This feature was originally published in September 2015 in honor of the film’s 40th anniversary.
Ranking the Album is a feature in which we take an iconic or beloved record and dare to play favorites. It’s a testament to the fact that classic album or not, there are still some tracks we root for more than others to pop up in our shuffles. Today, in honor of Fox’s new reboot starring Laverne Cox, we rank the songs of The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack from worst to best.
We would like, if we may, to take you on a strange journey.
It seemed a fairly ordinary assignment when Matt Melis (asshole!) and his colleague David Buchanan (slut!), two youngish, ordinary, healthy music journalists, were asked that late September evening to rank The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack, a favorite of both of them. It’s true that Rocky Horror was released in theaters 40 years ago this weekend. It’s true also that their fishnets were badly in need of some repair. But they being normal music journalists, and desperate for a byline, well, they were not going to let a little run in their hosiery stop them from doing an anniversary ranking. An anniversary ranking. It was an anniversary ranking they were going to remember for a very long time.
So come up to our lab, and see what’s on the slab. We see you shiver with antici-pation. And if this list doesn’t make you give yourself over to absolute pleasure, let us know where we stand (on our feet!) in the comments section.
17. “Super Heroes”
Performer(s): Brad, Janet, The Criminologist, and chorus
One of a handful of songs here you’d swear was written by someone with a hard-on for Ziggy Stardust, “Super Heroes” might be the least-impacting track in the Rocky canon, but it does have two saving graces: the Criminologist’s introspective final thoughts and a choral arrangement that wouldn’t be terribly foreign in a chapel. Given this entire maelstrom was spawned from a tiny church wedding in Denton, it feels fitting. Dull, but fitting.
Moment of Absolute Pleasure: The Criminologist’s interjections are supportively poetic, reminiscent of the old Scotsman’s rant on Pink Floyd’s “Great Gig in the Sky”. –David Buchanan
16. “I Can Make You a Man (Reprise)”
Performer(s): Frank, Janet, and Transylvanians
The reprise of “I Can Make You a Man” suffers from, let us say, Eddus Interruptus (courtesy of the “one from the vaults”), but Frank can do a lot with a little. Not only do we get those unforgettable heel kicks in time to the percussion, but Janet also surprises us when she blurts out, “I’m a muscle fan,” much to Brad’s consternation. Is the allure of Frank’s “Don’t Dream It, Be It” mentality beginning to seduce Janet? Brad, you better be careful there, big guy. You’re not looking so … “dominant.”
Moment of Absolute Pleasure: Frank taking Rocky by the “ha-ha-hand” to his bridal suite. Janet may have caught the bouquet at Ralph and Betty’s wedding, but it looks like it’s actually Frank and Rocky’s turn next. So much for tradition. –Matt Melis
15. “Once in a While”
“Once in a While” holds the distinction of being the only Rocky song not to survive the transition from stage to screen. Barry Bostwick recorded a version, but it failed to make the final theatrical cut. The song itself finds Brad — fresh off being seduced by Frank — remorseful and repledging his devotion to Janet. It’s a somewhat memorable song live, especially if Janet joins Brad on the choruses, but it’s troubling too. Having just surrendered to temptation a short while ago (not to mention Frank asleep in the bed), the song may ring insincere. At the same time, while Brad repents, Janet, guilt-ridden about her own romp with Frank and hurt by Brad’s, succumbs to desire again with Rocky… Yeah, we have one of those classic fiancé-fiancée-alien-Frankenstein love rectangles that you read about. I’ll say this, though: If you were living in this castle and not getting any loving, it was your own damn fault.
Moment of Absolute Pleasure: Brad sitting on his bed with a cigarette and singing. It’s the asshole at his most vulnerable, and you find yourself both wanting to believe him and rooting for a happy ending for those two crazy kids from Denton. –Matt Melis
14. “Science Fiction/Double Feature (Reprise)”
Performer(s): The Lips (presumably)
This dialed-back reprisal rendition of the opening credits song doesn’t gain nearly as much attention, being absent ruby-red lips and ’50s movie jingle gimmickry, but revisiting “Science Fiction/Double Feature” as a bookend piece is unsurprisingly appropriate for hammering home the lyrics’ point: the show ain’t over until the transvestite dies tragically in an unfortunate radio antenna accident. Or something like that.
