Why Do I Own This? is a column exploring the weirder pop-culture flotsam and jetsam that washes up in the lives of A.V. Club writers, the impulses that drive us to acquire such things, and the motives for clinging to them long after their ephemeral eras pass.
What is it? Jesse “The Body” Ventura’s lone foray into music took place in 1984 with the 12-inch single “The Body Rules.” The title track was paired with “Showdown With Mr. V” on the record’s B-side, because apparently one song about Ventura’s physical prowess just wasn’t enough for his diehard fans. The songs were written and produced by Mark Orion, a Minneapolis musician whose sole contribution to the music world seems to be this release. The songs are early-’80s cock-rock at its worst (or perhaps best): Both tracks largely consist of a repetitive drum machine, generic riffs, needless guitar solos, and Ventura shouting about his deltoids.
Since it’s a picture disc, it’s easy to see that the real selling point is the artwork. The A-side’s photo is of Ventura wearing a purple headdress and feathered boa as he lackadaisically grips the neck of an off-brand guitar. It also features the release’s liner notes, a recommendation to “play loud,” and a dedication to “The U.S. Seals who died in Vietnam and Grenada.” This dedication seems like the only part of the release that makes any sense, as Ventura’s tenure as a member of the U.S. Navy’s Underwater Demolition Team, a unit that eventually merged with the SEALs, is something he proclaimed proudly throughout his career. Going along with the theme of military service is his picture on the record’s B-side, which sees him dressed in camouflage, holding various weapons, and with blood droplets strategically placed on his chest and arms.
How did I get it? A few years back, I visited a record fair being held in a hotel conference room in a neighboring Chicago suburb. While I went with the hope of tracking down some things I’d actually enjoy listening to, I came across this relic, on a table featuring crates full of beat-up records by Chicago punk bands like The Vindictives and Screeching Weasel. With the encouragement of a couple of friends, I happily handed over $5 and walked away with this ridiculous piece of musical history.
What’s its cultural significance? The record was released in 1984, the year Ventura first took a reprieve from wrestling. He had developed blood clots in his lungs, which was keeping him out of the ring. Although he made a few return appearances in the following years, he was never able to wrestle with his previous frequency. This is pure speculation, but given that his film debut was only a few years off, it wouldn’t be hard to bet that Ventura was looking for new forms of entertainment to dip his toes into, given his need to perform in a less physically demanding medium. It’s hard to say for certain what brought “The Body Rules” into existence, but it’s hard to believe it was merely a cash-grab, since only 2,500 copies were pressed.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the release is that it was engineered by Paul Stark and released on Minneapolis’ Twin/Tone Records. Stark recorded these two songs in the same building where The Replacements recorded Hootenanny only a year prior. The two releases have no stylistic similarities, but this implies a link between professional wrestling and Paul Westerberg that I never considered before.
Why would I get rid of it? I have plenty of novelty records in my collection, including split 7-inches by hardcore bands fronted by animals. And I openly preach the gospel of Jud Jud, so I am all for owning questionable pieces of media. It’s hard for me to imagine a time when I’d actively look to unload this; it’s a frequent topic when people ask me about my favorite album in my collection.
How much could I get for it? It isn’t hard to track down a copy; a handful of eBay listings price the single from $8 and $40. If I did sell it, I’d be content with just making my five bucks back.
What are the chances I’ll keep it? I can’t see any reason I’d want to get rid of it, and even though it rarely gets played, there’s something comforting about knowing it’s on my shelf if I ever need a reminder of Ventura’s long-lost musical career.