Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

So what is the final non-"Monster Mash" song for that most special scary day of all, Halloween? 

Why, the "Time Warp," or course!  What else could it be?  In my opinion, no one and nothing has done more for making Halloween a joyous event than The Rocky Horror Picture Show, so get up out of your chair, put on a party hat, and let's do the Time Warp again!  It's just a jump to the left, then a step to the right!  Put your hands on your hips and bring your knees in tight!  It's the pelvic thrust that really drives you insa-a-a-a-ane...

I wish we could do the Time Warp again and again, but that's it for this year.  Just like Dr. Frank-N-Furter, I want to come again and stay, so be sure to check back next year for another great month of fun, scary music!  And in the words of Vampira, Ghoulardi, and Zacherley: bad dreams darlings, stay sick, and good night, whatever you are!!! Wah ha ha ha.....

Sunday, October 30, 2011

T-minus 1

Only one day left until Halloween, so are you ready to boogie? You'd better be because your boogiemen (and woman) are here! Today's shock rock selection comes from the band who took all of what Alice Cooper and The Misfits taught about blending horror and rock in the 70s and 80s and made it their own in the 90s - White Zombie

White Zombie formed in the late 80s in New York City, when lead singer Rob Zombie and bassist Sean Yseult were students at Parsons School of Design. While the band started out as a noise rock group, they developed a much more metal/industrial sound in the early 90s, which was fully developed by the time they released their 1992 major label debut, La Sexorcisto: Devil Music, Vol. 1

Their live shows continued to get more and more over-the-top as they became more successful, eventually incorporating explosions, horror movie clips, and plenty of scary props. They broke up in 1998, but Rob Zombie went on to a successful career as a solo artist and horror film director, and the group's other founding member, Sean Yseult, went on to found the band Famous Monsters. She now plays in the bands Rock City Morgue and Star and Dagger and is also a successful fashion designer and visual artist.  

White Zombie recorded plenty of scary songs (which one of their songs couldn't be included on this blog?), but today's selection happens to be a cover of KC and the Sunshine Band's "I'm Your Boogieman."  Who knew those guys could be spooky?  White Zombie originally recorded the song for The Crow soundtrack, but it went on to not only become one of their most well-loved songs (and one of their most danceable), but also to garner them a Grammy nomination. 

The video for this is classic White Zombie - funny and scary, all at once.  And be sure to check out Jim Carrey as the fabulous Dr. Spooky. He makes a great mad scientist!

Ever wondered where White Zombie's name came from?  Take a look at this trailer from the 1932 Bela Lugosi film, White Zombie.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

T-minus 2

Today's song comes from the guy who perhaps can take the most credit for creating heavy metal: Ozzy Osbourne! While his live show isn't quite as over-the-top as Alice Cooper's, he has performed such onstage antics as biting the head off a live bat (provided by an audience member--Ozzy initially thought it was a toy). 

The subject matter of his songs is usually quite dark, but if you listen closely, you'll find that most of them have a positive bent.  For instance, songs such as "Children of the Grave," "War Pigs," and "Crazy Train" address the negative sides of war and are in fact pacifist anthems. Similarly, today's song, "Mr. Crowley," is about early 20th century occultist Aleister Crowley. Ozzy seems to question Crowley's actions much more than condone them, but like Crowley, Ozzy does seem to like the sensationalism that evil imagery brings. 

This song comes from Ozzy's classic 1980 debut album as a solo artist, Blizzard of Ozz, which came out right after his split from Black Sabbath. It is one of only three Ozzy albums to feature legendary guitarist Randy Rhoads, the others being  1981's Diary of a Madman and the posthumous 1987 live Tribute album.  Rhoads died in a plane crash in 1982, but was integral in helping craft Ozzy's sound as a solo artist. Here on "Mr. Crowley" you can hear one of his greatest guitar solos. Oh, and it's got a pretty wicked organ intro, too:

Friday, October 28, 2011

T-minus 3

There are only three more days until Halloween, and since it's Friday, that means it's time for the bittersweet theme weekend finale! The last couple of songs this week have been teasers for this weekend's main event - are you ready to shock 'n roll? 

Screamin' Jay Hawkins was one of the first to incorporate horror props into his stage show, but there have been many others who have followed in his footsteps and put their own stamp on the genre. The person who can generally be credited with bringing shock rock to the mainstream and amping it up to a whole new level is Alice Cooper.  

