Veteran rockers release reimagined, socially relevant music against “our better judgment”

What happens when you throw together two veteran rockers with a little too much time on their hands and leave them to a slow boil in the 2020 pressure cooker of a public health crisis spiced with social unrest and an imploding political scene?

You get a revamped, culturally relevant cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker’s “Jammin’ Me” by frontmen Eddie Spaghetti of The Supersuckers and Frank Meyer of ’90s L.A. punk outfit, The Streetwakin’ Cheetahs. Together, the two are known as Spaghetti & Frank, who’ve teamed up in a marriage of sexy, strut-heavy rock ‘n’ roll you can thank the pandemic for making possible.

“[Meyer] had the idea to do a Tommy Petty song, we both love Tom Petty so much, and we just thought that would be a cool thing to do,” Spaghetti said over the phone from his home in San Diego. “The problem I always had with that song was that the lyrics seemed so dated. There’s ’80s references, these things about Eddie Murphy, Joe Piscopo and Vanessa Redgrave—these do not resonate anymore. So, I updated the lyrics and made it timely for the election. We’re just trying to do our part to get people to go and vote.”

The reimagined lyrics cast an unflinching gaze upon the 21st Century pop figures and reality stars that, Meyer said, “use their fame for all the wrong reasons.” Bill Cosby, Paris Hilton, the Kardashians and the most powerful reality television star in the world, Donald Trump, are all called out through the gruff, whiskey tenor of vocalists Spaghetti and Meyer.

“We felt that Tom, if he were alive today, would probably be saying similar things about these same people,” Meyer said. “This was our opportunity to sort of update the lyrics and the sentiment that Tom put out there, but make it about what’s going on now. If there’s one message that we would love people to get from this song, and this video, is to vote, this is a very important election. There’s a lot on the line, democracy itself is on the line.”

The new cover, published by Acetate Records, and the accompanying video, released Tuesday, were recorded, mixed and edited by Meyer from his home studio in Long Beach, where the musician has been steadily working, churning out a slew of new music, music videos and documentary films since the pandemic hit seven months ago. Limbs borrowed from Cheetah’s drummer, local Mike Sessa, and keyboardist Mike Malone helped flesh out the studio single while an appearance by Betty “Babsy” Singer subbed in for Malone on keys to shoot the music video.

Shot in a studio in Compton and directed by Jason Valdez, the former director of photography at Fender, the revamped music video was designed in near-identical fashion to the original, as a very intentional salute to the 1987 collaboration between Petty, Bob Dylan and Mike Campbell.

“The original video had this very sort of like TV-gone-haywire-media-gone-crazy vibe where there’s like TV static and all these waves and channels in the background. And there’s all these flashes of pop culture images and all the stuff that’s being talked about in the lyrics and it’s almost like this sensory overload thing,” Meyer explained. “When we were talking about doing a video, I was like, well, let me just watch the original Tom Petty video for some inspiration. I was like, ‘Oh my God, inspiration? We didn’t have to make this video again, we just got to redo Tom’s video, except with modern images.”

While Meyer may have edited the video together, he said he couldn’t have done any of the post-production visuals or green-screen effects without the help of Neil Goodman, the former creative director at the Esquire Network, his team, and a few other post-effects wizards Meyer has befriended over the years working at Fender, NBC and Esquire.

If you’re curious as to why Spaghetti and Meyer are collaborating after all these years—they’ve known each other, even toured nationally together in their own respective bands during the late ‘90s—it’s not just because rockers of a feather tend to strum guitars together. The two reconnected in May to collaborate with a host of other iconic rock musicians (Cherie Currie, Mike Watt, Josie Cotton) on the pandemic-inspired all-star collaboration charity song, “Flatten the Curve.”

“Frank, he’s kind of like the studio wizard. He puts all the music together, I’m just kind of like the idea guy. I’ll have an idea for a song and I’ll sing it into my phone and send it off to him. And it’ll come back to me as like a full-fledged piece of rock and roll. He’s very thorough and he’s super good at it. It’s a pleasure to work with somebody like that,” Spaghetti said of Meyer’s work ethic.

The duo has plans to release a full studio album, about 10 to 12 songs, in the near future. Meyer said they’re still in the writing phase, but audiences can anticipate a few original, gritty rock bangers.

Musically, Meyer said they’re fusing their collective styles, coming together in a fusion of rock and power pop, inspired by their favorite song of all-time, The Knack’s “My Sharona,” which will be one of the covers included on the album. Meyer said they’re also covering ’80s glam metal band, Kix’s “Heartache” in which their guitarist Brian Forsythe will shred.

“Both of us have a punk rock side and [Spaghetti’s] band has a country side,” Meyer’s said. “But I feel like the place where Eddie and I always sort of find our comfort zone is sort of power pop, like really catchy short pop songs. The big difference between what we’re doing now and the music we’ve made in our other bands is simply due to the insanity of the year 2020, we’ve become a topical current event type group, despite the fact that it goes against both of our better judgment.”

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Cheantay Jensen is reporter and award-winning videographer who covers music, art, food and culture for the Hi-lo section of the Long Beach Post. And sometimes breaking news, you know, just to keep things interesting.