Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween!

Welcome to the best day of the year! Since I missed a day this month, today will feature not one but two songs from the great Vincent Price! If you thought his recording career started and ended with the "Thriller" monologue, then come closer my dear.

The first song is from Price's character Professor Ratigan, from the 1986 Disney animated film The Great Mouse Detective. It's sort of a children's Sherlock Holmes, with mice instead of people, and of course Vincent Price is the dastardly villain. The hero mouse is named Basil in honor of former Sherlock Basil Rathbone, and although Rathbone was dead by the time this movie was made, his voice (sampled from a 1966 Sherlock Holmes reading) makes a cameo as Basil the mouse's upstairs human neighbor. Of course Vincent Price steals the show, though, as his deliciosly evil Professor Ratigan plots to take control of the British monarchy. Here he is extolling his own michievous virtues in "The World's Greatest Criminal Mind." Tricky and wicked, of course!

And the final song of the season is... "The Monster Mash"! But wait, you say, this cannot be. Oh, but yes it can! Rules are made to be broken, after all, even my own. In fairness, this "Monster Mash" isn't the Bobby Boris Pickett one that crowds the October airwaves to the exclusion of so many other fine spooky songs, but a version by Vincent Price from a 1980 movie called The Monster Club. It's an anthology film hosted by Price as a vampire named Eramus, with monstrous musical interludes between the anthology segments. One of these interludes is "The Monster Mash," and I have to say that Price's take on "humes" (humans) at the beginning of this segment is spot-on. We're some of the scariest monsters of all, and he knows it! So just for today, the Transylvania Twist is now the Mash. Remember when you get to his door, tell them Vincent sent you...

Until next year, creep it real, ghouls! Now get out there and raise hell.

Friday, October 30, 2015

What's inside your haunted head?

With a resume that includes playing guitar for The Gun Club, The Cramps, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, I'm embarrassed to say I wasn't aware of Kid Congo's solo career until last year. Obviously he's a legend, and his solo work is in the same vein as the bands he's contributed to, with lots of punk, surf, psychobilly, and horror influences. As late as I am to the Kid Congo party, I'm excited to have a few new albums to obsess over!

Kid Congo's early life is just as fascinating as his music career, and he wrote about it in some detail in a March 2014 Huffington Post article called "How I Came Out of the Closet and into the Streets." He grew up in Los Angeles and began obsessing over David Bowie in the early 70s, as well as attending Rodney Bingenheimer's  English Disco, where a lot of glam rock stars hung out. He helped form The Gun Club in the late 70s, joined The Cramps soon after, and has continued his streak of awesomeness ever since. 

Today's song is a glittery, surreal trip into the unknown. It's the title track to his most recent release, 2013's Haunted Head, and if you like it, check out the rest of his work! He puts the authentic back in trash.

Body prep that can't be beat!

It's already been a year of entertainment highlights for me, like TWICE seeing John Cameron Mitchell reprise his role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Ellen Greene reprise her role as Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, and a staged reading of Carol Burnett's play about her childhood in Hollywood. On par with all of these performances, though, was the Broadway production of Fun Home, based on Alison Bechdel's graphic novel of the same name.

The book and the musical focus on Bechdel's upbringing in an emotionally dysfunctional family that owns a funeral home, her coming to terms with both her father's and her own homosexuality, and her father's eventual suicide. As dour as all this sounds, though, the musical manages to bring out the joy lurking around the corners of these difficult topics. This is none more apparent than in today's song, "Come to the Fun Home," which is a Partridge family-style extravaganza that the three Bechdel kids sing as a made-up advertisement for the family funeral home (nicknamed Fun Home). They make death fun! No wonder Fun Home won an armful of Tonys.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

No more hot dogs! No more excuses!

Speaking of Elvira's Halloween stage show, during last year's Elvira's Big Top, Brett Loudermilk used one of the most insane songs ever recorded for his sword/balloon
swallowing act: Hasil Adkins' "No More Hot Dogs." The song covers a few of Adkins' favorite topics, such as sex, meat eating, and decapitation, and is delivered in his signature one-man band style, along with demented cackles and lyrics. 

