Friday, October 12, 2018

The devil's doo-wop!

Although the heyday of doo-wop has passed (sadly taking with it the subgenre of Halloween doo-wop songs), one group is still keeping the spirit alive with their dulcet (yet evil) harmonies. Twin Temple formed on Halloween in 2016 and have been singing the dark lord's praises in the form of golden-age rock 'n roll ever since. Alexandra and Zachary James call themselves the high priests of Twin Temple, and although they are practicing Satanists, they say their religion has more to do with celebrating free will and nonconformity than sacrificing virgins. Still, I wouldn't piss them off if I were you. They know how to hex you, after all.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Da doo run-run away!!!

Art by Ben Newman
While one might be tempted to think that yesterday's song, "I Walked with a Zombie," is the only Halloween-worthy doo-wop song ever written, one would find themselves gravely mistaken. In fact, there's a two-disc set called Doo Wop Halloween is a Scream that collects 27 Halloween songs from doo-wop's golden age. On it you'll find the obligatory "Monster Mash," but also lesser-known tunes like "Frankenstein's Den," "I'm in the Ground for Good," and today's song, "My Baby Likes Scary Movies" by Pete and the Bloodsuckers.

Pete (or perhaps one of the Bloodsuckers) likes to take his lady to the movies to get snuggly in the dark, but will his girl settle for a sweet romantic story? Hell no! It takes the Wolfman, Frankenstein, Dracula, or the Creature from the Black Lagoon to get her in the mood. Man, can I relate to a frightening degree! This song is enough to make me believe in reincarnation. I don't think I was born when it was written, but clearly it's about me. I hope I knew how good I had it back when I could turn on the radio and hear songs like this!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Who says the dead don't walk?

One Roky Erickson song is not enough, so today's song comes from a 1990 Roky Erickson tribute album called Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye. It contains a diverse array of artists covering Roky's songs, like ZZ Top, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Butthole Surfers, and today's performer, R.E.M

Although R.E.M isn't a band typically known for embracing horror themes, they picked one of Roky's most overtly horror songs to cover: "I Walked With a Zombie." The title might bring to mind chunky, distorted riffs and growling vocals a la Rob Zombie, but don't be fooled. This is a melodic, heartfelt doo-wop number about a nighttime stroll with a zombie friend. If you listen closely, I bet you can learn all the lyrics in one go. 

Roky's version is still sweet and languorous, but slightly harsher than the R.E.M. version thanks to his throaty vocals. To me it's what Van Morrison would sound like if Van Morrison, y'know, walked with zombies.

The video features images from Jacques Tourneur's gorgeous 1943 film I Walked With A Zombie. If you've never seen it, and can't imagine a zombie film being beautiful, please check it out and be amazed. The trailer offers a sampling:

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

All I know is you will feel his bite.

Today's song comes from another tortured soul who has wrestled schizophrenia, but unlike Jackson Frank, Roky Erickson is still with us to tell the tale. At 71, he's still bringing his catchy brand of psychedelic horror rock to lucky audiences all over the country. 

He started out in the mid-60s in a group called The 13th Floor Elevators, but after spending a few years in a state mental hospital, he formed a new group with a harder sound and a fixation on horror/sci-fi themes. His 1981 album The Evil One is a start-to-finish classic. Songs like "Stand for the Fire Demon," "Don't Shake Me Lucifer," and "Bloody Hammer" will have you singing along to their sweetly poisoned choruses before you can say earworm. Imagine if the Misfits grew up in Texas and you might get something like...

Monday, October 8, 2018

Halloween Is Black as Night

It's been a gloomy day here in New York City, following a gloomy weekend (in more ways than the weather). Autumn has really begun to sink its teeth into our necks. Feels like the right day for a pensive Halloween song that captures the spirit of the season and of our uncertain times. 

