Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Poll result and the trouble with Tom.

Our latest poll imagined a scenario in which Bill Shatner agreed to honestly answer one and only one question about his toupee-wearing. What would you ask?

Only one vote went to "Was hiding the lace line the biggest drawback of the 'Jim Kirk lace' "?; two votes went to "Do you consider the current "Denny Katz" as something of a perfect toup?"; three votes went to "Do you regret earlier blanket denials about your toupee-wearing?" and four votes went to "Which past toupee choice most makes you cringe?". 12% chose "Why not just admit that your hair isn't real?"; 14% chose "Was going curly in 1976 a mistake?"; 27% chose "When you first started going bald, were you fearful that it might hurt your career?" and the greatest number of votes, 30%, went to "Of all the toupees you've worn, which has been your favorite?". (And three votes went to "something else"-- please tell us your ideas!).

Thanks for voting!

The WSSTS complex.

Now onto another matter (one not related to the toupee - though maybe that's the problem!). Every week, some of our Shatner's Toupee staff take a walk around the huge William Shatner School of Toupological Studies complex, visiting the various departments and assessing the progress of countless research projects underway at any one time.

But recently, we were stunned to see so many glum faces among the ranks of even our most experienced toupologists. What was wrong? It wasn't long before we found the answer. The WSSTS had ordered several thousand copies of Bill Shatner's new album Seeking Major Tom. The intention was that staff might be inspired by it as they went about their work (and maybe even find some toupological references). Sadly, that's not what happened...

So we had a listen to the album and immediately sympathized with our bewildered, baffled and disappointed colleagues. To be blunt, we think this album stinks. It really is not very good at all. Much of the blame, we believe, lies with producer Adam Hamilton (pictured below). We'll try to explain why:

A total lack of musical creativity sinks Seeking Major Tom.

In terms of musicality - the wonder, nuance, magic, excitement, creativity, originality and all that music (as composition and arrangement) can conjure up and convey - this album, sadly, gets an F. A fail. A big fat fail. The use of synthesizers in so many songs in a tacky effort to replicate real instruments is one key reason for this. Why not use a real piano instead of a synthetic one that sounds like inoffensive shopping mall music?

Alright, perhaps there wasn't much of a budget. Only on occasion could real instruments be used (particularly with the numerous music legends that took part in the album).

But if you don't have a budget, then why not get really creative? Take a baseball bat to your computer terminal and start thinking outside of the box. Put Shatner inside a piano, see how that sounds; find some rare 1970s instrument and use that; invent a new kind of echo by sticking a microphone inside a milk bottle; call up some old sound effects guy who did Star Trek and borrow his homemade, still functioning who-knows-how-it-works gizmo...

Anything! That's what low budget should mean. More creativity not less! Thinking outside the box rather than surrendering to laissez-faire mediocrity.

Experimenting with sound. The Beatles with their producer George Martin.

Sadly, Major Tom sounds like the latter: creativity reduced to lazily sitting by a computer terminal, using standard settings, standard filters, standard techniques and ending up with what amounts to standard-sounding karaoke backing tracks. Seeking Major Tom should have been called Shatner Does Karaoke, because that's what it sounds like.

Even when real instruments are used, it's music that is so clean, so "correct" and "proper" that it ends up being completely soulless, like it went through a thousand "suits" who step by step robbed it of all that was remotely unique, risky and unconventional. And what of the truly incredible lineup of guest musicians from Zakk Wylde to Dave Davies? Totally wasted. What's the point of having creative people present but in no way asking them to utilize anything other than their technical talents?

How a low-budget production of a metal album could end up like that is truly, truly baffling. Was it laziness? Was it lack of creative thinking? Or was it just poor judgement?

"Whatever! It's Shatner, who needs creativity?"

Some of the behind-the-scenes footage released of the making of the album perhaps provides clues. Once you get over the "look at Shatner being silly" part, isn't there just a hint of a dominant atmosphere of rushed "whatever"? A sort of "Shatner will carry this and not too much effort otherwise will be required"?