Moment of Absolute Pleasure: When it finally overtakes “Super Heroes” as the credits roll, honestly. –David Buchanan
13. “Planet, Schmanet, Janet”
Performer(s): Frank, Brad, Janet, and Dr. Scott
Left off the original 1975 soundtrack (along with “Sword of Damocles”), “Planet, Schmanet, Janet” was a welcome addition on the 25th anniversary re-release. Not so much an essential track as a fun way to move the film from dinner to the floor show, the song does soundtrack a number of memorable images: a jealous, enraged Frank chasing Janet throughout the castle, ridiculously grinding against her once she’s been glued to the floor, and turning everyone, save for Riff Raff and Magenta, into nude, white statues.
Moment of Absolute Pleasure: Sci-fi nerds had to appreciate seeing the Sonic Transducer and the Medusa in action. Forty years later, we’re still trying to catch up to Frank’s technology. –Matt Melis
Performer(s): Dr. Scott, The Criminologist, Brad, Janet, Frank, Riff Raff, Magenta, Columbia, and Rocky
Dr. Everett Scott “happens” upon Dr. Frank N Furter’s castle in a grave search for the whereabouts of his now-deceased biker nephew, Eddie. This song, complete with a chorus part from several main cast members, recounts Eddie’s belligerent behavior and eventual disappearance, complete with a cautionary letter penned to warn his Uncle Everett about nefarious deeds. It’s then revealed to Dr. Scott that Eddie’s death was indeed at the hands of the mad doctor Frank N Furter, culminating in one of several cheesy chase sequences in the film.
Moment of Absolute Pleasure: Frank’s big reveal implies a) he murdered Eddie for Rocky parts, and/or b) that his guests were eating him mid-chorus. Either way, it’s Hannibal-esque and perfectly timed. –David Buchanan
11. “Dammit Janet”
Performer(s): Brad, Janet, and caretakers
The babes in the wood plot requires things to start out as innocently and unthreatening as possible. And what could be more wholesome than a wedding in a quaint, small-town church? Never mind the way Tim Curry’s clergyman creepily hovers over a girl, the “she got hers now he’ll get his” message toilet papered on the newlyweds’ car, or the fact that the American Gothic caretakers are already setting up for a child’s funeral. Damn it, this is Denton, The Home of Happiness, and nothing truly bad can ever happen, right?
O’Brien’s musical marriage proposal captures two young people — in all their simple, light-headed innocence — at the precise moment their entire lives have been building toward. Now, all that’s left to do is settle down, get a house with a white picket fence, pop out a few kids, and die. It makes you wonder if Frank didn’t actually do them a favor by altering their course. Instead, Brad and Janet end up on reality television. But that’s another story.
Moment of Absolute Pleasure: The giddiness the couple shares as Brad proposes demonstrates just how invested they are in the old small-town dream of growing up for the sole purpose of settling down. And Brad sure must feel like a badass dropping all of those d-bombs. –Matt Melis
10. “Over at the Frankenstein Place”
Performer(s): Brad, Janet, Riff Raff, and chorus
Every evil scientist — even those from alien territories coincidentally named after a Halloween-y place in Europe — has a creepy castle and/or lair. It’s as classic a horror trope as monsters and yawning to “protect” your date from the really spooky ones at the theater. You cannot have this movie without a castle, and you can’t have a gigantic flamboyance of a musical to this extreme without singing its introduction. “Over at the Frankenstein Place”, though lazy in titling, is stunning in chorus capacity, and besides a harmony heaven duet from Bostwick and Sarandon (Janet), hunched handyman and Rocky Horror creator Richard O’Brien gives one killer Robert Plant of a solo that you must hear to believe.
