This Friday, we’ll be posting a special Jheri Curl June edition of our podcast series-within-a-series, Dystopian Book Club, on the memoirs of Mr. Rick James. It’s a fun conversation–after a year and a half, we’re finally hitting our stride as podcasters!–and I’m excited to unleash it upon an unsuspecting (/indifferent) Internet. But I also wanted to take this opportunity to cover in more detail a key moment from James’ career that we glossed over while recording the episode. I’m talking, of course, about his composition and production of Eddie Murphy’s 1985 single, “Party All the Time.”
Like most songs by actors-turned-“singers,” “Party All the Time” gets its fair share of scorn, and maybe some of it is deserved: objectively speaking, the world didn’t need a full-length album by the man who gave us “Buh-Weet Sings.” But there’s a reason one might actually hear “Party All the Time” on a bar jukebox or the radio–a risk one never encounters with the musical stylings of, say, Don Johnson or Seth MacFarlane. Simply put, it’s a catchy-ass piece of Jheri Curl pop–and for that, Rick James deserves 100% of our thanks.
Besides, we can’t be too snooty about “Party All the Time,” because it’s actually significant to James’ career: according to his memoirs, the goofy “behind-the-scenes” music video was what finally got him on MTV, after years of agitating about the network’s racist policies had burned every other bridge that wasn’t occupied by the world’s biggest African American movie star. Even more intriguingly, the song gave James a rare opportunity to one-up his arch-nemesis, Prince: again, according to James–who is, to be fair, the textbook definition of an unreliable narrator–His Royal Badness was initially in talks to collaborate, but his insistent bedroom eyes gave Murphy a gay panic and sent him running to more safely heteronormative waters. But all’s well that ends well: James got a Top 40 hit during a rocky period of his career, and Randy Watson himself got a second chance at gracing Jheri Curl June’s hallowed halls. Let’s see Don Johnson do that.
We’ll be back tomorrow with one last regular post before the Rick James podcast! Here are the playlists: