Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Andrew W.K.: Tiny Desk Concert

Sometimes, an idea is so perverse and bizarre that it needs to be carried out and followed to its logical end. So once we hatched the idea to bring long-haired, wild-eyed, keyboard-pounding, sublimely over-the-top party-rocker Andrew W.K. to perform an intimate concert at Bob Boilen's desk, there was no abandoning it. It simply had to happen.

We had a pretty good sense that Andrew W.K. himself would be game. If one characteristic has defined his unpredictable career, it's the sort of monomaniacal fearlessness that's led him to make one of the most sonically overdriven rock records of all time (2001's I Get Wet), tour with a string quartet, release an album of piano instrumentals (the new 55 Cadillac), produce a Lee "Scratch" Perry record, appear as a commentator on Fox News, travel the world as a motivational speaker, and host a children's show for The Cartoon Network in which kids build gigantic metal contraptions and then blow the holy hell out of them. (That show's title would make a perfect Andrew W.K. song: Destroy Build Destroy.) Naturally, when we approached him with the Tiny Desk Concert challenge, he didn't shy away.

But then, as the date approached, people around the office kept asking me the same question: "So, uh, what is Andrew W.K. going to do, anyway?" His music, after all, doesn't lend itself to intimacy of any kind, and he'd be appearing by himself. I was in charge of bringing him in and setting up the show, so it was only fair that I should have some idea of what on earth was going to happen when he got here, but all I knew was that he needed a keyboard on site. The thing is, though, I didn't want to know. If it was going to be awkward and confusing and a little raw, so much the better: What's rock 'n' roll without an element of surprise?

What we got was... awkward, confusing and a little raw; so much the better. Andrew W.K. opened with two long improvisational piano pieces, performed a heavily reworked version of "I Get Wet," and closed with a thoroughly unexpected cover of Jimmy Webb's "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" (popularized by Judy Collins, Joe Cocker, Linda Ronstadt and others). And there it is: in all likelihood, the first time Andrew W.K. and Linda Ronstadt have ever appeared in a sentence together. Now, that's rock 'n' roll.

To watch last week's Tiny Desk Concert with Zee Avi, click here.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)