Long before "our Kylie" made the leap from Neighbours to the ‘Locomotion’, another titan of the TV screen hit the studio, recording an album that would go down in music history as one of the most oddball releases of the 1960s (and that’s saying something). Fifty years later, William Shatner’s spoken-word epic The Transformed Man still packs a peculiar punch.
One of the record’s most (in)famous cuts is his unforgettable rendition of Bob Dylan’s ‘Mr Tambourine Man’. Backed by a lush orchestral arrangement Burt Bacharach would be proud of, Shatner gives Dylan’s lyrics a whole new dimension as he talks his way through the song, his delivery ping-ponging between quizzical, strangulated, cajoling, wonder-filled and, ultimately, overwrought. (His final hair-raising cry, “Mr Tambourine Man!”, is worth the price of admission alone.)
There are those who believe that Bob Dylan’s music is always better when interpreted by someone else. After hearing ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ turned into a gold-plated freak-out, we can’t guarantee you’ll feel this way, but we’re pretty sure you’ll never be able to listen to the original the same way again.
Incidentally, William Shatner wasn’t the first Star Trek star to release an album. Leonard Nimoy pre-dated him by a year, unleashing his Mr Spock’s Music from Outer Space (a pop-cultural landmark in its own right) in 1967. But whereas Nimoy’s album was recorded in his televisual persona, there was little sign of Captain James T. Kirk on The Transformed Man. Instead, listeners got Shatner as spiritual seeker, psychedelic beatnik, cracked actor – boldly going where no man had gone (musically) before.