For obvious reasons, Hasil Adkins always had more of a cult following than mainstream success. That following was bolstered in the 80s when The Cramps covered his song "She Said," which includes a lyric describing Adkins' one night stand as "a dying can of that commodity meat." No wonder he wants his lady friends to lay off the hot dogs! 

In addition to being a progenitor of psychobilly, Hasil Adkins also acted in a few films and had some of his songs included on soundtracks. Since he was a lifelong resident of Appalachia (Boone, West Virginia), he was the subject of an Appalshop documentary, The Wild World of Hasil Adkins. Shockingly, after living 67 years on a diet mainly of coffee, meat, cigarettes, and liquor, in 2005 he died a few days after being run over by a teenager on an ATV. He is missed, but at least he got to keep his head.

And here is Hasil doing a live performance of "She Said" on Long Island's long-running cable access monster kiddie musical show, Ghoul A Go-Go:

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Mistress of the Dark can't keep it in park.

Transitioning today from the band Queen to the Queen of Halloween, because what would this holiday be without Elvira? Sad. That is what it would be. 

For the past two years I was able to catch Elvira's Halloween stage show at Knott's Berry Farm in southern California. Unfortunately I'm not going to be able to make it this year for Elvira's Asylum, but Behind the Thrills has already posted the whole show online for those of us who can't see it in person. Every year Elvira expands on her usual "little black dress" wardrobe with exciting new costumes, and this year is no different. If you haven't seen her Asylum outfits yet, you need to get googling and oogling!

Today's song comes from a band featured in last year's Elvira show, Jelly of the Month Club. Their song "Welcome to the Carnival" was used in Elvira's Big Top, and apparently they and the Mistress of the Dark got on like a house afire because last October they also recorded "The Macabre Mobile" together. If there's one thing I love almost as much as Elvira, it's Elvira's car, so this collaboration was double-D exciting for me.

The song starts off with a Boris Karloff introduction from the 1958 film The Haunted Strangler, before a member of Jelly of the Month Club channels Rodney Dangerfield to illuminate Elvira's dangerously sexy driving abilities. Elvira herself chimes in throughout, and even gets a chance to crack her classic speeding ticket joke from the Elvira: Mistress of the Dark movie, plus offer some valuable road safety advice. Take a listen before you have to learn the hard way.

Monday, October 26, 2015

This Ming is a psycho!

Of course the last Queen Halloween song of this season has to come from their classic soundtrack to 1980's Flash Gordon. During high school, this movie was one of my late night VHS staples. It's based on the 1930's Flash Gordon comic strip and is intentionally campy--sort of like a less risque Barbarella. Astonishingly, producer Dino DeLaurentis had a long line of auteurs in mind to direct the film at various times (Frederico Fellini, Nicolas Roeg, and Sergio Leone) before settling on the comparatively little-known Mike Hodges.

Although not a great film, Flash Gordon is certainly a fun one. Max Von Sydow is the plastic-haired Ming the Merciless, Richard O'Brien has a small role as a Pan-like treeman, and Queen wrote and performed one of the earliest feature film rock scores. Their music has helped the film maintain its cult classic status over the past 35 years, due in no small part to the fact that you just can't not sing along with the theme. He'll save every one of us! He's a miracle! King of the impossible! Of course Flash is just a man, but he can never fail, and neither can Queen.

And the end credit song/theme reprise:

I think I'm a banana tree.

I'm seriously behind on posts, but for good reason. I spent the weekend at the seventh annual Knoxville Horror Film Festival watching some of the best new horror features and shorts. If you haven't been to this festival, you should definitely check it out next October, as well as their monthly events throughout the year. After all, horror movies are always more fun to watch with an audience, so why lurk in solitude behind your computer or TV when you could see a movie on a big screen and scream along with your fellow film fans?

As a result of my recent traveling schedule and eyeball-scorching levels of movie marathoning, I've reached an exciting new level of exhaustion that is loosening the last screws left in my noggin. I could definitely get on board with Queen's fashion choices in the video for "I'm Going Slightly Mad." Tea kettle hat? Giant penguin beak? YES. And really, wearing a banana bunch on your head just makes sense when you think about it. How many times have you wanted a banana, yet found no bananas in your immediate vicinity? If you were simply wearing several on your head, you'd have plenty for yourself and to share with others. A banana hat begs the question--are you going slightly mad, or slightly GENIUS???