Moment of Absolute Pleasure: When the legendary Richard O’Brien gets his soaring aria of a solo and proves early on in the movie that he can contribute far more to stage and screen than strictly a script. –David Buchanan
09. “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me”
Performer(s): Janet, Magenta, Columbia, Frank, Riff Raff, Brad, and Rocky
Let’s recap. Brad and Janet pledged their eternal love for one another earlier in the day. Since then, both have been seduced by Frank, and Janet has also had a roll on the slab with Frank’s “creature of the night,” Rocky. (Is it really such a shock that the two found themselves in marriage counseling in Shock Treatment?) Janet’s “tasted blood, and she wants more” when she finds herself alone with Rocky, and despite being unable to suppress her girlish giggling while cooing innuendos, clearly Janet has done a lot of maturing over the last few hours. Wouldn’t surprise me if she’s already started leaving that engagement ring at home. Janet … I said Janet (slut!). Thank you.
Moment of Absolute Pleasure: Voyeurism isn’t kosher, but Columbia and Magenta make it look so much damn fun. Sleepover in their room! Oh, tell us about it, Janet. –Matt Melis
08. “Sword of Damocles”
Performer(s): Rocky and Transylvanians
One of the more introspective songs on the roster, next to “I’m Going Home”, this is the only song to put the creature known as Rocky front and center. Or above, rather. Rocky’s new existence has just been unveiled to Franky’s fans and detractors alike, though countering the film version of Frankenstein’s monster, Rocky has … human reflection and an apparent grasp on the big question of “Why am I here?” True to form, he gets a song and a revelation rolled into one, except his is lip-synched: Trevor White of Sounds sang over Peter Hinwood’s character, as Hinwood was hired solely on looks.
Moment of Absolute Pleasure: Riff Raff’s maniacal turning of the crank is almost ACME-level cartoonish and ought to be serenaded comically by kazoo. –David Buchanan
07. “I Can Make You a Man”
Performer(s): Frank and Transylvanians
Tried CrossFit and P90x but still look like a 98-pound weakling? Well, Body by Frank can deliver the Charles Atlas seal of approval in just seven days. Eddie may have had a “certain naive charm,” but Rocky comes rock solid, and now you can too! Sound too good to be true? Well, let Frank sing to you all about Rocky’s strict fitness and dietary regimen, guaranteed to “build up your shoulders, chest, arms, and legs.” If your personal trainer cared as much about your dynamic tension as Frank does about Rocky’s, you wouldn’t be reading this right now. You’d be at the beach, kicking sand in faces.
Moment of Absolute Pleasure: That may be Rocky’s birthday pommel horse, but Frank’s the one riding it like a stallion. –Matt Melis
06. “Rose Tint My World”
Performer(s): Columbia, Rocky, Janet, Brad, Frank, Dr. Scott, and Riff Raff
If the “Time Warp” is the signature dance number/audience participation cue for generations of Rocky Horror attendees, then the gallivanting trio of “Rose Tint My World”, “Don’t Dream It, Be It”, and “Wild and Untamed Thing” (otherwise known as “The Floor Show”) are essentially RHPS’ musical bread an’ butter as a semi-finale crescendo. Save for Rocky’s King Kong savior moment and “I’m Going Home”, the Floor Show medley is basically the film’s last big wow moment. It has everything a growing transvestite cosplayer needs: Brad and company in full Franky getup, Dr. Scott’s apparent pre-emptive costuming efforts, and a lead-up to the Handyman’s laser weapon light show (more on that elsewhere). The true fact is, don’t dream it. See it for yourself.
Moment of Absolute Pleasure: Here’s a triple-threat tie for our masterful threesome: Brad’s transition from clumsy n00b kinkster to coaxing centerfold, the swimming pool pseudo-orgy (complete with Brad reprisal), and Frank’s seductive mugging to the camera upon the intro chorus of “Wild and Untamed Thing”. –David Buchanan
05. “I’m Going Home”
Performer(s): Frank and chorus
“Sweet Transvestite” taught us that Frank knows how to make an entrance. His exit, “I’m Going Home”, also pulls out all the stops as the prodigal scientist prepares to say goodbye to planet Earth for good. Mutinous Riff Raff and Magenta may not be persuaded by Frank’s explanation and flair for theatrics, but their firm stance on executing him isn’t for a shoddy performance. Frank belts out a ballad about his life of being an outcast everywhere he goes, and we almost forget and forgive that he’s been holding the asshole and slut against their wills all night, seducing them left and right, turning them into statues, and making them perform musical numbers in an empty castle in the middle of the night for an audience of no one. Apparently, this sort of thing doesn’t fly back home in Transylvania. And as we find out, Frank won’t be going home — well, not alive anyway.