Cooper (a.k.a. Vincent Furnier) began playing in bands as a teenager in the mid-60s, but in the late 60s he had the genius realization that there were far too many rock heroes out there and far too few rock villains.  Thus, the snake-wielding, blood-spewing Alice Cooper that we now know and love was born.  With a couple dozen albums under his belt, his career has now spanned four decades and is still going strong. In fact, in addition to recording and touring, he has now branched out into other business areas, such as owning a restaurant (Cooperstown in Phoenix) and radio dj-ing (Nights with Alice Cooper, syndicated across the country and around the world).  

So who better to kick off the last weekend before Halloween than the master of horror rock shows? And how better to do it than with some of the most adorable monsters around, The Muppets? This is just how loved Alice Cooper is - he was doing his scary schtick on The Muppet Show back in 1978!  Turns out Jim Henson booked him in order to counter The Muppets' image, which he felt was getting too wholesome.  At the time, Cooper's song "School's Out" was banned in many high schools across the country, but that didn't stop Cooper and The Muppets from taking it on.   

That gem wasn't the only song they did together, however, and while today's featured song, "Welcome to my Nightmare," is spookier than "School's Out," it's no less classic.  Move over Count von Count; here comes something scarier...

Not enough Alice Cooper/Muppet action for you?  Then check out this tender ballad:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

T-minus 4

Ever wanted all your favorite monsters not only put together in a handy list, but also put to music? The Famous Monsters are here to please! Formed in the mid-90s, Famous Monsters was the brainchild of Sean Yseult, bassist for White Zombie

Unlike the hard, crunching riffs of White Zombie, Famous Monsters played surfy garage music and wore cartoonish monster outfits that made them look like a cross between Josie and the Pussycats and The Groovie Goolies. All three members were female and took on names to match their outfits, calling themselves Vampire Girl, She-Zilla, and Devil Doll. 

Unfortunately the band hasn't recorded since the late 90s, but they never officially broke up, so we can hope that one day they will reanimate. Until then, International Monster Presentation, sound off!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

T-minus 5

Today's song comes from one of the earliest shock rockers, and one of the most unique - Screamin' Jay Hawkins!  Born in Ohio in 1929, Hawkins studied classical paino as a child and initially wanted to become an opera singer, but ended up becoming known for his distinctive take on blues and R&B, as well as his outrageous stage show. 

As a result of the success of his classic song "I Put a Spell on You," disc jockey Alan Freed paid Hawkins to emerge from a coffin onstage, and thus a legend was born.  Afterwards, the coffin schtick became Hawkins' regular stage entry and he started incorporating more and more horror-inspired props, like rubber snakes and a smoking skull on a stick named Henry. 

Although he never got a lot of radio play, his legendary performances landed him gigs opening for acts as diverse as Fats Domino and The Rolling Stones.  These shows exposed him to an incredibly wide array of audiences, and led him to become a heavy influence on the stage shows of many later musicians, from Alice Cooper to The Cramps. 

"I Put a Spell on You" became his most well-known song and has been recorded by numerous artists, from Nina Simone to Creedance Clearwater Revival. Since you probably stand a good chance of hearing it at least once during October, though, today's song is a lesser known gem called "Voodoo."  It's high energy and pure Screamin' Jay - can't you just see him shaking Henry in your face as he's singing this?

Hawkins also did a bit of acting during his decades-long career, most notably in Jim Jarmusch's 1989 film Mystery Train.  He is one of the funniest parts of the film, and definitely the most stylish.  Check out one of my favorite scenes below, wherein Screamin' Jay eats a plum in a most singular way.  

P.S.  Do you think you could be one of Screamin' Jay's 70+ kids?  If so, check out this article for more information.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

T-minus 6

Groovie Ghoulies are go! Formed in the 80s in Sacramento, California, the Groovie Ghoulies were a pop punk band that made the kind of music Frankenberry, Booberry, and Count Chocula would make if they formed a band. They took equal parts inspiration from horror movies, The Ramones, and The Monkees, then put it all together in a blender along with about a gallon of sugar. 

