Steve J. Moore

I Can Get Behind That

In Music, Writing on September 23, 2008 at 3:53 pm

I recently picked up William Shatner’s album from 2004 “Has Been” upon a friend’s recommendation. My experiences with ol’ Billy Shatsky (as I like to refer to him) were previously limited to reruns of Star Trek, Priceline ads and spots for Boston Legal. The cover art is fitting, a picture of Shatner neck up with a hand covering his face in the pseudo-shame of a true has been. The title track doesn’t come until you’re mostly through the album, but it plays tongue-in-cheek into the ironic concept of hasbeendome and those who would give Bill such a label.

Some songs–and I would call them songs, as lacking in singing as they are–are avant garde amalgamations of Gene Roddenberry sci-fi and the Beatnik oral poetry of Allen Ginsberg in the strangest way. The songs are rich in confession and complex emotions being dealt with in a surprisingly casual way. One track, “That’s Me Trying” is a letter of apology to his daughter for being an absent father. While it could sound like the sadder cousin of “Butterfly Kisses,” (cheesy, overdone, and trite) it is much more akin to songs like Ben Folds’s “Still Fighting It,” a song about growing up written for his son; but maybe that song comes more easily to mind because Shatner borrows Folds’s voice for the chorus.

There’s a surprising amount of emotion in this album–and humor too! I think what I like best about it is the blending of the two. The authentic combination of humor and heartfelt emotion, though they seem to me inseparable, is the seminole mark of success in any artistic medium. Maybe that’s the curse of the eternal optimist, seeing the good in everything means finding ways to lament through a laugh and to chuckle quietly at a tear shed. Shatner’s album isn’t earth-shaking or grammy worthy (although that’s almost an insult anymore for most genres–the Grammy part) but its audacity, eccentricity, and stark likeability are just what every wordsmith, lyricist, actor or singer could hope for in an expression.

Here are a few gems along the album’s lines of humor:

The Shatner WoW commercial

1978 Rendition of Sir Elton John’s Rocket Man

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