed by the above is oh hell yes, it is certainly as awesome and excellent as that sounds.
why is it that i have two copies? mostly because it is The Transformed Man by William Shatner. if everyone had two copies, they would be twice as awesome as they presently are and the world would be an amazing place. Liam Gallagher bought four copies of The Stone Roses debut album. having two copies of Shatner's debut record seems rather tame in comparison.
a partial other reason for having two is that they are the same but different. the first copy i got on CD, the Decca issue, features the album as six tracks, making a single track out of the songs and the recitals as Shatner intended the audience to hear them. the second, one i found in a sale, is issued by someone called Rev-Ola. they slightly disrespect the Shatner vision by making in an 11 track affair, separating the music and poems out into their own segments.
you could see the difference in the tracklisting below if Blogger would stop rotating my pictures for no apparent reason.
which is the better version of the album? neither and yet both. the Decca issue has a lavish booklet with some great photographs and a history of the album. the Rev-Ola one has no such thing in it, but it does have a two page essay penned by Shatner himself. so really, to get the full on Shatner experience, like me you really need to own both copies.
but what of the record itself? what message is it that Shatner sought to spread to the world via pscyhedelia and poetry? just who or what is The Transformed Man and how does one attain that state? i wish i could give you an answer. that we still have war, famine and to an extent death in this world means that the mysteries and knowledge of the album have yet to be truly unlocked. we can understand elements of the album, but thus far no one has truly grasped the whole concept in any holistic sense. if they had, every city in every country would have a statue of that person, praising them for bringing a universal sense of love and understanding via the teachings of the fully translated The Transformed Man.
that is my take, at the least. some tend to dismiss it as some sort of bonkers novelty item, quite possibly recorded under the influence of a very impressive, surprisingly not quite lethal range of substances. this interpretation is most frequently reached on the bits of the album where Shatner is apparently shouting at himself. in particular on his reworking of Mr Tambourine Man.
i am listening to it now as i write this. presently his reading of what appears to be a jolly exciting part of Hamlet is on. i can only picture Laurence Olivier or Richard Burton hearing this Shatner recording at the time and thinking "this American boy has done things to the text that we did not ever dream possible". the legacy of Shatner's interpretation of Hamlet on the album can be seen in the film versions of the play thrust onto the world in the 90s by Mel Gibson and Kenneth Brannagh. both actors, and i cannot overstate how wise they were in doing this, steered well clear of allowing their performances to in any way echo or resemble the Shatner reading. the consequences of allowing a direct comparison would have been, no doubt, limiting to their careers. although in fairness Mel appears to have found other ways to limit his career of late.
on that note, i can only assume that Brannagh got hold of a copy of The Transformed Man in his early, formulative years. if he had not, then he might well have not gone on to do wonders with Shakespeare, or made Thor. if my assumption here is correct, he probably lost or misplaced his copy of the album when he agreed to star in Wild Wild West.
oh. goody, look, Blogger has rotated another picture for me. sorry, i wanted to give you as much of a visual idea of the album as i could.
a musical highlight for many - of both the album The Transformed Man and their very lives - is of course Shatner's presentation of how he believes Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds should sound. Shatner, at the time and in the present day, is of course far too modest and respectful of his peers to have stated that his version is superior to the original by The Beatles. he just lets the song do it.
there are many, many ways to spot how Shatner's version of the song is better than the one by The Beatles. as and when (rather when) you get the album you will spot them and keep on spotting them, but here are a few pointers for you.
- for years John Lennon denied the song was about LSD, instead saying it was inspired by a picture one of his children, presumably that Julian one, did at school called Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. Shatner's version does not piss about so, it is clearly a homage to LSD.
- The Beatles recording features Ringo Starr. Shatner instead has a drummer on his.
- there is hardly any, if any at all, shouting on the version by The Beatles. Shatner's has lots of shouting.
- in the Sgt Pepper's album, The Beatles have a song sung by Ringo Starr before Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. on The Transformed Man, Shatner has a translation of Spleen before the song.
i could go on, but shall not.
as for the title track itself, well, best you hear it for yourself. anything i say about it would be just nonsense, it can only be appreciated, if not understood, when you hear Shatner doing it.
sadly and surprisingly, sales of The Transformed Man on release were not what was expected. in all likelihood a great deal of sabogate probably went on, with sales of the record stopped to protect the careers of other, lesser musicians. if the true genius of Shatner's The Transformed Man had been appreciated in its day as it should have been, the likes of Sinatra and yes, indeed even The King, Elvis Presley, would probably have found themselves only 2nd or 3rd billing to Shatner in Vegas during the 70s.
off you go then, go and buy this album and make your life better. or do one of them download things and only make it slightly better.
no, i do not have the Nimoy record. Nimoy sings only of those elves or midget things that get all excited about walking across a field to throw a ring into a volcano. Nimoy is for geeks, dorks and those that cannot have proper, sexually fulfilling relationships with other people, even other geeks and dorks as they are too busy reading about elves and midgets and rings. Shanter is for warm blooded love machines, seeking to explore their sexuality of whatever persuasion as frequently as possible whilst gaining enlightenment from the sounds and the vibes of The Transformed Man.
i leave you as i listen to Mr Tambourine Man by William Shatner. i do not understand why neither Dylan nor The Byrds thought to just shout the lyrics instead of messing about with all that singing nonsense.
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!