Their name is from a cartoon from the 70s called The Groovie Goolies, which featured a hip group of monsters who lived at Horrible Hall and played music in every episode. Check out the original opening song from the show below--Everybody shout!  Come on now, sing out!  It's time for the Ghoulie get-together!

Monday, October 24, 2011

T-minus 7

Today's song comes from Mr. Weird Science himself, Danny Elfman. While I love both "Weird Science" and "Dead Man's Party," both of those songs get played way too much during October, so today's song is an alternate Elfman Halloween gem - "Don't Go in the Basement"! 

Other than composing "Weird Science" and "Dead Man's Party," and being the frontman for Oingo Boingo, Elfman has many other claims to scariness fame, such as being the singing voice of Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas and of Bonejangles in Corpse Bride, and scoring almost all of Tim Burton's films. 

Elfman's song isn't the only scary thing about today's selection, though. The video was animated by Sally Cruikshank, who was an animator for Sesame Street for many years, and features a suave, shapeshifting lizard who certainly makes a sound case for not going in the basement. He slinks and slides through a tripped-out landscape that, in the words of Lux Interior from The Cramps, makes you feel like you're on drugs. It once appeared on MTV's excellent 90s animation show, Liquid Telelvision, which has recently been resurrected online.

This video is just the song, but if you dig it, check out the full-length short, "Face Like A Frog." It's animated by Cruikshank and entirely scored by Elfman!   

Sunday, October 23, 2011

T-minus 8

Ok, so I'm sort of cheating again. While today's song is fairly scary, I have to admit that it isn't directly related to The Munsters.  It does, however, pay homage to both The Munsters and The Addams Family by mentioning Lily Munster by name and including some finger snaps and an organ run that are reminiscent of The Addams Family theme.  I also just think it's a great song and wanted to include it at some point, so Munsters weekend seemed like a good time to do it.  

The band is Type O Negative, a gothic metal group from Brooklyn, New York, and the song is "Black No. 1," which is about, well, hair dye. Really it's about more than that, but the title refers to the blackest hair dye one can buy.  The song was a huge hit for the band in 1993 and helped their album Bloody Kisses reach Platinum status. They would go on to release four more albums, but sadly lead singer Peter Steele died in 2010, which marked the end of the band.

While the band did incorporate a lot of dark elements into their music, they also displayed a wry sense of humor and a broad range of influences. For instance, their album Bloody Kisses featured a killer cover of the 1972 Seals & Crofts hit "Summer Breeze." Their music has also been included on several video games and on a DVD of the 1922 silent film classic Nosferatu, where the soundtrack was completely overdubbed with Type O Negative songs.

Oh, Peter Steele, Herman Munster ain't got nothing on you.

Or maybe he does! Here's Herman singing "Dry Bones":

Saturday, October 22, 2011

T-minus 9

Fun fact: did you know that The Munsters was one of the first TV shows where the husband and wife slept in the same bed together?  If you thought monsters only resided under beds, just check out the picture!  Those two were so adorable - they still had the magic, even after so many centuries.     

So today's song isn't really a Halloween song, or even a scary song, but it's sung by LILY MUNSTER HERSELF!  This is from an episode of The Munsters called "Far Out Munsters," where a rock band comes to stay at the Munsters' house.  Man those beatniks dig it when Lily sings "He's Gone Away."

Friday, October 21, 2011

T-minus 10

Holy crap, there are only ten days left until Halloween! That means I can only post ten more scary songs out of the dozens of great ones I've got laying around. There are some tough choices to be made in the days ahead, folks. Choices so tough that the only way I'll be able to live with them is to know that I can save all the leftovers for next October. One tough choice that has already been made, though, is what the final song will be for Halloween day. Any guesses? Neither I nor my pet amoeba will ever tell.

Anyway, we do have ten glorious days of October left and since today is Friday, that means it's time for a brand new theme weekend! After risking life and limb with zombies and vampiric horror hosts during the past two weekends, it's time to put our feet up with one of the friendliest monster families ever put on TV, The Munsters. While I also like The Addams Family, which ran during the same years as The Munsters, from 1964-1966, and was based on the classic Charles Addams New Yorker cartoons, I've always been more partial to The Munsters. Maybe it's because they were a little less affluent than the Addams and therefore seemed more approachable. Or maybe it's because I had quite an obsession with Lily Munster. I mean, look at her! She's beautifully ghoulish, and a great mom to boot.

