Cutouts Gone Wild!: Various Artists, “Dragnet Original Soundtrack”


Various Artists – Dragnet Original Soundtrack (1987)
purchase this album (Amazon)

You know, writing about cutouts in the digital age is more difficult than it looks. Not a week goes by that some knucklehead doesn’t decide to start up a reissue label, hoping to license crappy old records on the cheap and siphon mythical big bucks out of niche markets. (For instance, as we discovered last week, both the Village People’s Rendezvous and The Ethel Merman Disco Album are in print.) To find an album that’s both out of print and worth writing about is easier said than done. (For instance, I’ve had a copy of the last Quarterflash album in the Cutouts Gone Wild! on-deck circle for close to a year.)

But this? This, friends, is the magic fucking bullet. Today we gather to discuss an album that will never be in print so long as Tom Hanks, or any of his heirs, walk the earth.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Dragnet soundtrack.

It’s a movie nobody ever talks about anymore, but the Dragnet movie — starring Dan Aykroyd as…well, shit, let’s just take a look at the synopsis:

Sgt. Joe Friday’s nephew is involuntarily assigned to a smart-alecky, street-wise partner, Pep Streebeck, and they are charged to investigate a series of religious cult crimes in Los Angeles. The two cops follow the trail to a phony televangelist, the Reverend Jonathan Whirley. From there, they are only a step away from uncovering an Orange County-based religious cult calling itself P.A.G.A.N. (People Against Goodness And Normalcy). After sneaking into a secret ceremony, Friday falls in love with the sacrificial virgin Connie Swail. So much so that even his superior Captain Bill Gannon orders him off the case, but Friday continues on.

Aykroyd was Friday, Hanks was Streebeck, and and the movie was awful — one of the bigger disappointments of the year. It tried to be both a parody and an homage to the old TV show (Harry Morgan even plays the police chief), but it sucked at either, at least partly because of the troublingly high Aykroyd quotient: an Aykroyd in front of the camera, an Aykroyd getting a screenwriting credit, and two — two! — Aykroyds on the soundtrack.

Oh, the soundtrack. Children of today, who are too young to have experienced the joy and wonder of the ’80s soundtrack album, my heart goes out to you. Your closest point of reference to the wonderful trainwrecks your elders experienced over their closing credits is probably Puff Daddy and Jimmy Page’s cover of “Kashmir,” which although legitimately terrible, in no way compares to what I’m about to show you.

Behold the rapping, dancing duo of Aykroyd and Hanks:

(And yes, I’m aware of the fact that the audio and video are terrible. Trust me, this is one case when lower fidelity is preferable.)

The video you just watched, mouth agape, eyes full of dumb wonder, was for “City of Crime” (download), a tragedy of Biblical proportions that went straight the fuck into heavy rotation on MTV in the summer of ’87. (Yes, AOR nerds, that’s Glenn Hughes and Pat Thrall you hear on the track. And see in the video, too, if I’m not mistaken.) This song makes me wish I knew Tom Hanks, so I could play it loud whenever he came over. I’d play the video, too. Dragnet marks a sort of mid-career high point for Dan Aykroyd (file under: “At least it isn’t Nothing But Trouble“), but it’s easily one of the worst things Hanks has ever been involved with. You could fit the entire run of Bosom Buddies, The Money Pit, and Joe vs. the Volcano six times lengthwise in here.

But I digress. Back to the music. Is this a novelty soundtrack? No sir. Why, who kicks things off on the first track but Patti LaBelle? Her irritating hit “On My Own” notwithstanding, solo success proved elusive for Patti in the ’80s, but goddamn if she didn’t keep popping up on soundtrack after soundtrack, and here she is again, demanding “Just the Facts” (download). (Fact one: Patti LaBelle sucks.)

So we’ve got Patti LaBelle and a Tom Hanks/Dan Aykroyd rap duet. What’s the next logical step? If you answered “Art of Noise,” then punch yourself in the face, because you know this soundtrack far too well. Yes, Trevor Horn’s favorite acoustic folk combo is here, whipping up a brand new, totally ’80s version of the “Dragnet” theme (download). And if you’ve got Art of Noise on the soundtrack, shit, you had damn well better get yourself a piping hot cup of New Edition. I’m reasonably certain that “Helplessly in Love” (download) has nothing to do with anything in the film, but it’s probably the best thing here, a glossy ball of ’80s R&B (now with 100% more synth harp!)

