Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we focus on great albums and the reissues they could someday see. The passing of a beloved actor leads to a discovery of the New Wave band you might not have known he was in!
The loss of Bill Paxton today resonates hard among moviegoers of the ’80s and ’90s. The Texan actor, who appeared in films like The Terminator, Weird Science, Aliens, Near Dark, Tombstone, Apollo 13, Twister, Titanic and Nightcrawler, passed away at 61 due to complications from surgery. His penchant for playing strangely lovable jerks made him one of the charms of ’80s films; for sci-fi fans, he was an indispensable trivia answer as the first person to be killed onscreen by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s villainous Terminator, the serpent-like Xenomorphs from the Alien franchise, and the eponymous extraterrestrial hunter of the Predator films.
And while you might not have known it, he was also a bit of a musician.
As his star was rising throughout the mid-’80s, Paxton was one half of the New Wave duo Martini Ranch, singing, writing and conceiving videos alongside vocalist/guitarist Andrew Todd Rosenthal. Eventually, Sire Records gave the duo a contract, and they released a pair of singles and a full-length album between 1986 and 1988. And each was a surprisingly star-studded affair.
If lead single “How Can the Labouring Man Find Time for Self-Culture” sounds by title alone like an ambitious attempt at cribbing Devo’s style, its actual musical content isn’t too far off from the legendary Ohio band either. In fact, three men from the group–keyboardist Mark Mothersbaugh, drummer Alan Myers and producer Bob Casale–all appear on the track.
Follow-up single “Reach,” from the album Holy Cow, was a more self-contained affair, song-wise, but an accompanying seven-minute music video is really the main attraction. The surreal, Southwestern clip was directed by Paxton’s friend and collaborator James Cameron, and features appearances by several actors who appeared in films with them both, including Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein and Paul Reiser, as well as Judge Reinhold (who’s credited with the Sergio Leone-esque whistling on the album) and Cameron’s future wife Kathryn Bigelow (director of The Hurt Locker).
Elsewhere on Holy Cow, trumpet/flugelhorn player Mark Isham later became a prolific film composer for films such as Point Break, Blade and Crash, while keyboardist Robert O’Hearn was the brother of Patrick O’Hearn, bassist for Frank Zappa and Missing Persons. Cindy Wilson of Sire labelmate The B-52’s also contributed vocals on three tracks.
Rosenthal later recorded an entirely different album for Sire in 1998 as part of M.O.T. (Members of the Tribe), a Jewish hip-hop parody group, and later formed Swifty’s Bazaar with musician Michael Sherwood. But it’s perhaps the Paxton connection that keeps the memory of Martini Ranch alive. The album was reissued on CD in 2007 by indie label Noble Rot, and digitally made available by Warner Music Group in the 2010s. But there is enough material for an enterprising label to issue an expanded version, as detailed below. Here’s our Reissue Theory look at Martini Ranch!
Martini Ranch, Holy Cow
- New Deal
- World Without Walls
- Fat-Burning Formula
- Richard Cory
- Hot Dog
- Serious Girl
- How Can the Labouring Man Find Time for Self-Culture?
- (Brother) Take It Out
- Power Tool
- How Can the Labouring Man Find Time for Self-Culture? (Single Mix)
- Back At the Ranch
- Fallen Idols
- How Can the Labouring Man Find Time for Self-Culture? (Industrial Mix)
- Reach (Single Remix)
- Reach (Extended Dance Remix)
- Hot Dog (12″ Remix)
Tracks 1-10 released as Sire Records 25674, 1988
Tracks 11-14 released as Sire Records 12″ 20453, 1986
Track 15 released on Sire Records single 27985, 1988
Track 16 released on Sire Records 12″ 20868, 1988
Track 17 released on Just Say Yo – Sire Records 25745, 1988