I can think of no better way to kick off Munsters weekend than with their classic theme song, here performed by the surf rock group Los Straitjackets. While the theme was always a little surfy, this band takes it to another level and truly makes a rocker out of it. They're a good fit for the song because there's something a little Munsters-ish about always performing in Mexican wrestling masks. Over the past few years, they've also started employing The World Famous Pontani Sisters to go-go dance on stage during their shows. Obviously, their show is not one you want to miss!

The song itself is another taken from the Rob Zombie produced Halloween Hootenanny CD, which, as I said earlier in the month, is an inspired collection. Viva los Munsters!  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

20 Eyes

Today's selection features another king of country western troubadours, this one a forefather of the breed, Porter Wagoner. While he is known for his classic country sound, his sparkly Nudie suits, and for introducing the world to Dolly Parton, he also wrote one of the spookiest country songs ever recorded, "The Rubber Room." Wagoner always put forth an affable persona both on his classic TV show The Porter Wagoner Show and in his live shows, but he was no stranger to twisted compositions, and many of them can be found on an album called The Haunting Poetic Songs of Porter Wagoner

"The Rubber Room" seems the most weird, though, maybe because of the heavy dose of reverb applied to Wagoner's voice when he says "the rubber room." And maybe also because he knew what he was talking about - Johnny Cash did write "Committed to Parkview" for him, after all.  

I hear footsteps pounding on the floor, God I hope they don't stop at my door...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rocktober XIX

He's sleazy, he's scary, he's every womern's favorite nightmare...  who else could it be but the undead king of country western troubadours, Unknown Hinson!  

Unknown (named after his father) growled to life on an early 90s public access show in Charlotte, North Carolina. He had supposedly just gotten out of prison at the time, having been sentenced to a 30-year term for various offenses, from murder to grave robbing. When the show ended, Unknown continued performing live concerts and has now released several albums.

His sound is a mix of country and metal, with more than a little humor tossed in. He tours relentlessly and has paired up with several other psychobilly acts, such as The Reverend Horton Heat and Hank Williams III, who has a tattoo of Unknown on his bicep. Although he pokes a lot of fun with his over-the-top image and show, he's actually an excellent guitarist and songwriter. It is tough being undead and in-demand, though, so here he is to tell you all about it:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rocktober XVIII

Today's song just says autumn to me.  Whenever the air starts to get a little crisp and the first leaves start to fall, I have to break this one out. Both written and performed by New York-by-way-of-Nashville country singer Laura Cantrell, the song "Curse of Hook Mountain" appeared on her very first album, the 1996 Hello EP. Since then she has gone on to release four full-length albums, the most recent being this year's Kitty Wells Dresses.

Cantrell began singing while she was a student at Columbia University, where she also began deejaying on the university radio station's country music program. She later moved her show to New Jersey's WFMU and called it The Radio Thriftshop, which ran regularly from 1993-2005. Specializing in playing songs that were "often scratchy, stringy, and swingy," Cantrell became known not only for her own music, but for being something of a country music scholar. In fact, each of her albums includes a song that pays tribute to one of the queens of country music. "Queen of the Coast" on the album Not the Tremblin' Kind is about Bonnie Owens, and "Mountain Fern" on When the Roses Bloom Again is about Molly O'Day.

As gracious as she is, though, and as pretty as she sings, she still pulls off a mean murder ballad:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rocky-tober XVII

Even though horror host/hostess weekend has finished, we can't quite leave the movie theater yet because it's time for the late night double feature picture show. That's right, today's song comes from not only one of the greatest Halloween films ever made, but a movie institution - a rite of passage, even - The Rocky Horror Picture Show

This movie's influence on me and countless others who couldn't quite handle the stupidity of high school (and who needed something better than football games and drama club renditions of Godspell to get them through those awkward teenage years) can't be measured. Who would I be without having spent six years in a Rocky Horror shadow cast? Too frightening to speculate.

If you haven't seen it in a theater with a cast yet (watching it at home doesn't count), there is nothing I can do for you. You just have to go. And the less preparation you do, the better. Let the specifics of what you might be asked to do upon your first theater viewing be a pleasant surprise!  To find a theater that screens it near you, simply go to the official Rocky Horror fan site above and enter your zip code. If you are in Virginia, I know my old cast The Tolls of Madness will be performing it this month in Roanoke and Blacksburg, and if you're in Knoxville, it will be showing at The Tennessee Theater this Saturday (the 22nd) at 11pm.  

