Quick survey: Who’s best fit to get at the heart of Cole Porter? The suave sophisticate who was born in a tux, martini glass clutched in his infant fist? Or punk royalty? “Well, Did You Evah!” from the 1939 Broadway musical DuBarry Was a Lady, is the brattier cousin of such Porter hits as “You’re the Top” and “Let’s Do It.” Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby performed a boozy cover of it for the 1956 film High Society, but for my money, the definitive version is one Iggy Pop and Debbie Harry recorded for a Cole Porter themed AIDS benefit album, Red Hot + Blue.
Some Porter classics–“Every Time We Say Goodbye,” “So In Love”–demand sincerity. This one calls for a strong dose of the opposite, which Pop and Harry deliver, both vocally and in the barnstorming music video above. They’re dangerous, funny, and anything but canned, weaving through rat-glammy 1980s New York in thrift store finery, with side trips to a cemetery and a farm where Pop smooches a goat.
As Alex Cox, who brought further punk pedigree to the project as the director of Sid and Nancy and Repo Man told Spin: “Iggy had always wanted to make a video with animals and Debbie had always wanted to publicly burn lingerie so I let them.”
They also filled Pop’s palms with stigmata and ants, and swapped Porter’s champagne for a case of generic dog food.
There are a few minor tweaks to the lyrics (“What cocks!”) and the stars inject the patter with a gleefully louche downtown sensibility. Mars rises behind the Twin Towers, for a swelligantly off-beat package that raised a lot of money for AIDS research and awareness. Other gems from the project:
“It’s All Right with Me” performed by Tom Waits, directed by Jim Jarmusch
“Night and Day” performed by U2, directed by Wim Wenders
“Don’t Fence Me In” performed and directed by David Byrne