The pièce de résistance, however, is “Dance or Die” (download), credited to Peter Aykroyd and Pat Thrall, which bears the delightful distinction of being one of the nuttiest songs I’ve ever heard in my life (this includes the entire recorded output of the Shaggs). It’s like technically proficient outsider music, if you can imagine such a thing, and for almost 21 years now, I’ve been trying to figure out anything about this song — such as who wrote it and why — that will help explain its reason for being. I know Aykroyd sings “the gods are angry” a few dozen times — and they surely were — but the rest of the song has me stumped. It’s like one of those horrible, kitschy pieces of poster art that were so popular in the ’90s — the ones that “turned into” another picture if you stared at them long enough. I keep listening to it, hoping it’ll reveal itself to me, but it doesn’t, and I still can’t turn away.

Agh. Anyway, the rest of the soundtrack consists of boring instrumental pieces from Ira Newborn, who should have known better than to get involved with this batch of dookie, but must have been blinded by his friendship with Aykroyd. That probably explains a lot of people’s involvement in this turkey, actually; Dan’s brother was really the only one done any favors here. Which reminds me — if you’ll excuse me, I need to go listen to “Dance or Die” again.

  • Rob C

    Wow…this should have stayed dead and buried! There is one cutout that comes to mind that isn't on CD yet…the New Wave legends Modern English album STOP START. Could be one to feature in a future edition?

  • eric

    Is LaBelle sort of the poor man's Aretha?

    I didn't remember this movie being that bad. Maybe I can still find it on VHS at the library. So I can revisit its mediocrity. :)

  • WHarrisBullzEye

    Hey, hey, hey…I'll have you know that I once owned and loved the 45 for “City of Crime.”

  • David_E

    See, the trick is to look *past* the picture, then blur your eyes, then slowly let them refocus.

    When you do that, “Dance Or Die” sounds like warmed-over Talking Heads.

  • GrayFlannelSuit

    I totally had this soundtrack on tape! But speaking of great soundtracks, how has Real Genius never been honored with a release???

  • DavidMedsker

    I had the 12″ mix for “Dragnet.” I couldn't help myself, my idol Arthur Baker remixed it. (It sucked, by the way.)

    As bad as “City of Crime” is, it has nothing on the remake of “Land of a Thousand Dances” Aykroyd would do two years later. Remember that? No? You've forgotten it? Good for you. Keep it that way.

  • jasonhare

    Tom Hanks? Not a bad dancer.

  • jefito

    Wait, Aykroyd did that? I thought he just blackmailed Wilson Pickett into doing it.

  • Rich

    “Excuse me, excuse me, don't use, abuse, or refuse me!” I haven't sung that phrase since I was in 10th grade!!!

    And now I must go hang myself.

  • rsbrandt

    When Playboy held its anniversary celebration in Vegas…at the Palms, of course (where else would you celebrate Playboy?)…I had the good fortune to exchange a high-five with Ava Fabian. Remember: She's acted opposite Tom Hanks!

  • Malchus

    Man, that song is horrid. But it reminds me of a bygone day when Tom Hanks would act goofy and was funny. I miss the goofy and funny Tom Hanks.

  • Assclown

    Would I get myself banned from here if I admitted that I owned the City of Crime single when it came out and played it more than once?

  • JohnHughes

    “Yes, Trevor Horn’s favorite acoustic folk combo is here…”

    Okay, I laughed at that.

  • jefito

    Bless your heart, John. I was hoping someone would.

  • rahulgupta

    I'm with you Assclown.

    I think I'm going to have to play “City of Crime” at least once a day for the next week. I forgot how much I loved this song…

    I'd like to forget again. I think a week'd do it.

  • Gumby

    Thanks for posting City of Crime. I used to have the soundtrack, but lost it.

  • aka

    The download links seem broken, can they be fixed? I've been looking for “Dance or Die” everywhere!

  • aka

    The download links seem broken, can they be fixed? I've been looking for “Dance or Die” everywhere!

  • aka

    The download links seem broken, can they be fixed? I've been looking for “Dance or Die” everywhere!