To get you, um, excited, here is a tasty tantalizer. Sing, lips!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rocktober XVI

AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!  Oh... screaming relaxes me so.  A little trick I learned from today's spotlighted horror hostess, the one who started it all... VAMPIRA!  While The Vampira Show only ran during the mid-50s in Los Angeles, it changed TV history forever and gave birth to a multitude of horror hosts and hostesses who would follow in its wake.  

Otherwise known as Maila Nurmi, a Finnish-American actress who grew up in Ohio, Vampira came to life when Nurmi dressed as Morticia Addams for a Los Angeles costume ball. She caught the attention of a television producer who hired her to host horror movies on a local station. Sexing up the Morticia look with more cleavage and an extreme wasp waist, she rounded out the persona with graveyard puns and mockery of the low-grade films she hosted, which became the basic template for every horror host (sans Morticia getup) and hostess who came after. Here is her classic entrance to the show, where she floats through knee-deep fog to scream like only a horror queen can:

Although The Vampira Show was a hit, it was short-lived because Nurmi refused to sell ABC her rights to the character. It ended in 1956 and soon Nurmi was acting in the same kinds of films she mocked as Vampira. Most notable of these is Plan 9 From Outerspace, directed by Ed Wood in 1959, which is considered one of the worst movies ever made.  Nurmi recreated her Vampira role for this film, but she thought the script was awful and refused to speak any lines. Now, of course, the film and Vampira's role in it have been immortalized in Tim Burton's 1994 biopic Ed Wood. 

Vampira with The Misfits.

So what kind of song can accompany a day devoted to Vampira? Why, The Misfits' 1980 homage to her, of course! Along with being Glenn Danzig's first band, The Misfits were one of the first groups to blend punk rock with horror movie themes and imagery. They formed in New Jersey in 1977 and released several EPs, singles, and a couple of LPs before disbanding in 1983. 

The Crimson Ghost
As shown in the picture above, they wore the influence of old horror films not only on their sleeves, but in their hair, on their faces, and pretty much anywhere else they could put it. Their Crimson Ghost logo, taken from an old horror serial, has now become a punk rock icon. While horror movies were incredibly influential on the band, however, their music also bears the stamp of early rock 'n roll, rockabilly, and early punk and metal. 

The Misfits' influence on subsequent groups is just as extensive as those they drew on. Bands stretching the spectrum from Metallica to My Morning Jacket have recorded their songs, and countless others consider them an influence. Much like Vampira, they were game changers, and even though their heyday was short-lived, music today wouldn't be the same without them.  Here they are paying tribute to one of their horror heroes, so come a little bit closer... a little bit closer... a little bit closer...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Rocktober XV

What, it's October 15th already?!? That means we are halfway through our journey to Halloween! Soon the bulk bags of mini-candy, tubes of black lipstick, and polyester Smurf costumes will be on the discount rack at Walgreens. Ah, fall is a melancholy time... But wait!  If you look on the bright side (which I normally make it my policy never to do), we still have half of October left! So onward we go, deep into the dripping crevices of Halloween music history.

Today we continue horror host/hostess weekend with another selection from Zacherley. While the song posted on Monday was a recent recording of Zacherley with Southern Culture on the Skids, today's song is Zacherley's original hit from 1958, "Dinner with Drac." This song is every bit as worthy of commercial airplay as "The Monster Mash," yet it never gets played. What gives?!? This song is just as good and maybe even funnier than "The Mash":         

Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be much surviving footage of Zacherley doing his horror host thang (at least not on Youtube, anyway), but there is a terrific section on him in the horror host documentary American Scary that I am posting here so you can see him in action:

In addition to the nationally known hosts and hostesses such as Zacherley and Elvira, there are many, many more local hosts and hostesses who have been just as beloved as their more famous counterparts. One of these is Cleveland's Ghoulardi, otherwise known as Ernie Anderson (also known as the father of filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson). Ghoulardi was a force to be reckoned with during mid-60s Cleveland TV. More popular than The Tonight Show, Ghoulardi's Shock Theater started in 1963 and became a regional sensation that continues to resonate with people who grew up with the show.

