How the famous wrestler maybe inspired every hipster synth-pop record ever.
Photo courtesy of the author
There are few professions in the world more bizarre than that of a professional wrestler. But if there is one out there, it would have to be “Professional Wrestler and 80’s hair metal sensation.” According Sgt. Slaughter, he was just one decision away from becoming just that, after a record producer offered him a spot in the ‘80s heavy metal band Autograph.
Slaughter turned down the offer and instead created a synth pop LP called Sgt. Slaughter and Camouflage ROCKS AMERICA. Released on an independent label called “Cobra Records,” the album is extremely hard to find and copies have been sold to die-hard collectors on the Internet for over $80. Slaughter doesn’t do too much actual singing on the record, and at one point he even reverts to just aggressively saying the Pledge of Allegiance with a “USA!” chant in the background.
You may remember Sgt. Slaughter as the guy who faced off against Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 7. Slaughter was an actual sergeant in the Marine Corps before becoming a professional wrestler and routinely used his military garb as a gimmick. In the storyline leading up to his big main event match against Hulk Hogan, Slaughter turned heel, becoming an Iraq sympathizer (there was even a picture circulated with Slaughter embracing Sadam Hussein, and this was all during the height of the Gulf War).
Detested by Hulkamaniacs everywhere, Slaughter says he was forced to wear a bullet-proof vest while traveling from town to town due to the threats against him. At one point the writers of the WWE asked Slaughter to burn an American flag in the ring. As a patriotic marine, he couldn’t stomach the idea, but the two parties compromised and Slaughter burned a Hulk Hogan shirt.
“I think it was worse,” Slaughter joked about the crowd reaction.
If you asked Slaughter or the WWE why the venue for WrestleMania 7 was moved to a much smaller arena shortly before the event, they will tell it’s because they were going to have to pay millions and millions of dollars to secure the building due to bomb threats against Slaughter. The real reason was because advanced ticket sales indicated they would have a hard time selling 100,000 seats (16,158 people attended the event). But hey, whatever.
The music contained on the LP sounds a bit like if you had one of those old keyboards made for children, hit the “play sample” button on it, and then pulled the string on the back of a talking Sgt. Slaughter action figure periodically. Most of the singing is done by some random dude, who I can only imagine was the main influence for that “America We Stand as One” guy. There are even entire songs that Slaughter is absent from, like this one:
But when Slaughter does come in, it becomes very clear very quickly that he’s better at locking in the cobra clutch than he is at hitting any sort of notes. Just don’t tell him I said that because he might put me in the Cobra clutch again (my neck hurt all day honestly).
I sat down face to chin with Sgt. Slaughter, the first living person to be turned into a GI Joe, and talked about how he invented entrance themes for professional wrestlers, and (probably) inspired generations of hipsters to make 80’s synth-pop records.
Sgt. Slaughter: I apologize in advance if I spit on you when I talk. It’s the chin.
Noisey: (Laugh) That’s all right, it’s part of your charm. Can you talk a little bit about Sgt. Slaughter and Camouflage ROCKS AMERICA?
I had first brought in music to the WWE when I went to try out. Vince’s father brought me in and wanted me to do a promo. So, back then we did three tapings in one night. At the end of the night there was one or two matches left and he came to me and said I want you to do a promo with my son.”
I said, “OK.”
He said, “Is there anything I could do to help set it up?“
So I said, “Yeah, can you play this cassette tape?”
He said “Well, what’s on it?”
I said “the Marine Corps hymn.”
And he said “You mean like, [Sarge hums the Marine Corps hymn]”
I said “Yeah it’s the original Marine Corps hymn”
And he was like, “. . . You want me to play it?”
I said, “Yeah before I go out I want you to play it.”
He just kind of shook his head and thought about it then took it to the truck. When it was time for me to go he said “OK, they’re going to play your music.” So I heard the first couple bars of the Marine Corps hymn and went to go out, but Vince Sr. stuck his hand in my way and he was listening to the reaction of the audience to the music and was like shaking his head, then he grabbed my back and pushed me out. And out I went but before I got to Vince people were coming over the railings because I was telling them to stand up and salute me and calling them maggots. The music was playing and they didn’t know what the hell was going on. It just made me an instant villain.
After the promo Vince Sr. hired me.
Wow. That’s an interesting story, so when exactly did you start making your own tunes for the 1985 LP Sgt. Slaughter and Camouflage ROCKS AMERICA?
Later on, as we went to different wrestling shows I got to thinking that I should create my own song, you know? So I would sit down with a piece of paper and would start thinking of words for songs. So I just came up with [Sarge begins to sing] “look out everybody he’s coming here today, he’s a man who stands for freedom and the American way.” I just kept going on and on “Sgt. Slaugggghter” If you mess around with them, I don’t if you’ve heard this song but it goes, “He’ll put you in the cobra clutch!”
So we decided to use it. I had just got it written. A friend of mine was a songwriter and guitar player and he said, “I heard that we should market it.”
So long story short we marketed it. We went to New York City and talked to a gentlemen there that was a big record producer. He wanted to put me in with a band called Autograph. Every guy had different colors and long brown or blonde hair. My friend said “I don’t think that’s going to go.” But this record producer thought the opposites would attract.
So we kind of went off on our own but little did I know that record producer, Rogers, was quite famous for making a lot of money in this business. So I threw away a possible singing career—although I can’t sing. But they figured if they put the music up high enough I would sound OK. [Laughs]
So that’s how the record got started. We went out on an independent record label and called it Cobra Records. Sgt Slaughter and Camouflage ROCKS AMERICA. We did a little tour through New York City and did four or five gigs. You know, everyone wants to be a rock star, so I thoroughly enjoyed it. But I was very uncomfortable with it. Very uncomfortable.
Follow Matt Saincome on Twitter.