“Surreal” is about the only word to describe it when that kid you remember from “Gremlins” and “Goonies,” all grown up now, is rocking out in the middle of a record store.
And surreal it was when Corey Feldman and his band played for a bewildered crowd numbering less than a hundred recently at Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard. As fans and curious shoppers waited (and waited), a drummer, a guitarist, a bassist named Pharaoh and a keyboard player (none of whom would look lost at a construction site) along with two backup singers crowded onto a makeshift stage, where a sax player eventually joined them. Behind the motley crew was a blown up image of 31-year-old Feldman’s third album, Former Child Actor.
Much later than scheduled, a figure stepped out from a door marked “employees only,” wearing a Prince-like purple suit, long trench coat and a black pimp hat that could have fallen off of Scott Weiland’s closet shelf. The mysterious entrance, designed to build suspense, might have actually worked had it been used at a larger venue than a Tower Records.
Feldman approached the mic, and over sounds that bizarrely mixed Red Hot Chili Peppers funk with blues, Billy Joel piano pomp, ’80s pop, and corny hard rock, he sang: “I’ve been boxed in/ Locked out/ Shut down/ I could’ve been great/ Could’ve been a contender/ But now I can’t do sh-/ ‘Cause I’m a former child actor.”
Like a street performer, he pantomimed being “boxed in” as he sang the line.
“As a kid growing up, there were three albums that I listened to,” Feldman explained afterward, listing the disparate Love Gun by Kiss, Thriller by Michael Jackson and Working Class Dog by Rick Springfield.
Feldman co-wrote his new album’s title track with Springfield, a former soap star and current Las Vegas hotel performer who managed to cross over into a lucrative (and Grammy winning) recording career in the early ’80s. While making a movie together for the Sci-Fi Channel, the two found they were able to relate to each other.
“We had to do something that really drove us both crazy,” Feldman said, running a hand through his bleached blonde locks. “And that topic was that we had both been boxed in and labeled by this ‘teen idol’ thing…. I was trying to decide what the name of my album should be, and I was leafing through some magazines and I [kept seeing], ‘Corey Feldman, former child actor… Corey Feldman, former child star.’ ”
Though he hasn’t given up on acting (he’s shooting a movie called “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star” with David Spade and “Charmed” babe Alyssa Milano), Feldman’s equally committed to making it as a musician. He wrote all of the other tracks on his independently released CD himself, including “Megalo Man,” a less-than-thinly veiled swipe at his former pal and style mentor, Michael Jackson.
Before Feldman performed the song, he busted out the Jacko dance moves he perfected in the flick “Dream a Little Dream” over the bassline from “Billie Jean.” And with the help of a voice processor, he even sounded like the gloved one as he screeched, “You are not what you think/ You think your sh- doesn’t stink/ But you’re just not ‘NSYNC.”
“It’s been exactly a year now since the king and I no longer be friends,” Feldman said with a grin. “I would love to elaborate, but unfortunately due to potential litigation from his lawyers I’m not able to.”
But he elaborated anyway, though cryptically. He said the falling out occurred shortly after September 11, in New York, “when the world had a lot more problems to worry about than who was riding in whose car, if you know what I mean.”
His Jackson days behind him, Feldman’s now concentrating on making his own mark on pop music, via a cluttered rock/funk/blues concoction topped with soul-searching lyrics. He’s perfectly content to let Justin Timberlake pick up the torch for Jackson imitators and run with it.
“It’s quite obvious that I am the O.G., and for Justin to be frontin’ is not cool,” he said, obviously joking. “People compare him to Michael Jackson, but I don’t see it. I see a lot more of a Corey Feldman influence.”
Though Jackson was understandably nowhere to be seen during the “Megalo Man” performance, another of Feldman’s pals from the ’80s, “Stand by Me” co-star Jerry O’Connell, stopped by after the show. The pair visited briefly before Feldman sat down to sign autographs for fans wielding CDs, T-shirts and even a “License to Drive” poster.
“License to Drive,” like several of his films, paired Feldman with Corey Haim. Haim’s been MIA on the pop culture landscape of late, thanks in part to a well-publicized bout with drugs. Feldman, who’s been clean for several years, spoke positively about his old friend.
“He’s great, he’s wonderful, actually. I spoke to him a couple days ago. He actually sounds very good, and I’m very optimistic about his future. And I think he’s going to pull out [of his problems] just fine.”