Ghoulardi became so popular, he was soon given a Saturday afternoon show called Masterpiece Theater and a weekday children's show called Laurel, Ghoulardi, and Hardy. Ghoulardi merchandise abounded, featuring everything from bumper stickers to a Ghoulardi milkshake at a local Cleveland restaurant. Unlike horror hosts before (and after) him, Ghoulardi's persona was not that of a ghoul, but of a whacked-out beatnik. He performed his Shock Theater segments inside a windowed white pod and came up with all sorts of nonsensical catch phrases, such as "All the world is a purple knif," and "Remember... Oxnard!". 

Ghoulardi continually pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable for television broadcast at the time, and responded to station management's attempts to reign him in by blowing up plastic cars and figurines on air with firecrackers and small explosives. While doing so, he once almost lit the set on fire, which led to a new catchphrase: "Cool it with the boom booms." In 1966, Anderson left both Cleveland and the Ghoulardi character behind and moved to Los Angeles, where he started a successful voiceover career.

I know this isn't a song, but if you've never experienced Ghoulardi, you just have to:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Rocktober XIV

It's finally Friday, which means it's time to kick off horror host/hostess weekend! And there's no better way to do that than to post a song from that hostess with the mostest, that head with two things, that reigning Queen of the B's for 30 years running, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

Otherwise known as Cassandra Peterson, Elvira came to life in 1981, when she began hosting Elvira's Movie Macabre on a local Los Angeles TV channel. While the producers of the show first asked horror hostess progenitor Maila Nurmi to recreate her 1950s Vampira character for the role, Nurmi quit early on and an open casting call landed Peterson in the role that would become her trademark. 

Before becoming Elvira, Peterson grew up in Kansas and became a Las Vegas showgirl at age 17, then went on to briefly date Elvis, have a small part in the Fellini film Roma, and join the legendary L.A. improv comedy troupe The Groundlings. It was as a Groundling that Peterson honed the comedic chops that Elvira would become known for, and also where she developed a Valley girl-like character that eventually became Elvira. 

Hell yeah,
that's me with Elvira!
Obviously the character was a huge hit and Elvira became a Halloween institution. Over the years her face has graced everything from beer displays to pinball machines to comic books, and the Elvira Halloween costume continues to be a bestseller every year. She also made an Elvira movie in 1988, aptly called Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, which remains one of the best horror comedy films ever made. Just last year Elvira returned to her roots and began hosting horror films again on syndicated television, with a brand new run of Elvira's Movie Macabre.  Look for it late at night on a TV near you! 

As a queen of all media, Elvira has not only conquered TV, movies, and the internet; she also has a decent recording career under her dagger-bedecked belt. She has now released four Halloween music compilations (the newest one just out on itunes), which contain both Halloween classics (yes, "The Monster Mash" is on one of them, as is "Monster's Holiday," the Christmas sequel to the "Mash") and originals sung by Elvira herself. The following is one of Elvira's own, in which she is backed up by Fred "Monster in My Pants" Schneider of the B-52s. 

Here she comes now and she looks so, so.... nightmarishly amazing! All hail Elvira! Elvira for president!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Unlucky #13

I told you Glenn Danzig would be back! And here he is... sort of. While today's song is sung by The Man in Black, a.k.a. Johnny Cash, it was written specifically for him by Glenn Danzig (reportedly in only 20 minutes). The song appeared on Cash's 1993 album American Recordings, which introduced Cash to a whole new generation of listeners and won him a Grammy to boot. The album was produced by Rick Rubin, who was mostly known for his work with rap and heavy metal musicians, and released on Rubin's American label. 

Cash and Rubin would go on to collaborate on four more albums throughout the 90s and up until Cash's death in 2003. All of these albums featured Cash returning to the stripped-down sound of his earlier career and highlighted both original songs and covers. Many of the covers were songs by writers much younger and less famous than Cash, which showed that he was not only still adventurous with his music, but also cognizant and appreciative of its current innovators.