Maybe the hope was that Bill Shatner himself is the lively, real, edgy component. Add whatever crap sound behind him and he'll make up for it. But that approach really just ends up turning Bill Shatner into a circus performer. A freak show. "Listen to this! Listen to Shatner sing 'Bohemian Rhapsody'". "Haa haa! Good laugh." "What the f--k is this?"

Shatner does karaoke - section from "Bohemian Rhapsody".

The essence of what makes Bill Shatner's music so amazingly weird but enjoyable is a not-quite-fully-defined combination of energetic earnestness and Bill Shatner's own eminently charming, yet also highly contradictory personality. The Transformed Man was the 1960s!!! (need we say more?). Has Been was sincere and deep and creative on the Shatner side and sincere and deep and creative on the musical Ben Folds side. Other performances, for example this...

...are both odd but also moving. They make Bill Shatner a sort of champion of the creativity of the silent non-mainstream. "Screw you, Britney!" it says, "We're the real artists and we demand to be heard!" And then there's Bill Shatner as the 80-year-old badass, whom we admire for just not giving a s--t and doing what the hell he wants to do:

But with Major Tom, a cardinal rule has been broken (keep it real). Sincerity has been diluted, while the freak-show "its all a joke" aspect has been placed in an uncomfortable central position carrying a load where creativity should be, but isn't. That is sad. And what a wasted opportunity. We wish it wasn't so but we really can't recommend Major Tom at all (though, to be fair some songs are better than others). It's really a struggle to listen to for more than a few minutes. Friends who don't know Bill Shatner much and marveled at Has Been are probably going to just scratch their heads at this and tell you what you probably already think: that it sucks...

If you disagree with the above, we are genuinely eager to hear a robust defense of Seeking Major Tom!! We'll end this piece on a high - "Common People" from the 2004 album Has Been:

UPDATE: Bill Shatner writes a letter to his younger self. Alas, no mention of his still lush (real) hair.


  1. James Toupeerius KirkOctober 18, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    I agree with you...flat production, no creativity, standard sounds and just bad moods all over the place!
    What a pitty!
    "Shatner does Karaoke" fits best...

  2. Okay, I like Seeking Major Tom. What is wrong with Shatner doing Karaoke? Maybe I'm just relieved that the album is not as bad as expected. When I first heard about it, I was like: A space-themed cover album? No originals? No Ben Folds? That terrible piece of music known as Bohemian Rhapsody? No way!!! And when I saw the "artwork" and the first YouTube clips, I just thought that this was going down the drain. Shatner doing Iron Man. How embarrassing! I couldn't watch it.
    But after listening to the whole album and his refeshing approach to Queen's overestimated wannabe masterpiece in particular, I can live with the final result pretty well. Of course it lacks the depth and sincerety of "Has Been", but what can you expect of such a project? The musical arrangements are neat, maybe a little lifeless, but I would not call them cheap. The interludes are nice. This is no "rock" or "metal" album. It's pop music as story telling. Worst thing about it is the cover art, I'd rather not stare at this for too long. Might cause you to write a slating review.

  3. Seeking Major Tom is no Has Been -- and some of it is embarrassing, but some of it is quite good. "Lost in the Stars" and "Struggle" are both superb and, amazingly, "Rocket Man" is low-key, moving and nothing like the over-the-top version we all know from the 70's.

    That said, if Shatner does this again, he should do it with Ben Folds and give us more from-the-heart, soul-baring originals.

  4. Great analysis of the new CD. I gave you a shout-out here: http://www.examiner.com/william-shatner-in-national/shatner-s-documentary-the-captains-released-on-dvd

  5. Thanks, Neil! Enjoyed your report! -ST

  6. I nearly lost it at the "William Shatner School of Toupological Studies complex" part! This is a very funny blog, but at the same time, like another commentator said, you treat him with a decent amount of respect.

  7. Great post as usual! I am planning my next vacation around a visit to the WSSTS. Now that the CERN particle accelerator has closed you are the biggest scientific lab in the country.

  8. i really hope they write Shatner into the new Trek film with a really big part to keep him busy so he cant do crap like this!