Jackson C. Frank was a folk musician at the beginning of a promising career in 1966 when he began a slide into mental illness that he would never quite recover from. Paul Simon had produced his self-titled debut album a year earlier, and although it was well-received, Jackson fell into a life-long battle with depression shortly after it was released. At one point he was diagnosed as schizophrenic, but he rejected that and maintained his troubles stemmed from a grade school furnace explosion that killed many of his friends and left him with lingering injuries. He ended up homeless in his later years, but was searched out by a fan who helped him record some demos of new songs.

Today's song, "Halloween Is Black as Night," is one of those demos. It and a few other new songs were released along with his 1965 self-titled album when it was finally put out on CD in 1996. Sadly Jackson Frank's life was cut short just three years later at age 56, but his legacy lives on in the many people who have uncovered his work and recorded his songs. Hardship and misfortune drip from his rough voice and plaintive guitar, and provide the best company misery can offer on a dark October night such as this.


Friday, October 5, 2018

How's your head?

As noted last year, Elvira is sadly no longer doing her fabulous Halloween show at Knott's Scary Farm. However, this year marks the 30th anniversary of her classic film, Elivra: Mistress of the Dark, so there is still much Elvira excitement to be had this Halloween season! Arrow Films recently announced their forthcoming remastered bluray of the film, top-loaded (heh heh) with tons of extras. Have I already pre-ordered my copy, you ask? Well, does a chicken have a pecker??

Yesterday, Cassandra Peterson hosted a screening of Elvira: Mistress of the Dark at the Salem Horror Fest in Salem, Massachusetts. I'm crossing my fingers, toes, and earlobes in hopes that she will host more screenings in other cities as the release of the bluray draws near. Her movie didn't get a proper release when it first came out in 1988--the film company went bankrupt on the very day the movie came out, so it only made it to a handful of theaters. Such a classic film deserves much better treatment, and hopefully will get it this time around!

While we wait for the sparkly new 4K Elvira to grace our TV screens, let's enjoy some of what the movie has to offer. First up is the opening credit sequence, featuring the song "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" by Lori Chacko. It's not the 80s song of the same name you might remember by Great White. This one rocks harder, is less sleazy, and is sung by a woman (although her voice is so deep, for many years I thought she was a man). When I was a kid, this sequence made me want to learn to drive, and to one day own a Thunderbird. I achieved the first goal, but I'm still saving up my magic beans for that dream car...


During last year's Knott's Scary Farm show, Elvira recreated her movie for the stage, including a cameo by the baddest car of all, the Macabre Mobile! Below is a clip of the segment replicating the opening of the movie. Not much has changed between then and now--clearly the gal's still got it 30 years later.

And if you're curious about the actual singer of "Once Bitten, Twice Shy," here is the original video in all its 80s teased-hair glory. Poison wishes they could get their hair this high!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Doom buggy race!

For several years now, Disney has been promising an animated TV special, or perhaps even series, of their classic ride The Haunted Mansion. In 2014, amazing horror illustrator Gris Grimly announced that he had been hired as Art Director and Executive Producer. Yet nothing ever materialized of that partnership. Early this year, however, Disney finally released a trailer for the series, now animated by Shannon Tindle, creator of last year's excellent animated film Kubo and the Two Strings:

As cool as that looks, Disney is still dragging its feet on making the dream of a Haunted Mansion cartoon a reality. Hard to understand why, considering how many people love the Haunted Mansion ride, and how rich it is in storytelling opportunities. Who wouldn't want to follow the adventures of Madame Leota, a ghostly head trapped inside a crystal ball? Or take a trip with some hitchhiking ghosts? 

My theory on the delay is that Disney is haunted by an entirely different kind of ghost--the one of that awful Eddie Murphy Haunted Mansion movie from a few years ago. But c'mon, Disney, you know you can only go up from there! Until you come to your senses, us happy haunts will have to satisfy ourselves with the beloved Haunted Mansion music of yore. Here's a cover Los Lobos did of the Haunted Mansion theme, "Grim Grinning Ghosts":

And of course the original!