In true Cash style, the song "Thirteen" is a dark lament about a man born to a life of trouble. Does anyone embody both the dark and light sides of life more fully than Johnny Cash? Maybe it's because he doesn't just embody them, he embraces them, and acknowledges that one cannot exist without the other. He's our country music yin yang, and in this particular incarnation, he has a bad luck wind blowin' at his back:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mocktober XII

Why "Mocktober"? Because today we are celebrating the birth of one of the greatest B-horror/sci-fi film mockers, Mike Nelson, from Mystery Science Theater 3000! And in the grand and storied tradition of this blog, we are doing this a day late, seeing as how his birthday was yesterday. However, through total coincidence, I did happen to post a clip from MST3K yesterday, so scroll down and have a look if you didn't already! 

So what is/was Mystery Science Theater 3000?  Well, it's something you should already know about and probably do if you care anything about old horror and sci-fi films (or if you just had cable in the 90s). For those who have just escaped the dungeon they were held captive in for the past couple of decades, MST3K was a show that ran from 1988-1999, wherein a guy and his two robot pals were imprisoned on  a satellite in space and forced to watch B-films in the name of science. While doing so, they would make endless fun of the films and often dress up like characters from them in order to act out silly scenes. The show developed a massive cult following and was enormously influential both on comedy and a new generation's appreciation of B films. 

In my mind, the show is very much in the tradition of classic horror host shows, except it takes the premise a step further and has the hosts making fun of the movie as it is running, not just before and after commercial breaks. Even though the show ended in '99, two camps of writers and performers from it continue to publicly riff on films through two different outlets. Mike Nelson and his crew do RiffTrax, which are downloadable audio commentaries for films you have to provide yourself. The advantage here is that they can bypass licensing fees and do all sorts of films, both A-list and B-list.  Orignal MST3K host Joel Hodgson and his crew do Cinematic Titanic, which is more in keeping with the MST3K premise in that they only riff on B-films.  Their work is available on DVD and they also perform the show live all over the country. 

The song selection today is the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Love Theme, here performed by the fantastic spaced-out surf rock group Man or Astroman?. The band and the show have always been closely related, with the band's songs often making reference to running jokes on MST3K and MST3K host Joel Hodgson claiming he had been working as a pyrotechnician for the band when he returned to visit the show after his departure in 1993. 

Happy birthday once again to Mike Nelson!  But if you're wondering how he ate and breathed during his six years in space, just keep repeating to yourself "it's just show, I should really just relax."  Oh, Mystery Science Theater 3000...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

This one goes to 11.

Even though today's selection goes to 11, be careful of how loudly you play it lest you attract the largest insect on earth to wherever you may be. Yes, today's song is Mothra's theme and, in the movies at least, is used by two tiny Japanese ladies to summon their benevolent protector. We're lucky that Mothra is so kind, because she has been known to kick Godzilla's butt on several occasions. And when Godzilla does best her, Mothra's larvae simply hatch out and finish the job their mama started.

The Mothra song is sung by the "shobijin," or "small beauties," who communicate telepathically with Mothra and speak for her. They were originally played by a vocal group called The Peanuts, who were twin sisters from Nagoya. The lyrics to the Mothra song, much like Mothra herself, are quite beautiful:

Mothra O Mothra
If we were to call for help
Over time
Over sea
Like a wave you'd come
Our guardian angel

Mothra O Mothra
Of forgotten kindness
And ruined spirits
We pray for the people's
Spirit as we sing
This song of love

So enjoy the following song, but be responsible and keep it at a reasonble volume. Mothra's got enough to deal with without answering false alarms.

Monday, October 10, 2011


A whole week of October has shot by blindingly fast, which means there are only three weeks left until Halloween. Have you completed your shopping? Don't wait until the last minute because all of the good candy will be gone! If I come to your house trick or treating and you give me a sleeve of Smarties, expect to be tricked. 

Zombie weekend has also come to a close and luckily I made it out with my brains intact. Those guys chewed and chewed at the front door, but finally I outsmarted them with a technique involving frozen peas that I learned from a video game.  Always good to know The Jolly Green Giant has my back, but now what am I supposed to do about the rotting zombies in my front yard? They don't just disappear like they do in the game. Drop a line if you know of a reputable zombie removal service.

Since one theme weekend has come and gone, however, it's time to start thinking about the next one. Today's song selection is a tasty appetizer for what you'll hear a whole lot more about on Friday - horror movie hosts and hostesses! These ghouls came on the scene in the mid-50s and hosted low-grade horror films broadcast on television. A couple became nationally known, but most were only known in their local viewing areas.  