Moment of Absolute Pleasure: When Curry tilts his head back, disappears in a spotlight, and sings, “I’m going home” one last time. Frank deserved to go out in bright lights. –Matt Melis
04. “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul”
Performer(s): Eddie and Transylvanians
Meat Loaf (born Michael Lee Aday) has been historically known to have had a rough go of things in his early pre-Bat Out of Hell days, quoted once as saying his treatment in the entertainment industry was akin to that of a “circus clown.” The ’70s netted him two golden opportunities since then that fans know and love: the aforementioned seminal opera rock record and his performance as Eddie in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. As a member of the stage play, he garnered dual roles as both Eddie and Dr. Scott, but on film he claimed only the one. And his grandiose vocals, biker attire, and mimed saxophonics were an eternal crowd-pleaser. Meat Loaf occasionally returns to Rocky reunions and conventions to perform “Hot Patootie”, though it’s a cherished rarity.
Moment of Absolute Pleasure: If Frank’s pose before he plunges an ax into Eddie wasn’t somehow a muse for American Psycho, I’ll buy my own pair of fishnets right now. –David Buchanan
03. “Science Fiction/Double Feature”
Performer(s): The Lips
The Lips are the portal leading us into one of the strangest journeys ever put on celluloid. Lucky for us all that the initial idea for the opening — playing the song over old B-movie footage — proved beyond the budget. Not only did “Science Fiction/Double Feature” make Patricia Quinn’s (Magenta) juicy reds the most famous this side of the Rolling Stones’ logo, but the song also allows Richard O’Brien to forever pay homage to the science fiction B-movies of his youth that partly inspired the Rocky Horror Show. Sure, there’s a bit of exposition in there, but more importantly the song is an invitation, a ticket torn — a reminder of the singular experience that is a late-night double-feature picture show. And, boy, does this song make us want to go.
Moment of Absolute Pleasure: The Lips slide shut, the chorus rallies, and the title appears in blood red, the ‘S’ in “Show” running down the black screen. Hear that? That’s the sound of your Rocky cherry popping. –Matt Melis
02. “Sweet Transvestite”
Performer(s): Frank and Transylvanians
“Sweet Transvestite” is the point of no return. Once Frank’s cape flings open and he belts out his demeanor, fetish, and planet of origin, you’re either gyrating along with him or making for the exit like the hilariously weirded-out Brad and Janet. It’s the scene that will forever define Curry, and he owns every facet of this rock song, from the kinky chorus roaring through his dark lips down to the ripped fishnets hugging his thighs. It’s unabashed, punk, and, regardless of sexual orientation, sexy as hell. While “Don’t Dream It, Be It” might also speak to being true to one’s self, “Sweet Transvestite” concerns itself only with decadence and absolute pleasure.
Moment of Absolute Pleasure: “And nothing will ever be the same,” Riff Raff notes a couple minutes earlier during “Time Warp”. He just as easily could’ve been singing about the moment Frank throws off his cape and gyrates for the first time in his corset, garters, and fishnets. “A mental mind-fuck can be nice” … and again, sexy as hell. –Matt Melis
01. “Time Warp”
Performer(s): Riff Raff, Magenta, The Criminologist, Columbia, and Transylvanians
Even a blushing virgin has likely seen or heard “Time Warp”, the The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s signature song. When discussing a movie screened annually around Halloween whose lifeblood is audience participation, you can show up propless to any premiere and still learn the steps to this infectious dance number in no time flat. Sequentially, this track is listed fourth; substantially, it’s number one for good reason. It tells you zero about the (ultimately eccentric) plot, but shows you everything that The Rocky Horror Picture Show is made of without so much as a mere hiccup in the timing. After all, it’s just a jump to the left…
Moment of Absolute Pleasure: Literally every single cutaway of the Criminologist is comedy gold. I could watch a GIF of him dancing on desks for eternity. I think I will. –David Buchanan