In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, we’re picking our favorite songs from action movies.
“Neon Slime” sounds like a cowboy boot sticking to a beer-stained linoleum floor—a sleazy and frankly quite silly slice of early-’80s hard rock. It’s not the kind of song that endures close scrutiny; the production is flat and the lyrics—by Simon Stokes, whose 1973 LP The Incredible Simon Stokes & The Black Whip Thrill Band is something of a biker rock classic—are pretty darn stupid. (Sample: “Bang bang, shoot ’em up / Talkin’ ’bout crime!”)
Vice Squad—the 1982 movie for which “Neon Slime” was written—is more lurid than genuinely sleazy, a flavorful action-thriller about a part-time hooker and the cops who must protect her from the crazed, violent pimp (Wings Hauser, pictured above) she helped put away. Hauser, incidentally, also sings “Neon Slime,” which plays in full over the movie’s opening and closing credits. His vocals—like his performance in the film—are, for lack of a better term, “impassioned.” Hauser seems to be singing in-character; when he warns about “that big-city monster” in the first verse, one gets the sense that he—or, rather, his character, Ramrod—is singing about himself.
It’s Hauser’s half snarl, half scream that pushes “Neon Slime” into the territory of the near-sublime, where every deficiency becomes a charming facet: the corny siren sound effects, the vocal mix, the awkward lyrics. The song—in all of its shambling, unsavory glory—becomes a perfect expression of the era’s big-city paranoia. The late film critic Robin Wood came up with a neat phrase for it: “the excremental city.” It’s the scary, neon-soaked urban nightmare—where hookers stand at every street corner and muggers are always waiting to pounce on nighttime subway riders—that seemed to repulse and fascinate American filmmakers in the late ’70s and early ’80s. “Neon Slime” is that strange attraction, translated into the form of a goofy barroom earworm.