Wylde Ratttz Force Change In Velvet Goldmine Soundtrack

Supergroup weighs early release of disputed track on Sonic Youth drummer's Smells Like Records label.

Pressure from members of the punk-rock supergroup the Wylde Ratttz has convinced London Records to change future pressings of the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack album.

The musicians were angered that their version of "T.V. Eye" (RealAudio excerpt), the classic by the proto-punk band the Stooges, was left off the album in favor of a version sung by actor Ewan McGregor.

"If that's what the Wylde Ratttz want to do, we'll do what they want," Randy Poster, the soundtrack album's producer, said Wednesday (Nov. 11).

Meanwhile, the Ratttz are discussing the possibility of getting their version out earlier still by issuing it as a single on Ratttz/Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley's Smells Like Records label.

A controversy over the track erupted last week when Wylde Ratttz producer/member Don Fleming sent an e-mail to his bandmates -- Arm, Shelley, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore (guitar), Mike Watt (bass) and Jim Dunbar (vocals, percussion) -- urging them to call London to demand that the group's original recording, with Arm on vocals, replace the cut on the soundtrack.

According to Fleming, McGregor's vocals were added to an unfinished instrumental version of "T.V. Eye," which was stuck on the soundtrack without being mastered and is thus exceptionally tinny-sounding.

"Three years in the making and it's the worst-sounding piece of s--- I've ever heard," Fleming wrote.

Poster declined to discuss the matter -- which he characterized as "a tempest in a teapot" -- beyond saying that the Arm track would grace future pressings. While he spoke of the change as a certainty, he said there had not been an official order to replace the track.

"It's not like all of a sudden there'll be a policy that we'll do it. We'll see what [bandmembers] want to do," Poster said.

Although figures on the first pressing of the soundtrack were not available, one person with knowledge of the album estimated that London manufactured 40,000-50,000 copies of the disc. It also features tracks by Brian Eno, Shudder To Think, Lou Reed, Pulp and the Venus In Furs, a fictitious band featuring members of Radiohead, Suede, Roxy Music and Grant Lee Buffalo.

Releasing the track on Shelley's label would allow fans to hear Arm's version much sooner than waiting for London to sell out of its original run of the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack, Dunbar said Wednesday.

"We can get something out soon, and that will be that. Let everything live on its own merit, so to speak," he said.

The Wylde Ratttz were conceived as a fictional group for "Velvet Goldmine," which revolves around the excesses of the 1970s glam-rock era. In the movie, the Ratttz back British actor McGregor, who plays an American singer named Curt Wild. Fleming contends that McGregor's vocal was supposed to be an extra track for the film.

A full album of Wylde Ratttz material, including more Stooges covers and original material, is planned for release by London in 1999.

If the Arm version of "T.V. Eye" is released on Shelley's label, it could be paired with additional Stooges songs not set for inclusion on the Ratttz's full-length album, Dunbar said.

Shelley added that there are also original Ratttz jams that could be released on the single. "There was a lot of stuff that was impromptu studio stuff that I mentioned to Don [Fleming] as a good supplemental piece," he said.

Shelley said he heard the McGregor version of the song recently at a CD-store listening station in Japan. He described the take -- on which the actor is said to have sung the verse over the chorus and vice-versa -- as "peculiar."

"Of course, we'd prefer to have Mark [Arm] singing," Shelley said.

Last week, Arm said he was "disappointed" with the soundtrack, particularly in light of its packaging, which touts him as the Wylde Ratttz's singer while including McGregor's voice on the band's sole contribution. "I don't know who would make a decision to pick a s---ty version of a song over a good version," he said. "What would be the motivation behind that? I'm stumped."

Dunbar said the Ratttz were united in their anger over the "T.V. Eye" debacle. "Mark's the man. Now everyone will hear it, and they'll know it."