    *shakes head*

  9. Thanks for your comments. We have been encouraging non-Google-registered commenters to select the "Name/ URL" option and type in a username (anything at all). This helps other commenters to know who is saying what and avoids multiple instances of "Anonymous". Thanks! -ST

  10. On an unrelated note, Jason Alexander has been wearing a toupee all the time now. You should check out the huffington post articles on it.



  11. shats own real syrupOctober 20, 2011 at 8:38 AM

    the shat.....boy if he was anyone else! His "singing" would not get him very far on shows like x factor, we need to be honest about this, but somehow and i dont know how shatner, makes you listen dispite half of your mind, telling you "its rubbish" i think the answer is dispite, the fact that bill can not sing he holds your interest, knocking all logic out of your mind, and you listen...to give bill some credit his timing is good, musically his albums are mostly superb...oh and btw in one of the star trek movies, has him really singing.....yep thats right no talking, but for the first time ever he sings! Mind you its only when him and mccoy sing "row your boat" to spock, a very interesting moment indeed and its not to bad, for shatner that is.

  12. Pretty harsh comments. I liked this album I don't like all the songs but I feel as a whole it's good stuff. I even feel the musical renditions are better then some of the originals and some of those songs have been a fav for many years.
    I have a different take on it and you can't compare Has Been to this it's totally different.

  13. shats own real syrupOctober 26, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    just about a thought, on the soon to come update, on this site. Its the star trek motion movie....i believe.... have seen it recently no real toupee moments to speak of as far as i can see, just the tj toup mark 1 sitting safely on bills head......mind you i have only got a 16 inch 21 years old tv.....so hopefully you guys may have picked up something, that i did'ot.....interesting as spock shows some emotions in this as well.

  14. [b]"UPDATE: Bill Shatner writes a letter to his younger self. Alas, no mention of his still lush (real) hair."[/b]

    read between the lines:
    [i]"succumb to the terror of your hormonal disorder...live in your youth because it passes too quickly...what will be will be, and although there is much you can do about it,in the end, there isnt much you can do about it..."[/i]

  15. Interestingly, the first draft of STTMP had Kirk's hair getting sucked into a wormhole and coming out on the far side of the galaxy where an alien race finds it and decides to return it to its point of origin. Kirk denies that the toupee is his ("I don't wear a toupee"), the alien becomes offended, and interstellar war breaks out as a result. The underlying theme was that being honest with yourself and others is the best way.

  16. @TJC - a very good observation!

    Our TMP analysis is in the works and will be our next post. Stay tuned.


  17. shat own real syrupOctober 26, 2011 at 4:58 PM

    @adidas thats brillant, and in an alternative universe, this has happend. Shatner is also mostly bald in this universe, as they can only keeped the toup on if its bolted to their heads...... Oh and @shattoupblog. Cannot wait till the update.

  18. @adidas that is an amazing and brilliant take on TMP - I wish that was the plot they had gone with.

    Gosh, Shat's letter to Young Shat really is a great example of his ego/narcissism!

  19. Ratty Lost Years PieceOctober 27, 2011 at 8:27 PM

    @adidas, that's a great plot and should have been the actual film. I'd like to see the JKL technologically augmented by an advanced alien race, similar to the "V'ger" probe, and turned into an intergalactic TJ Curly.

  20. As we await the "full toupological analysis" of ST-TMP, I'd like to ask if anymore TV programs with Shatner as a guest star will be given coverage in the future. (I ask this as I watch his appearance on the Police Woman episode "Smack". The lighting on him throughout the story is such that his lame "Lost Years" hairpiece stands out like a sore thumb. It's a show that begs to be dissected!)

  21. Wow, all this anticipation! We just hope our analysis meets with better reviews than the movie!

    @R.A.M.'67 There's no performance with BS in it that we won't, in theory, analyze. We'll take a look at your suggestion.


  22. STB - dont forget to include the theory that the TMP toup may have been influenced by Shats appearences in Columbo (Peter Falks TJ like real hair)

  23. I would like to ask you to share some links to other resources that open up this subject just in case you know some.