Sam Kinison's Strange and Forgotten Take on "Wild Thing"

Sure, Sam Kinison rode his intense brand of politically incorrect humour all the way to massive fame in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, but did you know the fallen comedian could rock out with the best of them? Released as the closing track on his 1988 album Have You Seen Me Lately?, Kinison’s take on the Chip Taylor classic “Wild Thing” is a revelatory showcase for his patented yelling and unique presence. Kinison’s arrangement is a pretty faithful rendition of the 1966 version popularized by the Troggs, albeit modernized for hard rock and hair metal fans, who by 1988 made up a sizable portion of the comedian’s audience. And that’s no wonder considering Kinison boasted legions of musicians and rock stars as his drinking and drugging buddies, as evidenced by the video for “Wild Thing”, which features a bevy (get it?) of mainstays from the Los Angeles rock scene, including Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Idol, Steven Tyler, Slash, Tommy Lee, and countless others. And of course, who could ever forget the eponymous “Wild Thing”, played by Kinison’s then-partner Jessica Hahn, who struts her sexy stuff in what appears to be some kind of fighting pit while our star-studded cast looks on and tries in vain to hoist their collective jaw from the floor? Hey, speaking of sexy, there’s nothing quite as titillating (or troubling) as a room full of lecherous men ogling a lone woman. HOT! Where “Wild Thing” really gets interesting, though, is when Kinison steers the song towards an ode to romantic folly and the fragile male ego. As the song builds Kinison screams with his trademark passion about feeling used up and discarded by this seductress, this “Wild Thing”, if you will, offering a lyrical spin that’s equal parts relatable and hilarious. Was his cover almost certainly rooted in personal tragedy and an emotional yearning for catharsis? Does a bear shit in the woods? Yet the most refreshing part about “Wild Thing” is how despite two notoriously difficult marriages that inspired much of his material, Kinison nevertheless turns the sleazy “girl in every port” rock star trope on its head, shifting the singer’s role into that of a hapless dolt who loved and lost. And who can’t connect with that one? Better make mine a double, Sam, I need a drink.  

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