First up is one of the earliest horror hosts, and one of the most famous: Zacherley, also known as "The Cool Ghoul."  He just turned 93 last month and is still scaring strong! In today's song he is backed by Southern Culture on the Skids, the band chosen for yesterday's zombie theme song. Here they team up for a most unlikely cover of Creedance Clearwater Revival's "Sinister Purpose." Thanks to Zacherley and SCOTS, you may never hear this song in the same way again!  

Also of note, this is the first song I've played from the excellent 1998 compilation Halloween Hootenanny, released on Rob Zombie's Zombie A-Go-Go record label. It definitely won't be the last. If you like scary music and you don't own this album, rectify that situation instantly! But while doing so, check out the vocal stylings of the coolest ghoul you'll meet in this lifetime:


Sunday, October 9, 2011

(Zombie) Revolution #9

The zombified weekend continues today with "Zombified" by Southern Culture on the Skids. These guys and gal are no strangers to spookiness and much like The Cramps, a lot of their music bears the influence of far too many hours spent watching B-horror films. In fact, they have just given their 1998 import-only EP Zombified a new American release and added a few new songs to it to make it a full-length album. The songs on the album were inspired by 60s and 70s horror and exploitation films, many of which originally played at drive-ins.  

Southern Culture on the Skids have been mixing their signature blend of country, surf, rockabilly and R&B since 1983, when the band formed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.   Their live shows are legendary and are always an immense amount of fun to attend, featuring shenanigans such as passing around a communal vat of banana pudding, pelting the audience with fried chicken, and inviting audience members onstage for a dance-off during the song "Dance for Me." If they come to your town, don't miss them!

But here they are for now, more dead than alive...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Magick #8

It's a zombified weekend here on "Whatever happened to the Transylvania Twist?"! To start off, we've got geek rocker Jonathan Coulton and a crowd of his brain-hungry zombie friends making a very reasonble plea as to why you should let them in your house. I mean, come one -- they're not going to eat your eyes. 

Coulton used to write software until he left his day job in 2005 to pursue music full time. During that year, he started a project called "Thing A Week," where he recorded a new song every week and released it on his website for free. Several of these became internet hits, such as his folky cover of Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back." He still releases a lot of free music on his website and also holds the sweet gig of Contributing Troubadour for Popular Science magazine, a favorite of mad scientists everywhere.

So anyway, back to your brains... ummm, can these guys have them?

Friday, October 7, 2011


Today's selection comes from the Evil Elvis himself, Glenn Danzig. No one does scary better than Danzig, which makes the problem of choosing just one Danzig song even harder than it was choosing one yesterday for AC/DC. Since it is so hard to choose just one, however, and since the guy is the founding member of not just one but two groundbreaking horror punk/metal bands -- The Misfits and Samhain, you can expect to see him pop up again here later this month.

As with yesterday, I'm going a little left field with the song selection today and choosing one that Glenn Danzig didn't actually write, but was made famous by Elvis Presley. Glenn Danzig has long been called the "Evil Elvis" for his sneering lip and vocal inflections that mirror The King's. He does earn the "Evil" part of the nickname, though, since much of the subject matter of his songs is quite dark. This song is more fun than all-out dark, although he does Danzig-ify it a bit, by changing the lyrics "my daddy was a green-eyed mountain jack" to "my daddy was a demon werewolf jack."

If you're lookin' for trouble, you came to the right place. Right here it is:

And if you're lookin' for what Glenn Danzig buys at the grocery store, here that is, too:

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Since yesterday was AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson's birthday (and I didn't realize it until after I had already published my post), today's selection will honor his gravelly-throated contributions to scary music. While the number of AC/DC songs that could qualify as Halloween-worthy are too numerous to narrow it down to one ("Hell's Bells," "Highway to Hell," "Dirty Deeds..." -- who can make that kind of decision?), I'm going to go a little left field and choose "Thunder Busters" - a mash-up of "Thunderstruck" and the Ghostbusters theme. 

I first heard this last October and totally fell in love with it. The synths from the Ghostbusters theme add something to the AC/DC song that I didn't realize it was missing. While both of those songs are still good on their own, together they create a powerful thunder bustin' force. I'm with Ray Parker, Jr. on this one, now more than ever - bustin'  makes me feel good!

Enjoy, and happy birthday Brian Johnson!