Thursday, April 28, 2011

Forgotten Movie Songs #6: "In My Own Way" from SHOCK TREATMENT

In 1981, I was just discovering pop music, having been a classical music fan up until I was about 12. I was about to reach my 15th birthday when I was thumbing through LPs at my local Turtle's Music and heard this rocking, magnificent song playing over the store's PA. As we are all likely to do when we hear music we love, I asked for the tune's source. And I found it was being sung by Jessica Harper, for the soundtrack of some movie called Shock Treatment.

I had not seen Shock Treatment. I didn't know who Jessica Harper was. But I immediately bought the album--red-tinted, with Richard O'Brien's mad, bespectacled dome on it--because something in me told me I must cling closely to this song. It's a dauntless, straightforward confession of desire and ambition, written by Mr. O'Brien, and it's called "In My Own Way."

I now, of course, know O'Brien as being the writer and star of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I now know that Jessica Harper (who I wasn't familiar with before hearing this song) is the utterly brilliant and mesmerizing star of a string of late-70s/early 80s masterpieces the likes of which, when seen together, amount to a surely astral ouvre. When you have a assuredly comedic AND dramatic AND musical lead actress that's impresses so genuinely in notable movies like Love and Death, Phantom of the Paradise, Inserts, Stardust Memories, Pennies From Heaven and Suspiria, you have to fucking stand up and take notice. Once I saw Jessica Harper on the big screen for the first time in Phantom of the Paradise, she instantly hooked me with a face that I honestly cannot adequately describe. She has that intelligent, emotional, slightly feral look that instantly...well, it instantly made me horny.

There. I said it. So sue me. But this woman KNOWS her stuff. It's in there her eyes, as she hypnotizes the camera playing the wanna-be ingenue of Brian De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise. And while portraying the chilly wife in Herbert Ross' Pennies From Heaven. And, here, as the newly-cynical heroine in Jim Sherman's Shock Treatment. If you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, look at the clip I've referenced below. The power Jessica Harper proclaims is not only in her boldly unique face: it's in her steadfast, confident voice--and that IS her voice in this song. In fact, her very being oozes power, especially in Shock Treatment. But she couldn't have performed such a feat without a strong song to spur her on.

I don't want to debate the importance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show here. It's too big a subject and, frankly, I'm not sure I fully buy into it, except on purely solid terms (it is, for sure, the most influential cult movie of all time, obviously; but that doesn't mean I love it). But if you were to play me "In My Own Way"--in which Harper's Janet admits her failure of confidence in her cage-bound husband Brad (Cliff De Young, dejected after showing his ass on "national" television)--if you were to play me this song, and then ask me whether or not, based on this song alone, I was a member of the Rocky Horror cult, I would wholeheartedly say YES, even if I didn't know what the hell The Rocky Horror Picture Show was.

In other words, you don't need to know what's going on here. You need only to listen to this chompy little number that screams "I'M A HIT, GODAMMIT!." The music and lyrics are by Richard O'Brien, and the song is called "In My Own Way," performed by the unspeakably hot Jessica Harper, accompanied by slaying guitar and drums:

If only you knew how to win some prizes
If only you knew how to play
If you could sleep nights
And stop your crying
Then you might find out I still love you in my own way

If that's not enough then I am so sorry I met you
It was almost like leading you on
But there's more to it all
Than just wringing your heart out over something
That keeps on going wrong

So don't tell me you love me
How am I supposed to know what that means
No, don't sell emotion
You can't find devotion
If you're falling apart at the seams

I hope that you smile
When you reach your conclusion
I hope that you'll know just what to say
But if it should mean that the party's over
You should know that I still love you
You should know that I still love you
You should know that I still love you
In my own way
In my own way
In my own way
In my own way

(By the way: the whole damn album is great, even if you haven't seen the movie. Which is a bit more than I can say about The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which I have to confesss has some boring moments in it.)


Mike White said...

Awesome article. It's nice to read that another person appreciates this movie. I'm trying my best to get the word out about it:

Dean Treadway said...

Thanks, Mike. I've been taking a look at what the TriBeCa Y has to offer. I only wish I was back up in NYC!

SHOCK TREATMENT is a fascinating movie. It falls short of greatness, but it does create a sense of claustrophobia that I've only felt while watching DAS BOOT. When paired with the freeing music, that's an achievement.