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SoundTRAX: "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas"

The cover of the "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" soundtrack features a distorted picture of star Johnny Depp in the desert with bats flying in the sky.
Light in the Attic Records
Universal Pictures

SoundTRAX is a dive into notable music from iconic films and TV shows every Monday-Thursday at 8:10.

The 25th anniversary of a film is often a big deal, but it's even more compelling when not one, but two, Kentucky natives are involved.

The movie version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas— based on the 1971 novel by Louisville's own Hunter S. Thompson was released on this day in 1998, with Owensboro native Johnny Depp starring as Thompson's alter ego, "Raoul Duke."

The story focuses on Depp's quirky journalist character and his psychopathic attorney "Dr. Gonzo," played by Benicio del Toro, as they travel to Vegas on a most psychedelic road trip.

You also get Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Mark Harmon and Gary Busey contributing to the insanity, as well as plenty of fun cameos— including musicians Lyle Lovett and Flea— plus Monty Python's Terry Gilliam directs.

Having said that, the film is very much an acquired taste. In fact it was a colossal bomb upon release. but has since grown in popularity, as drug-fueled-fever-dream types of farces tend to do.

But you know I'm here for the soundtrack, which features everything from trippy classics from Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Three Dog Night and Booker T. and the MG's, to frothy 50s gems from Debbie Reynolds and Perry Como. Hell, even the Dead Kennedys play over the credits!

But when I think of the movie I tend to remember the opening scene, when Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo are kicking off their colorful journey by inventorying their substantial stash of pharmaceuticals. Gonzo sings along to the radio, completely butchering a 1970 Brewer & Shipley favorite.

So in honor of the 25th anniversary of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, today's SoundTRAX is, appropriately enough, "One Toke Over the Line."

Or if, inexplicably, you'd prefer Benicio del Toro's version...

Mel is the WFPK morning host. Email Mel at mfisher@lpm.org.