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PRINCELY BOOTLEG : Some People'll Do Anything to Hear These Songs

February 20, 1994|CHRIS WILLMAN

Purely for the perverse palette, Rhino Records has two CDs out in its popular "Golden Throats" series, consisting of misbegotten recordings by famous actors--from William Shatner to Jack Webb--who briefly thought they were singers, doing pop standards by Dylan, the Beatles and others.

Now there's an entirely contemporary, de facto "Golden Throats Vol. 3" making the rounds of camp fans' cassette decks--though it's not in stores and never will be. It's the lost original soundtrack to "I'll Do Anything," featuring Julie Kavner, Albert Brooks and Tracy Ullman doing Prince, and it's the most sought-after bootleg in town.

The tapes being circulated include Prince's demos for the nine songs he wrote for the ill-fated musical incarnation of James L. Brooks' film, followed by the actors' renditions of those same songs, plus a lone Sinead O'Connor contribution. All musical numbers were eventually cut from the finished product after disastrous test screenings, except for a snippet of a children's tune, written by Carole King and sung by young Whittni Wright, that remains.

Many who've heard the tape agree that director Brooks made absolutely the right decision to remove the Prince songs.

"No matter how bad anybody thinks the music would've been--and I was expecting it to be horrible--it's worse," says one astonished professional songwriter who has played the tape for friends at parties. "It's like 'Springtime for Hitler' in 'The Producers.' "

The main theme of the original musical was a Prince ditty called "Wow," the lyrics of which are generic enough to pop up in six different reprises throughout the movie: Sample chorus:

*

Wow! This is crazy

Wow! This is wild

If there ever was a time for reaction

Baby the time is now

Seems like we're spending most of our lives

Just waiting for the big bang

Extraordinary stuff that makes us say

Extraordinary things like

Wow!

*

One of the reprises accompanies a trimmed childbirth scene, in which an actress moans and screams her way through the song, singing "Ow!" instead of "Wow!"

Albert Brooks croons two songs: "I'll Do Anything" (lyric: "What good is a captain if he ain't got a crew / What good is a me if I AIN'T . . . GOT . . . A YOU!") and "There Is Lonely." Brooks' singing voice has been described charitably as gravitating toward the Jimmy Durante or Tom Waits end of the gravelly scale, and less charitably as an Oscar the Grouch affectation.

But there are two more torturous tunes that draw the greatest winces from illicit listeners. One is Kavner's "My Little Pill," a sort of update of "Mother's Little Helper" related to the truncated drug subplot, and recited in a maddeningly childlike sing-song voice. The other is Wright's rendition of O'Connor's mopey "This Lonely Life" that won't have anyone comparing her to the other singing Whitney.

One track is mysteriously missing from the bootleg tapes: Nick Nolte's infamous singing debut on his sole number, "Be My Mirror." Speculates one source, "He probably spent his entire salary from the movie buying up every single copy of his vocal."

The tapes that do exist are hard to come by, and have apparently come from inside Brooks' company, Gracie Films. Though Warner Bros. Records had the soundtrack on its release schedule at one point, a source there close to top executives says he doubts that any tape copy ever made its way inside the building. And a source with friends at Paisley Park Records' recently disbanded L.A. office claims that Prince called there recently asking that all copies of the "I'll Do Anything" music be destroyed.*

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