"Superman is one of the most recognizable characters on the planet," says Steve Younis, a 33-year-old graphic designer who runs SupermanHomepage.com from his fortress of solitude in Sydney, Australia. "He's endured for 65 years because people can identify with him, people want to aspire to be like him. He sets an example we'd all like to think we could emulate. His story, his feats, his interaction with the other characters in his stories -- there's something in there we all can relate to, and songwriters tap into that as part of their talents."
Take Wesley Willis: "Superman thought he was bad/He was messing with my girlfriend/I caught him in my room kissing her/I took a rubber hose and flogged his rump/I whipped Superman's ass/I whipped Superman's ass/I whipped Superman's ass/I whipped Superman's ass."
"Many people find it hard to believe that the word 'Superman' is mentioned in over 280 songs," Younis says. "Show me another fictional character with as many references. Just goes to show that Superman is so ingrained into the public's consciousness."
Perhaps too ingrained. The dude has become easy shorthand for the American Dream or the Purveyor of Your Wildest Sexual Fantasies. So you get countless "I will be your Superman"s (Joey McIntyre, Unwritten Law, Swervedriver, Rick Springfield). Then there's "Tell all your friends I'm your Superman" (Chico DeBarge); "My sexual technique is similar to that of Superman" (Johnny "Guitar" Watson); "I'm actually not Superman" (Dave Matthews); "I thought I was Superman" (John Michael Montgomery); "I'm just pretending to be Superman" (Goldfinger); "I don't want to be your Superman" (Train); "I wish I could fly like Superman" (the Kinks); "Hey, little sister, who's your Superman?" (Billy Idol); "I humbly request a Superman for sexual purposes" (Bonnie Tyler); "I humbly request a Superman for societal purposes" (Genesis); and "I don't need to be a Superman" (Warrant). Everyone from Alanis Morissette to Sister Hazel to Laurie Anderson to Right Said Fred has taken a crack at it.
Hip-hop dudes get into the act, too: Ice-T, A Tribe Called Quest, Kurtis Blow, DMX, 50 Cent, Skee-Lo. But perhaps the crown prince of Superman raps is none other than Shaquille O'Neal, who scores a record six references on the site:
"I was the baddest poppa/Baddest rhyme dropper/Bustin' more mills than Superman to helicopters."
That this doesn't particularly make sense only enhances its appeal.
But Superman references work better when expressed as an unattainable ideal, perhaps best expressed by indie-rockers Cinerama:
"And that sounds just like a job for Superman/Not the lazy slob that you think I am/Because nothing I could do/Is ever going to be quite good enough for you."
Even more subversive are the failing-Superman-as-metaphor-for-societal-decay numbers, most notably Three Doors Down's doofy butt-rock hit "Kryptonite." Younis digs that one, though, along with Five for Fighting's piano-pop ballad "Superman," which serves as Smallville's theme song and portrays Superman as an adolescent whiner ("It's not easy to be me"), which is more realistic and consequently less rousing.
But what's the definitive Superman song? No argument here if you opt for "I Am Superman," written by the Clique but immortalized by pre-vortex-of-suck R.E.M. A dear friend of mine insists the tune is written from the perspective of a little kid in love with his babysitter, hence the childlike tone: "You don't really love that guy you make it with, now do you?" Nice. But for our purposes, and in the interest of eulogizing both the inspiring spirit and human frailty of Christopher Reeve, give us the Flaming Lips' "Waitin' for a Superman":
"Tell everybody/waitin' for a Superman/that they should try to/hold on best they can/He hasn't dropped them/or forgot them or anything/It's just too heavy/for Superman to lift."
Rest in peace, Supe. -- Rob Harvilla
Roadhouse Tunes v. Road House
There are too few heroes. Director Rowdy Herrington knew this when, in 1989, he made a film that would turn angel-haired beaut Patrick Swayze into a star. That movie was Road House, a film that found Swayze's character Dalton, a bouncer in the titular road house, in the midst of broken whiskey bottles, intimate liaisons and 'splosions aplenty. The film would inspire countless fans to abandon plans of medical school and become beefy-armed bar-security personnel instead.
Over a decade later, a St. Louis musician named Mario Viele began recording various musical projects, releasing them under the label Roadhouse Tunes. Was Viele, a gadfly on the local punk scene and well-respected producer, influenced by Swayze's opus? This chart will allow you to draw your own conclusion. -- Christian Schaeffer
Cock Rock Corner
Tesla officially entered the nation's eternal consciousness with its 1994 album Bust a Nut, but since that time, not many people have followed the group's career. We were stoked, then, to get a chance to talk with Tesla in advance of their Savvis Center concert with the Scorpions on Sunday. From his home in Sacramento, 46-year-old lead singer Jeff Keith dished all the dirt.
The Riverfront Times: You guys still exist?
Jeff Keith: Absolutely.
Bigger than ever?
Yeah, yeah, we really are, man, touring with the Scorpions. We got a second lease on life. [Guitarist] Tommy [Skeoch] kinda had to go into rehab, but he's coming back for this tour; he's feeling strong, and we're feeling stronger than ever.
The Scorpions don't use, like, hearing aids and canes, do they?
I don't know. They didn't back when we were with them.
Nikola Tesla invented types of AC motors, right? Did you guys ever think about just naming yourselves AC Motor?
No. [Laughs] Because he did more than just the AC motor. The radio, the remote control. All kinds of stuff that we use today. And we kinda liked the sound of the name.
He's also known for harnessing the power of Niagara Falls. What would you like to be known for harnessing?
[Long pause] I'd like to be known for harnessing....never really thought about that. I don't really see us as just harnessing something.
What is the purpose of a Tesla coil, and have you ever used one in an orgy?
No. I've never been in an orgy, really. Maybe a couple of the other guys have been in that kind of stuff, but I can't answer for them. What is a Tesla coil? I've seen pictures of it, but to be honest with ya, I never really found out exactly what it does. I'm not sure if it gathers the electricity from, like, lightning and stuff like that. I'm not too sure.
Though you've never been in an orgy, in Tesla's downtime you spent a year spinning records at a strip club. Is it fair to say that you're a big fan of female breasts?
No, not really. You'd think that, but I was just used to being on the mic and being around that kind of atmosphere, and a friend that did it just said, "Hey, I can get you a job down here." I didn't do it because I just wanted to check out a bunch of tits and ass. If anything, it opened me up to a lot of other music, like dance music. -- Ben Westhoff