Music-loving schlock fiends must remember to keep their ears and minds open because you never know where a schlock anthem will pop up. Even the most mainstream rock bands are capable of producing one. Case in point: the Rolling Stone’s memorable and very odd “Too Much Blood.” It’s easily one of the oddest tracks they ever released and has a number of elements that will endear this song to the schlock fan.
“Too Much Blood” was an album track from 1983’s Undercover album. It was never performed live but it got a little action on radio and in the clubs, plus the group thought enough of the song to shoot a video for it. It was a bit too eccentric for rotation-screening on MTV but it made it onto the occasional late night show like Night Flight (which is how Your Humble Reviewer first saw it). It probably reached the most people via the group’s 1984 Video Rewind VHS videos compilation.
The song first catches the listener’s attention with its sonic approach: despite the early 1980’s recording date, this is essentially a disco song. It announces its style to the listener with a boogie-style bass line that ushers in a wave of tropical percussion and wild, jazzy horn arrangements that evoke early Italo-disco at its wildest. The track is also unique in that it dispense with guitar soloing in favor of textural playing that sounds like what Adrian Belew did during his stint in the Talking Heads. The end result feels like the kind of source-music disco track one might hear in an Italian flick like House On The Edge Of The Park.
The Stones had flirted with disco before – “Miss You” was the most successful example but “Hot Stuff” is an even more potent rock/disco fusion – but it was a very odd gambit for them to experiment with the genre so late in the game. That said, it fits in nicely on the thoroughly underrated Undercover, a tough-sounding and eclectic release that also incorporates hard rock, new wave and reggae into its offbeat brew of sounds.
Another fascinating element of “Too Much Blood” is that it’s basically a spoken-word piece with a chorus and a creepy little chant (“pretty lady, don’t be scared”) near the end. The spoken word stuff is an improvised protest towards the fetish-styled treatment of violence in the media and it comes in two distinct sections. The first features Jagger relating a story about a Japanese man in France who killed his lover, ate her and then got caught burying the bones. Though he isn’t mentioned the name, this is the story of real-life murderer/cannibal Issei Sagawa. This first rap is creepy enough if you don’t know that info but twice as unnerving if you do, evoking the specter of Jagger’s Boston Strangler-inspired rap in the middle of the live version of “Midnight Rambler” from Get Your Ya-Yas Out.
The second spoken part is a funny mock-protest against overtly violent movies built around Jagger’s comments on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (“Ever see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? ‘Orrible, wasn’t it?” ). It’s pretty hilarious, building from a description of how the film has made him scared of stopping in Texas and building into a lecture on how he’d prefer to see “something you can take the wife to” like An Officer And A Gentleman! However, the best part might be a moment where he offers his deadpan reaction to a potential attack from Leatherface (“oh, don’t saw off me arm… don’t saw off me leg.”). It’s witty in a very macabre way.
That said, the song is even better and more apropos to the schock fan’s palate when it is combined with the magnificent video directed by Julien Temple. Its framing device focuses on a woman who turns to t.v. to ease her mind after being creeped out by a news magazine with gruesome photos of mummies and crime scenes. After flipping past some violent movies – which include clips from Basket Case and Female Trouble (!) – she finds a music program. Of course, the Stones are on, playing in an outdoor, Latin American or Mexican setting that conjures up memories of The Evil That Men Do.
This is where the video really gets fun. The setup allows Temple to work in a number of horror-referencing visual touches and he piles them on with gusto. Jagger grabs a drink out of a fridge that has severed limbs in it and Ron Wood and Keith Richards playfully attack him with chainsaws when they’re not playing their guitars. Meanwhile, the video lives up to the song’s title by bedeviling the heroine of the framing device with blood from all directions: in her drinking glass, oozing out telephone receivers and electrical outlets, gushing out of the faucet and even rolling down the television screen.
Between the music and the video, “Too Much Blood” offers a smorgasboard of darkly humorous delights that will appeal to the schlock fan’s set of gallows humor. For that, it easily earns its place in the Schlock Anthem pantheon.