In the movie (semi-spoiler alert), after a number of teenagers are murdered, school is suspended while the authorities hunt for the killer or killers. Students gleefully leave the now-closed high school while Alice Cooper's classic "School's Out" plays as background music. For a song so prominently featured in the film, you would expect that it would be on the official soundtrack album, right? Wrong . . . instead, the original was replaced by a cover version done by The Last Hard Men, a short-lived alt-rock "supergroup" of sorts, instigated by former and current Breeders guitarist Kelley Deal.
According to Deal, the genesis of this band came from an article regarding hair metal bands she read in an issue of Spin magazine in early 1996. The article's low regard for and generally condescending, dismissive tone for this genre of music apparently pissed Kelley off:
". . . here they were making fun of these bands, but what were the interviewers wearing? Grunge flannel? Baggy pants? I was bothered that Spin made fun of style because everything is style, and it was done in a really mean way . . . It just didn't seem fair."In response and reaction to Spin's article, Deal made an effort to seek out vocalist Sebastian Bach, who had just parted ways with his longtime band Skid Row; she considered him one of the best hair metal band singers out there. The two finally connected in New York City in the summer of 1996, backstage at a Kelley Deal 6000 gig, and made plans to record together later that fall.
The original idea was for Deal to recruit one additional alt-rock member for their one-off recording, and for Bach to get one of his metal friends to join in. For a while, there was talk that Motley Crue's Tommy Lee would be that member, but those plans fell through, and in the end Deal gathered the remaining group members from the alternative spectrum, namely Frogs guitarist Jimmy Flemion and former Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin (Chamberlin had been fired from the Pumpkins the year before, due to his involvement with the heroin-related death of keyboardist Jonathan Melvion in New York while the band was on tour; ironically, The Smashing Pumpkins finished the tour with new hires, Matt Walker on drums - and Jimmy Flemion's older brother Dennis on keyboards . . . so I'm sure the two Jimmys had much to talk about during their time together . . . )
Word of the formation, which had yet to be named, got out to certain quarters, and the producers of Scream quickly requested a song contribution from the group for the soundtrack. The four got together in a Minnesota studio in the fall of 1996, just to record their version of "School's Out". But the song and the session went so well that Deal extended the studio time, and in four days the group (now dubbed The Last Hard Men) hammered out an additional dozen or so songs.
And that was that; the members of The Last Hard Men immediately went their separate ways. Sebastian Bach started a solo world tour a month of so after the Minnesota sessions and took Jimmy Flemion along; a couple of Last Hard Men cuts were added to his set list. Deal went back on tour as well with her band, but the momentum behind The Kelley Deal 6000 was petering out, and it was only months later that the group went on permanent hiatus. Chamberlain reconciled with Smashing Pumpkins founder and front man Billy Corgan and was reinstated in the band in the fall of 1998. He continued his association with Corgan (in both the Pumpkins and Zwan) for the next decade.
As for the recordings, Kelley Deal began shopping the tapes around to various labels, but found little interest. Atlantic Records made mouth noises about a possible release at the end of 1997, but in the end they declined their option. Finally in 1998, Deal scraped together enough funds to press about a thousand copies of the album, and quietly released it under her own Nice Records label. Due to its limited availability, it was an extremely hard-to-find disc. But in 2001, a small independent producer out of Long Island negotiated to give the album a more widespread release under its own label.
To me, this is sort of a weird record. Musically, it's all over the map - some songs, like "Sleep", are straight out of the hair metal playbook; others sound like cuts left off of Kelley Deal 6000 albums ("The Last Hard Men"). There's acoustic pop ("When The Longing Goes Away"), punk ("Spider Love"), and alternative tunes ("Candy Comes") interspersed between band member interviews - there's even a cover of "I Enjoy Being A Girl" from Rodgers & Hammerstein's 1958 musical Flower Drum Song! I can't say that this disc holds together as a coherent album. But there are pieces and parts of it that are interesting and superb, which is I guess the best that you can hope for from a one-off band. I can't say that I highly recommend it . . . but I recommend you give it a listen nonetheless.
So here you are to hear for yourself - The Last Hard Men, the only release by the group of the same name, put out by Spitfire Records fourteen years ago today, on September 4th, 2001. Run it past your ears and, as always, let me know what you think.
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